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Unique research unit in Wits Health Consortium targets non-communicable diseases

- Wits Communications

It is World Cancer Day on 4 February and Wits specialists are poised to challenge cancer and other non-communicable diseases.

South Africa is facing a rapidly increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including cancer, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and depression. In particular, the burden of common cancers such as breast, prostate, lung and colorectal cancers is increasing.

To meet the challenge of NCDs, a unique collaboration of Wits Faculty of Health Sciences specialists, epidemiologists, molecular biologists, and the National Cancer Registry has formed a multidisciplinary research division.

The Non-Communicable Diseases Research Division (NCDRD) launched on 7 December 2017 within the Wits Health Consortium, which is a clinical research company wholly owned by Wits that fosters academic entrepreneurial research.

"South Africa is facing a growing prevalence of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and depression. We need an integrated approach of different clinical specialists, with scientists, to find ways to not only improve the screening and treatment of these conditions but also to prevent such diseases. The Wits Health Consortium has launched a division dedicated to tackling non-communicable diseases in South Africa," says NCDRD research professor, Shane Norris from the Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit at Wits.

Mr Alf Farrell is Chief Executive of the Wits Health Consortium and health sciences professionals involved in the NCDRD include:

  • Paul Ruff, Professor and head of Medical Oncology in the Department of Medicine at Wits, and Director of the South African Medical Research Council’s Common Epithelial Cancer Research Centre
  • Dr Anita Graham, specialist pulmonologist in the Department of Medicine and Pulmonology at Wits, and Director of the Lung Laboratory Center of Excellence at Helen Joseph Hospital
  • Dr June Fabian, a nephrologist in the Internal Medicine Department at Wits and research director at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre
  • Dr Elvira Singh, head of the National Cancer Registry

World Cancer Day is a global event that takes place annually on 4 February. According to the World Health Organization, World Cancer Day aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about the disease; pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action.