Dr. V. Shanta, Chairman Cancer Insititute

Transcript of Dr.V Shanta’s speech at the Chennai All India FOM Meet

Executive Director, Max Foundation,
Chairman, Novartis, Switzerland
Vice Chairman & M.D., Novartis, India
All Members of the Max Foundation
Friends of Max Chennai, Chapter and
My special friend Mrs. Viji Venktatesh

It is indeed an honour and privilege to have been given the opportunity to welcome you to the 5th All India Friends of Max Meeting.  

The joint effort of the Novartis and Max Foundation and their generosity is beyond description.  The GIPAP (Glivac International Patient Assistance Programme) that emerged from this effort is one of the most comprehensive and far reaching cancer access programme ever developed on a global scale.  Novartis designed GIPAP to provide Glivac free of cost to patients in the developing countries who have limited access to resources. The Max Foundation has been responsible to make the GIPAP more than a drug donation programme by providing emotional support and the much needed assistance to the family.

Cancer care providers in India and all those who have benefited from the programme can not adequately thank Novartis and Max Foundation for their generosity and humanity.

I was amazed to know that worldwide, 33954 have been beneficiaries of this support so far. In India alone 12500 recipients of which, 2000 come from Tamilnadu.

I am happy and thankful that at the Cancer Institute (WIA) where I belong over 920 recipients have benefited from this programme.

The more you know of the magnitude of the generosity and support provided by this team, the less adequate one feels to express  gratitude.

Just a few words about the sea change in the cancer horizon that has occurred over the last 5 ½ decades. Molecular and genetic approaches in understanding biology have opened new avenues in diagnosis, prognostication and very importantly in drug discovery. The classic example is the discovery of Imatinib (Glevac), the first successful targetted therapy in human cancers.

The CIR of CML is 0.8/100,000 population and constitutes 18% of all hematologic malignancies.  The annual new patients of CML in India in 2010 is approximately 9393 and  in Tamilnadu 588. The new and old together will be 11,742  and 736 respectively. Of this, at least 50% will need support for Glivac.

The discovery and introduction of Imatinib (Glevac) has revolutioned the outlook in CML, a condition considered incurable in 1950’s.  Today, when you see the large number of recipients – of all ages gathered here today, one realizes what this wonder drug has been able to achieve. This happiness is shared by the recipients of the drug, their families and as importantly the care providers, the physicians treating them.

The greatest challenge to patients suffering from cancer (all types) is accessibility and affordability advances in medicare ie. State-of-art treatment. This is being provided by Novartis through the Max Foundation – But this is only for hematologic malignancies. I hope there will be many others for many other cancers where access and affordability is difficult.

The Cancer Institute (WIA) is 56 years old.  It is a mission of service and our ethos “service to all irrespective of social or economic class”. Annually over 15,500 new patients and 120,000 follow up cases are seen at the Institute and over 9,500 cases are admitted. 40% are provided free treatment at the Institute.  This includes radiotherapy, surgery and anti-cancer drugs wherever is necessary. No potentially curable patient is denied treatment for lack of resources.  We have done our best to bring a smile on the face of sufferings, to cure where possible but relieve always.

Apart from free treatment, our major effort has been to enhance accessibility and affordability.

Towards this, the Institute has also contributed  :
1. was responsible to get travel concession by rail and bus for treatment and follow up to any cancer centre in the country.
2. was responsible to get anti-cancer drugs declared as “life saving” and thus avoid any tax

Towards our mission, the support from the Max Foundation and Novartis has been a great boon.

The more you know of the magnitude of the generosity and support provided by this team, the less adequate one feels to express  gratitude.

Another unique offshoot of the GIPAP programme in India is the formation of the Friends of Max, a peer group formed by the beneficiaries of GIPAP and their care given.  They are a wonderful group with the highest of motives of services.  To share and learn together is the theme of the meeting.  The group is vibrant and devoted to giving back to the community what they have received.

My warmest salutation to them.

On behalf of the Cancer Institute, all other Cancer care providers in the country and all those who have benefited from the generosity of Novartis and Max Foundation, please accept our grateful thanks.

It has been a great pleasure to have been part of this eventful and joyous meeting and to welcome everyone assembled here.  It is my hope and dream that one day no patient should be denied treatment for lack of resources.