Esophageal cancer is the eighth most common cause of cancer worldwide and the sixth most common cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Esophageal cancer kills 400,000 people every year, most of whom live in two distinct geographic bands across central Asia and along the eastern Africa corridor extending from Ethiopia to South Africa. In these high-risk areas, nearly all cases are esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC).
ESCC symptoms, such as dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and weight loss, develop late. Most patients present with advance disease, and survival is usually poor (3-6 months). Afflicted patients are readily identifiable in surgical and medical hospital wards, profoundly wasted and holding spittoon cups to manage secretions.
NCI investigators and others have performed many etiologic, genetic, early detection, and treatment studies of ESCC in central Asia, but this disease remains essentially unstudied in eastern Africa. To address this research gap, NCI and partners are supporting fieldwork and case-control studies in different settings in East Africa. In November 2015, these groups met and decided to create the African Esophageal Cancer Consortium.
The goals of the consortium are to: