Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka Moving Towards Personalized Cancer Care 2019-04-06

Swiss pharma giant ROCHEdiscusses initiatives with Hon. Minister of Health

At present, cancer treatment is based on morphological classification based on microscopic findings and extent of spread as translated in stage, as well as some protein-based tests such as immunohistochemistry. However, an increasing body of evidence indicates individuals that inherit genetic mutations from their parents are at a greater risk of certain types of cancers.Approximately more than one hundred such familial cancer syndromes are known and this range is growing. The identification of those genes is shifting cancer care to a personalized treatment aimed at individual patients rather than groups. The goal of personalized cancer medicine is to understand the specific characteristics underlying a particular individual’s disease and then match therapy to the molecular characteristics of this case. “The right drug, the right dose, for the right patient, at the right time” is the goal of personalized medicine.

The Ministry of Health and the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) is focusing their attention to explore possibilities of introducing such personalized cancer treatment in line with advances taking place in developed countries in Sri Lanka. In line with this, a senior delegation from the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Roche, met DrRajithaSenaratne, Hon. Minister of Health, Nutrition & Indigenous Medicine on 5 April to discuss opportunities to start such services, which would revolutionize cancer care in the country. The delegation from Roche was led by Mr Adriano Treve, Area Head for Central Eastern Europe, Turkey, Russia and the Indian Sub-continent. He was accompanied by DrToylanSenel of Roche and senior officials of Baurs, the local market authorization holder for Roche in Sri Lanka. At the outset, MrTreve expressed regret about litigation initiated by the company in Sri Lanka in the past against registration of a trastuzumab biosimilar and emphasized on their desire to continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka by reestablishing cooperation with Ministry at the highest levels. The discussion centered around many areas in healthcare including provision of Roche expertise to improve cancer diagnosis through genetic mapping for personalized treatment, possibility of providing advanced therapies invented by Roche (e.g. pertuzumab) at more competitive prices, as well as provision of blood clotting factor replacement therapy for patients suffering from Haemophilia free of charge through global agencies.

The Hon. Minister of Health of thanked the delegation for undertaking the visit and proposing to introduce such innovative therapies in Sri Lanka. He emphasized the Ministry’s desireto bring advanced treatment options for patients in Sri Lanka, especially for those suffering from chronic diseases like cancer, while ensuring cost-effectiveness so that more patients could have access to such treatments.