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Building capacity for sustainable research programmes for cancer in Africa

Key Points

  • Research has a pivotal role in cancer control planning as it will lead to the development of evidence-based strategies for cancer prevention and control relevant to Africa

  • Cancer research programmes should be multi-disciplinary and contain a research–career component for the development of African scientists as research leaders and mentors, which will lead to sustainable research programmes

  • International funding agencies and pharmaceutical companies should support the creation of long-term funding to foster rigorous and innovative investigator-initiated research

  • The formation of North–South and South–South partnerships and networks is essential for the creation of the infrastructure and environment needed to promote research

  • African scientists should engage country communities and policy-makers to promote community and country ownership of research programmes

  • Cancer research should be accompanied by the highest levels of ethical, legal and socially appropriate standards to ensure the protection of patients


Cancer research in Africa will have a pivotal role in cancer control planning in this continent. However, environments (such as those in academic or clinical settings) with limited research infrastructure (laboratories, biorespositories, databases) coupled with inadequate funding and other resources have hampered African scientists from carrying out rigorous research. In September 2012, over 100 scientists with expertise in cancer research in Africa met in London to discuss the challenges in performing high-quality research, and to formulate the next steps for building sustainable, comprehensive and multi-disciplinary programmes relevant to Africa. This was the first meeting among five major organizations: the African Organisation for Research and Training in Africa (AORTIC), the Africa Oxford Cancer Foundation (AfrOx), and the National Cancer Institutes (NCI) of Brazil, France and the USA. This article summarizes the discussions and recommendations of this meeting, including the next steps required to create sustainable and impactful research programmes that will enable evidenced-based cancer control approaches and planning at the local, regional and national levels.

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Figure 1: Capacity building framework for cancer research in Africa.


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We would like to thank all of the attendees of the “Cancer in Africa: building transnational research collaborations” for their tremendous contribution to the discussions during the meeting.

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I.A., D.N.M., M.J.W., C.A., K.B., C.B., C.C., C.P.W. and D.J.K. researched data for article. I.A., D.N.M., M.J.W., C.A., C.C., S.M.M., F.T.O., O.I.O., C.O.O., D.M.P., T.R.R., H.R., J.T., C.P.W. and A.M.Y. made a substantial contribution to discussion of content. I.A., D.N.M., M.J.W., C.A., C.B., C.C., R.L., S.M.M., F.T.O., O.I.O., D.M.P., T.R.R., H.R., L.A.S., J.T., C.P.W. and A.M.Y. wrote the article; and all authors reviewed and edited the manuscript before submission.

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Correspondence to Isaac Adewole.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Adewole, I., Martin, D., Williams, M. et al. Building capacity for sustainable research programmes for cancer in Africa. Nat Rev Clin Oncol 11, 251–259 (2014).

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