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Year 2009

Rs 100 Shot Could Save the Day for Breast Cancer Patients

Times of India
16 December 2009
Mumbai, India

Rs 100 Shot Could Save the Day for Breast Cancer Patients
It’s an innovation that may not only save lives but also cut down on the need for expensive treatment.

On Monday, Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel, the country’s premier hub for cancer treatment, announced a home-grown methodology—costing just Rs 100—that could cut down death rate among high-risk breast cancer patients by 30%.

“All it involves is an injection of progesterone (an hormone) given to breast cancer patients just 4 to 14 days before operation,” said the hospital’s prof Indraneel Mittra, who announced the study’s findings on Monday.

Ray Of Hope
  • One in every 30 Mumbai women stands the risk of developing breast cancer in her lifetime
  • In the next 10 years, the incidence in Mumbai will rise to 60 women in every 1,00,000 getting the disease every year
  • Breast cancer, which has replaced cervical as the leading cancer among women living in urban centres, is increasingly being viewed as a lifestyle disease
  • Twenty-year data from Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai shows incidence has more than doubled in this period. But the 5 year survival rate for the patients has increased
  • NOW | Tata Memorial Hospital doctors have worked out a new regimen over the last eight years
  • WHAT | One shot of progesterone injection for the patient 4-14 days before operation
  • WHO | 1,000 women were enrolled in the study
  • RESULT | It cuts down the chances of recurrences. It cuts down death rate by 30%
SO | If one considers that 1.1 million breast cancer cases are diagnosed annually and about 4,00,000 die of this disease every year, a 30% relative reduction in deaths would mean saving over 1,00,000 lives. These numbers for India would be 1,00,000 new cases diagnosed every year, 40,000 deaths and over 10,000 lives saved
The brainchild of Dr Rajendra Badwe, director of Tata Memorial Hospital and a renowned cancer surgeon, the progesterone theory has been validated with a randomised (phase III) study involving over 1,000 women and a follow-up of over eight years. On December 12, Dr Badwe presented his findings at an international oncology summit in Texas, US.

The genesis of the new treatment lay in an 18-year-old observation made at Tata Memorial Hospital. “Dr Badwe observed that women who were operated in the second half of their menstrual cycle had a better outcome. Thereafter, retrospective studies from 28 centres across the world recorded similar findings,” said Dr Mittra.

Considering that the level of progesterone hormone is high among women in the second half of their menstrual cycle, the doctors worked out protocols for a clinical trial. “In the first half of the menstrual cycle, women have high levels of hormone oestrogen that helps the ovum dislodge from the ovary and travel to the uterus ready for fertilisation,” said Dr Mittra. The Tata team believes this process is akin to cancer metastasis (where cells from the main cancer site move to other organs and grow).

“Once ovulation is over, the level of progesterone in a woman’s body increases and prevents further eggs from descending into the uterus. An injection of progesterone to a cancer patient possibly prevents movement of cancerous cells,” he added.

The Tata team is still not sure about the exact mechanism that the progesterone injection plays in reducing breast cancer rates, but plans are afoot to study it further. “We will soon consider introducing the progesterone injection in the standard protocol for breast cancer treatment or even undertake similar studies for other cancers,” said the doctor.

What the study promises is immense, especially since breast cancer is emerging as the most common cancer in urban centres (the incidence is one per 30 women in Mumbai). “Most women come to us in an advanced stage. While 60% of our patients would be high-risk with the cancer having spread to glands in the arm pits, the West mainly sees stage I patients,” said Dr Mittra. Most women enrolled in the study were in either phase II or III.

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