Target therapy improves odds of surviving cancer

It was January 28, 2008, when Rashi (name changed) was diagnosed with breast cancer. Five years hence, she is fighting the disease every day. But she is not scared anymore. Like her, many feel cancer is no longer synonymous with death. 
    Top oncologists say the development of diagnostic tools, precision radiation methods, surgical options and targeted therapies has brought about this change. 
    “Target therapy, in particular, is the biggest discovery in this field. It involves identification of the molecule responsible for a particular type of cancer and administration of drugs to control it. We started this therapy at our centre about two years ago and it has helped improve the survival rate by more than 20-30%.
The best part is that patients can take these medicines at home and there are minimum side-effects,” said Dr P K Julka, professor and head clinical oncology at Bhim Rao Ambedkar Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital, AIIMS. 
    He said the therapy is being used successfully for the treatment of certain types of breast, lung, kidney and blood cancer, among others. 
    Harit Chaturvedi, senior oncologist at Max Hospital, 
Saket, said targeted cancer therapies work for terminal cancer as well as during initial stages. If diagnosed early, the chances of curing cancer are high. According to experts, most cases in India are detected in the second or third stages, making treatment difficult and less successful. “It is administered with or without chemotherapy, depending on the case. The therapy is still evolving. In future, we might have targeted therapies for most of the cancers, and patients will be able to live with simple oral medication as it is with diabetes and hypertension,” said Dr G K Rath, head of the BRAIRCH. 
    He said many cancers are preventable. “Cases of cervical cancer are coming down across the country due to improved hygiene and better sanitation. Quitting smoking and checking tobacco use can help reduce the incidence of oral cancer. Many cancers have been linked to infections,” said Rath. 
    In 2008, about 1.13 million deaths occurred due to cancers in the WHO’s South-East Asia Region (SEAR), of which India is a part. Lung and oral cancers are the most common cancers among men in South-East Asia Region, while cervical and breast cancers are the leading cancers among women.

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