A TEAM OF SCIENTISTS from Albert Einstein College of Medicine has received a 5-year, $4.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a research center to investigate human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)- and human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers in Africa.
The HIV-Associated HPV-Related Malignancies Research Center will build on Einstein-led efforts, which have already improved research, clinical, and laboratory capacity in Rwanda. More than 200,000 people in Rwanda have HIV, and women have a higher burden of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, cervical cancer, which is caused by HPV and which women with HIV are at greater risk of developing, is one of the two most common malignancies among Rwandan women. HPV is also linked to the development of anal, penile, and head and neck cancers.
The grant will enable Einstein researchers and their partners to expand the Rwandan programs and launch similar initiatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). These efforts will help improve health outcomes for millions of Africans living with HIV, whose incidence of diseases, including cancer, is increasing as they live longer due to effective HIV therapies.
Establishing a Central Resource
“WE AIM TO DEVELOP a cadre of Rwandan and DRC scientific leaders and build the necessary physical and administrative infrastructure to launch and sustain this project,” said Kathryn Anastos, MD, lead investigator on the grant and a member of the Albert Einstein Cancer Center, which has supported efforts to bring Rwandans to the United States for training.
Kathryn Anastos, MD
“Our new NIH-funded center in Africa will serve as a national and regional resource hub for research, training, and career development for those studying the epidemiology, pathogenesis, prevention, and treatment of HPV-associated malignancies in people living with HIV,” added Dr. Anastos, who is Professor of Medicine, of Epidemiology and Population Health, and of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Women’s Health at Einstein and an internist at Montefiore Health System. She is recognized internationally for her clinical and investigative work in HIV-infected women, and she has long been involved in leading complex multi-faceted research projects in the United States and Rwanda.
THE GRANT WILL SUPPORT two research projects.
One is the first population-based assessment of the effectiveness of HPV vaccination in women living with HIV. The study also will compare the HPV antibody response of those who received a three-dose vaccination, implemented in 2011, to women who received a two-dose vaccination schedule, starting in 2015. The second project, in its fourth year in Rwanda and new to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will focus on HPV prevalence and disease burden in men who have sex with men.
Both projects will include additional studies on the interaction of the gut microbiome with cervical, anal, and penile HPV infections. Central to those studies and the growth of the research center will be the development of laboratory capacity in molecular diagnostics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in next-generation DNA and RNA sequencing—which is faster and less expensive than older technologies—in Rwanda.