India is in the process of building a national cancer grid to ensure better care for patients, along the lines of the model in the United States.
The plan was discussed at a meeting on Friday, Harold Varmus, director of the America-based National Cancer Institute, had with doctors at the Tata Memorial Hospital on possible collaborative opportunities for cancer research between the two countries.
A national grid involves building cancer institutes that will treat patients and also serve as research hubs.
“We are looking at seeking collaborative expertise and networking with the United States-based National Cancer Institute to develop the national cancer grid along the lines of the model in America,” said Dr Rajan Badwe, director of the Tata Memorial Hospital, Parel.
India is developing four centres as tertiary cancer care and research hubs in cities like Mumbai, Chandigarh, Guwahati and Visakhapatnam. These four centres will be linked to 40 other centres that are scheduled to be developed in the next five years.
“There are 68 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centres in the United States, 20 of which work in India, Africa and South America, providing supplementary support and development of new diagnostic tools to prevent and screen cancer early,” said 74-year-old Dr Harold Varmus, who is also a Nobel Prize winner.
“The government is pumping in Rs72 crore to up infrastructure at cancer hospitals,” said Dr CS Pramesh, head of thoracic surgery at Tata Memorial.
Badwe said India is also taking guidance from National Cancer Institute to develop Asia’s first proton hadron beam facility for radiation treatment. The project was launched by the prime minister last week.
“While there are many hadron beam facilities in the United States, their efficacy is limited in medical literature. We look forward to collaborating with Tata Memorial to study the data to understand the efficacy,” Varmus said.
Varmus said that the National Cancer Institute was looking to set up global alliances to share genomic and clinical data among about a hundred institutes worldwide.
“We are looking at building data repositories and share data on the incidence and occurrence of different types of cancers and their origin. Cancer is a disease inherited and caused due to genetic damage. To eliminate cancer is not possible, however, we are aiming at reducing it by improving diagnostics, screening and therapy,” he said.