Global Radiotherapy: Current Status and Future Directions—White Paper

Recognizing the increase in cancer incidence globally and the need for effective cancer control interventions, several organizations, professional bodies, and international institutions have proposed strategies to improve treatment options and reduce mortality along with minimizing overall incidence. Despite these efforts, an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018 was attributed to this noncommunicable disease, making it the second leading cause of death worldwide. Left unchecked, this will further increase in scale, with an estimated 29.5 million new cases and 16.3 million deaths occurring worldwide in 2040. Although it is known and generally accepted that cancer services must include radiotherapy, such access is still very limited in many parts of the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries. After thorough review of the current status of radiotherapy including programs worldwide, as well as achievements and challenges at the global level, the International Atomic Energy Agency convened an international group of experts representing various radiation oncology societies to take a closer look into the current status of radiotherapy and provide a road map for future directions in this field. It was concluded that the plethora of global and regional initiatives would benefit further from the existence of a central framework, including an easily accessible repository through which better coordination can be done. Supporting this framework, a practical inventory of competencies needs to be made available on a global level emphasizing the knowledge, skills, and behavior required for a safe, sustainable, and professional practice for various settings. This white paper presents the current status of global radiotherapy and future directions for the community. It forms the basis for an action plan to be developed with professional societies worldwide.

Survival of south african women with breast cancer receiving anti-retroviral therapy for HIV

Purpose
Breast cancer outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa is reported to be poor, with an estimated five-year survival of 50% when compared to almost 90% in high-income countries. Although several studies have looked at the effect of HIV in breast cancer survival, the effect of ARTs has not been well elucidated.

Methods
All females newly diagnosed with invasive breast cancer from May 2015–September 2017 at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic and Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital were enrolled. We analysed overall survival and disease-free survival, comparing HIV positive and negative patients. Kaplan-Meier survival curves were generated with p-values calculated using a log-rank test of equality while hazard ratios and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using Cox regression models.

Results
Of 1019 patients enrolled, 22% were HIV positive. The overall survival (95% CI) was 53.5% (50.1–56.7%) with a disease-free survival of 55.8% (52.1–59.3) after 4 years of follow up. HIV infection was associated with worse overall survival (HR (95% CI): 1.50 (1.22–1.85), p < 0.001) and disease-free survival (OR (95% CI):2.63 (1.71–4.03), p < 0.001), especially among those not on ART at the time of breast cancer diagnosis. Advanced stage of the disease and hormone-receptor negative breast cancer subtypes were also associated with poor survival. Conclusion HIV infection was associated with worse overall and disease-free survival. HIV patients on ARTs had favourable overall and disease-free survival and with ARTs now being made accessible to all the outcome of women with HIV and breast cancer is expected to improve.

Digital Health Strategies for Cervical Cancer Control in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Systematic Review of Current Implementations and Gaps in Research

Background:
Nearly 90% of deaths due to cervical cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In recent years, many digital health strategies have been implemented in LMICs to ameliorate patient-, provider-, and health system–level challenges in cervical cancer control. However, there are limited efforts to systematically review the effectiveness and current landscape of digital health strategies for cervical cancer control in LMICs.

Objective:
We aim to conduct a systematic review of digital health strategies for cervical cancer control in LMICs to assess their effectiveness, describe the range of strategies used, and summarize challenges in their implementation.

Methods:
A systematic search was conducted to identify publications describing digital health strategies for cervical cancer control in LMICs from 5 academic databases and Google Scholar. The review excluded digital strategies associated with improving vaccination coverage against human papillomavirus. Titles and abstracts were screened, and full texts were reviewed for eligibility. A structured data extraction template was used to summarize the information from the included studies. The risk of bias and data reporting guidelines for mobile health were assessed for each study. A meta-analysis of effectiveness was planned along with a narrative review of digital health strategies, implementation challenges, and opportunities for future research.

