For Indian cancer patients, immunotherapy is way pricey
Deccan Chronicle| Kaniza Garari
This therapy has proved effective to treat lung, head and neck, kidney, bladder and skin cancer.
Hyderabad: Immunotherapy is still not an economically viable option for cancer patients in India due to the high cost of personalised treatment, which is stated to have the best of outcomes. Oncologists state that only a few patients are able to avail the treatment and it is not possible for thousands of others who are still being treated with traditional chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Immunotherapy is a personalised treatment where the body’s own defence mechanism is enhanced to combat and destroy the cancer cells. Dr Vijay Aggarwal, senior oncologist, said, "Immunotherapy has proved to be a breakthrough treatment where the outcomes have been very good. In this form of treatment natural substances or cells made by our own body are restored in the laboratory to improve functioning of the immune system."
There is a three-pronged strategy used to reprogramme the immune system where the first is to administer drug therapy, second is to adopt T-cell transfer technology and the third is use of cancer vaccines.
"The drugs are used to boost the immune cells and destroy cancer cells. In adapting the T-cell transfer therapy, adoptive T-cells are used which are modified in the laboratory and injected in the patient’s body to fight cancer cells," said Dr Srinivas C, senior oncologist.
"Cancer vaccines are then injected into the immune system to recognise the cancer cells and kill them. The treatment is effective but the process is very costly and requires a proper set-up in hospitals. Presently, only very few centres have this therapy," he said.
Various studies on cancer have shown that by far this has proved to be the most effective treatment for lung, head and neck, kidney, bladder and skin cancer. For other cancers, research is being carried out to explore if it can be equally effective.