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AI-REAL (Aggressive Infection-Related East Africa Lymphoma)

At present, 95% of global child lymphoma blood cancers cases are found in sub-Saharan Africa. A subsection of blood cancers known as Epstein-Barr Virus-related lymphomas (or EBV lymphomas) are particularly aggressive, and have become the focus of AI-REAL; a new international global health collaboration which hopes to improve EBV lymphoma treatment and diagnosis.

Prof. Anna Schuh leads this UK-Africa project, which aims to bring the next generation of diagnosis technology to Tanzania and Uganda. Prof. Schuh hopes the in-country testing process for EBV lymphomas can be improved in order to improve early diagnosis and chances of survival.

Training in liquid biopsies is provided, to detect circulating tumour DNA in patients’ bloodstreams to determine the presence of virus-associated cancers such as EBV-driven lymphomas. Liquid biopsies are a new diagnostic technique which are significantly less invasive and are a recent result of new research from Schuh’s team.

New equipment and training programs have already been established in the four project sites, whilst live-streaming technology will be employed to share the knowledge of diagnostic clinicians in the UK with those in Uganda and Tanzania.

EBV driven lymphomas are treatable if caught early. It is the hope of this project that, through earlier detection and advanced technology training, the current 90% death rate seen in children with this kind of blood cancer can become a 90% cure rate.

This project was launched in February 2020, and is a partnership between the University of Oxford and medical teams in the Muhimbili National Hospital, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, St Mary’s Hospital (Lacor) and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, with funding from the NIHR RIGHT Programme.

AIREAL team in Africa