ADDRESS AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE PAEDIATRIC ONCOLOGY DEPARTMENT MAHAVIR CANCER SANSTHAN, PATNA
30-12-2005 : Patna
Removing the pain of the children
I am indeed delighted to participate in the inauguration of the Paediatric Oncology Department of the Mahavir Cancer Sansthan, Patna. I greet the organizers, distinguished doctors, guests and dedicated nursing and paramedical staff on this important occasion. I appreciate the missionary spirit and dedication of the institute team in providing high quality and compassionate medical services and care to all sections of our society. I would like to talk on the topic "Removing the pain of the children".
Insights into Life
I would like to share a few experiences of people and their pain and possible solutions. Last year, I was at the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology at Hyderabad. I met hundreds of young scientists working on the genetic origin and manifestations of diseases, particularly Cancer. The young scholars very enthusiastically shared with me their knowledge of molecular biology and cellular research. They told me about the information encrypted on the DNA in the cell nucleus and how both problems and solutions to the human lives reside on the software that nature has embedded in each life it creates.
Cancer, unlike many other diseases that come from the external factors, like infections, life styles and other environmental and physiological stressors, primarily emanates from within the cell. The life software embedded in the DNA material gets mutated and starts growing in a way that is not in-line with the surrounding cells. Many times when immune systems are impaired, life turns against itself. The tragedy becomes unfathomable when it happens at an early age. The intensified research in the area of DNA coding, definitely will be able to provide the diagnostic and treatment solutions.
Sometime back, I met one gentleman whose 6-year-old grand child was on periodic blood transfusion for Thallasemia. The permanent solution, doctors told me was a bone marrow transplant. The bone marrow of the child was not matching even between siblings and the parents. Unmatched bone marrow transplant is not done in India, I was told, and even in the West it is undertaken only in experimental situations. I met the child who was unaware of the time bomb that was ticking inside him. I prayed for him, for that was the only thing I could do. What can we do to strengthen the doctors? capabilities in such a situation? I think research on stem cell and its application towards cancer treatment holds great promise. May be clinicians getting involved in this research will lead to a breakthrough.
Affordable & Accessible Therapeutics
Treatment of cancer is very often multi-pronged involving unique combinations of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. Genetic diagnosis can help to take good decisions while charting the course of therapy. On the drug side, instead of looking for agents that kill dividing cells, researchers are now looking for agents that encourage cells to get destroyed. Inside a growing tumor, the blood supply can be made to run short suffocating the deformed cells. Many drugs, called angiogenic agents, are now being used. However most of these drugs are imported and are very expensive. Industry-hospital-research institution consortia need to be established to develop and produce the affordable indigenous products.
Optimization of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is often hazardous. It ends up destroying healthy cells in the vicinity and in the metabolic path of the targeted cancerous ones. A firm in Pune has developed algorithms describing interaction between normal cells, malignant cells and nutrients. The algorithms also take into account the Pharma-co-kinetics of the drug. Together with inputs on patient?s age, height and weight and the type and volume of the tumor, the mathematical model can design an optimal drug schedule, minimizing the side effects. The type and volume of tumor can be automatically deduced by a combination of imaging and laboratory investigations. Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans offer powerful techniques in this area. This is a good example of how advances in many disciplines of science such as Biomedical engineering, Image processing, control systems, mathematical modeling and pharmacology are helping in the development of better and effective treatment for cancer patients.
Recently, while I was in Kerala, I inaugurated a project called Karunya Nilayam. As a part of this project children in the rural areas are being screened and provided total treatment for cancer. Since, Mahavir Cancer Sansthan, is starting a Paediatric Oncology Department, I would suggest the Sansthan to nominate a team of doctors to visit village schools and screen the children. This will enable early detection of cancer. The detected cases can be brought to the hospital for treatment. This will be a very important dimension for treating the needy children of Bihar.
Unlike adults the childhood cases of cancer are successfully treatable, as the type of cancers occurring in childhood are more responsive to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, the success depends on the availability of adequate nutrition to the child. Nutritional support should become part of therapy especially in rural areas. This will decrease complications, improve immunological status and improve survival. It is important that nutrition support is tailored to meet the needs of the individual child.
Networking of institutions
There are a number of hospitals providing paediatric cancer treatment in different cities of the country. It will be useful to network these cancer treatment centers enabling exchange of experiences among specialists leading to the delivery of best possible treatment to Bihar children. This type of interaction will also generate confidence among medical community to undertake treatment of complex cancer cases. During one of my visits I found that cancer centers have immunologists, physiologists and psychologists working together. This model could also be followed by Mahavir Cancer Sansthan to provide psychological support to the children facilitating faster recovery.
Creation of Paediatric Cancer Centre at Mahavir Cancer Sansthan having 50 exclusive beds for children is a significant step forward in dealing with the most challenging healthcare problem of this region particularly of children. However, it is essential to have connectivity of general practitioners with this centre to make a major impact in terms of reaching the needy as well as helping them out. The mission of offering the best available patient care, the most sophisticated education to physicians and patients and be the leader in the cancer research is indeed a very challenging task. This mission demands highest of the human capabilities in intelligence, innovation and perseverance. Above all a mind to serve the needy is important.
Let our new generation have good health and prosperity and not succumb to the needless waste of human life. Cancer prevention and cancer cure are indeed the twin challenges to the medico and health-care community. Challenge transforms into mission of pain removal and thereby provides useful life that is close to the God.
With these words, I inaugurate the Paediatric Oncology Department of Mahavir Cancer Sansthan. My best wishes to the Doctors and other members of this Sansthan for success in their mission of providing quality healthcare to the Bihar children.
May God bless you.