AMPATH Oncology receives grant to study cervical cancer
An international team of oncology research specialists led by Indiana University has been awarded a $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study HPV and cervical cancer in Kenyan women with HIV/AIDS. The grant will enable the researchers to create a sustainable approach to education, clinical care and research, with the goal of providing early detection screenings for human papillomavirus and cervical cancer.
The five-year National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute grant was awarded to the AMPATH-Oncology Institute in Eldoret, Kenya. The three lead scientists on the project are Patrick Loehrer, M.D., director of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer; Darron Brown, M.D., professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology from the IU School of Medicine; and Elkanah Omenge Orango, M.D., from Moi University School of Medicine. Dr. Brown was instrumental in developing the HPV vaccine. Aaron Ermel, M.D., assistant research professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the IU School of Medicine, was responsible for the development of a biobank that will be critical for the project. He and his Kenyan co-investigators—Kirtika Patel, Ph.D., and John Michael Ong’encha, Ph.D.—will provide the laboratory testing and specimen banking that will allow for future projects to be developed as a result of this grant.
Researchers from Brown University, the University of Toronto and the University of Massachusetts along with the Miriam Hospital and KEMRI (Kenya Medical Research Institute) are also involved in the study. These partners, in addition to AMPATH’s corporate and philanthropic partners—Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Celgene, AbbVie, Walther Foundation and Levinson Family Foundation—helped to create the AMPATH Oncology Institute and enabled the IU Simon Cancer Center to compete successfully for this significant grant.
Cervical cancer, a preventable disease, is the number one cause of cancer death in Kenyan women. Each year in Africa, approximately 80,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 60,000 die from the disease. Early detection screenings, which are common in the United States, are rare in western Kenya. Cervical cancer is linked to HPV and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Overall, sub-Saharan Africa has 70 percent of the world’s diagnosed cases of HIV. Studies have shown that HIV is a contributing factor for developing cervical cancer and that HIV-infected women have a greater incidence and persistence of HPV infections and suffer from higher incidences of cervical cancer and precancerous cervical lesions.
“With this grant, we will establish a sustainable, multi-institutional and transdisciplinary mentoring program that will foster the development of new cancer researchers in Kenya,” Dr. Loehrer said. “By training Kenyan nurses, technicians, physicians and scientists, our goal is to significantly reduce the prevalence of HPV and cervical cancer among women.”