Levelling access to cancer services in India

Researchers at Manchester have created a dedicated cancer hospital and research centre in India to help standardise services and deliver more effective treatment solutions for patients.

Global challenge: local access to cancer services

The provision of dedicated cancer research and treatment facilities is significantly lower in developing countries, compared with more developed nations.

In India, for example, the number of dedicated cancer hospitals was relatively low and dispersed across the country. This created barriers to treatment and expertise for patients diagnosed with cancer.

Only by reducing the health inequality that exists between developed and developing nations will all populations benefit from the prevention, detection and treatment provision needed to increase cancer survivorship.

Manchester solution: standardising cancer treatment across India

Cancer researchers at The University of Manchester work closely with local NHS services to pioneer discoveries across the prevention, detection and treatment of the disease. Partnerships with healthcare providers like The Christie, Europe’s largest cancer hospital, have enabled a deeper understanding of treatment standardisation and its power to improve patient outcomes.

Professor Vaskar Saha, Professor of Paediatric Oncology, was inspired to take Manchester’s transformative research into childhood leukaemia and share it across the globe for greater good. The team formed a partnership with the Tata Medical Center (TMC) in Kolkata, India to increase regional and national provisions for cancer care, with a focus on children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and their families.

The collaboration was founded upon the understanding that improved survival rates relied upon increased provision and capacity of cancer care within the country. This led to the creation of a dedicated paediatric cancer unit and a cancer research centre – the Tata Translational Cancer Research Centre (TTCRC). The centre, which opened in 2018, is led by Professor Saha and includes a cancer biorepository, a clinical trials unit and state-of-the-art laboratories.

We’re enhancing the skills of the clinical workforce in India by sharing learnings made in Manchester. This offers a unique insight into providing care on such a large scale.

Vaskar Saha / Professor in Paediatric Oncology

Sharing knowledge to increase survivorship

The TTCRC connects with other centres across India to exchange knowledge and training, including the standardisation of protocols and sharing best practise in cancer prevention, detection and treatment. This is facilitated by the close collaboration of University researchers and TMC clinicians to share training and expertise.

This union of research and treatment – with clinicians and scientists working closely together to identify solutions for patients – is inspired by, and modelled on, a similar approach at Manchester.

“The challenges facing the Indian healthcare system were great, but not insurmountable,” explains Professor Saha. “The simple principles we work by in Manchester, such as collaboration and sharing information to help improve outcomes for patients, was something I could see would make a positive difference in India. I started to transfer experience regarding standards and practices of treatment. Over time, this has facilitated the treatment of more than 5,000 children with ALL across India.”

Today, services at the TMC include modern care and financial assistance for families, with support provided by government and non-governmental agencies, as well as private donors. Early data suggests that treatment-related deaths have decreased, survivorship is improving and there has been a significant decrease in the cost of therapy in childhood ALL. The skills and technology developed are now being extended to explore solutions for gallbladder cancer – a rare and under-researched cancer with a high incidence in India.

Research impacts

The University of Manchester’s research has helped to:

  • establish a national hub of cancer centres and connect five major paediatric centres across India;
  • create a modernised cancer healthcare system;
  • standardise treatment for ALL and care, which has helped to treat more than 5,000 children.

Find out more

Meet the researcher