The fight against cancer is considered one of the most challenging worldwide. Africans are involved in developing innovative ways to fight cancers which contribute significantly to the burden of ill health Worldwide. From understanding cancers, to early detection prevention and treatment, Africans are playing a key role in the fight against cancers. In the midst of several claims of cancer breakthrough, we highlight the stories of 5 Africans leading the fight against cancer.
Samuel Achifelu (Nigeria)
Dr Samuel Achifelu is the chief optical radiology laboratory, Washington University School of medicine. He leads a team radiologist and biomedical engineers developing a “cancer goggles.” A special type of goggles that would make it easier for surgeons to easily identify cancer cells while operating patients in the theatre. Surgeons inadvertently leave cancers cells behind which often results in relapse. At other times they decide to cut off healthy tissue in other to reduce margin of error. The decision to remove the breast has a huge emotional impact on women.
According to him in an interview with The Cable, ‘I want to play a role in eradicating cancer or making it a manageable disease. Toward this goal, we have developed a new approach to kill cancer cells, independent of the cancer type”.
The research will be funded by a Breast Cancer Research Program Distinguished Investigator Award, from the U.S. Department of Defense- a $4.5 million grant.
Kevin Naidoo and Jahanshah Ashkani (South Africa)
These two South African Scientists made a breakthrough in cancer research in 2016. Their research focused on early diagnosis of six common cancer types namely breast cancer, colon, lung, kidney, ovarian and brain. They found that cancers have specific gene expressions which suggest that specialised treatments are needed. They are currently working on cheap, effective ways of determining specific gene expression for breast cancer, which is the commonest cancer in women worldwide.
Olufunmilayo Olopade (Nigeria)
Olufunmilayo Olopade has contributed significantly to increased understanding of breast cancers in blacks. She is a Walter L. Palmer Distinguished professor, professor of human genetics and Associate Dean for Global health who discovered the link between a some specific cancer genes and breast cancer in African and African-American women. She found that these breast cancer genes BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 were quite common in blacks and may partly explain the severity of cancers in them. She went on to pioneer the setting up of Cancer risk clinics where women with specific risk factors could go to ascertain if they have these genes. She has received thousands of dollars to fund these projects in the United States and Nigeria.
Sandra Musujusu (Sierra Leone)
Sandra Musjusu is a student of the African University of Science and Technology, Abuja, actively involved in developing innovative treatments for breast cancer. She is currently working on the use of bio-degradable polymer material to treat the most malignant form of breast cancer common in African women. Recently, a 16 year old boy found an innovative way of transforming breast cancer into a more treatable form.
Happily, Sandra’s research has received a lot of interest from the scientific world lately. She recently secured funding through the African centres of Excellence program established by was announced by the World Bank. Hopefully, she would make a breakthrough in the fight against cancer.
Breast cancer is still the commonest cancer among women globally. According to the World Cancer research Fund, 1.7 million new cases of breast cancers are seen yearly. Currently, Nigeria has the third highest number of breast cancer related deaths globally. This is partly because most women prevent late to the hospital
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