Cancer in Nigeria, Part 3: The Promise of SOCRON

Cancer in Nigeria, Part 3: The Promise of SOCRON

Clement Adebayo Adebamowo, MD, ScD

Jul 23, 2013
As cancer incidence in Nigeria is increasing, the field of oncology is growing in importance. However, it is a complicated field that requires many years of training and dedication. It is not easy for the country to just suddenly increase the number of specialists in this area. There is a huge gap in the number of oncology specialists required, and those who are available or even being trained do not come close to meeting this gap. There are several initiatives that can be used to increase the number of health care professionals available to support cancer care. The use of nonspecialists is already the norm, but more of these nonspecialists would like to become “on-the-job” specialists with appropriate institutional support and training. Certain cancer care tasks can also be shifted to other cadres of health professionals. History and contemporary examples show that these are no mean tasks.

The Society of Oncology and Cancer Research of Nigeria (SOCRON), which draws its inspiration from ASCO but is adapted to our local situation, is focused narrowly on a promising aspect of care improvement: professional training and research.

Educational conferences
There are many high-quality international conferences that Nigerian cancer care professionals need to attend but can’t afford to go to (when you add plane tickets, conference registration, hotels, etc., attendance at these events can easily cost over a million Naira, or $7,000). With a limited amount of research taking place (hence little or no grant funding) and a poorly developed oncology market (so no pharmaceutical company support), most would have to use personal resources to attend these meetings.

In response to these gaps, SOCRON brings world experts to Nigeria to interact with Nigerian cancer professionals and provide training. So far, two conferences have been conducted to bring international experts and Nigerian colleagues together so that they can exchange ideas and learn from each other. There were no registration fees and a significant number of participants and resource persons were sponsored by organizations like the Union for International Cancer Control, the Institute of Human Virology, the University of Maryland, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Oncology Nursing Society, and ASCO.

World leaders in oncology who have attended these meetings include Dr. Charles Balch (former Executive Vice President of ASCO), Dr. Ron Mitsuyatsu and Dr. Susan Krown of the AIDS Malignancy Consortium, Dr. Richard Love, Dr. William Blattner of the University of Maryland, Dr. Bhatia Kishor of the United States National Cancer Institute, and many more. The meetings also give Nigerian specialists the opportunity to present their research, identify colleagues within Nigeria with special skills and knowledge so that they can refer patients or collaborate on research, and generally network with each other.

Provision of online resource materials
SOCRON provides free online materials that can be downloaded and used to educate and counsel patients and the general public. They are freely available for use by anyone who wants to do public education. For example, a breast cancer awareness brochure teaches about breast self-examination in all the major languages in Nigeria. There are also treatment guidelines that summarize the latest standard treatments and guide cancer care providers on how to implement them, including cancer chemotherapy plans for different cancer types. There is information to share with patients on coping with treatment such as chemotherapy, since doctors cannot remember to tell patients everything. These are available as free electronic booklets on the SOCRON website. Members of SOCRON are also available to give free second opinions or provide support for health care professionals in diagnosing and treating cancers and their complications.

Collaborative research
While still in its infancy, SOCRON members have been trained with support from ASCO, NCI, the AIDS Malignancy Consortium, and the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center on principles of clinical trials. In order to ensure practical application of the training, SOCRON leadership is working with international experts on appropriate-level clinical trial that the teams in Nigeria can implement.

SOCRON members are also in the vanguard of cancer registration in Nigeria and their work as contribution to the Nigerian System of Cancer Registries can be seen on the SOCRON website.

Online journal
Cancer in Africa Online Journal (CIAO), under the editorial leadership of Professor Emmanuel Ezeome, of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, is being readied for launch as a platform for state-of-the-art reviews that provides updated and relevant information applicable to the care of patients with cancer in Nigeria and original publication by Nigerian and international researchers.

Our hope is that as education and training of medical professionals in Nigeria increases, we can continue to provide compassionate care to our patients and use our resources as wisely as possible.

Read Cancer in Nigeria, Part 1: The Social Cost of Cancer, and Part 2: Registries and Cancer Centers, Prevention and Cost.


The ideas and opinions expressed on the ASCO Connection Blogs do not necessarily reflect those of ASCO. None of the information posted on is intended as medical, legal, or business advice, or advice about reimbursement for health care services. The mention of any product, service, company, therapy or physician practice on does not constitute an endorsement of any kind by ASCO. ASCO assumes no responsibility for any injury or damage to persons or property arising out of or related to any use of the material contained in, posted on, or linked to this site, or any errors or omissions.
Back to Top