Amos Rodger Mwakigonja, MD, PhD
Senior Lecturer, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS)
Pathologist, Muhimbili National Hospital
Katherine Van Loon, MD, MPH
Assistant Clinical Professor
Division of Oncology, Department of Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
The alarming spread of cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) through the developing world has finally garnered the attention of the international health community. Whereas global health resources were once funneled solely into controlling infectious diseases, there is now unprecedented support for NCD prevention and control programs in the developing world. This shift in the global health agenda was highlighted by the United Nation’s decision to convene the second-ever high-level summit on health in September 2011 to focus on global strategies for prevention and control of NCDs. Discussions from this two-day summit underscore the inadequacies of current NCD surveillance programs in many developing countries and the urgent need to establish effective monitoring frameworks for assessment of needs and progress.
Cancer remains an under-recognized health condition throughout most of Africa, and improved surveillance systems for determining cancer incidence, mortality, and prevalence of risk factors are badly needed. Collection of epidemiologic data through cancer registration is a first step in positioning a population to address its cancer burden. Currently, only 11% of the population on the African continent is covered by cancer registries, many of which are of suboptimal quality.
In 2010, the Tanzania Cancer Registry Steering Committee was formed to begin to address these surveillance issues in Tanzania with the aim to rebuild a population-based cancer registry in Dar es Salaam. A partnership between researchers at UCSF and MUHAS was simultaneously formed to support and guide this initiative. Dr. Amos Mwakigonja, a Senior Lecturer at MUHAS and Pathologist at Muhimbili National Hospital, was named the Director of the Tanzania Cancer Registry.
In November 2011, a pilot project funded by University of California, San Francisco-Gladstone Institute of Virology & Immunology Center for AIDS Research commenced registration of all pathologically diagnosed malignancies for the Dar es Salaam region. In addition to rebuilding the registry, Dr. Mwakigonja and Dr. Van Loon continue to collaborate with the Global Health Research Foundation to implement mobile health technology which capitalizes on the open-source capabilities of CanReg5© cancer registration software and the existing cellular phone infrastructure in East Africa. They believe that this novel use of remote data entry technology will represent an advance in the efficiency and completeness of cancer registries in resource-poor countries.