Results:
In the 27 included studies, interventions for cervical cancer control focused on secondary prevention (ie, screening and treatment of precancerous lesions) and digital health strategies to facilitate patient education, digital cervicography, health worker training, and data quality. Most of the included studies were conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, with fewer studies in other LMIC settings in Asia or South America. A low risk of bias was found in 2 studies, and a moderate risk of bias was found in 4 studies, while the remaining 21 studies had a high risk of bias. A meta-analysis of effectiveness was not conducted because of insufficient studies with robust study designs and matched outcomes or interventions.

Conclusions:
Current evidence on the effectiveness of digital health strategies for cervical cancer control is limited and, in most cases, is associated with a high risk of bias. Further studies are recommended to expand the investigation of digital health strategies for cervical cancer using robust study designs, explore other LMIC settings with a high burden of cervical cancer (eg, South America), and test a greater diversity of digital strategies.

Increasing Antimicrobial Resistance in Surgical Wards at Mulago National Referral Hospital, Uganda, from 2014 to 2018—Cause for Concern?

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) are major global public health challenges in our time. This study provides a broader and updated overview of AMR trends in surgical wards of Mulago National Referral Hospital (MNRH) between 2014 and 2018. Laboratory data on the antimicrobial susceptibility profiles of bacterial isolates from 428 patient samples were available. The most common samples were as follows: tracheal aspirates (36.5%), pus swabs (28.0%), and blood (20.6%). Klebsiella (21.7%), Acinetobacter (17.5%), and Staphylococcus species (12.4%) were the most common isolates. The resistance patterns for different antimicrobials were: penicillins (40–100%), cephalosporins (30–100%), β-lactamase inhibitor combinations (70–100%), carbapenems (10–100%), polymyxin E (0–7%), aminoglycosides (50–100%), sulphonamides (80–100%), fluoroquinolones (40–70%), macrolides (40–100%), lincosamides (10–45%), phenicols (40–70%), nitrofurans (0–25%), and glycopeptide (0–20%). This study demonstrated a sustained increase in resistance among the most commonly used antibiotics in Uganda over the five-year study period. It implies ongoing hospital-based monitoring and surveillance of AMR patterns are needed to inform antibiotic prescribing, and to contribute to national and global AMR profiles. It also suggests continued emphasis on infection prevention and control practices (IPC), including antibiotic stewardship. Ultimately, laboratory capacity for timely bacteriological culture and sensitivity testing will provide a rational choice of antibiotics for HAI.

Oxygen delivery systems for adults in Sub-Saharan Africa: A scoping review

Background
Respiratory diseases are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Oxygen is an essential medicine used to treat hypoxemia from respiratory diseases. However, the availability and utilization of oxygen delivery systems for adults in sub-Saharan Africa is not well-described. We aim to identify and describe existing data around oxygen availability and provision for adults in sub-Saharan Africa, determine knowledge or research gaps, and make recommendations for future research and capacity building.

Methods
We systematically searched four databases for articles on April 22, 2020, for variations of keywords related to oxygen with a focus on countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Inclusion criteria were studies that included adults and addressed hypoxemia assessment or outcome, oxygen delivery mechanisms, oxygen availability, oxygen provision infrastructure, and oxygen therapy and outcomes.

Results
35 studies representing 22 countries met inclusion criteria. Availability of oxygen delivery systems ranged from 42%-94% between facilities, with wide variability in the consistency of availability. There was also wide reported prevalence of hypoxemia, with most studies focusing on specific populations. In facilities where oxygen is available, health care workers are ill-equipped to identify adult patients with hypoxemia, provide oxygen to those who need it, and titrate or discontinue oxygen appropriately. Oxygen concentrators were shown to be the most cost-effective delivery system in areas where power is readily available.

