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02 May 2018 Photo Charl Devenish
South Campus UAP celebrates 27 years of access to education
Mr Francois Marais, Prof Kalie Strydom, Prof Daniella Coetzee (South Campus Principal), Prof Francis Petersen, Dr Nthabeleng Rammile (Vice-Chairperson of the UFS Council), and Dr Khotso Mokhele (Chancellor of the UFS).

More than 27 years ago, international funding from the Human Sciences Research Council and Anglo American was put to an unusual use for that time. Prof Kalie Strydom’s research unit at the University of the Free State (UFS) was tasked with reviewing how institutional missions would change in the new South Africa. Prof Strydom worked closely with surrounding communities in Bloemfontein to develop a bridging course which would help students who showed potential to access tertiary education, although they did not meet the requirements. His vision brought to birth the University Access Programme (UAP), as it is known today, which is hosted on the UFS South Campus, and is still providing unique access to higher-education institutions in South Africa.

People with a passion for human development
March 2018 saw the 27th anniversary of this remarkable initiative, which has given a second chance to over 18 000 students. Special guests at the event included Prof Strydom, Mr Francois Marais, and representatives from the Department of Higher Education and Training and Investec’s corporate social investment office.

Dr Sonja Loots, researcher in the UFS Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), singled out two key individuals in the formation of the UAP: Prof Kalie Strydom, who initiated the programme, and Mr Marais, who has been Director of the UAP since its inception. Dr Loots highlighted one of the driving forces behind Prof Strydom’s perseverance, vision, and determination with the UAP by quoting from an interview with him for an upcoming book on student access and success. He said, “It was a decision based on principle … to be part of the solution to a better country.”

Access and success still an issue today
In his presentation on the “Importance of Access”, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, pointed out the vital role of access in South Africa, especially the value it offers for the betterment of the country’s people. However, he said that student success is also an issue, and institutions need to be accountable for it. Quoting Prof John Martin of the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Engineering, “We must be flexible on access, but robust on success.” Only by “closing the loop” in this way, can the UFS and other higher-education institutions ensure a valuable contribution to the economy of the country.

News Archive

Nuclear Medicine on the forefront of cancer research
2017-07-10

Description: Nuclear Medicine on the forefront of cancer research Tags: Nuclear Medicine, cancer research, Dr Je’nine Horn-Lodewyk’s, tumour detection method, cancer, Department of Nuclear Medicine 

Dr Je’nine Horn-Lodewyk’s tumour detection method
could be the cost-effective breakthrough needed to decrease
the mortality rate in breast cancer patients.
Photo: Anja Aucamp

The field of Nuclear Medicine in South Africa and the rest of the world are expanding rapidly due to the development of hybrid cameras and new radiopharmaceuticals. These developments have a huge impact on the diagnosis and therapy of cancer.

The most advanced of these cameras, Positron emission tomography combined with normal CTs (PETCT), are not yet widely available in South Africa due to the cost of the cameras and the radiopharmaceuticals. A more cost-effective alternative can be of great benefit. To achieve this, the focus should be on developing new radiopharmaceuticals that can be used with the current cost-effective gamma cameras, according to University of the Free State researcher, Dr Je’nine Horn-Lodewyk from the Department of Nuclear Medicine.

Fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG), a radiolabelled glucose analogue, is currently the radiopharmaceutical most commonly used in PET/CT imaging for mainly oncology indications. Although it is considered the gold standard for imaging in several malignancies, it does have certain disadvantages. An 18F-FDG PET/CT diagnostic imaging study can cost between R25 000 and R35 000 for a single patient in the private sector. The 18F-FDG is also more radioactive, which requires much stricter handling and shielding to avoid high radiation dosages to staff and patients.

Successful research potential innovative solution
In the search for the ideal radiopharmaceutical for tumour detection, the South African National Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) developed a local synthesis process for ethylenedicysteine-deoxyglucose (EC-DG). EC-DG is also a glucose analogue similar to FDG. They succeeded in labelling the compound with Technetium-99-metastable-pertechnetate (99mTcO4-), the most common nuclear medicine isotope used for approximately 95% of nuclear medicine procedures, creating 99mTc-EC-DG.

In partnership with Dr Horn-Lodewyk, this compound was successfully used in various animal models and clinical scenarios, resulting in approval by the Medicine Control Council to use it in a human study. Research is also planned in order to investigate diagnostic accuracy in other cancers like lymphoma.  The end result of this research can produce a radiopharmaceutical that is cost effective, does not require the use of costly specialised equipment, has no significant side-effects, no special patient preparation, renders late imaging possible, and has decreased radiation risks.

Dr Horn-Lodewyk is grateful for the support of her mentor, Prof Anton Otto, as well as Dr Gert Engelbrecht, Head of the Department of Nuclear Medicine, Prof Jan Rijn Zeevaart from North-West University’s Preclinical Drug Development Platform and Necsa, and Judith Wagener from Necsa. This innovative research would also not have been possible without the financial assistance of Dr Glen Taylor and Eleanor van der Westhuizen in the Directorate of Research Development.

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