GenWorks Health partners Karkinos Healthcare to impact early detection and intervention of cervical cancer
- To propagate adoption of HPV DNA test to detect minute changes in cervical cell specimens
- 1 in every 79 women affected in India contribute to over 20% of cervical cancer cases in the world
In the spirit of the season of commemoration of women’s strength and empowerment, GenWorks Health has announced a strategic partnership with digital oncology startup Karkinos Healthcare to promote women’s health and support.
The partnership will encourage adoption of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) DNA test for early detection of cervical cancer among women followed by standard diagnosis and treatment.
Early detection of cervical cancer has shown that treatments are less complex and less expensive, with some pre-cancers treated in simple outpatient procedures. The survival rates are much higher when the cancer is detected early than at later stages.
Cervical cancer is a cancer that affects 1 in every 79 Indian women, with India contributing to nearly 1/5th of all cervical cancer cases in the world, according to the GLOBOCAN report published by the International Agency on Cancer Research (IARC). Most of the women diagnosed with cervical cancer undergo complicated, expensive treatment regimens, which accrue to large financial liabilities. This is due to late stage detection, stemming from lack of awareness on screening methodologies and paucity of access to these screening tests.
“The HPV DNA test is regarded by experts as the gold standard of screening methodologies. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) causes 99% of all cervical cancers, and the HPV DNA test is able to detect minute changes in cervical cell specimens, which may be indicative of a high risk. If HPV test is negative, it indicates that the woman does not have Cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN) or cervical cancer at the time of testing and is highly likely that will not develop CIN or cancer in the next 5-10 years,” said Dr. Rengaswamy Sankaranarayanan, M.D, Director, Preventive Oncology at Karkinos Healthcare.
GenWorks is a nation-wide supplier of Mobile ODT’s EVA colposcopes, which offer AI diagnosis on colposcopy. This assists gynecologists to confirm with a greater level of accuracy whether a positive-screened woman has cervical precancer. GenWorks has a wide network of users in the form of the country’s leading gynecologists.
“At GenWorks, our partnerships are compelling for connecting the healthcare ecosystem for affordable access with best-in-class solutions that can provide early healthcare services. We believe our partnership with Karkinos truly complements our strategy. The partnership will help to leverage our screening and diagnostic portfolio and build connect with the treatment expertise of Karkinos to being best in class care across the country for our customers to solve for specialist access and affordable care,” said S Ganesh Prasad, Founder, MD and CEO of GenWorks Health.
Together, Karkinos Healthcare and GenWorks will provide primary screening through HPV DNA tests, and confirmatory diagnoses through colposcopy at the clinics and hospitals of the partner gynecologists. Women may avail these services in their cities at the clinics and hospitals within the Karkinos-GenWorks network.
The tests would be made available to all women between the ages of 30 and 65 years, across India. The collaboration will aim to provide the services in every town in India, with a view to eliminate cervical cancer.
The pragmatic call to fight cancer – Integrating primary care and cancer care on a technology backbone
Battling against cancer is no easy task. A myriad of complex factors centered around the cancer patient right from diagnosis to treatment makes the cancer care extremely difficult, said Dr. Moni Abraham Kuriakose, co-Founder, Medical Director, Karkinos Healthcare & CEO, Karkinos Healthcare, Kerala at the recently held Virtual Summit organized by Next GenWorks in association with ETHealthworld.com between Sep 18th and 19th, 2021.
Dr. Kuriakose explained at the summit that the Indian cancer incidence scenario is increasing. One in 10 Indian adults will face cancer. If unchecked the number will increase to 1 in 4 as observed in the developed nations. He said, India’s cancer burden is exacerbated by late stage of diagnosis, lack of compliance to standardized treatment guidelines. These are attributed to lack of awareness both among the public on early warning signs of common cancers as well as lack of expertise by the primary care physicians and dentists to diagnose these cancers.
Seventy-five percent of cancers detected in India are at a late stage (at stages III & IV). In most of the rural population, lack of medical infrastructure hampers diagnosis. Even if the cancer is detected at a manageable stage, many cannot afford the high costs of cancer treatment. The other major drawback is the poor adherence to standard clinical protocols involved in cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment by medical professionals.
The National Cancer Registry Programme Report 2020, released by The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Centre for Disease Informatics & Research (NCDIR), estimated that in 2020 cancer cases in the country was about 13.9 lakhs. This number is likely to increase to 15.7 lakhs by 2025, based on the current trends.
Cancer of lung, mouth, and colon are the most common cancers among men. Breast, mouth and cervix cancers are the most common cancers among women.
Digital technology interventions are, therefore, seen as a great leveler in cancer care. The ability of technology-aided digital solutions to make way into cancer care delivery and to fix all the gaps that pose as barriers in the care protocol is now evidently possible.
Karkinos Healthcare: Clearing hurdles, expanding access, and reducing cost of care in oncology
Karkinos Healthcare is a purpose driven digitally-powered oncology platform. The company is committed to not only improving the access to cancer care but to empowering the patient with the most appropriate knowledge on the disease.
