New weapons in battle against cancer

Common passion: Medical professionals discussing their work at the summit held at Bayview Beach Resort in Batu Ferringhi.

SOME 500 doctors and medical practitioners converged over three days to share their knowledge on cancer treatment at a summit in Penang.

Jointly organised by the Malaysian Oncological Society (MOS) and European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) for the first time, the summit saw various professionals sharing their breakthroughs.

Doctors from Malaysia were joined by others from the Esmo faculty in Switzerland, France, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Australia.

The cutting-edge techniques from the ESMO 2014 congress in Madrid for treating cancer of the skin, lung, colon and breast were also discussed.

ESMO president and Zurich University Hospital professor of medicine/oncology Rolf A. Stahel said they decided from the ESMO 2014 congress in Madrid to replace chemotherapy and radiotherapy for melanoma (skin cancer) with immunotherapy and targeted treatment.

“We decided in the meeting that chemotherapy would not be used to treat melanoma anymore.

“We have very good targeting agents which have been able to change the way the disease is treated,” he said during a recent press conference at the Bayview Beach Resort in Batu Ferringhi.

He also said that lung cancer patients could now benefit from precision medicine which could prolong their life span and improve their quality of life.

“With this, what we do is conduct molecular tests to determine certain characteristics of a tumour.

“Then, the specific type of medicine can be administered to the patient.

“In the past, patients could live for only one year with metastatic lung cancer but now, they can live three years or longer so this has been a great advantage,” he said.

Stahel also sounded a hopeful note on breast cancer, saying there had been new developments in treatment for women with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer.

He added that this would provide patients with a better and longer life.

Meanwhile, the event’s organising chairman Datuk Dr Adel Zaatar said the National Cancer Registry reported an increase in cancer cases of more than 40,000 per year in Malaysia.

He added that one-third of cancers could be prevented if people lead a good lifestyle and one-third of cancers could be cured if detected early.

Also present at the press conference were MOS president Dr Ahmad Kamal Mohamed, co-organising chairmen Dr. T Aloysius Raj and Prof Jean-Yves Douillard.

ESMO is Europe’s leading medical oncology society.

It provides a professional network for its members and works with national societies across Europe and around the world.

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