Doctors from various countries have congregated in the city to deliberate on the efficacy of using stem cells to treat the side-effects of chemotherapy, which, if given in high dosage, kills healthy cells as well.
“In several patients we have observed that the white blood cell count plummets following chemotherapy. This brings down the person’s resistance to infections. By transplanting stem cells we could counter that,” said Dr Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra, oncologist at Global Cancer Institute which is organising the two-day convention that begins on Saturday.
Doctors from various centres in Europe that specialise in stem cell therapy are participating in the convention.
Stem cells are produced in the bone marrow and can develop into cells with different skills. Stem cell transplants help people with severe blood or immune system illnesses. They can also help people with non-cancerous diseases, such as serious immune deficiency problems, autoimmune diseases (like lupus), or blood disorders (thalassemia or sickle cell disease for example).
However, stem cell transplant to help fight solid tumours is still at its nascent stage in India, say a section of doctors. “We are working on using this treatment for helping cure breast cancer,” said Dr Giovanni Rosti, director of a medical oncology unit in Treviso, Italy. “We need to do more research on this line, but to do that doctors need to sit up and realise the importance of this therapy,” he said.
Doctors say the procedure is reserved for patients who are critical. “It is commonly administered to patients who are already resistant to standard forms of therapy such as chemotherapy,” said Dr Mohapatra.
At the conference, oncologists from Europe and India will share their expertise and insights. As the treatment is still at its nascent stage, the cost incurred can go up to Rs 10 lakh. Doctors say with more studies on this line, the treatment would become cheaper.