Accessing Herceptin in Nigeria – A Potent drug for HER 2 Positive Breast Cancer

Nigerian women diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer to receive FREE CANCER DRUGS from ARETTA. HerceptinSC costs N300k /course & N5.5m for 18courses will be given FREE to woman with EARLY HER2+ BREAST CANCER.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women and the leading cause of cancer death in Nigeria, with an estimated 26,310 new cases and 11,564 deaths in 2018 said by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer research agency of the World Health Organization @IARCWHO

Breast cancer incidence has been historically low in Nigeria, however, it is increasing now, in comparison to Western countries, more people are diagnosed of #bcancer in Europe & America, but #breastcancer deaths in those countries are lower when compared with Nigeria & in SSA

This is attributed to absence of organized screenings, poverty, poor treatment and access to cancer medicine. There is a need for intentional action to increase better cancer treatment in Nigeria and African countries.

There are many subtypes of breast cancer, such as hormone receptor positive, HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) positive, and triple-negative breast cancer. In Nigeria, many women are diagnosed with these sub-types of breast cancer, out of the three sub-types,

HER 2 positive is the most expensive to treat but ironically it’s outcome is always good if the right drugs are used.

To treat HER2 positive breast cancer, oncologists (that is, cancer doctors) usually recommend that patients with such cancer are treated with modern targeted therapy known as Herceptin.

One course of Herceptin costs about N309, 000 and in most cases a woman is expected to take 18 courses. In total, it could cost over N5,562,000 for a woman to get treated from HER2 positive breast cancer.

Through ARETTA study, Nigerian women who are newly diagnosed with HER-2 positive breast cancer will received Herceptin SC free of charge, courtesy of Roche Pharmaceuticals, University of Chicago and other partners.

Prof. Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, a Nigerian oncologist, 2005 @macfound

Fellow & professor at The University of Chicago Medicine is the leader of the study known as ARETTA- Assessing Response to neoadjuvant Taxotere and Trastuzumab in Nigeria women with HER2-positive breast cancer.


According to Prof. Olopade “We are doing the study because we want to be in solidarity with women in Nigeria. Nigeria needs to build the capacity of Cancer Specialists to treat cancer in Nigeria, not in India or any country outside Nigeria.

Our Government must act in the interest of Nigerians to reduce costs & provide affordable quality care to patients. Without universal health insurance & coverage for catastrophic illness that is treatable & preventable like #cancer, the average Nigerian cannot afford health care.

Nigerian doctors can save more lives but the Government needs to develop a health system that works for ALL Nigerians not only the rich who can leave the country to get care”

“The study is open only to women who have newly diagnosed breast cancer that has not spread beyond the breast. Very important that women do not delay getting diagnosed and treated”.

“This is the first time a study like this is happening in Nigeria, and we are delighted to provide this relatively expensive drug – Herceptin SC free of charge to eligible Nigerian women” said Professor Olopade.

“In 2015, it took us over 1year to raise N9million needed to purchase Herceptin for one 35year old indigent breast cancer patient who approached us for funding for her treatment.

Today, through Prof. Olopade’s efforts, Nigerian women will get this same cancer medicine free. This is commendable. I encourage women across the country to key-in and benefit from this” – said Runcie C.W. Chidebe, Executive Director, @projectpinkblue

Dr. Atara Ntekim, the National principal investigator for ARETTA, an oncologist at the Department of Radiation Oncology, University College Hospital Ibadan, said “the study will be conducted at UCH Ibadan, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) and Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTHC) Ile Ife. We will be willing to extend this study to other facilities across Nigeria for the benefit of Nigerian women”.

“When I was diagnosed of breast cancer in 2009, I had suffered greatly to get funding for my treatment. This is a welcome development and I want to thank Professor Olopade, Roche and University of Chicago for adding Nigeria in this project”, said Khadijat Banwo-Fatai, a 10year breast cancer survivor, Board Member, Project PINK BLUE and Founding Member, Abuja Breast Cancer Support Group (ABC-SG).

ARETTA study was launched officially on 29th July, 2019 at the University College Hospital (UCH) of University of Ibadan. The launch was attended by Prof. J.A. Otegbayo, Chief Medical Director of UCH, other dignitaries and many breast cancer patients.

To benefit or for more information: Visit, Department of Radiation Oncology, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria. Ask of Dr. Atara Ntekim or email: [email protected]. You can also ask your Oncologists at LUTH, LASUTH) (OAUTHC) Ile Ife.

I am working very hard with the team @projectpinkblue to get this support to National Hospital Abuja, Usman Danfodio Teaching Hospital Sokoto, UNTH Enugu and UBTH Benin. More centres will be communicated.

Cross-section of oncologists, cancer patients and representatives of UCH, LUTH, LASUTH, OAUTH, University of Chicago and Roche Pharmaceuticals after the official launch of ARETTA study at University College Hospital, Ibadan on 29th July, 2019. Photo Credit: UCH.


NOTE: This is strictly for EARLY HER2+ Breast Cancer who have not started any treatment. NOTE, Early Stage. Thanks.

Some Comments

Helen Chukwurah@amiyeima
Good morning. I was diagnosed of HER2+ Breast cancer in Jan. Began treatment Feb. Breast surgery on the 18/8/19. Targeted drugs 4 doses so far. Please how can you help me to benefit from this scheme. Helen Chukwurah. Remain blessed.
Dr. Serrano@chisl_idea
Great that this @Roche study is giving some Nigerian women with Breast Cancer a chance. But if Nigeria treated just half of its Breaat Cancer incidence, it would cost almost N4B to give 13k patients just ONE course of Herceptin! I fear this is a problem even #UHC in Nigeria may not solve at the moment.
Femi Afolayan@ojayfemi
I salute prof for her large heart doing this, i have gone through the ARETTA study design,few questions,1.Will Roche sponsor the Docetaxel as well? in addition to tumor typing and various investigations? 2. Will follow up therapy be sponsored in her2+ poor/good responders? thanks
Atomon osazee odion@AtomonOdion
Please how can one get access to this free treatment sir? Is there a particular hospital currently undergoing free treatment for such patient? Please I would like to know in order to refer a patient. Thanks.
Runcie C.W. Chidebe@runciecwc
Thanks for reaching out. We are working on spreading this to all Cancer Treatment Centres across Nigeria. As I mentioned earlier. One eligibility criteria is that the patient must be early stage and have not started targeted treatment. I will suggest you speak to your Oncologist. Your oncologist should know Dr. Attara.
Herceptin was approved in 2021, for the treatment of HER2 positive advanced stomach cancer.

Courtesy: Runcie C. W. Chidebe

(Oncologist, Cancer Control Advocate and a Researcher)


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