Jamaican Scientist Chosen for Inaugural “Rising Scholars: Breast Cancer” Program

Jamaica’s Dr Simone Badal McCreath is one of the 25 scientists worldwide selected to participate in the first-ever Rising Scholars: Breast Cancer program. The program’s focus is to create more cancer cell lines for Black people in the battle against breast and prostate cancers.

Making history

In 2022, during the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-cancer researcher and lecturer in the medical sciences, Dr Simone Badal McCreath of Jamaica, led a history-making team at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, which created the first cancer cell line from the Caribbean. The line was created from an African-Caribbean patient and used an innovative protocol known as the “Valentine Effect” that overcome the aging of cells and the presence of fibroblasts. The protocol was named after Henkel Valentine, a graduate student assistant working with Dr McCreath at the time. The cell line was created in a lab Dr Badal McCreath established the lab at UWI Mona in which the cell line was created with a National Health Fund grant.

A major achievement

Badal McCreath noted the importance of what her team had accomplished. She was inspired to take on this type of research because for many years the only cell lines available to researchers were for Caucasians. Overall, she pointed out, this situation is “not ideal for Black people.” She believes that Jamaica and other Black ethnic countries need to create more cell lines that are more effective in helping Black people with treatments for prostate and breast cancer. More cell lines, applications, and improvements in the protocols she utilized to develop the first Caribbean cell line are required. Badal McCreath has also investigated natural products and their effectiveness as anti-cancer treatments. This led to the first pre-clinical models specifically for prostate cancer cases in the Caribbean Diaspora.

Addressing the gap in treatment

Badal McCreath addressed the gap in treatment for Black people with cancer on March 21, 2024, at the Victoria Mutual (VM) Group Lecture Series. She noted that prostate and breast cancer represent the chief concerns for Black people and discovered that treatments developed for these two cancers are more effective for white people than Black people with the same type of cancer. She found that over 98 percent of the prostate cancer cell lines available for research are Caucasian, while over 90 percent of the breast cancer cell lines are also Caucasian. She emphasized that she was not ignoring the societal impact on Black cancer rates but stated that the methods in place to research the matter are skewed toward one ethnic population, which results in an “imbalance” in how effective the treatments are.

About Dr Badal McCreath

Badal McCreath is an award-winning researcher who has pioneered treatment approaches for Black women and men. She earned an MBBS in Surgery along with a PhD and MBA from Cambridge University. Her doctoral studies centered on chemo prevention and anti-cancer.