Cambridge-Africa

History & Timeline

History of the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) - Cambridge Collaboration

The Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) - University of Cambridge collaboration began in 2017. Cambridge-Africa, as part of the support to the MUII plus Programme, had been running a series of video linked expert seminars on immunology for the Makerere University Masters students in Immunology and Clinical Microbiology. The UCI kindly agreed to host the seminars when there was an unforeseen interruption to the internet connection to the College of Health Sciences at Makerere University. One of the seminar presenters was Dr Maike De La Roche from the CRUK Cambridge Institute (CRUK CI) and she visited Uganda with Corinna Alberg, the MUII plusCambridge coordinator at Cambridge-Africa, in February 2018. Corinna and Maike made the initial visit to the UCI during their time in Uganda and met with key individuals at the UCI including the Director, Dr Jackson Orem, and the Head of Research, Dr Nixon Niyonzima. They heard about the exciting developments taking place at the UCI to realise its vision to be an internationally recognized centre of excellence advancing comprehensive cancer management in Africa. Along with Dr Orem and Dr Niyonzima they felt there were opportunities for collaboration with the research and clinical oncology community between Cambridge and at the UCI.

Returning to Cambridge, Dr De La Roche had meetings with the Director and senior members of the CRUK CI and from these discussions, the International Summer Research scheme was piloted in 2019 with two Ugandan participants. Discussions were also held with Dr Suzanne Turner who is based in the Department of Pathology and the CRUK Cancer Centre in Cambridge and whose research has a focus on paediatric lymphomas. Paediatric lymphomas are a shared interest with the UCI where Burkitt Lymphoma is much more prevalent than in the UK and is a particular research interest of the UCI’s Director, Dr Jackson Orem, who undertook research on Burkitt Lymphoma a part of his PhD at the Karolinska Institute.  Links were then made between Dr Suzanne Turner and the UCI to develop a joint research programme on Burkitt lymphoma.

Below are summaries of key activities emerging from this collaboration:  

Timeline of Events  

February 2018 Dr Maike De La Roche, CRUK Cambridge Institute (CRUK CI) and Corinna Alberg, MUII-plus Cambridge Coordinator at Cambridge-Africa made the initial visit to the UCI during their time in Uganda and met with key individuals at the UCI including the Director, Dr Jackson Orem, and the Head of Research, Dr Nixon Niyonzima.

December 2018 Dr Suzanne Turner (Department of Pathology) and Dr Jackson Orem (UCI) awarded GCRF-QR pump priming funds for  "Capacity building to facilitate Burkitt Lymphoma (BL) research in Uganda and towards the establishment of a centre of excellence for paediatric lymphoma research".

March 2019 Dr Suzanne Turner (Department of Pathology) and Dr Jackson Orem (UCI) awarded the Cambridge Afirca ALBORADA Research Fund grant for their study entitled "Development of an early detection assay for endemic Burkitt Lymphoma (eBL)".

May 2019 Uganda Cancer Institute Team visited Cambridge. Read Dr Jackson Orem's blog here.

June - July 2019 Henry Wannume and Paul Katongole from UCI attend the CRUK Cambridge Institute summer school. Read about their experience here.

September 2019 Dr Suzanne Turner (Department of Pathology) and Dr Jackson Orem (UCI) awarded GCRF-QR pump-priming funds for a project on "Understanding disease pathogenesis to develop targeted treatments for African children with Burkitt Lymphoma".

October 2019 Dr Charlie Massie (Department of Oncology) and Dr Nixon Niyonzima (UCI) awarded the Cambridge Africa ALBORADA Research Fund grant for their project "Validation of cell-free DNA methylation markers for minimally-invasive detection of Prostate Cancer at the Uganda Cancer Institute".

November 2019 Visit to UCI by Suzanne Turner and Jamie Matthews as part of the Cambridge Africa ALBORADA Research Fund Burkitt Lymphoma project to set the laboratory up to perform rapid sequencing using Nanopore MinION technology. Read more here.

November 2019 Execution of a MoU between UCI and the University of Cambridge with the aim of promoting and furthering academic links between the partners.

December 2019 Funding secured for a Cambridge - based coordinator to facilitate activities and to help develop a joint research and training programme. 

January 2020 UCI-Cambridge collaboration coordinator post advertised and open for applications. 

January 2020 A team of 3 physiotherapists, supported by Cambridge Global Health Partnerships, visit UCI to scope the development of a clinical partnership alongside the ongoing research activity. Read more about their visit here (cancer section at bottom of page). 

January 2020 Professor Greg Hannon, Director of the CRUK Cambridge Institute visits Uganda to launch the CRUK CI-UCI Summer Research Programme. Corinna Alberg tells us about their visit.

February 2020 Dr Suzanne Turner writes about her recent visit to the Uganda Cancer Institute

February 2020 Mike Gill and Davina Gale from the CRUK Cambridge Institute join the UCI interview panel to select Ugandan students for the CRUK CI Summer Research Programme

March 2020 Polly Basak joins the team as Project Coordinator on the UCI-Cambridge Collaboration. Read more about Polly on the team page.

April 2020 Despite the setbacks faced by COVID-19 we continue to work from home. A zoom meeting was held online with many collaborators from Cambridge University and the Uganda Cancer Institute.  

May 2020 Another collaboration meeting for all those involved in the Uganda Cambridge Cancer Initiative was held online via zoom. 18 participants from Cambridge and Kampala, Uganda attended. A new hashtag for the initiative was created #UgandaCambridgeCancer and will be used across social media.

Sep 2020 We held another Uganda Cambridge Cancer Initiative meeting via zoom with discussions on many interesting updates and developments. A collaborative review article for the Lancet Haematology Journal has been submitted. Authors include those from Cambridge University and the Uganda Cancer Institute. 

Oct 2020 We are delighted to share the very first Uganda Cambridge Cancer Initiative Newsletter, Issue 1, October 2020! Read the full copy here. Subscribe to our mailing list to receive future newsletters. 

Full a full list of blogs, reports, trip visits and articles related to the Uganda Cambridge Cancer Initiative please see our blogs section.  

If you would like further details or would like to be involved in the collaborative please contact the Project Coordinator, Polly Basak pab92@cam.ac.uk