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It’s not always the most seasoned scientists that make the most important breakthroughs. Sierra Leonne native, Sandra Musu Jusu, who is a student in Nigeria’s African University of Science and Technology, is reported to have made a significant breakthrough in breast cancer research, in spite of her young age.

23-year-old Sandra is currently working on her postgraduate studies and was awarded the Pan African Materials Institute (PAMI) travel fellowship which will subsidize her breast cancer research. Sandra told press, “My research is actually centered on the development of bio-degradable polymers for treatment of breast cancer.”

“I will be focusing on triple negative breast cancer which is actually the aggressive sub-type of breast cancer that is common with women from African ancestry.”

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Not only is her research work recognized by PAMI, but the “young, vibrant, and dynamic” woman was also recently added to the Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership (MILEAD)  network. This year received thousands of applicants, all intelligent and community-centered young women from across the continent, and Sandra Musu Jusu was chosen for the final list of only 26 winners. Sandra’s university released a public congratulation for her recognition, saying “Sandra, congratulations! You have done us proud”.

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Sandra is grateful for the recognition her work has received from the organizations, saying, “I believe there is a bright future for Africa, and as a woman, there is much more we can do if we are empowered. This award given to me by PAMI has empowered me to face my studies with more confidence and actually contribute to the frontier of knowledge and move Africa forward.”

What is Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

About 1 or 2 in every 10 cases of breast cancer diagnosis are “triple negative”. The term refers to the results of a pathology test, which reveal that the cancer cells do not have estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, or HER2 receptors. Because of the nature of the cancer cells, the options for treatment are very limited- both hormonal treatments and HER2-targeting treatments like Herceptin are ruled out.

According to the Breast Cancer Organization, triple negative breast cancer is usually found in people under the age of 50, and black women are 3 times more likely to have triple negative breast cancer than white women, making it a special concern for countries like Nigeria, where black people make up the majority of the population.

People diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer have a lower chance of survival than those diagnosed with another type of breast cancer. It’s also more likely to be more severe and aggressive. All of these factors contribute to the need for more research in the scientific community to determine new treatment options, including Sandra’s!

For more about breast cancer:

How to Check for Breast Cancer

Teen Invents Breast-Cancer-Detecting Bra

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