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Infectious Diseases

Approximately 20-25% of all cancers in the developing world result from infectious agents e.g. viruses and bacteria.

Irving Hoffman, RN, MPH at the Tidziwe Centre at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe Milawi. Tidziwe is the clinical, research and training center for UNC's project in Lilongwe, Milawi.

Hepatitis B and C viruses are associated with liver cancer. Epstein Barr virus and Kaposi’s sarcoma associated herpesvirus are associated with lymphomas, nasopharyngeal carcinoma and Kaposi’s sarcoma. Helicobacter pylori is associated with a sub-set of gastric cancers. These are just a few examples. For instance, Kaposi’s sarcoma in Africa is 3 times more prevalent that prostate cancer in the US.

These cancers are rapid and devastating, but they offer a unique scientific opportunity. For some of these infectious agents, effective preventative measures already exist. Examples are drugs against Helicobacter and vaccines against HBV and HPV. Thus, just like other preventative strategies e.g. tobacco control to prevent lung and oral cancers, preventing infections with the agents listed above should reduce the global burden of cancer.

UNC Lineberger member and associate professor of surgery, Carol Shores, MD, PhD, FACS, has been working in Malawi to conduct innovative clinical trials in Burkitt lymphoma (BL),Icon indicating that a link will open an external site. which is the most common pediatric cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and is associated with Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV).