Cancer prevention, treatment efforts critical to lowering cancer death rates in India

Researchers suggest using implementation science to advance cancer prevention in India


NEW DELHI— An estimated 13 percent of the global burden of cancers – about 1 million new cases and more than 700,000 deaths – occur in India alone. Bridging the gap between research and practice is critical to lowering cancer mortality rates in India, according to a paper authored by researchers at a workshop funded by the National Cancer Institute and the Institute of Cytology and Preventive Oncology.

The paper, published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, offers a framework to identify gaps and needs that could accelerate oral, breast and cervical cancer prevention in India.  A third of India's cancer burden is attributable to these three cancers, with a large proportion of cases being diagnosed at advanced stages.

"It is critical that cancer prevention and treatment efforts in India are accelerated," said Suneeta Krishnan, Ph.D., Research Triangle Institute India Country Director and lead author of the paper. "Women will increasingly die of breast or cervical cancers in India if action is not taken to improve cancer prevention."

In the paper, researchers suggest that implementation science research can help close the gap between what research has shown to be effective in preventing oral, breast and cervical cancers, and what is routinely practiced. They identify implementation science research priorities organized around the six building blocks of health systems defined by the World Health Organization, which include information, medical products and technologies, service delivery, health workforce, financing, and leadership and governance.

"Lack of awareness and understanding of cancer is viewed as a key driver of poor outcomes in India," said Prof. Ravi Mehrotra, Director, Institute of Cytology and Preventive Oncology of the Indian Council of Medical Research. "In an effort to improve public awareness about cancer and cancer prevention and to mitigate cancer stigma, myths and fears, ICPO has recently launched a comprehensive India-centric web portal titled www.cancerindia.org.in."

Identifying appropriate service delivery and financing models for cancer screening, early detection and treatment is a prominent implementation science priority in India, according to researchers. Medical products and technologies that can be used at point-of-care are also needed to improve effectiveness and scale-up of cancer prevention and control efforts.

"The US National Cancer Institute is committed to strengthening and promoting research in cancer etiology and prevention in India and other countries in this region.  Effective cancer prevention efforts will entail creating and fostering strong partnerships between the many different sectors involved in cancer prevention and treatment in India," said Dr. Preetha Rajaraman, Director of South Asia Programs at NCI's Center for Global Health.