Roswell Park Comprehensive Care Center

Affiliation between Roswell Park, Lakeshore Cancer Center focuses on prevention, early detection and specialty care

BUFFALO, N.Y. and LAGOS, Lagos State, Nigeria — America’s oldest cancer center and one of the world’s newest oncology centers are partnering to improve access to cancer prevention, screening and care for the people of Nigeria. Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) and Lakeshore Cancer Center (LCC) have announced an affiliation that will see Roswell Park faculty providing clinical consultations to assist LCC oncologists, who will also have access to both training at RPCI and continuing professional education seminars they can participate in remotely.

The partnership addresses a striking need for oncology sub-specialty care in Nigeria and West Africa, says Lakeshore Cancer Center CEO and Medical Director Chukwumere “Chumy” Nwogu, MD, PhD, FACS, who is also Interim Chair of Thoracic Surgery and Professor of Oncology at Roswell Park and an Associate Professor of Surgery at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“Right now, too many Nigerians are having their cancers diagnosed only at late stages, severely limiting treatment options and leading to poor outcomes. But when you can respond to an unmet and pressing need by mobilizing both on-the-ground forces and additional support from your network, you can really make a difference,” says Dr. Nwogu, who also has expertise in epidemiology, which looks at patterns of disease occurrence toward the goal of improving public health. “Our vision is based on the most significant priorities and opportunities for intervention in Western Africa, but it’s a realistic one too thanks to the great fit between Roswell Park and Lakeshore.”

Lakeshore Cancer Center, which has grown steadily since it started treating patients in July 2014, is the very first cancer center in Nigeria, a country of about 175 million people — more than half the population of the United States. Located in Victoria Island in the country’s largest city and economic hub, Lagos, LCC is equipped to provide diagnostic imaging services, screening, tissue biopsy, outpatient surgery, chemotherapy, palliative care, public education, and the coordination of additional medical services both within and outside of Nigeria. The growing center now employs 30, including four full-time and four part-time physicians.

Roswell Park played a vital advisory and supportive role in the center’s creation and will be assisting in both patient care and staff training through remote physician-to-physician clinical consultations, training opportunities at RPCI and, beginning soon, participation in multidisciplinary conferences where specialists from all areas of clinical care — including medical, surgical and radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists and experts from supportive disciplines like physical/occupational therapy, dietetics and psychosocial oncology — gather to personalize each patient’s care plan.

Additionally, Roswell Park will perform regular quality audits of Lakeshore’s operations to ensure that patients seen at LCC are receiving care that meets the standards of RPCI, a comprehensive cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

More than 102,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed every year in Nigeria, with more than 70% of patients dying from the disease. Breast, cervical and prostate cancers are the biggest cancer killers there. In fact:

  • Nigeria ranks 5th worldwide in the number of deaths from cervical cancer, a disease that is almost entirely preventable with regular Pap tests.
  • Between 80% and 85% of Nigerian women with breast cancer get their diagnosis after the disease has progressed to stage III, at which point it is difficult to treat successfully.
  • Nigerian men are 3.5 times more likely than African-American men to die of prostate cancer.

Given those grim realities, modest interventions in preventive care and diagnostics can have a dramatic impact, notes Oge Ilegbune, MD, Head of Strategy, Development and Outreach at Lakeshore.

“The statistics about cancer incidence in Nigeria have been disheartening, but we now have resources at our disposal that will help us to turn those numbers around,” she says. “The response from the communities around us so far has been so positive and enthusiastic. We know that clinical outcomes are better and quality of life is improved when people don’t have to travel far from home to get their care.”

The partnership will also encompass treatment planning and community outreach, with Lakeshore oncologists having the opportunity to discuss cases with Roswell Park specialists as frequently as needed and to get assistance planning cancer prevention and screening programs for the public.

The RPCI and LCC collaboration has the potential to benefit cancer patients worldwide, says Thomas Schwaab, MD, PhD, Chief of Strategy, Business Development and Outreach at Roswell Park, where he is also a urologic oncologist with faculty appointments in the departments of Urology and Immunology.

“Some of the most common cancers behave in similar ways in Africans and African-Americans, in whom we often see early onset and particularly aggressive forms of diseases like breast and prostate cancer. One of our goals is to contribute to improved cancer control in West Africa, but we also hope that, working together with Lakeshore, we can better understand these cancers and learn how to treat them more effectively. These developments would have impact far beyond Western New York and Lagos, Nigeria,” says Dr. Schwaab.

Roswell Park is also looking to improve cancer care in other regions of Africa as well. In June 2014, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded a grant of nearly $200,000 to Dr. Nwogu and Alex A. Adjei, MD, PhD, RPCI’s Senior Vice President of Clinical Research and the Katherine Anne Gioia Chair of Medicine, to support cancer research and treatment through partnerships with Lagos State University in Nigeria and Noguchi Memorial Institute in Ghana. That funding also supports training for six oncologists, three from each country, at Roswell Park.

“We’ve been laying the foundation for this type of international collaboration for years, and our efforts dovetail nicely with the National Cancer Institute’s focus on cancer-control research benefitting low- and middle-income countries like Nigeria and Ghana,” says Candace S. Johnson, PhD, President & CEO and Wallace Family Chair in Translational Research at Roswell Park. “There are a lot of creative ways to share resources so that everybody involved benefits, and we’ll continue to look for opportunities to partner with outstanding organizations to reduce cancer’s impact globally.”