Nigeria must get involved in clinical trials – Prof. Odedina
As Nigeria prepares for the first ever Clinical Trial Congress in Lagos from November 13 to 16, the convener, Prof. Folakemi Odedina a USA-based cancer scientist says the country can no longer afford to sit on the fence but get involved in the global quest for new drugs to manage prevalent diseases now ravaging Africa and the rest of the world.
In an exclusive interview with Nigeria Health Online, Prof, Odedina who is a researcher at the University of Florida, USA lamented that Nigeria is often not well represented in clinical trials being conducted in the US, the UK and even in Africa on diseases and conditions which affect a large number of the Nigerian population.
Prof. Odedina is a leading researcher in prostate cancer. Her research work involves working with a multi-disciplinary team such as the Trans-Atlantic consortium of scientists, clinicians, survivors and advocates, all working towards detecting why black men all over the world have the highest incidence, mortality, morbidity from prostate cancer. Until recently her research focus has been on blacks in the US who, she told NHO, are more affected by prostate cancer than their white counterparts.
“It is one of the few diseases that being a black man is a risk factor. So if you are a black man, it does not matter where you are in the world, you are more at risk. In the US, black men are more than two times likely to get prostate cancer and about two times likely to die from prostate cancer compared to white men. The number one group in the whole world likely to get and die from prostate cancer is the black man, Nigerians included,” she said.
Unfortunately, Prof. Odedina lamented that Nigeria is currently not doing much of research either into the prevalence of prostate cancer or its management.
“We are blindly using what is developed in other countries to address it. Take the simple issue of PSA, there are two main ways that you screen for prostate cancer. One is the digital rectal exam in which the doctor uses a glove finger to kind of go through the anus and feel. The other way is the PSA which is just to take a blood test and read. The PSA numbers that we have in Nigeria is all over the map and we are using the one which the US and maybe the UK uses so there’s no reliability or validity. We have to see what PSA measure we should be using that is reliable to detect prostate cancer in Nigerian population.
“This is one of the reasons we are having the clinical Trial Congress in November 14-16 at LASUTH and Sheraton Hotel. That conference is not only for Nigeria and Africa. It is because as a black population, we are not represented enough in clinical trials. We are not represented enough in the US, the UK and we are not represented at all even in Africa.
“So, that congress is going to focus on the best practice for clinical trials in blacks globally. When we are talking about putting it together, as the convener, I said to myself ‘which is the greatest black population in the whole world? Nigeria.’ So how can we start a congress that is looking at Clinical trials in blacks and the place where it holds first would not be Nigeria?
“In addition, we were being strategic to make sure that Nigeria and Africa listen to the fact that it is time we start having clinical trials in our population so that the best drugs, the best interventions, the best screening, the best diagnosis that fit our genetic make-up is provided to us.”
WATCH OUT FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW