In 2025, the World Health Organisation estimates that out of the 20 million anticipated new cancer cases, 80% of those occurrences will be in low and middle income countries like Ghana.
For several of these countries, poor response and approach in dealing with cancer increases the chances of more complications. In addressing this problem, scientist and researchers depend on data to help understand, tackle, treat and prevent the disease. However, in most middle and lower income countries, there is little, or in some cases, no data available to properly understand the local cancer situation in order to plan and implement measures of treatment and prevention.
For fourth year Computer Science major, Hudson Lekunze, who was seeking an opportunity to explore his interest in data mining, he immediately jumped on the opportunity to address this problem after a chat with his advisor, Dr. Elena Rosca, faculty at Ashesi’s Computer Science Department.
“It is really sad to know that one major hindrance to cancer healthcare [from research and clinical trials] is the lack of readily available data,” said Hudson. “I have enormous interests in data mining and analysis so implementing an effective way to collect this data and interpret it visually and analytically was a thrill, but more importantly filling a huge gap in cancer research locally.”
[Screenshot from Hudson's application, for capturing data]
In several developed countries, cancer registries are set up to collect and process data thus making them an invaluable link in solving of cancer. This is in stark contrast to several lower to middle income countries, where a lot of cases go unreported or unmonitored. In Ghana, there are currently only two designated cancer registries in Accra and Kumasi, and these are woefully inadequate to properly capture data from across the entire length and breadth of the country.
Guided by his advisor Dr. Elen Rosca, who is a cancer data advocate, Hudson built a web-based application that helps to streamline data collection across the country and also provides visualization and analyses for decision making. Through deploying it to health centres and practitioners across the country, it will improve data collection and help to fill the gap created by the lack of cancer registries across the country.
“We hope that in the long term this application will be implemented across multiple health care facilities and through peer reviewed publication move Ghana into the group of countries with adequate data monitoring,” he explains. “This will promote the implementation of cancer prevention methods and encourage the participation of our hospitals and doctors in international clinical trials.”
Currently, Hudson and Dr. Rosca are working with oncologists in hospitals across the country to test the application. For Hudson, he continues to explore his interests in internet of things and data mining in implementing simple solutions to big problems.