World Cancer Day – Cancer Walk 2016

MRC Unit The Gambia will be taking part in the 2016 Cancer Walk organised by the Office of Her Excellency, the First Lady, Madam Zineb Jammeh in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and partners on World Cancer Day 4 February 2016. The objectives of the event are to raise awareness about cancer, mobilise support and raise funds to revive the Cancer Unit at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Banjul.

Cancer Walk1To mark the day, Her Excellency the Vice President Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, Partners and Dignitaries are expected to attend. The Cancer Walk will commence from the National Assembly Building and end at the July 22nd Square in Banjul.

The Gambia is one of few countries in Africa that has a population-based national cancer registry set up and funded by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research in Cancer (WHO-IARC). This registry is located at the Gambia Hepatitis Intervention Study (GHIS) office at MRC Unit The Gambia and the Tumour registration officers who collect cancer data are based at major health institutions around the country.

Data from the cancer registry, as part of the Gambia Hepatitis Intervention Study (GHIS), shows that liver cancer remains the most common cancer in Gambian men, and cervical cancer the most common in Gambian women. Both of these cancers are caused by chronic infection with viruses; Hepatitis B virus (HBV) in the case of liver cancer, and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in the case of cervical cancer. Infection with both these viruses can be prevented by vaccination.

The GHIS was responsible for introducing universal infant vaccination against HBV in 1990, after the initial vaccine efficacy studies which were carried out, in partnership with MRC Unit The Gambia and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare between 1986-1990 showed that it was highly effective. In vaccinated children, chronic infection with HBV fell from 10-15% to less than 1%. The national Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) team led by Mr Dawda Sowe should be commended for the consistently high HBV vaccine coverage rates in recent years as well as their efforts to introduce universal HPV vaccination in school children in partnership with Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI).

In The Gambia, the emphasis must remain on prevention through awareness campaigns and where possible, early detection and early treatment, to curb the projected rise in premature deaths from cancer. The Prevention of Liver Fibrosis and Cancer in Africa (PROLIFICA) project in partnership with Senegal, Nigeria, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), IARC and Imperial College, London currently focuses on using the screen and treat strategy to prevent liver cancer.

‘The initiative by the First Lady, Madam Zineb Jammeh to upgrade and expand cervical and breast cancer screening services at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH) in Banjul are timely, as the number of Gambian women affected by these cancers is on the rise, and deserves support from the international community’, said Dr Ramou Njie, GHIS Lead/PI PROLIFICA and head of Hepatitis Research.

As part of the programme, awards will be presented to significant contributors in the fight against cancer. The recipients of this awards include MRC Unit The Gambia which will be received by the MRC Unit The Gambia Director Professor Umberto D’Alessandro. Other recipients include SOS Children’s Village, Foundation for Research on Women’s Health, Productivity, and the Environment (BAFROW), Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations.