Though the rate of breast cancers cases is increasing rapidly in Nigeria at the moment, oncologists say their decision to collaborate to tackle the scourge will help to improve patients current survival rate which a study estimates at 25.6 percent. This raises hope for patients.
The scourge of cancer is as dreadful as death itself which explains why it is a major source of worry for medical experts who, recently, mulled collaborative efforts to tackle it, especially the breast variant.
The oncologists are already coming together to get something done. Omolola Salako, a Consultant Clinical Oncologist, said they were strengthening the regional network of cancer specialists in the country through peer-to-peer learning to better inform their decision-making in critical areas.
She added that these areas span from early detection and diagnosis, timely access to treatment and care to multidisciplinary tumour board as they believe that a lot of ground can be covered this year.
Salako spoke at a symposium on how to ‘Tackle Growing Breast Cancer Rate in Nigeria’ hosted in Lagos by Pearl Oncology in partnership with Oncopadi Cancer App, Sebeccly Cancer Care and sponsored by Pfizer Specialties Limited.
She said that breast cancer is a national health crisis which, accounting for 23 percent of all cancer cases in Nigeria, adding that its rates are increasing rapidly, predominantly of aggressive subtypes with poor prognosis and outcomes.
She said there was a four-fold rise in breast cancer incidence in Nigeria over the past 50 years, adding however, that the growth of infrastructure and oncology personnel in the country have not been able to meet the rising burden.
The organizers of the symposium said it was geared towards gathering Nigerian experts in breast cancer control to promote practical knowledge transfer, share clinical resources and collaborate to reduce the high cancer death rates in the country.
Olayemi Dawodu, a pathologist and MD/CEO, Clina-Lancet Laboratories, Nigeria, highlighted the importance of early detection as a crucial step in tackling cancer rate in the country, saying, “cancer is a disease that manifests in different ways and patients. It is essential to carry out the appropriate tests to administer the right treatment to each patient.”
Adewumi Alabi, a consultant clinical oncologist at NSIA-LUTH Cancer Centre, stated how to manage advanced breast cancer which, according to her, includes stage 3b and stage 4 that could be identified clinically with ulceration, pain, bleeding, or a fungating mass.
She said there had been an increase in the available options for managing advanced cancer, adding that targeted therapy had revolutionized treatment outcomes in advanced breast cancer and the multiple benefits of radiotherapy in its management, such as downstaging tumours and reducing tumour burden.
Ayorinde Akanbi, the country brand lead at Pfizer, highlighted findings from the Paloma-2 study that showed the clinical benefit of combining Palbociclib with Letrozole in managing women with ER-positive, HER 2-negative advanced breast cancer.
He said that this combination marketed by Pfizer under the brand name Ibrance™ is available in Nigeria, and its safety and efficacy in Nigerian women was well documented.
In a follow-up session, Muhammad Abdulkarim, Pfizer’s senior market access manager, said the availability of Patient Access Programs was aimed at making cancer drugs more affordable to Nigerians.
Babatunde Adeteru, an Associate Professor, a consultant surgeon and Head, Department of Surgery, at OOUTH, Sagamu, delivered a speech on the unique collaboration between Oncopadi Technologies and the university.
In the same vein, Tomi Akinyemiju, a Professor and molecular cancer epidemiologist, presented research findings from the Mechanisms of Established and Novel Risk Factors in Women of African Descent (MEND) study, which revealed that metabolic syndrome appears to be a robust risk factor for breast cancer, particularly for triple-negative breast cancer.
Adaorah Enyi, the Chief Operating Officer at Oncopadi Technologies Limited, in her presentation titled “Developing Cancer Technologies for LMICs”,, summarized five mobile health technologies that have been developed by Oncopadi Technologies to address the burden of cancer in Nigeria.
Furthermore, Queen Ikwuakam, a breast cancer survivor and single mother, shared her experience and encouraged patients to seek care.
Dissecting the theme of the symposium to foster focused discussions amongst participants at the event on key actions to reduce the breast cancer burden were Mutiu Alani, Radiation/clinical oncologist, University College Hospital Ibadan/the University of Ibadan, and Adeleke Taiwo, Clinical Psychologist, University of Ibadan.
A Women-in-Oncology panel session was moderated by Omolola Salako, who was joined on the panel by Anthonia Sowunmi, an Associate Professor and Clinical Oncologist, College of Medicine, the University of Lagos; Lillian Ekpo, Director, NSIA-LUTH Cancer Centre; Clare Omatseye, Founder/MD, JNC International; Adedayo Joseph; Research Program Director, NSIA-LUTH Cancer Centre; and Oluwatomiwa Obielodan, Program Coordinator, Sebeccly Cancer Centre.