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International Scholars Grants Broaden the Borders of Childhood Cancer Research

by St. Baldrick's Foundation
July 16, 2013


Dr. Joseph Lubega is one of two childhood cancer researchers to receive the new St. Baldrick’s International Scholars Grant. Dr. Lubega’s research is focused on finding better ways to diagnose children with cancer in Uganda.

Childhood cancer knows no boundaries. Cancer affects kids around the world, no matter the child’s race, ethnicity, wealth, or poverty. In many developed countries, and here in the United States, we are fortunate to have cutting edge diagnostic tools and extensive catalogs of cancer research that help us give our kids the best cancer treatment available.

But the reality is, most children with cancer do not live in developed countries. Indeed, the majority of kids with cancer live in countries with very limited resources. And for those children, a cancer diagnosis is almost always fatal — if a diagnosis is made at all.

Despite progress in childhood cancer research, we still know very little about the types of pediatric cancer that affect kids living in the developing world. Preliminary studies have shown that children in poorer countries tend to develop different types of cancer than kids in more affluent countries.

Children in poorer countries tend to develop different types of cancer than kids in more affluent countries.

For instance, a third of childhood cancer patients in Africa have Burkitt lymphoma, a cancer that is rarely seen in industrialized nations. African Burkitt lymphoma is the fastest-growing form of pediatric cancer, doubling its mass every 24 hours.

Dr. Joseph Lubega began medical school in Uganda, where a young girl with Burkitt lymphoma sparked his career in pediatric oncology. When doctors like Dr. Lubega are up against a tumor that is growing by the hour, early diagnosis is essential to a child’s survival. And yet, in Uganda, where there is one pediatric oncologist for the country’s 17 million children, making an early diagnosis is a real challenge.

We help all kids fighting cancer when research includes children from diverse backgrounds.

On the other side of the world, in El Salvador, Dr. Soad Fuentes Alabi is spearheading a new project: a cancer registry, the first of its kind in Central America. Once the registry is in place, doctors in El Salvador will be able to see which communities are most affected by cancer and which treatments have been most effective for their kids.

This is important work. We help all kids fighting cancer when research includes children from diverse backgrounds.


Dr. Joseph Lubega of Uganda and Dr. Soad Fuentes Alabi of El Salvador, St. Balrick’s first International Scholars.

To help accomplish this goal, St. Baldrick’s has added a new funding category: the International Scholars Grant. This is a 3- to 5-year grant awarded to pediatric oncologists from low and middle income countries, preparing them to become researchers, and ultimately, help kids with cancer in their communities.

The first grant recipients are Dr. Joseph Lubega from Uganda, East Africa, and Dr. Soad Fuentes Alabi from El Salvador, Central America.

Through the International Scholars Grant from St. Baldrick’s, you are helping Dr. Lubega and Dr. Fuentes Alabi as they work to include more kids from Africa and South America in childhood cancer research, and to improve the standard of care in their native countries.

Together, we are helping kids move closer to childhood cancer cures — here at home, and around the world.

The International Scholars Grant is just one part of over 22 million dollars St. Baldrick’s is giving to fund pediatric cancer research. Learn more about St. Baldrick’s 2013 Summer Grants.

See the Grants