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Organisation links rising cancer deaths in Nigeria to poor research

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja
22 December 2022   |   2:23 am
•As Project PINK BLUE, ACT Foundation train health workers on tumour study A leading cancer fighting organisation in Africa, Project PINK BLUE, has decried Nigeria’s contribution to cancer research, which does not reflect any progress. It said poor cancer research in Nigeria could be responsible for inadequate cancer management, including the rising cancer deaths. The…

Chidebe

•As Project PINK BLUE, ACT Foundation train health workers on tumour study

A leading cancer fighting organisation in Africa, Project PINK BLUE, has decried Nigeria’s contribution to cancer research, which does not reflect any progress. It said poor cancer research in Nigeria could be responsible for inadequate cancer management, including the rising cancer deaths.

The organisation expressed concern that with 120,000 cancer cases and 72,000 cancer deaths every year, Nigeria has the highest cancer burden in the whole of Africa.

Executive Director of Project PINK BLUE, Runcie Chidebe, who stated this at a cancer Research Training held at the National Hospital in Abuja, revealed that of the 23,679 cancer research papers published in different peer-reviewed journals by African scientists and academic over a 12-year period, only 5,281 were from sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and Nigeria’s contribution were only 997, which is 19 per cent of the Sub-Saharan Africa total and four per cent of entire Africa.

She noted that Nigeria could make progress in cancer control if the country invests in cancer research. Chidebe, who was represented by the Programme Coordinator and a breast cancer advocate, Gloria Okwu, observed that the Federal Government in partnership with the Project PINK BLUE and the support from ACT Foundation has commenced implementation of the Upgrade Oncology Programme, a Nigeria-US Science and Technology Exchange Programme, which seeks to strengthen the capacity of the Nigerian oncology workforce through training in diverse oncology areas.

“This involves clinical oncologists, oncology pharmacists, nurses, pathologists, and other caregivers along the cancer care spectrum.

“This programme has been ongoing since 2018, as our support to the Federal Government’s National Cancer Control Plan (2018-2022). In 2018, Project PINK BLUE brought two America-based Fulbright specialists to train 44 clinical oncologists from different facilities across Nigeria in medical oncology with a focus on leukaemia, breast, and prostate and childhood cancers.

“In 2021, 36 oncology Pharmacists were drawn from 24 facilities across Nigeria and were trained by two America Fulbright Specialists in chemotherapy reconstitution, handling, and patient counseling.

“This year, 50 pathologists will be trained by U.S. Fulbright Specialists to support accuracy in cancer diagnosis, treatment, and management. To achieve the overall objective of Upgrade Oncology, Project PINK BLUE conducts an yearly training alongside the major programme for health workers drawn from primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions on different aspects of cancer management. This year, we are focusing on cancer research. Why cancer research training,” he said. Okwu said so many questions on cancer have remained unanswered in cancer care in Nigeria.

“The problems of drugs toxicity, why is cancer affecting more younger adults in Nigeria, does cancer have a cure, poor access to cancer medicines, limited cancer specialists, frequent break-down of cancer machines like radiotherapy, challenges of importing bone scan reagents, limited psychological support, lack of cancer funding and many others. The fact these questions have remained unanswered has further exacerbated the negative outcomes for cancer patients in the country,” he said.

“As a patient-oriented organisation, Project PINK BLUE understands that cancer research is crucial to improve the prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of all forms of cancer, and ensures that cancer survivors live longer with better quality of life.

Research also helps identify the causes of cancer, highlights improved methods of diagnosis and treatment, and effectively utilises the possibilities of international best practices. Based on this data and other evidence, Project PINK BLUE and ACT Foundation brought you all together for this one-day tailored training focused on updating the skills and building the capacity of oncology practitioners and health in the conduct of research and paper publication in peer-reviewed journals,” said Okwu.

She continued: “We hope to stimulate learning and encourage research through capacity building among oncology professionals. It is our belief that oncology research by Nigerians, for Nigerians will provide homegrown results for better treatment outcomes. The training covered the following topics: types of research, research in oncology, how to publish your research in journals, understanding academic writing, implementing research and the relevance of research in the oncology space.”