Breast cancer is a major health problem worldwide and the incidence of the disease is rising across Africa.
A new joint research effort between the University of Notre Dame's Eck Institute for Global Health and Harper Cancer Research Institute and a Kenyan doctoral student from Moi University is examining the unique manifestation of breast cancer in Kenya.
In 2010 and 2011, Katherine Taylor, Eck Institute's director of operations, visited Moi University Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya, where she met Rispah Torrorey, a doctoral student, and her faculty advisor Simeon Kipkoech Mining. The value of partnering with Notre Dame to expand Torrorey's training and to perform more in-depth analysis of the breast tumor samples she was collecting was immediately recognized.
Hosted by the Eck Institute, Torrorey first visited Notre Dame last fall. Although she met with more than a dozen Notre Dame faculty, it was Sharon Stack, Anne F. Dunne and Elizabeth Riley Director of the Harper Cancer Institute, and assistant professors Laurie Littlepage and Jennifer Prosperi who shared Torrorey's passion to contribute to research that may ultimately improve the lives of women with breast and ovarian cancers.
Stack immediately set out to find funds to support the advanced genetic characterization of the breast tumor samples that Torrorey was collecting in Kenya. She was able to quickly obtain a grant from the Walther Cancer Foundation. With the grant and with additional resources from the Eck Institute and Harper Institute, Torrorey has returned to Notre Dame with the tumor samples and a rigorous schedule of training and research ahead of her.
"Working together on this important project with Rispah provides a unique opportunity for Harper scientists and the team at Moi to pool their expertise to address a major global health problem," Stack said. "Uncovering the molecular details behind the unusually aggressive nature of these breast tumors in the African population will provide us novel insight into the mechanisms of breast cancer progression that could ultimately help women worldwide. Our hope is that this initial collaboration will form the template for further studies on which the Moi and Harper teams can work together to address area of mutual need in the global fight against cancer."
"Cancer incidence in Kenya and other parts of Africa is rising at such an alarming rate than anyone would be concerned," Torrorey said. "Breast cancer in our population used to be a problem of elderly women but now it has turned to be common in younger women, even at 15 years, and is also seen more in men than before.