By Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC - August 11, 2021
Moffitt Cancer Center’s mission to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer goes well beyond the state of Florida and even the United States. The cancer center is building on its longstanding relationship with the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana, to develop a cancer research training program to help develop the next generation of African cancer researchers.
Dr. Kosj Yamoah, director of Radiation Oncology cancer health disparities research and chief of Genitourinary Radiation Oncology at Moffitt, grew up in Ghana and has been working with Korle-Bu for some time. He initially reached out to the hospital to collaborate on his research, which is aimed at understanding why prostate cancer is much more prevalent and deadly in men of African descent. But after working with the Korle-Bu faculty and touring the facility, Yamoah wanted to do more.
"Cancer is the third leading cause of death in low-income countries like Ghana. "- Dr. Kosj Yamoah, Director of Radiation Oncology Health Disparities Research
“Cancer is the third leading cause of death in low-income countries like Ghana. But many of the common cancers seen in that country, such as prostate or cervical cancer, could have better outcomes through improved treatment and prevention strategies,” he said.
Yamoah is partnering with Dr. Joel Yarney, chair of the Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine Program at Korle-Bu, and Dr. Anna Giuliano, founding director of the Center for Immunization and Infection Research in Cancer at Moffitt, to develop a training program aimed at educating Ghanaian medical trainees who are interested in cancer research.
Giuliano has experience launching international cancer research training programs. For the past 12 years she has been working with collaborators in Morocco to create and implement a training program. It was so successful, the program has expanded to Beirut.
“The goal is to provide mid and junior level physicians and postdoctoral fellows the tools they need to conduct their own cancer research. We teach them the basics from cancer epidemiology and bioethics, to project management, data analysis and grant writing,” said Giuliano.
Moffitt recently received grant funding from the National Institutes of Health to help develop the program in Ghana. The five-year collaborative effort will include courses, workshops and peer-to-peer mentoring led by faculty at Moffitt and Korle-Bu.
There are three segments to the program. The first is broader, basic scientific training aimed at drawing in those interested in learning about cancer research. The second is more advanced, applied learning. And the final segment is funded research.
"Trainees who have completed the first two segments of the program will have the opportunity to submit for research funding. These will be collaborative projects with a faculty mentor,” said Yamoah. “We would like to fund projects studying the four most common types of cancer diagnosed in Ghana: head and neck, breast, cervix and prostate.”
In addition to training, Moffitt will help enhance Korle-Bu’s current biobank, which will provide additional data and biospecimens for research studies.
“We hope that at the end of the five years, we will have passed on a sustainable cancer research program they can continue to enhance,” said Giuliano. “And, more importantly, the longstanding relationship between our two institutions can foster more collaborative research projects aimed at preventing and treating cancer.”