Position: Vice President – North America

Lewis Roberts
Lewis R. Roberts, MB ChB (Univ. of Ghana), PhD (Univ. of Iowa), FACP, FAASLD, FACG, AGAF, FASGE, FAAS, FAAAS, is the Peter and Frances Georgeson Professor in Gastroenterology Cancer Research and Consultant in Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Mayo Clinic, where he is Co-Principal Investigator of the Mayo Clinic Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Hepatobiliary Cancers. Dr. Roberts’ research focuses on mechanisms of liver and biliary carcinogenesis; biomarkers for liver, biliary and pancreas cancers; and prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis and liver cancer, with a particular interest in African communities in the USA and Africa. He has authored over 500 articles, chapters and letters, and co-edited the book “Evaluation and Management of Liver Masses”. He has mentored over 200 trainees at all levels, including many of African descent. Dr. Roberts serves on the Boards of Scientific Counselors of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the NCI GI Steering Committee. He is an Associate Editor of Liver Cancer and Cancer Research Communications. He serves as President of Africa Partners Medical, an NGO focused on improving healthcare in Africa through education, skills training, provision of medical equipment and supplies, and health advocacy; as President of the West Africa Institute for Liver and Digestive Diseases Foundation; and on the Advisory Council for The Hepatitis Fund. Dr. Roberts is a founding member of the Africa HepatoPancreatoBiliary Cancer Consortium and serves as Chair of the AORTIC HepatoPancreatoBiliary Cancer SIG.

My medical training in Africa and family experiences with cancer have engendered deep empathetic understanding of challenges to individuals, communities, and health systems in controlling cancer through prevention, early detection, and effective treatment. I will team within AORTIC to recruit resources for education, training, research, and cancer therapy in Africa.

Akwi Asombang
I am an interventional gastroenterologist, Director of Global Health programs in Gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital, Division of Gastroenterology, Harvard Medical School, USA. My areas of interest are gastrointestinal endoscopy, cancers, medical education, and mentorship. I am co-founder of the Pan-African Organization for Health, Education and Research (POHER), an NGO through which we developed a mentorship program for medical students in Africa.
I previously received the NIH Fogarty International Clinical Research Fellowship, through which I spent time conducting clinical research and published on gastric and esophageal cancer in Zambia. In 2018, I co-founded and served as the first trainer for the endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) services in Ife, Nigeria. ERCP is an important procedure in the management of pancreatobiliary cancers. As a result of our program, almost 1000 ERCPs have been performed as of October 2023. We presented clinical updates at AORTIC 2019.
In March 2021, 2022, and 2023, I served as course director of the colorectal cancer (CRC) in Africa webinar to raise awareness of CRC with focus on the multidisciplinary approach to patient care. We published proceedings and received an international award.
I am one of the founding members of the African Hepatopancreatobiliary Cancer Consortium, an organization with the objective of expanding knowledge and developing a skilled network of experts in liver, biliary, and pancreatic cancers in Africa. We hosted our first scientific conference in Egypt in August 2022, second in Ghana, August 2023 and are process of planning the 3rd symposium to be hosted in Kenya 2024.

Advancing research and cancer care in Africa requires a strong foundation in training. I have experience in creating successful mentorship programs and advancing gastroenterology by developing programs that enhance clinical and research skills in cancer care. As AORTIC council member, I will apply these lessons to develop partnerships and mentorship.

