Syndicate Bio, a biotech platform company committed to advancing genomics and precision medicine initiatives across the world’s most diverse regions, announces its strategic partnership with the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (NICRAT), the foremost institute that provides national leadership on cancer research, treatment and control in Nigeria.
Together, they have initiated the “Cancer Genome Nigeria” project, a study aimed at bridging cancer disparity gaps by studying the most prevalent cancers across Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones and 300+ ethnolinguistic groups.
Launched in September 2023 by Founder Dr Abasi Ene-Obong, alongside Co-Founders Dr. Jumi Popoola and Estelle Dogbo, Syndicate Bio is leveraging collaborations with governments, pharmaceutical companies, academia and other key industry stakeholders to deepen local precision medicine impact while generating invaluable datasets that improve global health outcomes and accelerates drug discovery and development. The strategic partnership will be a coordinated project to address cancer diagnosis and treatment in a game-changing way for patients in Nigeria. Through this project, the availability and accessibility of next-generation sequencing (NGS) based cancer tests in the country, would pave the way for more targeted therapeutics for patients in Nigeria. For long-term and transformative standards of care, participating physicians will also be trained in precision medicine to ensure they are positioned to provide tailored treatment solutions and support genetic counselling services to the patients involved in the program.
Cancer care management challenges are significantly higher in Africa than those in western countries. According to the National Cancer Control Plan, breast cancer mortality in Nigeria is alarmingly high at 51%, compared to 19% in the United States. Although the data is not conclusive for prostate cancer, only 45% – 55% of Nigerian men survive up to 5 years after being diagnosed, whereas in the UK and US, 85% and 97%, respectively, will survive their cancer for 5 years and more.1, 2, 3. The lack of personalised care solutions in Nigeria are contributing factors of those low survival rates. Additionally, this alarming disparity is explained by evidence showing that drivers of cancer causing mutations in Africans and the African Diaspora might be different from those in other non-African populations. Early detection of cancers and their mutational drivers, alongside targeted therapies will improve care management and survival rates in Nigeria and Africa at large. This partnership is set to pioneer the use of NGS technology in Nigeria to decode the genomic profile of prevalent cancers. This will provide patient-centric care, access to life-saving diagnostics, personalised genetic reports and therapeutics. As part of this study, the partnership aims to develop a research resource tool that will be useful for global preclinical and clinical cancer research, as well as promote the widespread adoption of targeted therapeutics in treating cancer in Nigeria.
Debuting with a pilot study involving 100 participants and sequencing the top oncogenes associated with solid tumours (breast, prostate, NSCLC, liver and colorectal cancer) in the country, the initiative is set to expand to up to 10,000 patients in the next 5 years.
Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong said: “The disparities in cancer care in Nigeria and across Africa, represent an ecosystem challenge that demands tailored solutions. Syndicate Bio’s approach forges collaborative engagement with existing healthcare systems and stakeholders as a means to drive local impact across Africa and inclusive advancements in global genomics. This is why our partnership with NICRAT is important for the advancement of cancer research and treatment outcomes in Nigeria, the impact of which will be felt across the world through the inclusion of diverse genomes in global cancer research. NICRAT’s reach will ensure that the benefit of this study is felt across all of Nigeria’s geopolitical regions and enable the delivery of precision medicine to patients in Nigeria ”.
In 2022, the Lancet Oncology Commission issued a report highlighting the alarming surge in cancer cases across Sub-Saharan Africa. The report projected a potential doubling of cancer-related mortality in the region by 2030, driven by incomplete cancer data and limited access to screening and diagnostics. This underscores the need for synergistic collaboration among various stakeholders as the linchpin for resolving this crisis.
Commenting on the partnership, Prof. Usman Malami Aliyu, Director General of the National Institute of Cancer Research and Treatment said, “Collaborating with technical partners like Syndicate Bio, is a pivotal moment in our research and treatment. This study, designed by and for Nigerians will change diagnostics and the long term care of our country’s cancer patients.”
This bold initiative will set the tone for ethical research at scale, provide real time benefits to patients and their caregivers and will help generate data to understand mutational signatures in cancers and their frequencies in Nigeria.