Following the receipt of KES 446 million NIHR Oesophageal Cancer Research Grant, KUTRRH alongside our University of Manchester colleagues commenced the project activities in August 2022. The research studies Oesophageal Cancer, establishing the cancer spread in the country, its causes, and the best treatment for best outcomes.

The areas of focus for the project include:

  1. Community engagement and sensitisation
  2. Early detection and screening using mobile endoscopy units
  3. Advanced molecular pathology to inform risk factors of oesophageal cancer
  4. Research capacity strengthening
  5. Training and capacity building of endoscopists, pathologists, and clinical fellows.

Why Oesophageal Cancer Research?

Although present-day therapeutic interventions of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy can positively influence disease prognosis, cancer of the esophagus remains a highly lethal disease in Kenya. Esophageal cancer is the fourth most common cancer with a fatality rate of 99.3% due to late recognition of symptoms by both patients and health care workers.

Most Esophageal cancers are discovered when they have become locally advanced and are due to a non-specific initial presentation like heartburn or abdominal bloating. Therefore, as few as one out of eight esophageal cancers are detected at an early stage.

Early diagnosis and accurate staging are therefore paramount for optimizing treatment and prognosis of this disease. The cancer is potentially influenced by a combination of genetics, lifestyle, and socioeconomic and environmental factors. Striking variations in incidences exist across geographical confines whereby Western and Central Kenya has the highest incidences.

The two major aims of this Esophageal cancer research include understanding mechanisms of disease progression to identify biomarkers of cancer risk and develop new cancer interception strategies to prevent or delay disease development or recurrence.

Research model

This research adopts a hub and spoke model. KUTRRH will be the Hub and five counties will be the spokes: Kisii, Meru, Garissa, Nakuru, and Nyeri. These have been selected on account of the high prevalence of Esophageal cancer and they have sufficient resources and infrastructure to participate in this program.

The vision of the collaborative research is to reduce the morbidity and mortality from Esophageal cancer in Kenya using a joint approach and based partly on the successes of the University of Manchester teams’ approach to early detection, risk assessment, and stratification, with further expertise in behavior change, health psychology, health economics, data science, and biomarker discovery.

To achieve the vision, this collaborative research is creating an environment where the best clinical and scientific minds can work together with patients and the public to offset the societal, health care, and economic burden of delayed Esophageal cancer diagnosis. The project is set to run for the next three years.

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