While presenting about Karkinos Healthcare’s participatory model at the virtual summit, Dr. Kuiakose said, “Bearing in mind the various pain points in cancer treatment, Karkinos Healthcare has developed a scalable, tech-based and capital efficient model that decouples the knowledgebase and execution of cancer care protocols. The focus is on early detection of cancer in citizens closer to their place of living, and delivering care to the patient in a tiered, structured fashion will be Karkinos Healthcare’s underlying motto. The company’s strong AI- and data analytics-backed managed healthcare model with a strong command center in place will distribute care across the entire spectrum at all levels.”
Explaining further Dr. Kuriakose said, “Karkinos Healthcare is determined to deconstruct the stereotypical concept of primary care acting in isolation from cancer care. By working with tertiary healthcare providers, the organization ensures that primary care and cancer care are integrated in a seamless manner, resulting in cost savings for both the patient and the managed healthcare provider.”
According to Dr. Kuriakose, Karkinos Healthcare’s digitally-enabled distributed cancer care network will speed up the detection rate of cancers through the company’s extensive community screening programs. Likewise, the day care chemotherapy centers will prove to be a major cost saver for the patient. The oncologist went on to say that Karkinos Healthcare’s knowledgebase, which is an “Augmented Intelligence Distributed Architecture Model”, will allow for the standardization of protocols that onco-physicians and onco-nurses can constantly apply in treatment pathways. This will ultimately bring quality care closer to the patient with a focus on tangible healthcare outcomes.
“With a strong empathy element embedded into the phygital applications, Karkinos Healthcare’s ecosystem of care is destined to fulfil the needs of the patient at every touch point, i.e., from the citizen outreach point to the palliative care point, where the intersection of primary care and cancer care are blended in the right balance to offer quality care in the most affordable manner.
As a responsible digital healthcare enabler, Karkinos Healthcare stays committed to educating and bringing about awareness on the signs and symptoms of cancer among the public as well as General Physicians and dentists,” stressed Dr. Kuriakose at the summit.
Projecting a visionary roadmap for Karkinos Healthcare, Dr. Kuriakose, indicated that the company lays impetus on genomics and precision medicine, creating a biobank, setting global clinical trial protocols in cancer care, and more importantly achieving the screening of 1 million people for cancers by 2025.
Elimination of Cervical Cancer: A Realistic Dream to be fulfilled by Karkinos Healthcare
Speaking at the same Virtual Summit, Dr. R Sankaranarayanan – Director, Preventive Oncology, Karkinos Healthcare & Senior Visiting Scientist at WHO-IARC in Lyon, France, envisioned a world that would have eliminated cervical cancer very soon.
Sharing about the perils of cervical cancer and about the company’s objectives in eliminating it, Dr. Sankaranarayanan, said, “Cervical cancer is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), especially HPV-16 and -18. It is one of the common cancers found in women and of the half million new cases of cervical cancer reported yearly, 20% occur in India. Mass cancer screening programs to detect and treat cervical cancer and its precursor lesions are the best way to eliminate this cancer. Nature plays a great advantage here in cervical cancer. It is a relatively unique cancer in that it has a long precursor phase, during which risk and abnormalities can be detected by screening. Also, this type of cancer is most frequently diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 44 with the average age at diagnosis being 50. It rarely develops in women younger than 20. Prophylactic vaccines against HPV-16 and -18 against cervical cancers are now widely available, and India, by mid next year, will release its own affordable quadrivalent vaccine against cervical cancer.”
Adding further, Dr. Sankaranarayanan, said, “Karkinos Healthcare is highly committed to the elimination of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is preventable, but most women in countries like India do not have access to effective screening programs. As mass screening programs and HPV vaccination drives are the need of the hour, Karkinos Healthcare will forefront both the activities and at the same time also deliver the knowledge on the causes, risks, and symptoms of this cancer in large communities. The company will be a key contributor to meet the World Health Organization’s 2030 SDGs, where 30% reduction in mortality from cervical cancer needs to be achieved and also 90% of the girls need to be fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine by 15 years of age.”
Karkinos Healthcare: Frontrunner of a participatory model in cancer care
Being part of the panel discussion at the virtual summit, Sripriya Rao, co-Founder and COO, Karkinos Healthcare, was asked to answer the question on how a transformative model can be ushered in cancer care. Answering to that question, Rao said, “The construct of healthcare needs a drastic change. The shift in behavior about one’s health from ‘illness to wellness’ needs to be inculcated at large. People must come forward to take onus of their health and must undergo periodic wellness checks to maintain good health. It is obvious that most cancers can either be avoided or treated if detected at a very early stage. In order to make that possible, people should be made aware of the good health practices, nutritious diet, routine physical exercise habits, and periodic health screening programs. In today’s digital world, healthcare has come to one’s doorstep. People should take advantage of those digital health solutions and treatment options and build a nation that is healthier and fitter. With the same intent, Karkinos Healthcare believes that by introducing the participatory model of cancer care will implement finest healthcare solutions at the grassroots level.”
Sharing a concluding note, S Ganeshprasad, Founder, MD, CEO, GenWorks Health, said, “Karkinos Healthcare is a great value-add to GenWorks. The participatory model of the company is important in today’s context of delivering cancer care. The company has the right expertise in setting up an end-to-end cancer center within existing tertiary hospitals. GenWorks’ state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment will augment Karkinos Healthcare’s mission in screening and eliminating cervical cancer in India.”