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Finding Therapy For Prostate Cancer: Journey From Dawakin Tofa To United States

27 April 2018



Science Hero: Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin, who said “I did not invent penicillin. Nature did that. I only discovered it by accident.”


Research: Understanding and therapeutically targeting the molecular mechanism driving tumour initiation in prostate cancer


The beginning

Professor Sarki A Abdulkadir, an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, started his science journey as a young boy in Kano State, Northern Nigeria. He attended Government Science Secondary School Dawakin Tofa where he finished with National Distinction/Merit awards due to his exceptional performance West African Examinations Council GCE O/L Exams in 1984. His secondary school journey led him to develop an interest in medical sciences, thanks to his teachers. Indeed, he said “the inspiration I received from my teachers at Dawakin Tofa, including the principal, Mal. Haruna Ungogo was pivotal”. Prof Abdulkadir subsequently went for his medical degree at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria Nigeria in 1984, followed by an internship at Murtala Specialist Hospital, Kano, Nigeria in 1990. This journey was full of hard work, dedication and rewards for Professor Abdulkadir, who won several awards during his medical degree and internship, notably Dean’s Prize in Preclinical Sciences in 1987, George Edington Prize for Pathology and Alba Medical Award in 1990 among others.


Journey continues

Professor Abdulkadir’s taste for knowledge and interest in research flew him to the United States in 1992 for his PhD in Immunology at Johns Hopkins University under Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship. That introduced him to the field of cancer biology, an area destined to be his area of speciality. To master approaches in basic and clinical sciences, between 1995 to 2000, he pursued further clinical and research fellowships at Washington University School of Medicine, United States. This carefully planned pursuit and involvement in rigorous research saw him through many ranks at many institutions, leading him to become the current John T. Grayhack, M.D., Chair in Urological Research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. This exciting, yet challenging journey saw him win many civic and academic awards, serve as a regular reviewer to many funding bodies, societies and scientific advisory boards and found and co-found many research programmes and centres, such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Vanderbilt University Medical Center Certificate Program in Molecular Medicine.


The Scientific Interest

Professor Abdulkadir’s research focuses on understanding and therapeutically targeting the molecular mechanism driving tumour initiation, specifically in prostate cancer. His passion for science and training is no doubt instrumental to this ambitious research. He has published extensively, delivered dozens of invited talks at conferences. Indeed, some of his findings are currently in clinical trials. To support his research, over the years, he has won several competitive grants worth millions ($).He is currently the principal investigator on five National Institutes of Health/ National Institutes of Cancer grants that look at molecular and cellular origins of prostate cancer and potential targets for treatment. In addition to research, Professor Abdulkadir is the director of international relations at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, through which, he coordinates global research efforts, alliances and partnerships. 


Challenges faced or overcame while doing science 

Few people I knew who trained as medical doctors from ABU Zaria pursue a career in basic research, so there has been a sense of being “alone” as I tread the path I have chosen.


Advice to aspiring and emerging scientists

I enjoy seeing young scientists transition to a level where they can logically and convincingly challenge established concepts. My advice for aspiring and emerging scientists is for that they should choose a field that they enjoy, work hard, and keep an open mind.



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