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Swagata Yadavar
Swagata Yadavar

health care

Doctors discuss landmark initiatives in treating cancer

Cancer cells File photo

Doctors from 85 cancer institutes, which are part of the National Cancer Grid (NCG), on Wednesday, discussed several initiatives, including making standardised cancer care accessible to everyone in the country, during their sixth meeting, which took place at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai.

The NCG is the largest network of cancer centres in the world that brings together all stakeholders like research institutes, NGOs, cancer groups and patients.

Funded by the Union government and Department of Atomic Energy, the NCG is expected to play an important role in cancer treatment in the country since the burden from the disease is expected to double by 2035.

Without a network of cancer institutes, patients from all over the country flock to only a handful of cancer centres like Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. The hospital sees about 38,000 new patients every year, of which only 25 per cent of patients are from Maharashtra, while the remaining 75 per cent come from other states.

Dr C.S. Pramesh, Department of Surgical Oncology, said, “Our main objective was to create standard guidelines for patient care at their doorstep, to create an ecosystem for training resources in cancer management and for collaborative research.”

There are also efforts to identify regional centres in each state to provide standardised cancer care to patients.

“We are following a hub-and-spoke model with large regional centres and district hospitals,” said Dr Rajendra Badwe, medical director of Tata Memorial Hospital. “Our goal is to provide care to at least 75 per cent of cancer patients near their home.”

One of the early achievements of the NCG was to draft guidelines for 22 different types of cancers, which will soon be finalised after considering suggestions.

The grid, meanwhile, organises other training initiatives like 'travelling school of pathology' that takes faculty to seven cities in the northeast to conduct sessions. Also, there are efforts to set up palliative units at every cancer centre that is part of the grid to fill the crucial gap for the end-stage cancer patients.

Dr Preeta Rajaram, South Asia Program Head of National Cancer Institute, US, termed the NCG as one-of-a-kind initiative that has not been attempted on this scale before. “It is a landmark initiative that will change the landscape of cancer care,” she said.

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