India is set to get the first precision oncology centre that promises cancer treatment tailor-made on the basis of a patient’s genetic profile.
While some hospitals in the country do offer personalised therapy for cancer already, the new centre, being established by a molecular oncologist and cancer geneticist trained at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre, will offer it for every patient.
“The treatment here is basically given to the patient based on the tumor genomics and the patient genomics,” said Dr Amit Verma who is setting up Dr AV Cancer Centre in Gurugram, Delhi’s satellite city in Haryana.
Taking into consideration the specifics of that particular patient and the particular tumor, the centre will define a treatment for the patient that in many cases may vary from that given to another patient with the same disease and the same stage.
“This is called precision oncology or personalised cancer medicine,” said Dr Verma. “That is the uniqueness of the center”.
What is precision oncology?
Precision oncology, also known as molecular profiling of tumor cells to identify targetable differences, is fast developing and has entered the mainstream of clinical practice.
Genomic testing involves multiple stakeholders coordinating to deliver the best possible results that involves good quality tissue samples processed at specialised laboratories where next-generation sequencing (NGS) molecular analysis is carried out, resulting in an accurate genomic report.
Interpreting these results is complex and requires multidisciplinary inputs to arrive at clinical recommendations.
According to the American Cancer Society, precision medicine is not yet used for every type of cancer. However, the hope is that one day, treatments will be customised to the specific gene and protein changes in each person’s cancer.
Some of the more common cancers where precision medicine is being used to help with treatment decisions include colorectal, breast and lung cancers, apart from certain types of leukemia, lymphoma and melanoma.
High unmet need
Dr Verma, however, maintained that there is a very high unmet need in the area and even now most cancer treatments start with chemotherapy and eventually the patient fails.
“Chemotherapy takes a major toll on the general body,” he said, adding that even though this treatment does have some effect, the effect on the general body in the sense of any multiplying cells, especially the bone marrow, is too much. And by the time the patient comes for advanced treatment, said Dr Verma, they have received multiple lines of chemotherapy and they are not fit to be offered these treatments.
“So what we are trying is to offer these contemporary treatments early on,” he explained, so that the patient can tolerate them better, they have a better outcome and a better chance of survival.
Through the standalone centre, the research institute plans to offer IT-enabled telemedicine clinic services and would also offer free treatment to cancer patients as part of various clinical trials for medicines still under investigation.
The centre has also tied up with various top private hospital chains such as Medanta, Max, Manipal and Paras. Moneycontrol