Hi everyone! I’m Gemma, I’m a YI Board member and co-chair of the Blog working committee. Today I’m delighted to introduce Francianne Andrade, a PhD candidate from Brazil and a new YI committee member. Here’s what Francianne has to say about the importance of doing research in a developing country:
My name is Francianne and I am a Ph.D. student in Brazil. I am a graduate in Biomedical Sciences. Today I would like to share about my difficulties and the gratifying experience in a research career in a developing country. I am part of the team for molecular diagnosis and study of hematological diseases, specifically identifying genetic abnormalities as part of the characterization of acute leukemias in children.
The choice for a research career in a developing country is difficult to make. Although the increase in health research and development as public policies results in innovation, knowledge and country’s growth, there remains underinvestment in these areas in developing countries. In continental countries like Brazil, with socioeconomic differences found across geographical regions, epidemiological studies of population-based cancer registries are scarce and might be affected by unstable data, inadequate data ascertainment, and random variations impaired by economic factors. In addition, clinical trials are less frequent than in developed countries, as many ethical problems may arise because of difficulties to afford the treatments and supportive care that are defined. Challenges are also related to regulatory issues regarding the use of humans as experimental subjects. These lack of resources might result in weak regulatory frameworks and delays in studies approval. Basic research in poorer nations are expected to focus on applied problems because it is expensive, the results are not immediate and are often viewed as wasteful. By passing these obstacles, we can design and perform excellent research, but publication bias may also be a challenge to conclude our studies.
Great progress has been achieved in understanding the biology of pediatric cancer around the world, raising the cure rates along with knowledge of the pathogenesis of a specific group of diseases. International data comparing the relative frequencies of cancer in children according to age strata, sex, ethnicity and social conditions of the patients, has demonstrated consistent variations in affected children living in different parts of the world. Many studies have shown that incidence of some types of cancer differs between certain ethnic groups. These data seem to suggest that the risk of developing cancer is a result of a complex interaction of environmental and/or intrinsic risk factors. Although the research in low and middle-income countries could be viewed with skepticism, the quality of scientific research that is making a significant contribution to the global knowledge pool, makes these efforts worthwhile.
Despite facing economic difficulties nationally, focusing on populations in developing countries should be prioritized to further our understanding of the disease by analyzing associations with genetic, infections and other environmental factors in an attempt to clarify the pathogenesis of childhood cancer. Our population in Brazil demonstrates distinctive features because of its ethnic background. From a molecular perspective, the wide variety of genetic mixing has produced an unusual situation rarely observed in a single population in other countries. Even when the science may not give us an instant result, it will give us a deeper understanding of the world that changes all the time.
How can strengthening science research in developing countries be achieved? Multi-center studies which utilize a network linking patient data, diagnostic biomarkers, and epidemiological data; encouragement of young investigators and investment in human resources may be highly effective. International twinning partnerships also offer the opportunity to provide support and technology transfer from established pediatric oncology units to developing ones in order to help them overcome the challenges facing them. Science research and knowledge will support the development and economic growth and we are willing to face the challenges.