India will face a tsunami of chronic diseases such as cancer
due to globalization, growing economy, aging population and changing lifestyle,
warns leading oncologist Dr Jame Abraham, Chairman, Department of Haematology
and Medical Oncology, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, USA.
"Due to globalisation, growing economy, aging
population and changing lifestyle, India will face a tsunami of chronic
diseases such as cancer," the oncologist warns.
The outbreak of cancer and other similar diseases will make
it imperative for the nation to embrace technology-driven medical techniques to
prevent health catastrophes in an effective manner.
India's biggest challenge will be how to make it affordable
and accessible for millions of its people when these technologies continue to
revolutionize cancer care, says Dr Abraham.
As per the Globocan estimates, the cancer burden
worldwide is expected to be 28.4 million cases in 2040, a 47 per cent rise from
2020, due to demographic changes. This may escalate by increasing risk factors
associated with globalization and a growing economy.
An estimated 19.3 million new cancer cases and almost 10.0
million cancer deaths were reported across the world in 2020.
Female breast cancer has surpassed lung cancer as the most
commonly diagnosed cancer while lung cancer remained the leading cause of
cancer death, with an estimated 1.8 million deaths (18 per cent), followed by
colorectal (9.4 per cent), liver (8.3 per cent), stomach (7.7 per cent), and
female breast (6.9 per cent) cancers, reveals the report.
Dr Abraham holds that cancer vaccines are an exciting
research area having the potential to immunize people against various cancers.
Cancer vaccines for prevention and treatment, expansion of
Artificial Intelligence & data digital technology, and cancer diagnosis
from liquid biopsies are among the six trends that will reshape cancer care in
The other three trends are use of genomic profiling,
evolution of gene editing technologies and next generation of immunotherapies
and CAR T cell therapies, Abraham points out in an article in Manorama Year
"Digital technology, information technology and
telehealth will narrow the gap between patients and specialists. This will also
potentially enhance the availability of experts' care in remote parts of our
country, including rural setting where majority of our population lives,"
Dr. Abraham says.
Researchers have developed amazingly successful mRNA
COVID-19 vaccines. The fact is mRNA-based cancer treatment vaccines have been
tested in small trials for more than a decade, with some promising early
results. "Currently at Cleveland Clinic, our team is doing a clinical
trial testing cancer vaccine in high-risk breast cancer," he says.
Highlighting the role of cutting-edge technologies, he says
computers using Artificial Intelligence (AI) can recognize variations in
pattern from normal to abnormal in the biopsy, much more accurate than the
human eye. These technologies will demand radiologists and pathologists to be
more efficient and accurate.
Genetic profiling or testing at an early age to detect the
abnormal gene can find breast and colon cancers in their earliest stage.
"In a futuristic society, genomic testing will be
widely used, like monitoring blood pressure or cholesterol, to identify high
risks and find targeted treatments to kill cancer cells specifically. By doing
testing in the population or high-risk individuals will allow doctors to
intervene before the cancer happens," he says.
Noting that scans, mammograms, colonoscopy or a pap smear
are currently used for cancer diagnosis, the doctor says by the time the tumor
is detected, it can be too late.
"Hence, the treatment needs to be very aggressive. The
emerging liquid biopsy technologies will help detect cancer from a drop of
blood, before it can be detected by a scan or it manifests as a lump or an
Genome or gene editing is an area of research seeking to
modify genes of living organisms and use it to treat genetic or acquired
diseases. Gene therapy holds promise for treating cancer, cystic fibrosis,
heart disease, diabetes, hemophilia, sickle cell disease, and AIDS.
Another trend in cancer treatment is of immunotherapies,
which, in combination with chemotherapy, have resulted in complete
disappearance of tumor in several cases. It is now a standard treatment
currently in many parts of the world. Scientists are also using CAR T cell
therapy, in which T cells are isolated from a patient's blood and modified in
the laboratory to specifically attack cancer cells.
Dr Abraham has a word of caution, too. "When we develop
novel technologies to prevent and treat cancer, we can't take our focus on
cancer prevention. Most common causes of cancers are still tobacco, alcohol,
diet and infections. Policies for tobacco and alcohol control have to be a
national priority," he says. (PTI)