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Dr Aniefiok Udoakang (2023)

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Employing institution: University of Medical Sciences, Ondo City, Nigeria

Host institution: West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens, Ghana

Project title: Strengthening Research Capacity to Investigate and Characterize Breast Cancer Risks Factors, Genetics and Epigenetics mechanisms predisposing women of West African descent 

Dr  Aniefiok Udoakang is a Population Geneticist with a focus on Breast cancer prevention, understanding the disease’s evolution, and improving treatment outcomes, particularly in women of African descent who are also underrepresented in breast cancer studies. She is a Research Scientist and Faculty member at the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo State, Nigeria. She credits Mr Gbile Akanni for inspiring her to pursue research excellence and, and Dr Judicaël Obame-Nkoghe for his support during her application process. 

AREF Fellowship:

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer globally which disproportionately affects women of African descent. The gut microbiome has recently been identified as a breast cancer risk factor, however, its role in the disease initiation, progression and treatment outcomes is not fully understood. By understanding the gut microbiome’s role in breast cancer, novel treatments could emerge by inhibiting/decreasing pro-tumorigenic bacteria or boosting anti-tumorigenic bacteria activities.  

Through this fellowship, Dr Udoakang will be able to characterize and describe population-specific and medically relevant gut microbiome signatures in Nigerian and Ghanaian women using metagenomics. She will also investigate the implication and known risk factors of gut microbiome dysbiosis in breast cancer tumour characteristics.

Dr Udoakang will be at the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens, in Ghana under the mentorship of Prof. Awandare and Dr Paemka. During her fellowship placement, she will develop capacity in genetic research methods, vitro assays, next-generation sequencing, bioinformatics, and grantsmanship. With the support of her institutional mentor, Dr Oyeyemi, Udoakang’s home institution will support her projects on breast cancer awareness in her community, bioinformatics capacity-building workshop, and in building her lab for breast cancer microbiome and genetic studies. 

“This placement will provide data on the gut microbiome’s composition and role in breast cancer in Nigerian and Ghanaian women leading to possible microbiome-based therapeutics.”