• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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NSIA-LUTH Cancer Centre to establish nuclear medicine by 2025

To expand its comprehensive cancer diagnosis and treatment capacity, the NSIA-LUTH Cancer Centre is set to establish a major nuclear medicine facility by 2025.

Wasiu Adeyemo, LUTH’s chief medical director revealed this on Tuesday as the centre marked its fifth anniversary of operating.

Adeyemo said that the initiative poised to become the first run by the federal government on a public-private partnership was conceived last year and has been backed with funding in the 2024 budget of the federation.

Nuclear medicine is a specialised area of cancer treatment that uses multi-disciplinary medical imaging for diagnosis and treatments.

With the facility, NSIA-LUTH will be equipped to track the progress of treatments in patients with tools such as PET scan, SPECT scan, cyclotron, and radiopharmacy.

“Cancer management starts with diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring. You cannot have comprehensive care without these processes,” Adeyemo said.

“We need to complement the success that we have here with nuclear medicine which will be ready in the next 18 months.”

The NLCC launched its operation in 2019 as the largest management facility by equipment, skillsets, and faculty, riding on a PPP model that has sustained efficiency.

The centre has treated over 10,064 patients, involving 8,528 radiotherapies, 6,733 chemotherapies, and 215 high-dose rate 3D brachytherapy treatments over the past five years, restoring confidence in an industry that was previously incapacitated to save thousands of Nigerians from cancer scare.

In a positive development, Adeyemo noted that the awareness of cancer signs and early presentations has improved significantly.

The director reported that over 65 per cent of cases have transitioned from palliative to curative care, offering patients a significantly better chance of survival. He further explained that 70 per cent of these cases were previously in late stages, where patients would typically receive palliative care focused on comfort rather than cure.

NLCC has also contributed to reversing outbound medical tourism, attracting patients from Nigeria and West African countries such as Ghana and Togo.

The centre has also grown from two linear accelerators to three. It has about 20 chemotherapy suites and has added ‘brachytherapy’, a type of internal radiation that uses radiation to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumours, to its treatment options.

Speaking on expertise, Abayomi Durosimi-Etti, NLCC chief oncologist and professor of radiation therapy and oncology said the centre has become a bedrock of training in cancer areas including oncologists, medical physicists, and radiotherapy.

Durosimi-Etti however sees a shortage of health experts along the cancer care value chain as a major threat to the management of the disease at scale.

To address the hurdle, the board of NSIA has approved the training of 500 clinicians, from doctors to nurses and physicists.

“We are happy that we have not only the best set of equipment but also the best-trained members of staff because machines without men to work are not good enough. But we are lucky to be the bedrock of training,” Durosimi-Etti said.

Given the success of the pilot project, Olu Adewole, head of Luth Advanced Medical Services Limited (LAMSL) said it is working with the federal government to establish five additional cancer centres across the country.

Currently, construction has started in Enugu and Kaduna as additional diagnostic centres.

The government in March signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the NSIA for N38 billion procurement of cancer equipment for six federal tertiary hospitals to enhance oncology care in Nigeria.

It came under the oncology initiative aimed to improve strategic health investments and upgrade existing facilities.

The initiative tasked the NSIA to deploy linear accelerators, iridium brachytherapy machines, computed tomography (CI) simulators, positron emission tomography (PET) scanners and cyclotrons in the selected hospitals.

“Before we embarked on this journey of investing in cancer care, there was only one epileptic linear accelerator in the country. And it has only been believed that Nigerians could not run cancer centres because of the technicality. But we have proven it is incorrect with dedication to duty,” Adewole said.

“We started this centre in 2019 with seven consultant oncologists and none of them has left. We have added two. There is hope and we are convinced that access to care will change for Nigerians.

Cancer incidence

According to the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment, more than 120, 000 cancer cases are recorded yearly.

A staggering 35 million new cancer cases are expected to engulf the world, largely fueled by ageing and alcohol consumption, according to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO).

This marks a 77 per cent increase from the estimated 20 million cases in 2022.

The rapidly growing global cancer burden is attributed to both population ageing and growth, as well as changes to people’s exposure to risk factors, several of which are associated with socioeconomic development.

Tobacco, alcohol, and obesity are key factors behind the increasing incidence of cancer, with air pollution still a key driver of environmental risk factors, WHO says.

About 1 in 5 people develop cancer in their lifetime, approximately 1 in 9 men and 1 in 12 women die from the disease.

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