The KTB will hold a collection event in Eldoret, Kenya

In January 2012, Indy’s Super Cure, a partnership between the KTB and the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee, was successful in raising both awareness and funding for the tissue bank.  Because of the fundraising, the KTB will be able to travel to Kenya to collect scientifically valuable samples from Kenyan tissue donors.

The KTB plans to travel to Eldoret in January 2013 to meet with doctors and administrators of Moi University School of Medicine and the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, as well as to interact with city and community residents. The emphasis for the January visit will be to acquire and exchange information necessary to plan an actual tissue collection in July 2013.

What is the importance of collecting the tissue of women in Africa?

It is becoming increasingly clear that breast cancer is a different disease in women of African descent. It is very important that this genetic link be identified.  As an example, the incidence of breast cancer for women in Japan is significantly lower than for Caucasian women in America. When Japanese women come to live in the United States, however, after three generations, the Japanese have the same risk for developing breast cancer as American women, as well as contracting the same types of cancer as Caucasian women.

Is this because of the diet and environment in America?  If so, it has not happened in the African American community, which continues to have much higher rates of risk and incidence.  Clearly there is a genetic effect.  We know that African American women have a wide diversity of backgrounds.  We need to understand why African women, and those of African descent, develop different breast cancer. If the breast cancer is different, then is the breast different?

There would be many ways to measure the success of doing research with samples acquired by the KTB. Perhaps there could be an outcome similar to the sickle cell story. Sickle cell anemia is very common in Africa. The question could be raised: if sickle cell is bad, why has it not genetically cycled out? As it turns out, sickle cell was determined to be protective against malaria. Could there be a genetic reason why Triple-Negative breast cancer is so prevalent in Africa and in those of African descent? This is just an example of some theories which may be followed by researchers seeking to do projects using the tissue samples taken from African women.

Why Kenya in particular?

In 1989, Indiana University and Moi University partnered to establish AMPATH, which focused on treating those infected with HIV/AIDS. Today, AMPATH has grown to encompass knowledge and treatment of other health concerns, including oncology.  Because of this partnership and growth, a sound infrastructure is already in place in Kenya.  The existing facilities in Eldoret, as well as the relationship with the surrounding community, are two factors which combine to ease some of the complications normally associated with such a challenging endeavor.

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