Chennai

‘Partnerships for affordable and innovative cancer drugs needed’

V. Shanta presenting the oration citation award to Soumya Swaminathan.

V. Shanta presenting the oration citation award to Soumya Swaminathan.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

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Soumya Swaminathan delivers Dr. S. Krishnamurthi Centenary Memorial Oration on “Cancer in India: Challenges and Opportunities” on Saturday.

Noting that there are a large number of drugs to treat cancer but not one has come out of India, Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist, World Health Organisation (WHO), called for partnerships to bring out innovative and affordable drugs.

“Though Indian companies have been manufacturing many of the biosimilars and generics, we need more innovation. This can come about only if there is a partnership between government, science ministry, academia and pharma sector to bring out innovative and affordable drugs. Some of them may be biosimilars but some need to be novel therapies,” she said, while delivering the Dr. S. Krishnamurthi Centenary Memorial Oration on “Cancer in India: Challenges and Opportunities” on Saturday.

The country has a huge wealth of knowledge on medicinal plants that could be used for newer therapies for prevention and treatment of cancer, she added. She called for more research on genetic and environmental determinants of cancer in India.

She said perhaps it was time for a National Cancer Mission to make a dent on India’s cancer burden in the future.

Comparing clinical trials for cancer medicines to other disease categories, Dr. Swaminathan said there was disporportionate investment from private industries particularly from pharma on oncology drugs.

“Are we looking at the right investments in cancer research and development. In India, we need to think about affordable and sustainable models of care. A huge number of drugs have come over the last 15 to 20 years to treat cancer; there are newer immunotherapies now. We find that a number of them generated significant returns for the companies. But have they really benefited a large number of patients and how much benefit there has been is something we need to look at,” she said.

Talking about cervical cancer, Dr. Swaminathan stressed the need for new vaccines that are more affordable and vaccine schedules that make it easier. “Vaccine cost and availability are a major hurdle. There are not enough vaccines for all countries that want to vaccinate their girls. There are 11 new products now, one of which is an Indian product that is likely to complete its trial by 2022,” she said. The Indian quadrivalent vaccine has entered phase-III trials.

HPV vaccine

There was a need to ensure that HPV vaccination becomes part of the vaccination schedule in India, she added.

Ayushman Bharat has two arms - health insurance and strengthening of primary care health system, she said, adding: “At the moment, the insurance side is moving faster... The other aspect of strengthening of health and wellness centres and primary health centres needs a big push. If this is done, we will start seeing early detection, and prevention of cancer.”

She said Cancer Institute was a perfect example of how a NGO could serve as a model for a government programme to scale up.

V. Shanta, chairperson of Cancer Institute, Sudha Seshayyan, vice-chancellor of Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University were present.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 2:22:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/soumya-swaminathan-dr-s-krishnamurthi-centenary-memorial-oration-cancer-institute-adyar-v-shanta/article30482019.ece

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