Conclusions
There is a substantial need for building capacity for oxygen delivery throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Addressing this critical issue will require innovation and a multi-faceted approach of developing infrastructure, better equipping facilities, and health care worker training

Communication Intervention Using Digital Technology to Facilitate Informed Choices at Childbirth in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial

Background:
In Brazil and other low- and middle-income countries, excess interventions in childbirth are associated with an increase in preterm and early-term births, contributing to stagnant morbidity and mortality of mothers and neonates. The fact that women often report a negative experience with vaginal childbirth, with physical pain and feelings of unsafety, neglect, or abuse, may explain the high acceptability of elective cesarean sections. The recognition of information needs and of the right to informed choice during childbirth can help change this reality. The internet has been the main source of health information, but its quality is highly variable.

Objective:
This study aimed to develop and evaluate an information and communication strategy through a smartphone app with respect to childbirth, to facilitate informed choices for access to safer and evidence-based care in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods:
A randomized controlled trial, with 2 arms (intervention and control) and a closed, blind, parallel design, will be conducted with a smartphone app designed for behavior and opinion research in Brazil, with women of reproductive age previously registered on the app. After completing an entry questionnaire to verify the eligibility criteria and obtaining ethical consent, approximately 20,000 participants will be randomly allocated to the intervention and control groups at a 1:1 ratio. Participants allocated to the intervention group will be invited to engage in a digital information and communication strategy, which is designed to expand evidence-based knowledge on the advantages and disadvantages of options for labor and childbirth and the safety of the care processes. The information is based on the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization for a positive childbirth experience and has been updated to include the new challenges and disruptions in maternity care within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The control group will receive information regarding disposable and reusable diapers as a placebo intervention. The groups will be compared in their responses in generating the birth plan and the entry and exit questionnaires, regarding responses less or more aligned with the guidelines for a positive childbirth experience. A qualitative component to map information needs is included.

Results:
The digital trial started recruiting participants in late October 2020, and data collection has been projected to be complete by December 2020.

Conclusions:
This study will evaluate an innovative intervention that has the potential to promote better communication between women and providers, such that they can make better choices using an approach suitable for use during the COVID-19 pandemic

Artificial intelligence: A rapid case for advancement in the personalization of Gynaecology/Obstetric and Mental Health care

To evaluate and holistically treat the mental health sequelae and potential psychiatric comorbidities associated with obstetric and gynaecological conditions, it is important to optimize patient care, ensure efficient use of limited resources and improve health-economic models. Artificial intelligence applications could assist in achieving the above. The World Health Organization and global healthcare systems have already recognized the use of artificial intelligence technologies to address ‘system gaps’ and automate some of the more cumbersome tasks to optimize clinical services and reduce health inequalities. Currently, both mental health and obstetric and gynaecological services independently use artificial intelligence applications. Thus, suitable solutions are shared between mental health and obstetric and gynaecological clinical practices, independent of one another. Although, to address complexities with some patients who may have often interchanging sequelae with mental health and obstetric and gynaecological illnesses, ‘holistically’ developed artificial intelligence applications could be useful. Therefore, we present a rapid review to understand the currently available artificial intelligence applications and research into multi-morbid conditions, including clinical trial-based validations. Most artificial intelligence applications are intrinsically data-driven tools, and their validation in healthcare can be challenging as they require large-scale clinical trials. Furthermore, most artificial intelligence applications use rate-limiting mock data sets, which restrict their applicability to a clinical population. Some researchers may fail to recognize the randomness in the data generating processes in clinical care from a statistical perspective with a potentially minimal representation of a population, limiting their applicability within a real-world setting. However, novel, innovative trial designs could pave the way to generate better data sets that are generalizable to the entire global population. A collaboration between artificial intelligence and statistical models could be developed and deployed with algorithmic and domain interpretability to achieve this. In addition, acquiring big data sets is vital to ensure these artificial intelligence applications provide the highest accuracy within a real-world setting, especially when used as part of a clinical diagnosis or treatment.

