CPHR leads Pacific cancer programme
A cancer research and control
programme is to be launched in the Pacific region following the
success of a recent course on cancer epidemiology led by Dr Sunia
Foliaki and Professor Neil Pearce, from the Centre for Public
Health Research (CPHR).
Dr Foliaki and Professor Pearce held the 10 working-day training
course in Tonga in May, with a ‘faculty’ of six leading
cancer epidemiologists from New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, France
and the United Kingdom. The programme was funded by the International
Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and hosted by the Tongan Ministry
of Health and Massey. There were more than 90 applications for
the course from 27 countries, with 46 being accepted. Participants
were mainly from the Pacific but some came from as far as Nepal,
Pakistan and Scotland.
Dr Foliaki says cancer was the second leading cause of mortality
in Tonga in 2002. It is a significant issue in the Pacific but
relatively little is known about the magnitude of the problem,
the key risk factors or the potential for prevention. “Over
the last 25 years or so a great deal of research on non-communicable
disease has been conducted throughout the South Pacific, but there
have been few studies of cancer.
“ The IARC course was very successful, with enthusiastic contributions
from the participants, and it has greatly raised awareness about
cancer in the Pacific and the need to develop research capacity
in this area.”
Dr Foliaki says the course also provided an opportunity to meet
to discuss the development of a cancer registration programme in
Tonga, with assistance from Massey, IARC, and the New Zealand Cancer
Registry. The aim is to start in Tonga, and then work with the
Ministries of Health in other Pacific countries to help established
standardised cancer registration throughout the region, he says.
Dr Foliaki and CPHR have also recently been awarded a Wellcome
Trust grant for $56,000 for an asthma self-management trial to
be conducted in Tonga.
Professor Pearce says that these two projects represent the start
of an ongoing collaboration between Massey and the Tongan Ministry
of Health which has recently established a Research Section headed
by Dr Foliaki. The programme will focus on cancer and asthma research
initially, but will include all aspects of non-communicable disease,
with a particular emphasis on building health research capacity.