Research Projects

Cancer in Children Research – Prof Christina Stefan

Cancer in Children Research – Prof Christina Stefan

Prof Cristina Stefan


Title of the project:

HIV and other infections in South African children with cancer

Highlights of the project:

This research aims at identifying viruses present in malignancies appearing in HIV-positive children. By confirming existing associations or determining new associations between viruses and cancer in HIV infected children, objectives for prevention may be identified, regarding either the prevention of the infection with the respective viruses or the interference with their mechanism of inducing cancer. The ultimate result will be an improvement in the survival and state of health of children infected with HIV. The expected impact, however, extends beyond this population group: some viruses are known to produce malignancies even in the absence of HIV infection. By eradicating them, the incidence of cancer in the general population will decrease. This research is therefore aligned with the objectives of CANSA.

Achieved to date:

  • So far we have managed to collect around 1000 specimens of blood and saliva from children diagnosed with malignancies from different centres in South Africa (Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and recently Pretoria).
  • A full epidemiological and clinical questionnaire was completed and we are in the process of entering the data on the computer for statistical analysis.
  • A full analysis of the association between cancer and viruses in 187 patients was done and the results will be presented at one national conference and an international congress this year.
  • More than 300 questionnaires were entered on the data base.
  • Two posters were accepted and presented at ICMAIO AIDS Malignancy conference in Washington 7-8 November 2011.
  • An oral presentation on HIV AIDS burden in children with cancer was given in Egypt at AORTIC conference.
  • There are 2 papers in preparation on: Malignancies in South African children with cancer and Children with cancer and HIV infection: what is different about them?

Value of the project in the struggle against cancer:

Approximately 15% of human cancers (about 1.5 million cases per year) are attributable to viral (11%), bacterial (4%) and helminth (0.1%) infections. The majority of these – one million cases per year – occur in the developing world where the burden of infectious disease is greatest.1 Collectively, infectious agents are the most important known cause of cancer after tobacco. Such cancers are theoretically preventable by avoidance of infection (via screening or behaviour change), by early treatment of infection, or by vaccination. The identification of additional cancers with an infectious aetiology is therefore, a public health imperative.


  • ICMAIO Washington 7-8 November 2011-12-21
  • AORTIC Egypt 30 November-2 December 2011-12-21

Congress abstracts:

  • 3 abstracts submitted : Academic Day Stellenbosch University, SACCSG Pretoria and AORTIC (Egypt)
  • 2 abstracts submitted and accepted : ICMAIO Washington 7-8 November 2011
  • 1 abstract for SIOP Africa 2012 : accepted


  • 2 submissions:  Malignancies in South African children with cancer and Children with cancer and HIV infection: what is different about them?


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