Leila Janah, CEO who Lifted 50,000 Out of Poverty, Loses Fight With Rare Form of Cancer at 37

Healthwire Bureau

New Delhi, February 5: Leila Janah, CEO and Founder of Samasource, a machine learning training data company, died the age of 37 due to complications from a rare form of cancer, Epithelioid Sarcoma.

With the goal of ending global poverty, Leila focused her career on social and ethical entrepreneurship and founded three distinct organizations over her career spanning the for-profit and nonprofit worlds.

Founded a little more than a decade ago in Kenya, 2008, Samasource, where “Sama” means “equal” in Sankrit, employed poor people, for a living wage, in digital jobs like photo tagging and image annotation at what she called delivery centers in Kenya, Uganda and India. The workers generate data that is used for projects as diverse as self-driving cars, video game technology and software that helps park rangers in sub-Saharan Africa prevent elephant poaching, according to a report by The New York Times.

Her company was distinct for delivering AI-driven services to Fortune 100 companies with a global workforce of data specialists. It helped machine learning specialists develop better ML models through more complete and ethical training data sets. As one of the largest employers in East Africa, it has helped more than 50,000 people lift themselves out of poverty.

What is Epithelioid Sarcoma?

Epithelioid sarcoma is a rare, slow-growing type of cancer. Although it can start in any area of the body, most of its cases have been found to begin in the soft tissue under the skin of a finger, hand, forearm, lower leg or foot.

This form of cancer starts as a small firm growth or lump that’s painless. It usually starts out as a single growth, but multiple growths may occur by the time a person seeks medical help. Sometimes this sarcoma appears as ulcers that don’t heal, looking like open wounds over the growths.

Mainly teenagers and young adults are susceptible to the classic form (distal-type) of epithelioid sarcoma. A rarer form, called large-cell (proximal-type) epithelioid sarcoma, tends to be more aggressive and mainly affects adults.


Tests and procedures used in diagnosis of epithelioid include:

Imaging. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is typically the method of imaging because of the level of detail it provides. Sometimes other imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) or positron emission tomography (PET), may be used.

Biopsy. The doctor performs a biopsy using a long, thin needle to remove a sample of the suspected sarcoma or a larger lump for testing in a lab. Sometimes a biopsy sample is removed during surgery. A pathologist analyzes the sample to determine whether it’s cancer, and if so, the type and whether it’s aggressive.


Surgery is the most common treatment for epithelioid sarcoma, it generally involves removing the cancer and a margin of healthy tissue surrounding it to help prevent recurrence. In severe cases, depending on the size, depth and location of the cancer, there’s a rare possibility that part of the affected limb would need to be amputated, but surgeons try their best to avoid doing this.

Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is sometimes used before surgery to shrink the tumor and reduce the risk of the cancer returning, and after surgery to help reduce the risk of recurrence.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy appears to be less effective in treating epithelioid sarcoma compared with other cancers, though it’s sometimes used in addition to surgery or when the cancer has spread.

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