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Pharma companies commit to fight cancer in Africa

A group of pharmaceutical companies have launched an initiative to bolster cancer research to combat the disease's devastating impact on Africans, women in particular.

The African Access Initiative was launched on 21 June in Seattle in the United States. It brings together the US non-profit BIO Ventures for Global Health with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Takeda, as well as the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer, a pan-African research body.

Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and Nigeria will be the focus of the first phase. AAI will comb the research landscapes and connect pharmaceutical companies to build research capacity where needed. It will also supply infrastructure where it is absent and support Africa-specific cancer clinical trials.

BVGH states that Africa lacks the research infrastructure needed to address its unique, and growing, cancer problems. A white paper it published ahead of the launch stated that many more Africans die from cancer than malaria.

“In Africa, cancer is nearly always fatal, and patients and their families have little or no hope that they will overcome the disease and be healthy again,” said Funmi Olopade, formerly from Nigeria and now based at the University of Chicago, in a statement.

The organisers say that breast cancer will be a prominent focus of AAI as cancer sets on earlier, and more aggressively in African women, who are not as receptive to treatment to boot.