Africans Must Become Educated on Cancer Fighting Tools

Armen Hareyan's picture

Cancer Fight in Africa

Governments in Africa can aid in the fight against cancer by establishing cancer registries and becoming educated in the use of drugs to manage pain, according to a cancer researcher in Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine.

"Cancer is a death sentence in Africa because there is no technology to diagnose or treat it," said Sulma Mohammed, an assistant professor of cancer biology and director of Drug Discovery Shared Resource, a Cancer Center core laboratory. "The government has to take cancer seriously. We want them to accept responsibility and take control. Infectious diseases are getting all the attention while cancer is being ignored."

Sulma Mohammed conducts studies on breast cancer in her laboratories in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology and is researching how breast cancer manifests itself in different ethnic groups. Cancer in Africa and in the United States is a serious problem, especially breast cancer, because women of African descent genetically have tumors that are more aggressive compared to Caucasian women. Yet much of the research and advances in treating breast cancer have been done on the type of breast cancer found in Caucasians.


"There's not that much information out there about cancer in minority groups, especially African Americans," Sulma Mohammed said. "Now it's time for us to catch up. There's so much of the disease out there."

She will join other health care experts from around the world in Dakar, Senegal, this month for The 5th International Conference on Cancer in Africa: A Call to Action. Sulma Mohammed is a member of the executive council of the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer, which is sponsoring the conference.

"We hope to change the picture of cancer in Africa," Sulma Mohammed said.

Less industrialized countries, such as those in several African countries, haven't had access to recent scientific and technological advances that have led to significantly improved methods for cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment, she said. She hopes to establish partnerships through this organization that will lead to the development of affordable cancer delivery systems for those poor communities.

Sulma Mohammed received a grant for the conference from the National Institute of Health. Additional assistance was provided by Alan Rebar, former dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine and now interim director of Purdue's Discovery Park, who helped obtain $10,000 in funding from Eli Lilly and Co. Gordon Coppoc, head of the department of basic medical sciences, and Abdelfattah Nour, director of international programs at the School of Veterinary Medicine, donated 11 computers to be used during the conference and in cancer research. In addition, the Office of the Provost is funding Sulma Mohammed's travel to Dakar.