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Oncology Clinical Research in Latin America (LACOG 0420)

PURPOSE
COVID-19 has affected cancer care worldwide. Clinical trials are an important alternative for the treatment of oncologic patients, especially in Latin America, where trials can be the only opportunity for some of them to access novel and, sometimes, standard treatments.

METHODS
This was a cross-sectional study, in which a 22-question survey regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on oncology clinical trials was sent to 350 representatives of research programs in selected Latin American institutions, members of the Latin American Cooperative Oncology Group.

RESULTS
There were 90 research centers participating in the survey, with 70 of them from Brazil. The majority were partly private or fully private (n = 77; 85.6%) and had confirmed COVID-19 cases at the institution (n = 57; 63.3%). Accruals were suspended at least for some studies in 80% (n = 72) of the responses, mostly because of sponsors’ decision. Clinical trials’ routine was affected by medical visits cancelation, reduction of patients’ attendance, reduction of other specialties’ availability, and/or alterations on follow-up processes. Formal COVID-19 mitigation policies were adopted in 96.7% of the centers, including remote monitoring and remote site initiation visits, telemedicine visits, reduction of research team workdays or home office, special consent procedures, shipment of oral drugs directly to patients’ home, and increase in outpatient diagnostic studies. Importantly, some of these changes were suggested to be part of future oncology clinical trials’ routine, particularly the ones regarding remote methods, such as telemedicine.

CONCLUSION
To our knowledge, this was the first survey to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on Latin American oncology clinical trials. The results are consistent with surveys from other world regions. These findings may endorse improvements in clinical trials’ processes and management in the postpandemic period.

The Role of Noncommunicable Diseases in the Pursuit of Global Health Security

Noncommunicable diseases and their risk factors are important for all aspects of outbreak preparedness and response, affecting a range of factors including host susceptibility, pathogen virulence, and health system capacity. This conceptual analysis has 2 objectives. First, we use the Haddon matrix paradigm to formulate a framework for assessing the relevance of noncommunicable diseases to health security efforts throughout all phases of the disaster life cycle: before, during, and after an event. Second, we build upon this framework to identify 6 technical action areas in global health security programs that are opportune integration points for global health security and noncommunicable disease objectives: surveillance, workforce development, laboratory systems, immunization, risk communication, and sustainable financing. We discuss approaches to integration with the goal of maximizing the reach of global health security where infectious disease threats and chronic disease burdens overlap.

Economic Impact of surgery on households and individuals in low income countries: A systematic review

Background
Surgical disease in Low Income Countries (LIC) is common, and overall provision of surgical care is poor. A key component of surgical health systems as part of universal health coverage (UHC) is financial risk protection (FRP) – the need to protect individuals from financial hardship due to accessing healthcare. We performed a systematic review to amalgamate current understanding of the economic impact of surgery on the individual and household. Our study was registered on Research registry (www.researchregistry.com).

Methods
We searched Pubmed and Medline for articles addressing economic aspects of surgical disease/care in low income countries. Data analysis was descriptive in light of a wide range of methodologies and reporting measures. Quality assessment and risk of bias analysis was performed using study design specific Joanna-Briggs Institute checklists. This study has been reported in line with PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) and AMSTAR (Assessing the methodological quality of systematic reviews) Guidelines.

Results
31 full text papers were identified for inclusion; 22 descriptive cross-sectional studies, 4 qualitative studies and 5 economic analysis studies of varying quality. Direct medical, direct non-medical and indirect costs were variably reported but were substantial, resulting in catastrophic expenditure. Costs had far reaching economic impacts on individuals and households, who used entire savings, took out loans, reduced essential expenditure and removed children from school to meet costs.

Conclusion
Seeking healthcare for surgical disease is economically devastating for individuals and households in LICs. Policies directed at strengthening surgical health systems must seek ways to reduce financial hardship on individuals and households from both direct and indirect costs and these should be monitored and measured using defined instruments from the patient perspectiv