PACRI Dedicated to Fighting Cancer

Posted on September 14, 2021

The establishment of the  Pan  African  Cancer  Research  Institute, a centre of excellence dedicated to cutting edge integrated translational cancer research, prevention and clinical care with a vision of accelerating discoveries to prevent and cure cancer in the African region (PACRI) by the University of Pretoria in late 2019, is an acknowledgement that cancer is emerging as a major public health problem globally and in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). 

PACRI’s vision is “to be a world-class Pan  African  Cancer  Research  Institute dedicated to cancer prevention, innovative translational research,    precision convergence approaches and developing optimal therapeutic strategies”. PACRI has a strong drive in collaborative transdisciplinary research that addresses cancer health disparities and their impact on underserved and socio-economically disadvantaged populations and is backed by the SDG-based PACRI Strategic Plan 2030 and its Annual Performance Plan (APP) for implementation.

The  Founding  Director of  PACRI,  Professor  Zodwa  Dlamini,  was awarded a Directorship for the prestigious SAMRC Precision Oncology Research Unit  (PORU) in late 2019. This SAMRC Prestigious Unit, funded by the South African Medical Research  Council has provided a  very strong financial backing and spotlight for PACRI.  The  Core research team comprises the Director,  Professor  Zodwa Dlamini, a Senior Research Officer, Dr Rahaba Marima, two Postdoctoral fellows Dr Rodney  Hull and  Dr  Abdulrahman  Elbagory and a  Research  Assistant-Ms. Demetra Demetriou. Although PACRI is at its infant stages (just below 2 years old), it already has over 11 PhD and 1 MSc student registered within PACRI programs (Population  &  Prevention  Cancer  Sciences  (PPCS),  Clinical  Cancer  Research (CCR), Translational Cancer Research (TCR), Cancer Immunology, Viral Infection and Inflammation (CIVII), Cancer Health Disparities & Precision Oncology (CHDPO)) and from the  Faculty of  Health  Sciences  (Departments of  Surgery,  Anatomical Pathology, Neurosurgery, Urology, Radiation Oncology, Medical Oncology, Community Dentistry, Maxillo-Facial and Oral Surgery). The current postgraduate student's projects are focusing on various cancers such as breast, cervical, brain, endometrial,  prostate,  melanoma,  oesophageal,  oral,  head and neck,  colorectal cancers. PACRI is governed by the Advisory Board and the PACRI Management Committee (PMC) manages the day to day functions of PACRI. A PACRI Postgraduate Research and   Innovation   Committee   (PPRIC)   manages issues of PACRI postgraduates. PACRI International Scientific Advisory Committee (PISAC) provides a strong backing for PACRI’s cutting edge scientific programs. PACRI has over 10 Extraordinary Professors and Lecturers from national and international organisations to strengthen PACRI’s research. From 2020 PACRI has 25 publications in peer-reviewed international journals,  and  4  International published conference supplements. One of the publications by Marima et al., (2020) in Oncotarget was featured as a cover for Vol (11) Issue (41)-Where an HIV antiretroviral Efavirenz was shown to have antiproliferative effects against lung cancer cells-Repurposing antimicrobial drugs for cancer treatment’.  In showcasing our research,  PACRI members and students have obtained  Awards and  Scholarships in  2020/2021 from the South African  Medical  Research   Council  (SAMRC),   National   Research Foundations (NRF) and Discovery Health. The prestigious American Association for Cancer  Research  (AACR)  Global  Scholar  In  Training  Award (GSITA)  2021  was awarded to Dr Rahaba Marima. The SAMRC Clinician-Scientist scholarship was also awarded to Dr Thulo  Molefi,  while the  Discovery  Health  Scholarships were awarded to Dr Sikhumbuzo  Mbatha and Dr Meryl  Oyomno.  PACRI  has also facilitated Genomics 101 course for the clinician/scientists, during 2020/2021.

Toward the end of 2019 Professor Dlamini lead a UP delegate which included the Vice-Chancellor to the DKFZ German Cancer Research Institute in Germany which spent about a  week identifying areas of partnership with  PACRI.  The formal partnership agreement was signed in   2021.   The   University of Nottingham partnership agreement was also signed in  2021. The delegation to the University of Nottingham will be in May 2022. The official signing ceremony (including DKFZ and Nottingham)  has been scheduled for the 20ᵗʰ of  January  2022 during the PACRI Launch.

International and symposiums highlights: PACRI hosted its first lecture series on 20-Jan-2020 titled ‘The key role of Cancer Centres for improving prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer’ by Prof. David Bates, one of the extraordinary Professors and our  Nottingham  Partner. The international panel discussion is scheduled for 20ᵗʰ January 2022.

Collaborations:  PACRI  is collaborating with  CPGR  (Center for  Proteomics and Genetic  Research),  Cape  Town,  South  Africa;  Illumina,  San Francisco,  USA and Separations,  South  Africa for the  NGS  and  Bioinformatics which forms  PACRI’s Precision Oncology component, which is a major and integral part of PACRI.

Additionally, to internal national partners, PACRI collaborates widely internationally, in the UK, EU, US, Australia-Asia. This strengthens the interdisciplinarity in PACRI’s projects which involves basic scientists, computational biologists, biostatisticians, pathologists, oncologists, surgeons and other clinical researchers.

Published by Mmane Boikanyo

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