Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s partnership with a new cancer center in Nigeria brings specialty cancer services to 175 million people for the first time.
The Lakeshore Cancer Center in Nigeria officially opened in January in Victoria Island, Lagos, as the country’s first cancer center. But rather than starting from scratch with no experience, the center has a major player on its team in Roswell Park, the oldest cancer center in the United States.
The Buffalo cancer hospital is providing training, education and clinical care oversight and research programs to Lakeshore under a memorandum of understanding with the Foundation for Cancer Care in West Africa.
Leading the effort is Dr. Chukwumere “Chumy” Nwogu, CEO and medical director at Lakeshore. A Nigerian native, Nwogu joined Roswell Park in 1999 and now serves as its interim chair of thoracic surgery.
“Cancer is an enormous problem all over the world,” he said. “You hear a lot about HIV, TB and malaria, but more people die from cancer globally than all those three combined. Low-to-middle income countries carry a disproportionately higher burden of death from cancer, so it’s very appropriate for us to be doing this.”
Candace Johnson, CEO at Roswell Park, called the partnership a natural extension of the hospital’s mission.
“Our mission to understand, prevent and cure cancer always takes us to new and unexpected directions and sometimes even great distances,” she said. “Imagine a country of 175 million people who don’t have have access to a cancer center until just the last few months. The Lakeshore Cancer Center and Roswell Park are coming together in a very productive way.”
The partnership also puts Roswell Park ahead of the curve among other National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers, which have been encouraged to do more globally to fight cancer. Many of those centers have begun educational programs, but Roswell Park’s partnership goes a big step further, Nwogu said.
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“It became a reality that teaching people academically about cancer control is one thing, but to actually execute what you know is something entirely different,” he said. “So rather than trying to reinvent the wheel — Roswell has been doing this for over a century — how could we take that knowledge and expertise and bring it to Nigeria.”
The goal is to deliver the same quality of cancer care patients receive here in Buffalo over in Nigeria, including education, screening, chemotherapy and palliative care.
Dr. Thomas Schwaab, Roswell Park’s chief of strategy, business development and outreach and a urologic oncologist, said the center in Lagos will be the first in a series of centers across Nigeria that will help reach the population sooner to provide comprehensive cancer services.
“There’s a lot of opportunity just in West Africa alone, so we’re working closely with Dr. Nwogu to expand the services we have at Lagos and throughout Nigeria,” he said. “The idea is to use that as a hub and continue to grow.”
There’s also opportunities to build programs and staff here in Buffalo as the international effort continues. Schwaab’s team is working to develop a broader telehealth department to offer ongoing interaction with physicians and staff in Nigeria, including offering second opinions, reviewing X-rays or looking at pathology slides.
Additionally, Roswell Park hopes that by exploring the causes and pathology of cancer in West Africans, there may be knowledge gained that can be applied here and help determine the reasons behind the higher prevalence of cancer in African Americans.
“Imagine the impact it could have worldwide if we were able to take some of these initiatives and learn from them,” Schwaab said.