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Precision Oncology to address challenges of accessibility to cancer care in India: Dr. Sewanti Limaye

Shardul Nautiyal, Mumbai
Monday, January 23, 2023, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Precision Oncology as an innovative approach to cancer treatment that ensures therapy is customized and targeted to one’s unique form of cancer is poised to address the challenges of accessibility to cancer care and therapeutics in India very soon, according to Dr. Sewanti Limaye, Director, Oncology and Precision medicine, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital.
“World Oncology Practices are moving and raging with Precision Oncology just like a Tsunami and if we don’t catch up we will fall behind.  I see this revolution taking the country by storm sooner and later”, she said.

The science of Precision Oncology is using each patient’s individual genetics to create a tailor made therapy protocol just based on the specific genetic mutations like a targeted therapy which is the latest advancement in cancer treatment and produces far better results with fewer side effects than standard chemotherapy.

“Besides this, the fact that India is into biosimilars is a saving grace. Otherwise, we could not have given the novel therapeutics specifically that we need at a lesser cost which we are able to give today. So, it is about making those drugs available that are at the cutting edge of science, drugs that are active and novel that are happening as we go. For those drugs to be made available in India it will take a decade. So if we have biosimilars that fast track that availability we have to grab it,” Dr Limaye emphasized.

Dr Limaye further explained that now when we have drugs that are developed in a biosimilar manner in our local labs, quality will vary, research and comparison will not happen to the extent by the way it has happened for the original innovator drug.

“When we look at the population at large and look at the application of the strategies and making it feasible or viable, we have to accept that imperfectness and move on because we can’t afford to wait for the perfect thing to happen because we have to save lives,” Dr Limaye added.

Talking further on Clinical Trials in cancer care, another important avenue to propel the therapy is drug development for which clinical trials have to come to India in a big way which is falling short majorly. We need to play a larger role in participating because oncology drugs in Clinical Trials are also about access to novel therapeutics. It is not just the drug that is being tested on a patient. Not every trial is in the early phase. Most of the trials are matured. You never know what side effect the patient is going to get.

She further said, “That is why it is about accessing that novel drug for the novel pathway like using a combination of targeted therapy and immunotherapy, immunotherapy and chemotherapy together and so on and so forth. All kinds of combinations are evolving. If India has to take centre stage, India has to run transparent and ethical clinical trials to help Indian patients. Global clinical trials need Indian patients and Indian patients need drugs.”

Talking about cancer care in India, Dr. Moni Abraham K, Co-Founder, Medical Director and CEO, Karkinos Healthcare, Kerala, said, “Cancer is an epidemic. Just by physical centres, you cannot address challenges. There is a need to use technology to extend cancer care and integrate it with healthcare systems with focus on awareness, screening and protocol based guidelines led therapy like Precision Oncology.”

Founded by R Venkataramanan, Advisor to Chairman, Reliance Industries Limited, and former Managing Trustee of the Tata Trusts, Karkinos Healthcare provides an end-to-end technology platform which coordinates cancer care continuum; medical center for treatment of complex cancers; and research center which leverages technologies such as genomics, synthetic biology, sensors, and AI to analyze data and leading to the development of affordable cancer interventions.

Karkinos Healthcare has treated 20, 000 cancer patients in the past 18 months since its inception and screened 3.6 lakh patients across 11 states with the help of 68 healthcare partners.


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