Ghassan Abou-Alfa
Ghassan Abou-Alfa is Professor of Medical Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He specializes in the treatment of gastrointestinal malignancies and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Professor Abou-Alfa completed his training in medical oncology at Yale University and received his MBA from Columbia University.
Professor Abou-Alfa focuses on the development of novel therapies for HCC. He Professor Abou-Alfa led the phase II clinical trial of sorafenib, followed by many efforts, the last of which the now approved durvalumab plus tremelimumab. Professor Abou-Alfa is now leading a global effort to further understand the tumor immune microenvironment to help define focused benefit of checkpoint inhibitors, while continuing to work on determining CAR-T antigens for HCC.
Professor Abou-Alfa envisions the universal quest for health, embodied by physicians upholding humanistic ideals. He strongly advocates for greater awareness of cancer’s global impact; and continues to lead several international educational and research efforts worldwide. This includes a seventeen-year ongoing monthly videolink worldwide educational conferences to which colleagues from Africa are regular contributors. Professor Abou-Alfa also leads international class-training conferences, proudly the last of which took place in Africa.
Such collaborative efforts helped Professor Abou-Alfa develop the business model to enhance academic interaction and set a platform to provide access to therapies and clinical trials worldwide and particularly Africa. Professor Abou-Alfa already spent time studying law in Africa part of his JD education he is completing at Fordham University, while he continues to lead this transformational change for cancer care in Africa and worldwide in what’s better for humanity.

Professor Abou-Alfa thank you for your vote and support for him to serve on the AORTIC Council. Continuing efforts he led with Africa colleagues for the Africa Guidelines for treating HCC, and ensuring clinical trials are governed by Africa for Africa, all under AORTIC auspices are his vision and mission.

Abiola Ibraheem
Dr. Abiola Falilat Ibraheem is a medical oncologist at University of Illinois (UIC) dedicated to ensuring Sub-Saharan African countries is a hub for globalized biomarker-driven innovative therapeutic cancer clinical trials. Currently, she serves as the Director of the Global Oncology Program at UIC , where her work is centered on addressing disparities in cancer clinical trials within black communities in the United States and globally. She also holds a pivotal role as a liaison between the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the newly established Sub-Saharan African Council. In addition, she is the chair of the diversity committee at Eli Lilly where her work is centered on ensuring representation of under-represented minorities in breast cancer trials.
Dr. Ibraheem began her career in Nigeria, where she received her medical education and worked for almost a decade as a medical officer in all the healthcare tiers within the country. Her invaluable experience in her home country laid the groundwork for her international journey. Her internal medicine residency training was at Morehouse School of Medicine and at University of Chicago she trained as a medical oncologist and medical ethicist. She underwent an abbreviated physician program at Abbvie pharmaceuticals where she had first-hand experience on globalization of cancer clinical trials from Big Pharma and CROs perspective. She is a past recipient of the African Cancer Leadership Institute (ACLI) and has been involved in multiple programs centered on clinical trial training of African investigators. She is currently an investigator on multiple ongoing globalized breast cancer trials.

SSA as a hub for globalized innovative therapeutic cancer clinical trial will serve as an opportunity towards closing the global cancer divide. Through a unified AORTIC we will partner with talents in arts, sports and tech to make “cancer clinical trial in Africa” a priority. This is in line with President Biden Cancer Moonshot Initiative which aims to address healthcare disparity.

Thomas Flaig
I am a medical oncologist at the University of Colorado. I have held a number of administrative roles on campus, including in the School of Medicine, cancer center and in the hospital system. In March of 2023, I was appointed vice chancellor for research for the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Externally, I also serve as chair of the National Comprehensive Care Network (NCCN) bladder cancer committee and as the Co-Chair of the National Clinical Trial Network (NCTN) SWOG Bladder Committee in the United States.
In addition to my clinical oncology practice, I have significant clinical and translational research experience. I have led both local and national multi-center clinical trials and served as the local principal investigator on a large number of clinical trials including Phase I, II and III studies with a focus on urologic cancers. I also run a translational lab focused on therapeutic and biomarker development in bladder and prostate cancer.
I have been a member of AORTIC for several years and attended the AORTIC 2019 International conference in Mozambique. As part of my work with the NCCN, I have attended 3 Cancer Guideline harmonization workshops in Africa: Ghana (2018), Ethiopia (2019) and Rwanda (May 2023). From this work, we have published multiple harmonized Sub-Saharan African cancer guidelines in Bladder, testis, penile and kidney cancers. In addition, I have started collaborations with African oncologists looking at issues in urologic oncology in Africa and that work is ongoing.

