With these researchers in the front line, cancer will no longer be a major threat in years to come

Cancer, often termed ‘the silent killer’, is a collection of related genetic diseases which can spread into body cells and surrounding tissue. Cancer can start anywhere in the human body and although it is genetic, it can also occur as a result of damage to one’s DNA, usually caused by exposure to toxic substances in the environment.

The types of cancers include, breast, cervix, prostrate and colorectal cancer, making it a common cause of death in both developed and developing countries. In Africa, over 600,000 people are diagnosed of cancer, placing it among the top 3 causes of death in the continent.

While the World Health Organization has warned that by 2020, 16 million new cases will be diagnosed of cancer yearly and that 70 percent of these cases will be from developing countries, Africans working in this field may be able to forestall the epidemic.

Presently, African researchers are studying and identifying factors to be targeted in order to improve cancer survival rates on the continent. These researchers are exploring infrastructure as well as cancer data systems to aid in the development of an effective solution and completely eradicate cancer.

Here are 3 Africans who are blazing the trail in cancer research.

Prof. Charles Olweny, Uganda.

Professor Olweny is a medical oncologist and researcher. Between 1972 and 1982, he served as the director of the Uganda Cancer Institute. During his term at the institute he and a team of Ugandan medical researchers were the first to prove that liver cancer can be successfully treated with chemotherapy using a drug known as doxorubicin, which is still being used till date. He went on to make other groundbreaking discoveries in cancer treatment.

A fellow of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, Professor Olweny was the Vice Chancellor of Uganda Martyrs University until January 2015.

Johanna Amunjela, Namibia

This 28 year old who graduated at the top of her MSc Clinical Pharmacology class in November 2013 was awarded a grant towards furthering her studies in cancer research at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom. Amunjela received her breakthrough when she recently identified new targets for the treatment of brain, breast and gastric cancer. She is among the first in the world to investigate the role that specific proteins called the ‘Popeye domain’ play in the spread of cancer.

In April 2015, her very interesting findings were presented at the Genes and Cancer conference held at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Funmilayo Olopade, Nigeria

Dr Olopade is a researcher and expert in cancer risk assessment, prevention and individualized treatment based on risk factors and quality of life. She also works with educators, doctors, government officials and pharmaceutical companies to improve access to quality education and medical care in low-income communities.

A practicing Clinician and Director at the University of Chicago Cancer Risk Clinic, Dr Olopade was appointed in 2011 by President Obama to the United States Cancer Advisory Board.

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