Fight Against Cancer in Countries with Limited Resources: The Post-genomic Era Scenario


The enormous advances in science and technology in the 20th century have facilitated the process of globalization ‍with the aim of a better quality of life for all. Paradoxically, the gap between the rich and the poor, for both nations ‍and people, is constantly widening. The actual trends in human genome research are leading towards promising ‍genomic medicine, but it will be expensive and inaccessible for many. Also, it may not offer a quick fix ‘cure’ for ‍various types of cancers. The biggest challenge before the clinicians now is the management of the rising incidence of ‍cancer in developing countries, with little prospect of more resources becoming available to fight the disease. The ‍death rate from cancer in the developing countries is set to rise at least 3-fold by the year 2025 largely due to the ‍increased life expectancy, containment of infectious diseases and changing lifestyles. It is estimated that about 50% ‍of cancers are curable if they are detected early and treated appropriately. Screening has a major role in early ‍diagnosis. However, in the developing world around 80% of cancer patients have late stage incurable disease when ‍they are diagnosed. Moreover, in a developing country like India, about 70% of the population obtain medical help ‍from private practitioners. Nearly half of those who seek medical help utilize alternative and traditional systems of ‍medicine. Appalling poverty, poor hygiene and complex social dynamics, pose major hurdles in this regard. Many in ‍the private sector who call themselves doctors have no medical degree. By 2030 tobacco is expected to kill 10 million ‍people worldwide, out of which 70% of the deaths will occur in the developing countries. Control of usage of tobacco ‍has still not achieved a conducive atmosphere. It is now realized that the research information and knowledge ‍generated in the west may neither be relevant nor applicable to developing countries, due to differences in social and ‍cultural attitudes, lifestyles and lack of sophisticated technologies. Though the sequencing of the human genome will ‍have a major impact on the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring, and outcome of cancer, the cancer scenario ‍in the developing countries for the next 20 years is likely to be more or less the same, rather than presenting a ‍radically different picture. Cancer awareness and screening programs for early detection thus should be continue to ‍be given utmost attention .