INCTR visits Mwanza

A meeting on “Infections and Cancer” took place in Mwanza, Tanzania, from September 17th to 19th, 2012. The Presidents of the meeting were Professor Dino Amadori, President of the Associazioni Vittorio Tison, Dr. Nestory Masalu, Chief of the Medical Oncology Department, Bugando Medical Center (BMC) and Dr. Charles Majinge, General Director of the BMC, Mwanza. The meeting was sponsored by the Associazione Italiana di Oncologia Medica, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Tanzania, and several other Italian organizations and also supported by a grant from Novartis Oncology and Istituto Oncologico Romagnolo. The BMC is one of the members of the INCTR African Burkitt Lymphoma strategy group whose primary goal at the present time, is to improve the outcome of treatment of patients (mostly children) with Burkitt lymphoma.

Dr Nestory Masalu requested a presentation by INCTR on the epidemiology of Burkitt lymphoma (BL), which, in equatorial Africa, is believed to be predisposed to by malaria and early infection with Epstein-Barr virus, as well as a review of the ongoing INCTR BL clinical study, which accrued its 600th patient this month. The results of the treatment of the first 356 patients enrolled in the INCTR BL study designed by the African BL strategy group were recently published in the British Journal of Haematology. While in Mwanza, Dr Magrath, who represented INCTR, took the opportunity to visit the BMC where bunkers have been built in preparation for the installation of four new radiation therapy machines, which will triple the total number of machines in Tanzania. At the present time, there are only two cobalt units in Dar es Salaam, which serve a population of 43 million, such that access to radiation is extremely limited. Dr Magrath also discussed the ongoing BL study with Dr Valerie Ntoinya, who coordinates the study in Mwanza. Issues regarding drug management, follow up and early diagnosis were discussed. If patients could be diagnosed when they have a smaller total tumor volume, drugs can be guaranteed to be always available (at present, INCTR is providing chemotherapy and antibiotics), and the results documented with good follow up, the survival rate could be improved without any modification to the treatment protocol! Further, knowledge that BL can be cured would be likely to increase the number of patients who seek treatment. Presently, an unknown number of patients may never reach a center capable of providing effective therapy, in part because of an assumption that there is no available treatment, in part because of loss of income whilst away from home, and in part because the family may not be able to afford the costs associated with treatment.

Dr Valerie Ntoinya with a little boy with his father awaiting diagnosis
A little boy undergoing treatment for Burkitt lymphoma
A little boy with Burkitt lymphoma of the jaw
Dr Valerie Ntoinya, Bugando Medical Center

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