An overview of cancer research in South African academic and research institutions, 2013 - 2014

Moodley, Jennifer ; Stefan, D Cristina ; Sewram, Vikash ; Ruff, Paul ; Freeman, Melvyn ; Asante-Shongwe, Kwanele (2016-05-10)

CITATION: Moodley, J. et al. 2016. An overview of cancer research in South African academic and research institutions, 2013 - 2014. South African Medical Journal, 106(6):607-610, doi:10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i6.10314.

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Background and objectives. Cancer is emerging as a critical public health problem in South Africa (SA). Recognising the importance of research in addressing the cancer burden, the Ministerial Advisory Committee on the Prevention and Control of Cancer (MACC) research working group undertook a review of the current cancer research landscape in SA and related this to the cancer burden. Methods. Academic and research institutions in SA were contacted to provide information on the titles of all current and recently completed (2013/2014) cancer research projects. Three MACC research working group members used the project titles to independently classify the projects by type of research (basic, clinical and public health – projects could be classified in more than one category) and disease site. A more detailed classification of projects addressing the five most common cancers diagnosed in males and females in SA was conducted using an adapted Common Scientific Outline (CSO) categorisation. Results. Information was available on 556 cancer research projects. Overall, 301 projects were classified as clinical, 254 as basic science and 71 as public health research. The most common cancers being researched were cancers of the breast (n=95 projects) and cervix (n=43), leukaemia (n=36), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (n=35) and lung cancer (n=23). Classification of the five most common cancers in males and females in SA, using the adapted CSO categories, showed that the majority of projects related to treatment, with relatively few projects on prevention, survivorship and patient perspectives. Conclusion. Our findings established that there is a dearth of public health cancer research in SA.

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