Kazakh, International Cancer Specialists Discuss Latest Treatments in Almaty

ALMATY – After a 13-year hiatus, the Congress of Oncologists and Radiologists of Kazakhstan was held for the fifth time on April 29-30 in Almaty, gathering representatives of international oncology services and more than 700 specialists and professionals from all regions of Kazakhstan to discuss the latest developments in the treatment and diagnosis of the disease. The congress was organised by the Kazakh Healthcare Ministry, the Kazakh Research and Scientific Institute of Oncology and Radiology and the Oncologists and Radiologists of Kazakhstan Public Association.

“Taking into account the fact that during this time, truly revolutionary changes in the national oncology service took place, we decided to gather here primary care practitioners from districts and regions. Together with the best oncologists of the world – professors from Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Germany, Russia and the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries – we discussed the latest innovative technologies in the treatment and diagnosis of cancer. It was also a great opportunity to share experiences,” said Director of the Kazakh Research Institute of Oncology and Radiology Kuanysh Nurgaziyev.

Leading specialists confirmed that Kazakhstan has achieved impressive results in developing its oncology treatment services. As Chairman of the St. Petersburg Scientific Society of Oncologists Vladimir Semiglazov, member of the European Association of Oncologists Marco Rosselli, Singapore professor Philip Yau, President of the German Society of Osteo-oncologists Diehl Ingo and others said, they now come to Kazakhstan not only to teach, but also to learn. .

To prolong the lives of its citizens, Kazakhstan adopted the State Programme for the Development of Cancer Care in 2012-2016, with a budget of 211 billion tenge (US$1.15 billion). The Healthcare Ministry has been implementing six screening programmes for the early detection of cervical, breast, esophagus and stomach and colorectal cancer, which help diagnose patients in the early stages of disease and improve outcomes.

One of the innovations that caused discussion at the congress was the development of palliative and rehabilitative care for cancer patients. For the first time, psychologists and social workers have started to provide services in oncology hospitals in all 18 regions of Kazakhstan, and in the near future it is planned to create a network of hospices. As was noted at the forum, highly skilled doctors using the latest methods of treatment, new drugs and equipment, are doing everything they can to kill the disease that has historically sounded like a death sentence to patients.

According to head of the Breast Health Department of the Kazakh Research Institute of Oncology and Radiology and Chairman of the Oncologists and Radiologists of Kazakhstan Public Association Shnar Talayeva, it is very important that the congress become a platform to exchange experiences.

“We understand that the latest equipment and the best specialists are now concentrated in a few large centres of the country and their services are not available to people from regions. Therefore, our main task today is to give them this opportunity. Our institute, as a scientific and methodical centre, provides assistance to regional oncology clinics, hospitals and centres in introducing modern methods of cancer treatment. For example, this year we plan to conduct in three regions of the country operations on simultaneous reconstruction of the mammary gland. Our specialists will organise master classes and provide qualified medical care in Uralsk and other regional centres,” Talayeva said.

According to Talayeva, participants of the forum at the sections and workshops discussed major oncology issues, including the most common types of the disease: breast cancer, which is now the most prevalent among the population, colorectal cancer and  gynaecological cancers. Visiting specialists from Singapore, South Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, and Italy believe that the incidence in Kazakhstan is very low, however.

“World practice shows that the number of cancer cases is directly proportional to the level of economic development of the country; that is, the higher the economic level, the higher the incidence rate,” said Talayeva. “It is explained by many factors, such as the environment, the use of genetically modified foods and heredity. We, fortunately, have many natural products.”

Below is a short question and answer session with Shnar Talayeva.

Until recently, there were three classical methods of fighting cancer – surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. With the creation of a new generation of drugs, we are hearing about personalised cancer treatment. What is that?

Personalised treatment is a fundamentally new word in oncology. This technology was first applied about 10 years ago with the appearance of so-called targeted therapies that specifically affect certain tumour cells. One such target is a membrane protein of the EGF HER-2 receptor, responsible for the aggressiveness of tumour growth. We use the targeted drug Trastuzumab, which hits this target, killing antibodies that are dangerous to humans. Thereby, the targeted therapy prevents the growth and spread of tumours. At the same time, these drugs have different mechanisms of action. Each of them affects one target that plays a key role in the development of tumour cells.

I must say that now, new drugs that can affect different types of antibodies have been developed, like HER-1, 3 and 4, and today we have an entire arsenal of chemotherapy – Erlotinib,  Everolimus, Trastuzumab, Avastinbevatsizumab, Lapatinib and others.

I’d like to note that the latest methods of diagnosis of cancer, which are also applied in Kazakhstan, have substantially eased doctors’ tasks of selecting the most appropriate method of treatment.

The latest techniques of minimally invasive or bloodless surgery are now being used. Is this technique applied in oncology?

Yes, of course. For example, during the congress, the professor from South Korea conducted an endoscopic surgery to remove a rectal tumour. And this was not just a simple removal of a tumour, but a radical removal that is also very important in oncology. Such operations are usually carried out with the excision of lymph nodes, because the tumour primarily metastasises to lymph nodes. Lymph is a special substance that first responds to the presence of some pathological focuses. After such an operation, the disease, as a rule, does not threaten the patient’s life.

Our institute plans to take part in international clinical tests of some new drugs, which indicate a high level of development of medicine in the country. Our strategic partner in screenings is the European School of Oncology

What country leads in the fight against cancer?

Of course, the countries of Europe and the U.S.. At the same time, they have a very high rate of incidence, especially of breast cancer, but treatment is also more effective there because the disease is revealed in its early stages. For example, as was noted at the congress, the five-year survival rate in Singapore is 85 percent but in Kazakhstan it is only 52 percent. That’s why we must develop primary medical care to move forward. As they say, it is a starting point.

Returning to the congress, I’d like to thank our sponsors, the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, such as Roche, Varian, Baxter, Merck, Sanofi and others who helped organise this forum.

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