A five-year training grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute expands the capacity of UNC’s Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center to train the next generation of cancer researchers in Malawi, Africa.
The Malawi Cancer Outcomes Research Program, or M-CORP, includes funding for advanced degree and post-doctoral training. Specifically, the $1.35 million grant will support junior Malawian cancer researchers earning a PhD in health management, bioethics, epidemiology, or bioinformatics as well as clinician-scientists seeking a Master of Medicine degree in anatomical pathology, clinical oncology, medical oncology, or pediatric oncology. U.S. postdocs are eligible for a year-long position in Malawi to conduct mentored research in global oncology. Additionally, opportunities for mentored research experiences available to Malawian fellows and scholars include pilot grant awards and short-term, research sabbaticals at UNC. All M-CORP trainees will participate in short courses specific to their focus areas, workshops, and symposia occurring on site in Malawi.
M-CORP builds on the 30-year partnership established through the Institute for Global Health’s UNC Project Malawi. Originally focused on HIV, Project Malawi has expanded in recent decades, with integral partnership with the UNC Lineberger Global Oncology Program to include a globally recognized cancer research program that participates in a National Cancer Institute consortium for HIV-associated malignancies, a USAID-funded cervical cancer screening study, and more. The new program also bridges the world class, outcomes-based training offered by UNC Lineberger with the implementation science training program at UNC Project Malawi.
Principal M-CORP external partners are Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (formerly University of Malawi College of Medicine and the Kamuzu College of Nursing), Lighthouse Clinic, and Texas Children’s Hospital. The objectives of M-CORP include building a pipeline for early career cancer research for Malawian investigators.
“We are using a multi-project director leadership strategy based at both UNC and UNC Project-Malawi to optimize our strengths across the spectrum of cancer outcomes research,” says Yuri Fedoriw, MD, professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and IGHID’s global cancer pathology director, and co-director of the UNC Project Malawi Cancer Program.
Fedoriw is serving as M-CORP principal investigator along with Lameck Chinula, MD, professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and UNC Division of Global Women’s Health and Tamiwe Tomoka, MBBS, MSc, co-director of the UNC Project Malawi Cancer Program.
UNC Project Malawi’s cancer team leaders include:
- Matt Painschab, MD, adult lymphoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma
- Lameck Chinula, MD, cervical cancer, AMC studies
- Shekinah Elmore, MD, MPH, radiation oncology
- Yolanda Gondwe, MPH, cancer program coordinator
- Bongani Kaimila, MBBS, MSc, cancer clinic, esophageal cancer
- Gita Mody, MD, MPH, surgery
- Alyssa Tilly, MD, palliative care
- Tamiwe Tamoka, MBBS, MSc, FCPath, pathology, breast cancer
- Kate Westmoreland, MD, patient reported outcomes, pediatric cancer and sickle cell
“We have an exceptional pool of multidisciplinary mentors, a detailed plan for program evaluation, and robust partnerships between UNC and Malawian institutions, all of which will ensure that we meet the M-CORP objectives and establish Malawi as an internationally recognized center of excellence for cancer research,” Fedoriw says. “It’s exciting to know that we can support the work of brilliant, caring, and intelligent Malawian cancer researchers whose findings could have a significant global impact.”
M-CORP is administered by IGHID’s Fellowships and Training Programs Office, home to a fast-growing portfolio of global health mentored research training opportunities across multiple disciplines. Trainees conduct projects in HIV, other infectious and endemic diseases, non-communicable diseases, trauma and surgery, epidemiology, and behavioral sciences. M-CORP is funded through an NIH D43 grant, which supports for research training programs at institutions in low- and middle-income countries to develop and strengthen scientific and research capacity. IGHID now holds seven of these awards, three of which are based in Malawi and focus on implementation science (Fogarty HIV Research Training), mental health (NCD-Lifespan) and with this recent award, NCI Global Cancer Research.