I would be honored to serve on the AORTIC council. Through my visits to Africa as part of the NCCN guidelines harmonization, I have been able to meet many involved in cancer care in Africa and developed an understanding of some of the opportunities in this area.

Sam M. Mbulaiteye
I am a senior investigator in the Intramural Research Program at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Cancer Institute (NCI), in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG). I trained as a medical doctor at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda (ranked 5th in sub-Saharan Africa) and in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (ranked 5th in the world). I worked as a junior doctor in Uganda (1990-1995), as a junior researcher at the Uganda Cancer Institute and Uganda Virus Research Institute (1995-2000). I joined the NCI as a Research Fellow in 2000, tenure-track in 2005, and was tenured in 2013. In 2020, I was one of 13 Blacks at the rank of 821 Senior Investigators at NIH and the only one at NCI. I conduct research on problems important for Africa. I was the first to report declining HIV incidence in Uganda (2000), to measure risk of KSHV transfusion-related transmission (2005), to conduct HIV-cancer registry-linkage study (2006) and a genome-wide association study of Burkitt lymphoma (2023). I have mentored 5 PhD African scientists at NIH and many collaborators in Africa. I joined AORTIC in 2005 and have attended all AORTIC biennial meetings since. I serve on the Steering Committee of the Beginning Investigator Grant for Catalytic Research Initiative and was named the 2022 Scientist of the Year by the Lymphoma Foundation of America. My bio instantiates a strong will to succeed academically and professionally at world-class institutions in Africa, the UK, and in the US.

My experience and success in both Africa and North America are strengths for service as Vice President North America. My service mantra on the AORTIC Council will be: Listen, Learn, and Lead. My priorities will be fostering Equity in research and support for mid-level African scientists to attend AORTIC meetings.

Anuja Jhingran
I have been a radiation oncologist for about 30 years and have spend my entire career treating and hopefully improving life of patients with gynecological malignancies. My research has been in the treatment of gynecological malignancies with radiation therapy and how to improve the quality of life of these patients. With these efforts in mind, I have been involved in many societies that are involvement with gynecological patients including but not exclusively IGCS, SGO, ABS, GCIC, NCI, ASCO, IAEA as well as and most importantly AORTIC. I have held leadership positions in many of these societies including presently Vice president position in the IGCS that will be ending in 2024, Chair of the international committee of the ABS, Chair of the education committee of the GCIG and co- Chair of the GCSC.
Over the last 10 years, I have increase my involvement global health. As I continue to treat my patients in the United States, I realize that there were so many more patients that I could impact global and starting working on many education programs in training clinical oncologists throughout the world. These projects have included involvement of many organizations including IAEA, ASCO, IGCS as well as AORTIC but many have been from my own incentive and involvement of my institution. Two programs that I am most proud of – in-country (Zambia_ radiobiology and physic program for clinical oncology residents in Africa that was held three times and I hope to grow and paper was publish showing the benefit and the need of this program. The other program I have done in collaboration with Dr. Wong and Princess Margaret and this program is helps establish research program in Africa with help in training and mentors. It will be highlighted this year at AORTIC with residents presented their research project.
So in all disclosure, I held this position a couple years ago but I really feel like that I could not do what I really like to accomplish in the position due to limitation with COVID. As soon as I got the position, the world was locked down due to COVID. I would like a second chance in this position and my goal is to align and involve North America physicians with physicians and programs in AORTIC.

I have already been involved with AORTIC in many ways including being a member of the education committee. I have also through AORTIC funding help develop a research training program for clinical oncologists in Nigeria some of this work will be highlighted in AORTIC meeting this year. My passion, interest, and dedication in improving lives of women with cancer in Africa by developing education platforms and programs as well as research training makes me an ideal candidate to serve on the council as well as my huge network of people who are also interested in this effort.