Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and the second in Chile. According to estimates of the Global Cancer Observatory of the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 50 thousand cases of cancer a year in our country, while the Ministry of Health projected that this disease could become the first cause of death in 2023.
Over the past few years, experts have focused on creating technologies that identify mutations in specific genes that are responsible for boosting cancer progression.
By identifying these genes, targeted therapies can be performed, allowing the patient to improve survival, treatment success to the disease, and improve quality of life. It is what is known as “precision oncology”, which is that doctors can decide which is the best therapy for each patient.
In developed countries, the detection of tumor mutations is mainly carried out through the technology called “New Generation Sequencing” or NGS. The problem is that in Chile access to this technology is limited because of its high cost, which makes it difficult to implement precision oncology.
Faced with this, a team of scientists from the University of Chile, led by the academic of the Faculty of Medicine, Katherine Marcelain, developed a technology capable of identifying mutations in multiple genes at the same time, adapting to the reality and needs of the National Health System.
The initiative is in its second phase, after a first phase that began in 2012.
According to Marcelain, “we installed the technological capabilities in Chile to sequence tumors. For the first four years we received training and worked with the University of San Diego in California. Now in this second stage, we designed something that was in line with the needs of the Chilean population. This method for detecting tumor genes was called TumorSecMR.”
This trial is designed to be used in solid tumors, so people who suffer from colon, kidney, nervous system, breast, gastric, ovarian, pulmonary and other cancers will benefit from a less expensive procedure.
Today NGS technology must be imported from the United States and has a value of more than 3 million pesos. If the patient is in FONASA, the cost is 1 million 700 thousand pesos. “The NGS delivers valuable information to patients in developed countries, but our reality is different,” he says.
“Not all targeted therapies are available in Chile, so it is not justified to analyze so many genes because this only increases the value. The trial only Analyzes genes that predict the response to treatments that are available in the country. This greatly reduces costs and we are working to further decrease the price, which is now around 600 thousand pesos