It’s time for the community

When told some months ago that I would have a blog on the POI website I absorbed the news very slowly and responded politely with a smile. My father could sit in a room for hours amid a circus of conversations and never say a word. His other gear was a lecture lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. He knew a lot, had a lot to share, but he was never a conversationalist. He could not rap.  During the last 15-20 years of my parents’ lives which were fortunately free from chronic ills literally until the day their hearts stopped in their 90’s, I remember sitting with them in the living room recognizing all the characteristics in them that I either liked or disliked about myself.

So  it comes as no surprise to me, but I am sure not the case to some POI staff or supporters, that it has taken almost 4 months for me to return to the blog page. I even had to contact our webmaster for a refresher course. I never realized I was heterozygous or possibly absent my blog gene. Well fighting through this bit of inheritance, let me bring you up to date.

When we last spoke I identified for you our recent revelation that our work with self-sampling combined with high through-put technology that had high analytical sensitivity for HPV, resulted in very high clinical sensitivity. I also said that I now wanted to change our primary focus to try to develop methods to allow us to actually use the amazing technology that many of our colleagues in industry had developed. To that end let me tell you about two recent developments.

First, several weeks ago POI was notified that our proposed study The Development of a “Mother/Child, Screen, Treat and Vaccinate Program” in Diverse High Risk Environments in Peru” had been funded by Merck, Inc.  I was personally thrilled by this news for many reasons. Most importantly, I believe it is validation from a great company with a history of innovation. They too recognize, that unless we develop effective healthcare delivery systems, the remarkable diagnostic and therapeutic advances of our day will never reach their potential in changing the human condition. For this project we will ultimately head to Iquitos in the Peruvian jungle to try to develop our community based healthcare model in one of the world’s more challenging environments. We will link the care for the mothers’ with that of their children and in doing so set the stage for a health education and delivery model able to be expanded to multiple other preventive medical strategies.

I recently returned from China where I participated in an event that best translated from the Chinese is “study identification”. The SHENCCAST II trial, a 10,000 women screening study of a new self-sampling technology, two new HPV assay technologies, and a new computer assisted cytology diagnostic system (funded by Hologic Inc., POI, and the Shenzhen Female doctors Assoc.), was presented to the governmental health officials from the city of Shenzhen, and Guangdong Province. In addition, there was present a panel of real experts who discussed the work after it was presented, voted on its worthiness, and then was charged with making a recommendation to the government whether this project should be “identified” as a foundation project for future government funding. With all the days, weeks and months I have spent in China, this was a new experience for me. I went from feeling very casual about the event, to hearing my colleagues from Peking University Shenzhen Hospital grilled as if from a “thesis committee”. My casual manner quickly shifted to heightened attention as I became acutely aware of the thoroughness of this review. The questions were well conceived, they were important, and I became increasingly proud of our Chinese collaborators who had grown immensely as investigators with this project. The experts then left the room for about 1 hour for a private discussion, returning to the conference room with everyone on their edge of their seats. The moment had come, the room filled with our scientific group, the expert panel, government officials, and many other interested physicians went totally silent as the committee chairman reviewed the rules and then summarized their recommendations. The result was overwhelming approval, but there was an unexpected bonus. The government officials found the self-sampling data so compelling, discussions begin immediately and continued for the next few days among our research group focusing on our next project. Fortunately, I had already written a concept protocol, we had discussed it among ourselves during a prior visit, and we were totally poised to swiftly take advantage of the opportunity.

So now we are moving forward with further development of the community based healthcare model I currently believe so strongly is a key to changing the face of cervical cancer and many other preventable diseases world-wide. However my original 1st study of 5,500 has now grown to 10,000 and it is part of a 50,000 – 80,000 woman proposal that we believe will have strong government support. The funding is not by any means complete but we will get there, we must, this step is just too important.

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