Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research has participated in some compelling cancer research since its inception in 1979. With an interest in understanding local herbal medicine and how it can augment and contribute to more advanced “Western” medicines, they note in a recent local article in Ghana how the anti-cancer drug Taxol and Athimixillin used in the treatment of malaria, were all derived from plants. Consequently, Noguchi Institute programs maintain an ongoing keen interest in the cancer drug discovery mission.
Tropical Plants with Potential for Drugs
Local researchers have identified and conducted clinical trials with a number of plants associated with compounds needed for cancer drugs. Professor Regina Appiah-Opong told JoyNews that “We have started off with drug discovery; we have been working over the past few years trying to find drugs or plants with the potential to treat cancer. And so we have breast cancer, and other cancers. Indeed, we have worked on a couple of plants that have shown interesting activities and we are still working on them and the idea is to come out with some compounds that can be developed further into drugs that would be useful on the market for treating breast cancer.”
According to Professor Appiah-Opong, some of the plant-derived compounds have evidenced promise during trials.
Prominent Institution in Developing World
The institute was established as a semi-autonomous institution of the University of Ghana back in 1979. Now that it is 40 years old, it is celebrated as the leading research facility in Ghana. But fear is around the corner as funding constraints can delay the ambitious project to explore plant-based compounds that could attack cancer. If they are required to collaborate with external collaborators in areas of capacity limitation, for example, funding would be of paramount importance. She acknowledges, “Drug discovery can take a while—10 years or even 20 years.” Time is money and the latter is not always in large supply at the university there.
Ghana as a Place for Research
TrialSite News reported on this unique and fascinating country: it is the only country we know of that pushed out colonial powers back in 1957 not by violent revolution but via a technical white paper articulating the rational for independence. This country of 31 million has great promise—a diversified population, a higher education level and a country hungry for progress and advancement. Clinical research institutions interested in plant-based compounds with anti-cancer properties may well want to connect with Professor Appia-Opong.