Clinical research, a golden opportunity to treat cancer in Colombia

Colombia is the third preferred country for investment in clinical studies in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. It is estimated that the annual investment amounts to 15 billion pesos, a figure that can be reflected in the quality of life of patients suffering from diseases such as cancer.

In the words of Adam Muñoz, director of Government of the Colombian American Chamber, AmCham, clinical research represents a “golden opportunity” for the health sector in the national territory.

“We are totally confident in our ability to become a ‘hub’ for investment in clinical research,” he stressed in a forum held within the framework of clinical research month that is commemorated in May.

Francisco Rossi, director of Invima, announced the creation of a research observatory. | Photo: Invima

The regional director of Clinical Studies at MSD agreed with this, Francesca Carvajal, pointing out that clinical research provides health institutions with and doctors the possibility of offering their patients cutting-edge treatments.

“Health personnel are positively impacted, not only because they contribute to the development of this research, but because they are also part of the professionalization of clinical research,” Carvajal noted.

Nevertheless, Bringing more clinical studies to the country also imposes different challenges, such as regulatory complexity. Rossi acknowledged that the entity he heads, in a certain way, has become an “obstacle” to the development of clinical research in the country.

“We are trying to modify the approach so that Invima stops being seen as a paperwork institution and becomes a promoter of the investigation,” the official mentioned. And he anticipated that Invima plans to create a research observatory, who would become an ally for the scientific community.

According to the Vice President of Investment of ProColombia, Julio César Puentes, in the last five years, MSD was positioned as the company with the most clinical studies in the country (118)followed by Novartis (90) and Roche (34).

Although the figures show the progress that the country has made in this field, for Puentes, challenges persist such as innovation, human talent and coordination between the public and private sectors.

The impact of clinical research on life

The MSD company has led the number of clinical studies in Colombia in the last five years. | Photo: The country

The company estimates that it will invest around $13 million in research in Colombia this year. AND, Given the dramatic numbers of cancer cases, 66% of clinical studies focus on treatments for this disease.

“Today there are more than 20 mechanisms that are being developed to have an effective solution, not only in treatment to prolong life and quality of life, but also to search for cure options,” added Carvajal.

In turn, Martín Ignacio Zapata, oncologist at the National Cancer Institute, explained that the intentions of the treatments can be curative or palliative. The latter occur when the disease has already metastasized and, therefore, their objective is to improve the patient’s quality of life and avoid pain.

Meanwhile, healing intentions are applied when the cancer is localized. Hence the importance of detecting the disease in early stages, a scenario that not only reduces large costs for the health system, but also saves lives.

Early detection, a challenge

“I don’t want to see any more patients I can’t cure,” said Ray Manneh, scientific director at the Cesar Society of Oncology and Hematology. Every week, this oncologist sees around 100 patients in Valledupar and Barranquilla, but approximately 50% of them have no cure.

The specialist emphasized that Colombia needs early detection strategies to extinguish the “fire” that cancer has become. “It’s everyone’s fault, where are the screening strategies for the types of cancer that can be detected in time?” he questioned.

According to Manneh, the vaccine against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) was able to prevent the cancer that Yeny, a 32-year-old lawyer and patient with cervical cancer, suffers from today.

María, a 47-year-old nursing assistant, is a breast cancer patient, despite judiciously attending her mammograms. “No one audits the quality of mammograms, that lesion was seen in mammograms from the last three years,” said the oncologist.

Martín Ignacio Zapata, oncologist at the National Cancer Institute; Francesca Carvajal, regional director of Clinical Studies at MSD, and Ray Manneh, scientific director at the Cesar Society of Oncology and Hematology.
Martín Ignacio Zapata, oncologist at the National Cancer Institute; Francesca Carvajal, regional director of Clinical Studies at MSD, and Ray Manneh, scientific director at the Cesar Society of Oncology and Hematology. | Photo: The country

Educating the population, doctors and health administrators, in addition to researching strategies adapted to the Colombian reality and establishing health policies aimed at preventing the types of cancer that develop from HPV are some of the solutions that Manneh proposes.

 
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