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Rhodes University awarded R2m for cancer research

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

Rhodes University has received R2 million from the UK government to tackle HIV-related cancer as part of an international initiative to treat HIV related cancer. Professor Adrienne Edkins, director of the RU Biomedical Biotechnology research Unit will collaborate with a top researcher at Leeds University, as well as Dr Anisa Mosam from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The three scientists are among 15 research consortia awarded a total of £7 million as challenge-led grants, addressing resilience challenges facing developing countries. The awardees cover research ranging from tsunami resilience to a clearer understanding of HIV-related cancers.

Professor Edkins’ consortia is attempting to tackle a virus that causes Kaposi’s sarcoma, a skin cancer that is common among those with HIV. Kaposi’s sarcoma is caused by the virus Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), and it predominantly affects people between the ages of 20 and 49.

According to the American Cancer Society, in some areas of Africa, up to 80% of the population shows signs of KSHV infection and it has no antiviral drugs or vaccines to prevent it. The new project aims to improve the health and resilience of disadvantaged populations across sub-Saharan Africa. The grants are part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), a £1.5 billion fund to support cutting-edge research and innovation that addresses the global issues faced by developing countries.

Professor Edkins said, “In terms of the biology, it’s very important to understand the relationships between infectious agents like viruses and cancer, because often these two are not associated. Cancers where there are infectious agents, hold promise for treatments, because if we know what causes the cancer, it helps to try and develop the therapy.

I am therefore hopeful that the protein we have chosen as a drug target has a great potential. Some of the preliminary data that we have suggests that it will be a good target.”

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