At 64,000 new cancer patients every year, the Tata Memorial Hospital probably sees the highest load in the world. But that has not dented the commitment of the Parel-based hospital towards its patients a bit. In fact, the centre just lifted it a few notches.
TMC has become the only government-run hospital in the country to be maintaining the highest ethical standards to protect taking part in clinical research. The comprehensive cancer-care institute is autonomously run under the Department of Atomic Energy.
"In the US, the largest institutes cater to close to 30,000 patients in a year," said Dr Rajendra Badwe, director, TMC, reacting to the accolade that came after 18 months of rigorous screening.
TMC has been accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs (AAHRPP), a US –based agency that assesses health institutes for the quality of clinical research and care provided to the human subjects during trials.
Only up to 300 hospitals around the world are AAHRPP certified, including few Asian set-ups - one in Singapore, two in China and five in Korea.
Currently, 220 clinical studies are underway in TMC of which doctors said eight to ten trials have the potential to change the way treatment for cancer will progress in future. Close to 4,000 patients are involved in conducting these trials.
"Some landmark research has emerged out of these trials which involves introduction of low-cost centennial node biopsy, cervical cancer screening methods using acetic acid or vinegar, effective breast cancer treatment options etc," said Dr Badwe.
Apart from this, trials to reduce treatment costs are also underway. "We are looking at feasibility studies for repurposing of those drugs which are used in other ailments for cancer treatment. This, we believe, will bring down costs," added Dr Badwe.
Doctors said that a patient is enrolled for trials only after obtaining his consent. Also, they have a choice of opting out of a trial at any stage. "We focus on counselling. If a patient is in an unconscious stage during the trial, consent is obtained from his relatives. But once s/he comes back to consciousness, we have to re-counsel and ask for his/her consent on continuation of the trial," said Dr J Divatia, head, department of anaesthesiology.
After the Drug Controller General of India devised stringent guidelines as per Supreme Court's instructions, doctors admit that pharmaceutical companies have largely stopped conducting clinical trials to test newer cancer drugs.
"Five years, ago two percent of all clinical trials in world were conducted in Asia, India being a major player. Now the trials have shifted to Korea from India," said Dr Siddarth Laskar, associate professor, department of radiation oncology, TMC.