Our Ugandan colleagues at the Makerere College of Health Sciences have been busy over the past few months. Center members’ work has focused on various aspects of cervical cancer, from prevention to diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Miriam Nakalembe is still leading the NCI-funded effort to evaluate community-based strategies for cervical cancer detection, in partnership with Dr. Megan Huchko. Building on this work, she is a co-investigator on a recently funded two-year project through the Fogarty International Center. The grant seeks to develop a portable imaging technique, called a smartphone confocal endoscope. The new technology would visualize cellular details of human cervix in vivo without taking a biopsy, and after validation would be adapted to provide a low-cost diagnostic tool for other diseases in both resource poor and resource rich settings.
Dr. Jane Namugga continues her work with Dr. Paula Lee. The pair have completed data collection for a project to determine rates of completion and adverse events associated with receiving chemotherapy prior to surgery for women with cervical cancer. This treatment protocol reflects that fact that radiation therapy, the firstline treatment for cervical cancer, is often limited in low-resource settings, and has been unavailable in Uganda for the past two years. This study, funded by a Hammond Fund Award through the Duke Department of Ob/Gyn, will provide guidance for doctors having to improvise regimens for cancer patients.
While this project is ongoing, Dr. Namugga is leading the clinical training for the Makerere gyn-oncology fellowship, which will graduate the first class of fellows next October. Three more fellows were just accepted to start with next month’s class. Drs. Lee and Megan Swanson have helped provide clinical mentorship for the Makerere-based fellows. Dr. Swanson will be presenting some of the work she did in collaboration with Drs. Nakalembe, Huchko and Namugga at the International Papillomavirus meeting next month in Sydney, Australia. She has been exploring factors associated with delays in diagnosis and treatment for women diagnosed with cervical cancer in Makerere.