Govt okays advanced, Rs 450 cr cancer therapy centre

 New Delhi: In a move that would come as a boon for cancer patients government has given its nod for the setting up of a Rs 450 crore specialised therapy facility at the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) hospital in Mumbai.

 The state-of-the-art Hadron Beam Therapy Centre in the country, to be developed by the Department of Atomic Energy, recently received the go ahead from the Cabinet Committee on Security.

 Apart from the Hadron Therapy Centre, a cancer hospital for children and women would be developed as part of the project.

 Maharashtra government has already given five acres of land on the Haffkine Institute premises, close to the TMC hospital in Parel in south-central Mumbai, for the new centre.

 "Although the money has also been allocated for the hospital for women and children, 80 per cent of it would be spent on setting up the therapy centre," a DAE official said.

 Radiotherapy (RT) is an integral component in the management of cancers. However, conventional RT practices are faced with several limitations, experts said.

 "While there have been tremendous advancements in the RT planning and delivery technology over the last couple of decades, there are still several clinical situations with significant scope for improvement.

 "Local control, survival and quality of life following even modern RT techniques in several sites, such as some head and neck and skull base cancers, several pelvic malignancies and some childhood cancers, still pose formidable challenges and do mandate a continued quest to find suitable solutions," said Dr Rakesh Jalali, Professor of Radiation Oncology at the TMC hospital in Mumbai.

Hadron beam therapy, also known as proton beam or heavy ion beam therapy, is a very advanced treatment procedure for cancer. It is especially handy for treating paediatric oncology, pelvic and thoracic cancers and cancers in regions like the head and neck and abdomen.

 Conventionally, radiation treatment is largely done through Telecobalt Radiotherapy and Linear Accelerator (LA) therapy equipments.

 "In case of hadron therapy, there is 'precise fall off' of the radiation. It deposits a high-level of radiation, critical for high tumour control and gives little dose to surrounding tissues," explained Jalali.

 Taken together, there are some 450 telecobalt radio therapy and LA therapy machines in the country, but not a single hadron therapy centre.

 "The hadron therapy equipment costs around Rs 350 crore whereas the best LA machine costs around Rs 10-20 crore; telecobalt therapy machines cost around Rs 2 crore.

 "So, with the price difference, one can imagine how effective the therapy could be," Jalali said.

 Hadron therapy is popular in Europe, US, Japan and Taiwan, but there are only 20-odd centres in the world providing the treatment.

 The therapy has two segments the proton beam therapy and, the heavy ion beam therapy. Currently, the Mumbai project would have proton beam therapy although, in later stages, plans are there to add the heavy ion beam therapy module.

 "We should soon start the process of floating global tenders... It will take three-four years to fully operationalise the centre," a DAE official added.

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