NCSM, AstraZeneca start initiative for ovarian cancer patients

President of NCSM Dr Saunthari Somasundram and Country President of AstraZeneca Malaysia Dr Sanjeev Pancha pose for a picture after the MOU signing September 15, 2020. — Picture courtesy of NCSM/Astrazeneca
President of NCSM Dr Saunthari Somasundram and Country President of AstraZeneca Malaysia Dr Sanjeev Pancha pose for a picture after the MOU signing September 15, 2020. — Picture courtesy of NCSM/Astrazeneca

KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 15 — A new initiative has been launched to provide patients suffering from ovarian cancer with access to an innovative form of treatment.

The BRCA Can Give, launched by the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NSCM) in conjunction with biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca Malaysia Sdn Bhd, aims at providing advanced ovarian cancer patients with compassionate access to Olaparib treatment.

Olaparib is a first-in-class oral poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitor that exploits tumour DNA damage response (DDR) pathway deficiencies to preferentially kill cancer cells.

Launched as part of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and Malaysia Day 2020 with the theme “Malaysia Prihatin” this public-private partnership effort between will help patients from the Health Ministry and Education Ministry-related healthcare facilities who are diagnosed with BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer to seek treatment for Olaparib.

The collaboration between NSCM and AstraZeneca Malaysia was formalised by the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the society’s president Dr Saunthari Somasundaram and the company’s country president Dr Sanjeev Panchal.

“This initiative, which takes a whole-of-society approach between the public, private sector and us, a not-for-profit organisation helps overcome that hurdle.

“By working together, our aim is to ensure that the patients with advanced ovarian cancer get access to life-saving innovative medication,” said Dr Saunthari in a statement.

On his part, Dr Sanjeev said that access to healthcare is a multifaceted challenge that needs to be addressed with specific solutions.

“The launch of BCRA Can Give is certainly an avenue for us to reach out to ovarian cancer patients and ensure that our medicines are accessible to those who need them the most but unable to afford treatment due to financial constraints.

“We also provide healthcare solutions along a journey to improve health and one of the initiatives we have done is to partner with laboratories in the country to help set-up the facilities needed to perform the BRCA genetic testing,” he said.

Based on the recent Malaysia National Cancer Registry published last year, ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cancer affecting women in Malaysia, with an estimate of approximately 1,200 new ovarian cancer cases being diagnosed every year.

Differing from breast cancer and cervical cancer, ovarian cancer is more lethal as there is no effective tool for ovarian cancer screening, unlike those two cancers where screening can aid in early detection.

Studies suggest that up to 20 per cent of cases of ovarian cancer occur because of a genetic cause, a mutation in BRCA1/2, which may cause a women to be at an elevated risk of developing ovarian cancer and breast cancer.

BRCA is an abbreviation for ‘Breast Cancer gene’ in which BRCA1 and BRCA2 (breast cancer susceptibility genes ½) are two different human genes that produce proteins responsible for repairing damaged DNA and play an important role in maintaining the genetic stability of cells.

When either of these genes is mutated or altered to the extent that its protein product either is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may end up not being repaired properly, and cells become unstable. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.

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