The University of Botswana in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, University of Pennsylvania and Botswana-UPenn Partnership on November 15, 2022 launched a US$3.5 million (approximately P45.4 million) research study titled Thibang Diphatlha.
The University received the research grant from the United States of America National Cancer Institute to test adaptive strategies to close the gap from cervical cancer diagnosis to treatment in Botswana.
The objective of the study is to compare the effectiveness of four adaptive interventions on timely treatment in females with invasive cervical cancer and to evaluate multilevel mechanisms contributing to the effectiveness of adaptive strategies using surveys and interviews with patients and health workers in Botswana.
Cervical cancer is one of the most prevalent causes of death among females globally, with approximately 90 percent of cases and death occurring in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, particularly those with High HIV rates. Delays between diagnosis and treatment in Botswana remains a major concern in that patient risk the cancer spreading to other parts of the body if not treated on time.
Speaking at the launch, Deputy Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Health, Dr Tshepo Machacha, acknowledged that government systems that linked cancer diagnosis results back to patients were highly limited. Therefore, Dr Machacha said designing and implementation of proper systems called for locally relevant and impactful research.
The situation is compounded by the fact that Botswana only has one oncology referral hospital, the gynecological Oncology Multi-disciplinary clinic founded in 2015 and located within Princess Marina Hospital. To mitigate the situation, the study aims to close the gap to get all patients diagnosed with cancer to treatment in under 90 days.
Consequently, the study will test interventions at two stages. The first stage will test interventions to get patients with cancer to care within the first 30 days immediately after the pathologists in the lab have confirmed the presence of cancer. The second stage is to apply additional interventions for those patients who do not complete their first visit at the cancer treatment clinic within 30 days of outreach.
In testing two stages of interventions, the research will study health system interventions to get all patients to begin treatment, using an approach that is often used for testing drugs.
Deputy Dean in the Office of Research and Graduate Studies at the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Doreen Masire explains, “In drug studies, some patients respond well to one level of dosage and that is all they need. However, others don’t respond and need a little more help. In this study, we are trying to do something similar but applied to accessing care.”
In her closing remarks Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Oathokwa Nkomazana, said the study came at an opportune time when the University of Botswana had introduced a new Strategy for 2020-2029.
Professor Nkomazana said the strategy titled Creating a Future for the Knowledge Generation, underscored a socially accountable faculty especially to the communities within which it operated.