With more and more complicated cancer diseases coming up every passing day, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), USA is taking up advanced research to find out newer therapies to treat the whole spectrum of cancers. As part of the research, experts have found ‘immunotherapy’ as the most effective treatment methodologies to treat cancer patients and it is showing better results than chemotherapy.
According to Stanley M Marks, Chairman of UPMC, Cancer Center, USA, who visited Hyderabad recently, the university is taking up advanced research in the area of immunotherapy, wherein this treatment procedure uses one’s own immune system to fight cancer. “Apart from prevention and early detection, we are also focusing on finding out newer therapies through advanced research. Many of our researches are in the areas of immunotherapy, which includes monoclonal anti-bodies, checkpoint inhibitors, CAR-T cells, dendritic cells, TIL cells and vaccinations. Most of these immunotherapies are under investigation and are not available in India other than the anti-bodies, but with time, we hope to bring these anti bodies to Indian patients from Pittsburgh,” Marks said.
While explaining about the various causes of cancers, he said that many cancers are preventable and are caused by identifiable factors like tobacco products, obesity, infections, diet, smoking and alcohol. There are some cancers that are not related to any environmental factors and are sometimes purely genetic. However he felt that prevention and early detection of cancers with screening mechanisms can dramatically improve the outcome of cancer, for patients in India.
In India about 12 lakh fresh cases of cancer were seen during 2016 and this number is further expected to go up to 15 lakh this year. Lung cancer, gastro-intestinal cancer and head and neck cancers (throat cancers) are commonly found among men. Among women, breast cancer and cervical cancer are common and they are also prone to develop head and neck cancers.
To bring better solutions to treat cancers, researchers at UPMC are focused on studying the mutations that cause cancer and identifying targeted agents to treat them. “We have a lot of focus in immunotherapy and have several clinical trials looking at combinations of monoclonal antibodies, checkpoint inhibitors and CAR-T cells sometimes combined with chemotherapy treatment,” informed the UPMC Chairman.
Major challenge in India is lack of availability of high quality cancer care. There is tremendous variability and lack of standardization amongst laboratories and treatment protocols. However, the American Oncology Institute in Hyderabad has a unique distinction in providing advanced treatment facilities for cancer patients.