Towards a Thai Connection

by Helen Morement of AMMF

For some while AMMF has been helping to support the collaborative research work between Imperial College London and Khon Kaen University Hospital, Thailand, so I was delighted and honoured to be invited by Professor Simon Taylor-Robinson* of Imperial College to meet a delegation of specialists from Khon Kaen on 6 June, and to have the opportunity to tell them about the work of AMMF.

In my brief presentation I covered why AMMF was founded, what its aims and objectives are, and how we raise funding to fulfil those aims and objectives. I also spoke about how we interact with our supporters and fundraisers, and with those who need information.

During our following discussions, Professor Sopit Wongkham explained that they were currently setting up a patient support foundation in Thailand. It seems we have very similar aims, but somewhat different problems. Awareness is problematic in the UK – so few people know of the existence of cholangiocarcinoma – whereas in Thailand, with the world’s highest incidence of CC, many people are aware of its existence but need to be educated re the liver fluke and the need to seek medical attention**.

Here in the UK we are fortunate that we can make use of the internet to great advantage and AMMF certainly does, via our website, Facebook page and Twitter – all incredibly valuable platforms for disseminating information – but in Thailand in the outlying rural districts this, of course, will not be available so other ways to reach out will need to be found …

The delegation had a packed schedule, so their time was understandably short and I didn’t get to speak to everyone, but was very touched to learn during our conversation that surgeon, Professor Narong Kuntikeo had lost his grandfather, mother and father to CC, and to hear how dedicated he is now to helping those with the disease, and the  incredible number of surgical resections he carries out.

They were a charming group of very dedicated people, and we concluded with promises from both sides to continue our new found connection.  Also, it was very interesting to learn that when they have the official launch of their support foundation they have a Thai film star lined up to help – if only CC in the UK attracted such attention!

Photo shows: Men – left to right:

1 Prof Witoon Prasertcharoensuk,  2 Prof Paiboon Sithithaworn,  3 Prof Narong Kuntikeo,  4 Prof Weerachai Kosuwon,  5 Prof Pisake Lumbiganon,  6 Dr Simon Ralphs – Imperial,  7 Prof Simon Taylor-Robinson – Imperial,  8 Prof Ross Andrews – Imperial,  9 Dr Shahid Khan – Imperial

Ladies – left to right: 1 Prof Sopit Wongkham,  2 Mrs Duangsamorn Chankwang,  3 Prof Nittaya Chamadol,  4 Helen Morement – AMMF,  5 Dr Abigail Zabron – Imperial (AMMF’s Research Fellow)

* Professor Simon D Taylor-Robinson, Professor of Translational Medicine and Clinical Consul of the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London

** For more information on CC in Thailand and the report on Dr Simon Ralphs’s work there (in AMMF’s latest Imperial College update), click here

June 2013