In India, the burden of cancer is significant. According to the National Cancer Registry Programme, for the year 2022 the number of cancer cases were found to be 14,61,427 and by 2025 it is estimated to increase by 12.8 per cent.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Globocan 2020 data, approximately 19.3 million new cancer cases are diagnosed globally each year , leading to around 10 million deaths annually. Remarkably, between 30% and 50% of these cases are believed to be preventable.
Given this scenario, scientists have been working on technological advancements that are now paving the way to a future where cancer can not only be treated early using precision medicine, but some cancers such as ovarian, colorectal, haematological, lung, breast, bladder, and brain can now be diagnosed early. With the rapidly spreading awareness regarding adoption of a healthy lifestyle and availability of cutting-edge technologies, preventing cancer progression is now emerging as a rapidly evolving field of research.
Leveraging Technological Advancements
Modern technology has emerged as a powerful ally in the battle against cancer. Technological innovations are now making it possible to assess an individual's risk of developing cancer and detect the disease at its earliest stages, enhancing the prospects of successful intervention and treatment. One key approach is genetic testing.
Genetic testing has unveiled new frontiers in cancer prevention, offering insights into an individual's genetic makeup and susceptibility to certain types of cancer. Notably, up to 10% of all cancers are thought to have a genetic component that can be inherited. While these genetic factors may be non-modifiable, their identification can empower individuals to take care of their health early on and make informed decisions about their lifestyle.
Through genetic testing, individuals can uncover their genetic predisposition to cancer. Utilizing genome sequencing technologies, analysis of an individual's blood or saliva can detect specific mutations in high-risk cancer predisposing genes. This information aids in assessing personal and familial cancer risks. By identifying those at risk, healthcare providers can recommend tailored cancer screening, preventive medications, or even prophylactic surgeries.
However, it's important to note that identification of genetic predisposition to cancer does not guarantee elimination of its progression. Rather, it offers an opportunity for proactive management and lifestyle adjustments to mitigate the risk of it worsening to a point where it cannot be treated.
Technological Advancements and Applications in India
Genome sequencing not only provides insights into genetic predisposition but also uncovers biomarkers that influence clinical decision-making. By understanding an individual's genetic makeup, healthcare professionals can opt for targeted therapies that may prove more effective than conventional approaches. These personalized treatments, guided by genomic insights, have the potential to revolutionize cancer care in India and beyond.
Non-invasive genetic tests such as liquid biopsy which involve sequencing germline DNA from blood or other bodily fluids, can now be used as a promising alternative to tumour biopsy to identify the driver mutations to monitor treatment response and detect recurrence.
As our understanding of genetics, environmental factors for cancer risk deepens, the power of fighting the occurrence or progression could now lie with the individual. Through these technological strides, India is forging a path towards a future where we can take informed decisions on cancer prevention and treatments.
This article is authored by Dr Suruchi Aggarwal, Head - Scientific Affairs, MedGenome