Where does India stand in cancer research and treatment?
“There are many hospitals and laboratories in the country that offer targeted next generation DNA sequencing which allow us to determine the specific genetic change driving the tumour. Thankfully, these labs offer such tests at a fraction of the current western costs. The FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridisation) test that maps the genetic material in human cells and MRD (minimal residual disease detection) test that finds evidence of residual malignant cells are now being developed in many tertiary care centres and commercial labs. The radiotherapy departments in many centres have the best equipment available anywhere in the world. Stem cell transplantation for blood cancer is available in India at Rs 12 to 25 lakh as compared with $250,000 for a similar transplant in the US.
However, cancer treatment is expensive and many of our patients can neither afford the tests required for personalised medicine nor the new small molecules which specifically target the tumour cell. A patient with chronic lymphatic leukaemia with a 17p mutation requires treatment with a BTK inhibitor, ibrutinib, which costs Rs 24 lakh for one year. Also, the infrastructure to treat cancer is inadequate considering the population that needs such treatment.”
DR MAMMEN CHANDY, Director, Tata Medical Centre, Kolkata