The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $50 million to the Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention for a major new effort to prevent cervical cancer worldwide. The five-year grant will support programs to clarify, promote and implement strategies for preventing cervical cancer in developing countries.
The Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention is made up of five international organizations: Hopkins' JHPIEGO Corporation, AVSC International, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the Pan American Health Organization and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health. Together, these organizations work extensively on various programs of cervical cancer prevention in geographic locations where cervical cancer is most common.
Each of the five entities will receive $2 million in each of the first two years; the remaining amount will be negotiated, based on what is needed to complete each undertaking.
"This exciting project will mean so much to the health of women the world over," said university president William R. Brody. "I especially want to thank the William H. Gates Foundation and, in particular, its director, Bill Gates Sr., for once again recognizing a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in an important public health initiative that will benefit families the world over."
Cervical cancer kills more than 200,000 women annually worldwide and disproportionately affects the poorest, most vulnerable women in many parts of the world. Early identification and treatment of precancerous conditions can prevent cervical cancer, which generally strikes women in midlife when they have completed their child-bearing and are playing an increasingly important economic and social role in their families and communities.
In March of this year, JHPIEGO researchers announced they had devised an inexpensive, easy test that could be used to screen women for cervical cancer and its precursors in geographic areas where Pap smears are not available. The initial study supporting this idea was conducted among African women in Zimbabwe and published in the March 13 issue of the British journal The Lancet.
This research showed that nurse-midwives who wiped a patient's cervix with ordinary vinegar and then visually inspected the area accurately detected more than 75 percent of potential cancers among the study participants. Tissue harboring precancerous lesions turns white when exposed to vinegar. The test identified almost twice as many cases of disease as did Pap smears.
Only about 5 percent of women in developing countries are routinely screened for cervical cancer compared to nearly 70 percent in industrialized nations.