The Nigerian scientist who developed cancer drug from African plants

 Mansurah Abdulazeez is a molecular biologist at the Center for Biotechnology Research, Bayero University in Kano state and she has made a marvelous breakthrough in the treatment of cancer.

Her research aims to identify potent anticancer agents in African plants. The Spain government awarded her their “Science by Women Fellowship” last November.

Also, she won a Nigerian National Research Grant of N31 million (US $86,000) from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund in June.

During an interview with the Guardian, the molecular biologist revealed everything about her ground-breaking research.

When talking about her scientific background, the researcher said she had always enjoyed science while growing up and noted that she wanted to be a medical doctor. But she eventually ended up studying for biochemistry for her first degree in Ahmadu Bello University.

Stressing further, she added her first Masters degree was from the same university. Also, she did her Ph.D. there. For her Ph.D, she studied antihypertensive and anticancer activities of African plants. Mansurah was a visiting scholar at Chiang Mai University in Thailand for six months as part of her Ph.D. research.

While giving a broad view of her project, she mentioned that it focuses on identifying potent anticancer agents from Nigerian plants such as cytotoxic activities of drumsticks and soursop trees as well as the native Nigerian shrub Peristrophe bicalyculata on cervical carcinoma and fetal lung carcinoma cell lines.

In addition to that, her research also studied the anticancer mechanisms exhibited by the plants, adding that there is “no single mode of action for all plants”.

 When asked why African plants are important to her research, her reply went thus: 

“It is well documented that these plants have an enormous, largely unstudied anticancer potential. Research into herbs such as Guiera senegalensis, which is used by traditional African healers and known as ‘Sabara’ by locals, has led to the discovery of several anticancer drugs.”

 “In my view, this demonstrates how the study of African plants can result in the development of valuable drugs”.

She also said that they have large quantities of cancer-treating agents that are still unstudied in the academia.

The molecular biologist advised young African women interested in science to participate in both local and international conferences that are in their fields so that they could be abreast of methodologies, tools, and available funding opportunities.

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Mansurah added that asking for support from senior colleagues, family, and friends, hard work and focus will get them to where they desire in science.