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Roswell Park partners with cancer center in Nigeria

Roswell Park Cancer Institute on Tuesday announced an international affiliation with Nigeria’s first dedicated cancer center, a facility that opened earlier this year in the west African country of 175 million people.

The partnership will focus on providing training and consultation services to the Lakeshore Cancer Center in Lagos. Roswell Park’s connection to Nigeria began in 2009, when it started educational workshops for physicians, nurses and other health professionals.

“Right now, too many Nigerians are having their cancers diagnosed only at late stages, severely limiting treatment options and leading to poor outcomes,” said Dr. Chukwumere “Chumy” Nwogu, interim chairman of thoracic surgery at Roswell Park, as well co-founder and chief executive officer of Lakeshore.

The arrangement is Roswell Park’s first international affiliation. Officials described it as America’s oldest cancer center – Roswell was founded in 1898 – partnering with one of the world’s newest. Institute physicians and scientists also played key roles in the development of Lakeshore and serve as Lakeshore consultants.

“We saw a great need there for early diagnosis and treatment, and we have the resources to help,” said Dr. Thomas Schwaab, chief of strategy, business development and outreach, at the institute.

Among other things, he said, Roswell Park can provide training programs, expertise in designing public education campaigns, treatment consultations, and quality audits of medical care.

“There also is a lot for us to learn about how cancer develops in West African patients,” said Schwaab.

He said some common cancers behave in similar ways in Africans and African-Americans. Physicians here often see early onset and especially aggressive forms of diseases, such as breast and prostate cancer in African-Americans.

Significant disparities exist between African and developed regions in the prevention, early detection, stage of diagnosis, access to treatment and survival from cancer. Nwogu and others have warned of an emerging epidemic of cancer in Africa and other developing regions, where many individuals confront poverty and infectious diseases, and countries lack organized strategies to deal with cancer.

In 2012, more than 14 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed worldwide, making it the second leading cause of death, and the number is expected to reach 19 million by 2025, according to the National Cancer Institute, which is encouraging such partnerships.

Common cancers in Nigeria include breast, cervical, prostate, liver and colorectal. However, preventable and treatable cancers are seen as a death sentence because so many cases are not diagnosed until later stages.

“Many common cancers can be treated if found early. But we are finding that they are showing up late, and all we can do is make patients comfortable. That is unfortunate,” Dr. Oge Ilegbune, head of strategy, development and outreach at Lakeshore, said by teleconference.

For example, Nigeria ranks fifth worldwide in cervical cancer deaths, a disease that can be prevented with regular Pap tests, officials said.