Early detection and providing basic treatment are crucial in managing cancer, especially in countries like India, but it should not lead to neglect of advanced and sophisticated research in the late-stage multi-modality treatment of the killer disease, experts said at the annual conference of Indian Association of Cancer Research (ICAR) here.
The conference, hosted by Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), witnessed in-depth deliberations on the topic “Cancer research investment should shift from late-stage treatment to early-stage detection,” and came round the broad consensus that a holistic approach is ideal in prevention, control and treatment of cancer.
Dr R Sankaranarayanan, former Director of Cancer Prevention, IARC, Lyons, France, said early detection and basic treatment are crucial and the efficacy of this approach has been validated by data from different countries. “This strategy is much more cost-effective also than late-stage multi-modality targeted treatment, especially for countries like India,” he asserted.
Noting that the survival data also support this approach, he said, “Cancer is a journey where the chances of recurrence are low if detected and managed in early stage, compared to the late-stage aggressive treatment.”
Underscoring the need to give greater focus to cancer research, Dr Sankaranarayanan said prices of drugs for cancer must come down but that would require competitions from developed countries. “The challenge is how we will put in place enablers and how to make basic treatment and follow-up accessible, by stepping up funding for detection and prevention programmes,” he explained.
Prof. Soo Khee Chee, former Director, National Cancer Centre, Singapore, however, sought to disagree. “In many countries there has been an excessive focus on prevention and detection programmes for which limited resources are imprudently exhausted,” went his argument.
Promoting and supporting advanced research and late-stage treatment facilities are vitally important in managing cancer. Spending much of the limited resources on early-stage management at the neglect of investment in advanced research and treatment systems will be costly, he pointed out.
“Early-stage detection will give best results, no doubt. But you need sophisticated medical treatment as well. What is important is a holistic approach. It is important to prioritise the limited resources. There should be a robust economic model to make use of the resources coming from government and philanthropic institutions”, Prof. Soo said, adding: “Entire focus on early detection and basic treatment runs the risk of missing valuable insights coming from advanced research in winning the battle against cancer.”
Prof. Maqsood Siddiqi, who moderated the session, said the best approach for tackling cancer is to detect early and provide best treatment.
Leading cancer researchers, clinicians, scientists and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) experts from India and abroad are attending the three-day meet that began on Wednesday. The central theme of the conclave is “Leading the fight against cancer.” Prof. M Radhakrishna Pillai, Director, RGCB, introduced the speakers at the outset.