PROFESSOR Alexander K. Nyarko, Director in-charge of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research at Legon has said plans are far advanced to establish an anti-cancer research unit to fully undertake anti-prostate cancer activities at the centre.
He said the establishment of the unit would not only help to successfully screen the efficacy of medicinal plants which contain strong activity against drug-resistant cancer cell lines but would also serve as a research centre for students, especially Bachelor of Herbal Medicine graduates from KNUST.
He attributed the delay in establishing the unit to lack of requisite resources and said, “I am currently in the process of setting up the facility at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for us to be able to do this type of work here at Legon.”
Prof. Nyarko made these known in a 24-page paper he delivered at an inaugural lecture on plant medicine recently.
Speaking on the topic, “Plant Medicine in the 21st Century:
Confronting the Challenges in Ghana” Prof. Nyarko referred to a series of studies he and other professors of Toxicology conducted at the University of North Carolina in the US where he said more than 250 extracts of various medicinal plants and chemically modified lead compounds were screened and isolated from plants for their anti-tumour activities.
“In one of these studies, we successfully isolated three new compounds including flavanoids from the roots of a Chinese plant called Sophora flavescens; one of which had a strong activity against lung, ovarian, breast as well as drug-resistant cancer cell lines.
“We tested the modified compounds as drug candidates for prostate cancer, after which we found 10 of the 40 new synthesized compounds to be potent against both androgen and non-androgen-dependent cells while only one was selectively active against androgen-independent prostate cells,” he stated.
Prof. Nyarko also stressed the importance of the use of traditional herbal medicine and said it should be used as an alternative to orthodox medicine, considering the major role it plays in the treatment of diseases among many Ghanaians particularly countryside dwellers.
He added that, “In spite of today's technological advancement and know-how, plants continue to provide unique chemicals for drug discovery and also help in health care delivery in Ghana and elsewhere.”
He called on the Ghana Standards and the Food and Drugs Boards as well as Traditional Herbal Practitioners to ensure that ready-for-market herbal medicines undergo proper examination to ensure the safety of consumers.
Prof. Clifford N.B. Tagoe, Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana presided over the well attended function.