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Oncologists encounter parent reluctance for clinical trials of paediatric cancer cases

Oncologists encounter parent reluctance for clinical trials of paediatric cancer cases

Posted on March 7, 2024 Updated on March 5, 2024

Oncologists during clinical trials of paediatric cancer cases are seen to encounter parent reluctance. Viewed as a significant challenge, cancer care centres have observed that it comes in because of hesitancy by parents to enroll their children.

Since the trials involve a lot of government permissions as well and many healthcare facilities, hospitals under NDA (non- disclosure agreements) were reluctant to comment on this.

Dr. Intezar Mehdi, director, paediatric haematology, oncology and BMT, HCG Cancer Centre, Bengaluru said that there are not many clinical trials in India for children and adolescents with cancer for various reasons. We do not have any clinical trials at present at our center for this group. However, there are many collaborative research projects to advance clinical excellence and patient outcomes. We work closely with other HCG center, but also other Institutions in India and abroad for better collaboration.

Treating children with cancer has special challenges. Treating infants and below 5 years is different from treating adolescents of 12-18 years. Detailed communication with the family, counselling the child according to the age, involvement of psycho-oncologists is important in all aspects of care, he added.

Expressing support to the national childhood cancer policy guideline to be developed by Kidwai Institute of Oncology, he said, it would recognize the importance of ensuring appropriate treatment. We focus on bridging the gap, early diagnosis and prompt referral, hub and spoke model- focusing on liaising with specialists in Tier 2 cities and even rural areas. We also address the challenges faced by families from rural areas by reaching out to them through pediatricians, family physicians, rural care health workers, CMEs, and camps.

It is important to prevent delayed diagnosis and hurdles in accessing specialized treatment which pose significant challenges for children and adolescents. Even though facilities exist in the bigger cities, a larger chuck reside in rural areas. Collaboration with doctors, healthcare workers and reaching out to the families in person through continuing medical education, healthcare camps and outreach clinics is what we are doing to mitigate these challenges, said Dr Mehdi.

With an estimated four lakh cases of childhood and adolescence cancer annually, around 80 to 100 children diagnosed with cancer annually commence treatment at HCG. We see patients not just in Karnataka but across neighbouring smaller villages of Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala, besides north, North East and central and western India too. International cases from Middle East, Asian countries and Africa comprise about 10% of all patients coming to HCG. Nearly 10 to 15% of the annual influx of new patients are from abroad.

Going forward, HCG’s specialized paediatric oncology/hematology and BMT unit, with a play area in the out-patient waiting lounge, ensure seamless care with dedicated ICU supported with teams of doctors, nurses, and specialists. Our objective is to ensure children receive optimal care for the best chance of cure and quality of life, said Dr Mehdi.

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