New partnership to enhance cancer care and mental well-being

The University Health Network’s Princess Margaret Global Cancer Program in Toronto, Canada and the Aga Khan University’s Cancer Centre and Brain and Mind Institute have developed a partnership to advance cancer care in the developing world. Preliminary activities involve the implementation of a Distress Assessment and Response Tool (DART) developed by Dr. Madeline Li of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. DART is an electronic screening tool that supports patients and their care teams in understanding needs for integrated, interprofessional care. AKU is exploring the potential to use the tool with cancer patients to undertake, for example, clinical screening for symptoms of poor mental health and thereby better understand disease prevalence and enhance treatment pathways.

This new partnership is an illustration of AKU’s Strategic Integrated Framework for Mental Health in action. The Brain and Mind Institute is explicitly adopting a “big tent” approach to co-develop initiatives and programmes that recognize intersecting co-morbidity conditions, such as cancer, and mental well-being.

The MOU states a wide variety of expected outcomes of the collaboration, including:

  1. Enhancing and supporting clinical, academic, and research opportunities at both organizations

  2. Education and training opportunities, including Fellowship programs, staff education and patient education, which may involve Faculty and trainee exchange visits

  3. Exchange of scientific and scholarly research materials, publications, and other information, and

  4. Other initiatives aimed at promoting and enabling collaboration, innovation, and knowledge exchange to advance cancer care control in Kenya, Canada and throughout the rest of the world​

The starting point for this partnership materialized as the result of the Brain and Mind Institute’s invitation to leverage a TKN assignment. Ms. Roxana Sultan, former Director of Strategic Planning and Implementation at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, worked in her private capacity as a TKN volunteer with Diana MacKay, Global Practice Lead with the Brain and Mind Institute, to identify this initial partnership opportunity.

Beyond the DART ​program, discussions are now underway between UHN and AKU to explore additional avenues for strategic engagement.