By Gift Briton

The recent selection of Kenya Medical Research Institute(KEMRI) as a collaborating Centre for the International Agency for Research on Cancer(IARC) is set to boost the fight against cancer control in sub-Saharan Africa region including Kenya, which is currently dealing with a surge of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

KEMRI is designated as one of the focal centers to work in collaboration with the sub-Saharan Africa hub, the Africa Cancer Registries Network and the Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development (GICR), to support capacity building for cancer registration in the region.

This collaboration is expected to strengthen and extend population-based cancer registration in the region and lead efforts on localized and tailored training on cancer registration including database creation on cancer mortality, incidences, survival, data analysis and providing technical support among others.

Speaking during the launch, Dr. Patrick Amoth, Kenya’s Acting Director of Medical Services, noted that for a long period, cancer data has not been well established in Kenya, with the country largely relying on international model estimates.

Therefore, Dr. Amoth says that cancer registration is an effective ingredient for cancer control for providing crucial information on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival which in turn will be used for the establishment of public health priorities including planning, monitoring and accessing the effectiveness of national cancer control programs.

According to Dr. Amoth, with over 42,000 cases recorded in 2020 in Kenya, cancer is a leading cause of catastrophic house expenditure impoverishing individuals. Effective cancer control requires massive investment across the entire health system touching on all health systems blocs including data, training, financing, workforce, and information systems among others, he said.

“Cancer data is important within the control continuum as it helps to document cancer burden, informs policy prioritization, guides resource allocation and also helps to generate research hypothesis to guide policy formulation,” Dr. Amoth stated.

Furthermore, cancer data is important within cancer control as it helps to document the cancer burden, informs policy prioritization, guides resource allocation and also helps to generate research hypotheses to guide necessary action.

He further added that the collaboration will help in capacity building for cancer registration to create a skilled and adequate workforce that would ensure continuous and proper functioning for cancer registries as well as provide technical expertise to both the existing and additional cancer registries.

Speaking on behalf of KEMRI Director General, Prof. Elijah Songok acknowledged the importance of data in the control of non-communicable diseases adding that “without data, you cannot be able to make an informed decision and influence policy.”

Sharing similar sentiments, Dr. Sharon Kapambwe, who represented World Health Organization(WHO), stressed on the importance of robust information systems to control cancer.

She said that quality data in Africa is below 10% therefore, having reliable and quality data is important to know the cancer incident and survival and it would be equally important for policymakers for gauging the success of their interventions as they prioritize, adding that “cancer control plan and interventions need data to be prioritized.”