MedicosNext Pioneers Groundbreaking Round Table Discussion on Precision Oncology in Nepal

MedicosNext organized a groundbreaking Round Table Discussion focusing on Precision Oncology through Molecular Diagnostics on December 22nd 2023, a first of its kind event here in Nepal. The event was led by Senior Oncologist Dr. Sudeep Shrestha, Executive Chairman of Nepal Cancer Hospital and Research Center and Dr. Digbijay Mahat, cancer research scientist, MIT, USA and moderated by Mr. Sushil Thapa, Managing Editor of MedicosNext magazine. Esteemed Oncologists and Pathologists from Nepal came together to look into critical issues shaping the country’s approach to cancer diagnosis and treatment. The round table discussion organized by MedicosNext stands as a rare feat in Nepal. The idea of organizing the event was to bring the oncologists and the pathologists on a single platform and try to bridge the gap in the diagnostic capabilities of Nepal. No other magazines of Nepal claiming health or medicine have ever organized such a discussion among accomplished clinicians and scientists in the field.

 

The session unearthed a myriad of pressing concerns, echoing the voices of Nepal’s healthcare pioneers. Dr. Runa Jha highlighted the concern of the doctor kickbacks on the quality of laboratories and the issue of outsourcing of human samples across borders. The latest regulation of Nepal Rastra Bank requires a No Objection Certificate from NPHL for tests that are to be done overseas. This move, while might seem as a difficult regulation by some businesses, has the power to help transform the oncopathology landscape, with the opening of molecular diagnostic laboratories, developing the human resource for the same and enhancing the capacity of our nation when it comes to precision oncology.

The problem of outsourcing human samples for testing also raised the issue of Nepal trying to set up specialty and super speciality hospitals equipped with the best specialists only by working on the treatment part, thereby leaving the issue of development of human resource in the diagnostics and other allied fields far behind. It was stressed that true efficacy in cancer treatment arises when these interdisciplinary experts work synergistically. A resounding call for increased investment in manpower training on technological advancements echoed throughout the discussions.

Even the oldest and the biggest government hospitals in Nepal, despite their stature, such as Bir Hospital, Patan Hospital, and TUTH showcased a deficiency in the adoption of cutting-edge technology, reflecting the imperative need for technological upgrades within these institutions. The problem of inadequate budget, mandating hospitals to generate their own money for running the hospitals also came out as an issue within such institutions.

Dr. Greta Pandey, HOD of Pathology Department at BPKMCH highlighted the problem of peripheral hospitals, where it was difficult even for specialty hospitals to retain human resources for a longer period of time. People would join in to collect experience in the periphery and then decide to head back to the capital of the nation to practice further.

Talking of budget, the government of Nepal provides rupees 1 lakh to the patients diagnosed with cancer, the treatment of which requires the patient party to spend tens of lakhs. Dr. Sudip Thapa from B&B Hospital pointed out that the government could in-turn work to ensure that the cancer medications are distributed free of cost.

Dr. Ajay Kumar Jha from Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital was of the view that a decade back Nepal and India seemed to be on a similar stage when it comes to cancer diagnostics and treatment, but fast forward a decade and we lag a lot behind when it comes to the diagnostics part. The new reality is that our neighboring country India remains a preferred destination for outsourcing diverse samples that aid in establishing diagnosis in oncology. Despite significant strides in oncology treatment with the increase in the human resource in the field, Nepal lags considerably behind in the realm of Molecular diagnostics.

Dr. Dijbijay Mahat being an accomplished researcher in the field of molecular diagnostics shed light on the future avenues of treatment in the field of oncology. Anything that is currently in the phase of research will be available here for clinical use in the patients only after 10-15 years. The session helped raise awareness regarding the latest technology in cancer treatment and diagnostics among Onco-clinicians and Onco-surgeons, signaling a crucial need for continuous education and awareness programs within the field.

Another thing that was strikingly felt was the need to have more publications based on the data Nepal has pooled over years. Dr Prafulla Shakya from NCHRC was of the view that the NHRC IRC approval even for conducting retrospective studies in patient care, came in as an extra hurdle when it came to publications.

The discussions also highlighted the discrepancy between Category A and Categry B certification in pathology labs, dispelling the misconception that the former denotes superior quality, while emphasizing the true distinction lies in the volume of tests conducted.

The discourse unveiled a substantial void in Cancer Diagnostics within Nepal, emphasizing the urgent need for collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors to bridge this gap effectively. Additionally, the imperative to introduce new technologies while ensuring their sustainability and cost-effectiveness for patients was highlighted. The consensus emphasized a collaborative effort between the private and government sectors as indispensable for achieving optimal operational effectiveness.

The Round Table Discussion on Precision Oncology through Molecular Diagnostics organized by MedicosNext stands as a game-changer in Nepal’s medical landscape, paving the way for transformative changes in cancer diagnostics and treatment methodologies. It serves as a clarion call for collaborative efforts and heightened awareness to revolutionize Nepal’s approach to oncology.

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