What has changed in the way can­cer is un­der­stood, di­ag­nosed and treated?

India Today - - CANCER PROJECT -

“There are ma­jor de­vel­op­ments hap­pen­ing in can­cer. Newer tech­niques and tech­nolo­gies are be­ing de­vel­oped that have helped in the bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the bi­ol­ogy of can­cer. This, in turn, is im­prov­ing the ways we could help di­ag­nose and treat can­cers. For ex­am­ple, the grow­ing list of ‘tar­geted ther­a­pies’ avail­able is a shift away from the con­ven­tional tox­i­c­ity-prone chemo­ther­apy. One of the tar­geted ther­apy, Ima­tinib, used in a form of chronic blood can­cer, has not only helped con­trol the dis­ease much longer than we could do ear­lier us­ing the con­ven­tional chemo­ther­apy but also sev­eral pa­tients can be con­sid­ered to be cured. An­other ma­jor ad­vance over the past few years is Im­munother­apy, wherein the pa­tient’s im­mune cells are be­ing helped to fight and elim­i­nate can­cer. In par­tic­u­lar, new mon­o­clonal an­ti­bod­ies tar­get­ing an im­mune path­way called PD-1 and PD-L1, which is used by can­cer cells to es­cape de­tec­tion by the host im­mune cells, have shown some very good re­sults in ad­vanced can­cers and have been ap­proved by the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FDA) for treat­ing can­cers, in­clud­ing that of ma­lig­nant melanoma [an ag­gres­sive skin can­cer], kid­ney can­cer, lung can­cer, uri­nary blad­der can­cer, a form of lym­phoma. The down­side, how­ever, is that these newer ther­a­pies cost a for­tune. Pem­brolizumab could cost up­wards of Rs 50 lakh, which most In­di­ans may not be able to af­ford.”

DR T. RA­JKU­MAR, Pro­fes­sor and Head, Dept. of Molec­u­lar On­col­ogy, Can­cer In­sti­tute (WIA), Ad­yar, Chennai

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