Dr Rashid Aman, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Health and Dr Mansoor Saleh, Chair of the Department of Hematology-Oncology at AKU with senior leaders of the University and the Ministry during the launch of the Clinical Research Unit
The Aga Khan University has launched a dedicated Clinical Research Unit (CRU) that will spearhead cancer clinical trials and form the cornerstone of cancer research for East Africa.
The CRU, the first of its kind in the region, aims to attract cancer clinical trials to Kenya, something that has been lacking in the past since most clinical trials are conducted in South Africa and hardly any in sub-Saharan Africa.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Health Chief Administrative Secretary Dr Rashid Aman, highlighted the importance of Africa’s involvement in clinical research, for not every drug coming from the West may be applicable to the Kenyan patient.
“Research has found that there are genetic differences between our population and the rest of the world. This could mean that we could require specific modifications for our population. Unfortunately, the population in Africa is currently not well represented in the cancer clinical trials globally,” Dr Aman said.
The state-of-the-art facility is run by a dedicated team of clinical research professionals including doctors, nurses, data managers and regulatory staff, all with vast experience in clinical trials.
“This unit will double up as a training ground for nurses and doctors to become clinical investigators and help develop novel clinical research projects in our country and for our people,” said Professor Mansoor Saleh, the Chair of the Department of Hematology-Oncology and the Director of the CRU.
Cancer is the third highest cause of deaths in Kenya, after infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases. It is estimated that 33,000 Kenyans lost their lives to the disease in 2018. In the same year an estimated 48,000 new cases of cancer were reported in Kenya.
The Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi (AKUH,N) has invested heavily in equipment, staff and technology as part of its efforts to provide sub-specialty and multi-disciplinary care for cancer patients. Earlier this year, the hospital established a Department of Hematology-Oncology, a dedicated Cancer inpatient unit, and the multi-disciplinary breast cancer clinic.
The acquisition of the only PET CT Scan in the region in 2018 was an important milestone in the diagnosis and management of cancer. Earlier this year, the hospital started offering the PSMA-PET CT Scan, specifically dedicated to the detection of Prostate Cancer, another first in the region.
“Even as we highlight the challenges we currently face, we must recognize AKUH,N for the work you are doing to bridge the gaps that exist in the provision of quality cancer care. I commit the support of the Ministry of Health towards your efforts in making this unit a centre of excellence for cancer clinical trials,” Dr Aman added.
The CRU is already involved in a number of clinical research projects including the phase 3 Covid-19 clinical trial for the safety of Roche’s ANTI-IL6 medicine, Actemra that was commissioned in July this year.