Cancer Research in sub-Saharan Africa: Progress in closing the gap

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A Mallum F A Barry M B Tendwa A O Joseph L Keno K M Graef S Kibudde H Li A Ajose E Lugina M T Ngoma J D Kisukari K Awusi S O Adeneye T Mkhize A Alabi I El Hamamsi M A Mseti A Studen J Lehmann W Swanson K Wijesooriya S Avery M S Huq L Incrocci W Ngwa T A Ngoma


Cancer presents an escalating challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), necessitating strategic interventions grounded in regionally relevant evidence-based medicine. Informed decision-making is critical to formulate effective strategies for cancer prevention, diagnosis, funding, and treatment within the SSA population. The aim of this study is to highlight ongoing clinical trials in SSA, emphasizing the continuous initiatives aimed at filling existing knowledge gaps. Further, the study seeks to assess whether SSA is progressing or stagnating in the global landscape of cancer research. A comprehensive review of research papers and online registries on clinical trials was executed, focusing on English-language journal articles retrieved from the PubMed database. Additionally, a quantitative, web-based, retrospective review was conducted on registered cancer studies in SSA over the past decade (2000-2023) from and the Pan African Clinical Trials Registry (PACTR) databases. The review resulted in the inclusion of 71 articles from PubMed, alongside 104 and 140 clinical trials from and PACTR databases, respectively. Aggregate findings from PubMed and clinical trial databases revealed that East Africa is the predominant contributor (37%) to cancer clinical trials, whereas Central Africa exhibited the lowest contribution (4%). Notably, PubMed indicated a predominant focus on cervical cancer in clinical trials. Between 2000 and 2015, less than 4% of global cancer clinical trials listed on were performed in SSA; in subsequent years, there was an observable increase in the percentage of total trials performed in SSA. Analyses of funding sources revealed that 45% and 32% of clinical trials in SSA were supported by the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively. In the last two decades, the formation of entities like the African Consortium for Cancer Clinical Trials, spearheaded by BIO Ventures for Global Health in partnership with African ministries of health, cancer hospitals, private industry, research institutions, and global oncology experts, contributed to increasing the effective implementation of multicenter clinical trials in Africa. Noteworthy instances, such as the Burkitt's lymphoma and HypoAfrica studies, serve as examples of the results arising from these collaborative initiatives, reflecting substantial progress within SSA’s cancer research landscape.

Keywords: Clinical trials, sub-Saharan Africa, Cancer research

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How to Cite
MALLUM, A et al. Cancer Research in sub-Saharan Africa: Progress in closing the gap. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 4, apr. 2024. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 27 may 2024. doi:
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