Cancer Therapy Under the Spotlight

Dr Elliasu Yakubu Salifu graduated with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Cancer Therapy Under the Spotlight

‘The PhD journey was very challenging, especially being an international student thousands of miles from home,’ said Dr Elliasu Yakubu Salifu who graduated with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Supervised by Professor Mahmoud Soliman, his study was entitled, Exploring the Cancer World through In Silico Modelling: A Mechanistic and Structural Perspectives of Selected Oncogenic Targets and Bioactive Compounds in Cancer Therapy.

It investigated the use of computational techniques to highlight important enzyme targets in cancer treatment. ‘This study was motivated by the fact that most current treatment modalities in cancer therapy have limitations such as drug off-target effects, drug resistance and high costs,’ said Salifu. ‘There is thus a need to develop low-cost, less toxic treatment approaches that would prevent the proliferation of malignant cancer cells. Since the drug development process is very costly, time consuming and often ends in withdrawal of the drugs, multi-dimensional, less costly computational techniques were employed to speed up the process.’

The study’s findings offer insight into selected oncogenic targets that could be used to achieve high success rates in cancer therapy through target identification and optimisation of bioactive compounds. It also identified the key components of these target structures which are important drivers of inhibition.

Salifu’s interest in pharmaceutical chemistry is based on the fact that it links chemistry and pharmacy with the aim of developing pharmaceutical agents. ‘With the use of Combined Annotation Dependent Depletion (CADD), the programme is in sync with the fourth industrial revolution and thus generates unlimited opportunities,’ he observed.

Although leaving his family and friends in Ghana left him feeling like a fish out of water, he said, ‘Achieving this degree reaffirmed my innate belief that no challenge is unsurmountable once you put your body and soul into it. This journey will not end for me until the scourge of cancer has been brought under control.’

Salifu was full of praise for the support offered by UKZN, including readily available resources and well-organised training sessions. His future plans include conducting impactful research and continuing to explore different avenues for cancer therapy.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal