ASCO and the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) committing the two organizations to collaborate to advance cancer research in Africa. Harnessing the respective programs, leaders, and member networks of both organizations, the collaboration will pursue a multilevel strategy consisting of researcher training, mentorship, funding opportunities, and the presentation of research findings.
“As the President of AORTIC, it is an honor for our organization to combine efforts with ASCO as ultimately the goal is to make a difference in the lives of people with cancer in Africa,” said President of AORTIC, Rose Anorlu, MBChB, FMCOG, FRCOG, FWACS, MPH.
AORTIC is a non-governmental organization “dedicated to cancer control and palliation in Africa” through research, education, and training, according to the organization’s website[i]. AORTIC aims to bring together countries on the African continent to achieve better outcomes for patients with cancer in Africa and collaboration among health ministries and global cancer-fighting organizations.
“As an African oncologist and cancer researcher myself, it is tremendous to see these two great organizations join forces to address a critical need in cancer control in Africa,” said ASCO International Affairs Committee Chair Verna Vanderpuye, MBChB, FWACS, FGCS. “I know both organizations are excited about the insights AORTIC and ASCO leaders and members can bring to our joint efforts to increase research and clinical trial opportunities in Africa.”
One of the first initiatives the two organizations are working on is bringing regularly scheduled ASCO International Clinical Research Course (ICRC) to Africa. ASCO has been offering ICRC courses for more than 10 years and has previously held them in Morocco and South Africa. Through the MOU with AORTIC, the courses would be held biennially at the AORTIC International Conference on Cancer in Africa. The courses aim to increase understanding of clinical trials methodologies, implementing research ideas, evaluating literature, and ways for young investigators to get involved with research.
“We know that people of African ancestry are underrepresented in oncology clinical trials around the world,”[ii] said ASCO Chief Medical Officer Julie R. Gralow, MD, FACP, FASCO. “By partnering with AORTIC, we hope that this collaboration accelerates oncology research capabilities in Africa, including establishing and participating in clinical trials.”
The ICRC courses are one of several types of education courses that ASCO helps to deliver to health care providers around the world who care for patients with cancer, primarily in low- and middle-resource countries. All of ASCO’s courses are designed in collaboration with a local partner to improve understanding of local needs and are presented by local and international experts. The course format includes interactive case presentations, breakout sessions, and discussions.
Importantly, ASCO and AORTIC also will work to raise awareness of research funding and professional development opportunities for emerging African cancer investigators. These opportunities include ASCO’s international professional development and research grants and awards: the International Development and Education Award (IDEA), International Innovation Grant, Long-term International Fellowship, and Global Oncology Young Investigators Award.
Mentorship for early career investigators also is critical to deepening cancer research in Africa. For this reason, ASCO and AORTIC will collaborate to identify options to provide both organizations’ members with opportunities to mentor junior investigators in clinical cancer research and for junior investigators to network with senior investigators with relevant experience and expertise. This will build on ASCO’s longstanding global mentoring programs, which include the IDEA award and the Virtual Mentoring program.
In addition, ASCO and AORTIC will hold joint sessions at the biennial AORTIC Conference that will provide a forum for sharing ideas about innovative cancer research and findings in the African context. Previous ASCO-AORTIC joint sessions have covered topics such as “Quality in Cancer Care: The Next Frontier to Improve Outcomes in Africa,” “Value in Cancer Care,” and “Access to Care and Essential Medicines.”
As part of the MOU, AORTIC also will help to raise awareness in Africa of Cancer.Net, ASCO’s patient information website, as a public education resource among its members. AORTIC also will promote awareness and links to Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation.
Read a JCO Global Oncology special series of articles on “Oncology Clinical Trials in Africa: Emerging and Operational Issues”
Apply for a Global Oncology Young Investigator Award
Read a “Cancer in My Community: Meeting the Palliative Care Needs of People With Cancer in Nigeria” Cancer.Net blog post by Tonia Onyeka, MBBS