University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan and three other hospitals are to participate in the first clinical trial of a new breast cancer drug in Nigeria.
The new drug developed by Roche will afford 60 patients free breast cancer treatment at the four hospitals participating in the drug trial.
These hospitals include Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex, Ile Ife, Osun State; Lagos State University Teaching Hospital and Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
The disclosure was made at the commissioning of the first Pharmacy Oncology Clean Room in Nigeria with support from Breast Cancer Research Foundation USA in collaboration with Centre for Global Health, University of Chicago and Centre for Population and Reproductive Health, University College Hospital, Ibadan.
Speaking at the occasion, Chief Medical Director, UCH, Ibadan, Professors Temitope Alonge, who appreciated efforts of Professor Sola and Funmi Olopade of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation USA to build manpower for research into breast cancer, said since 2012, cancer-related deaths had been constant in the hospital.
Professor Alonge, who remarked that in 2015, the highest cause of death in the hospital was caused by cancer, declared breast cancer as the commonest cancer in women at the hospital.
Although hypertension and diabetes were the commonest presenting diseases at the hospital’s medical clinic and admission respectively, he said the incidence of breast cancer had made the hospital to be proactive in providing facilities for cancer care and in preventing cancers, even among its staffers.
The hospital, which is providing free infrared breast screening and breast ultrasound to its over 2000 female staff, Professor Alonge said now has a 10-bedded ward ready for clinical trials and treatment protocol for different cancers.
Centre for Population and Reproductive Health, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Professor Dosu Ojengbede, said the robust infrastructure for clinical trials in Nigeria, starting from UCH, will go a long way in ensuring improved care and capacity building for cancer research in Nigeria.
Professor Funmilayo Olopade said that Breast Cancer Research Foundation USA involvement in the breast cancer clinical trial was part of the organisation’s effort to restore excellence in medical practice in the country.
According to her, the partnership with other doctors in Nigeria as well as their commitment had made the breast cancer clinical trial possible.
She declared, “Herceptin, the drug that is tried is available in UCH but not yet in the USA, and this attests to the fact that you are in the forefront.
“This will be the first time it will be used in Africa; it will be its first clinical trial. None of these would have happened if we did not collaborate and have a partnership.”
Dr. Atara Ntekim, a consultant radiation, and clinical oncologist, UCH, Ibadan, who is part of the trial, said although Herceptin had been tested in whites and found effective with aggressive breast cancer, this will be the first time the breast cancer drug will be tested in blacks.
Dr. Ntekim added, “Some drugs may be effective among the whites, but not effective among the blacks because of genetic predispositions, so in that case, we need to try it among Nigerians.”
While breast cancer type in blacks is the aggressive type, he added that the anti-cancer drug will be used in combination with another one in patients that meet the criteria for the study.