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NEW DELHI : The India Cancer Research Consortium under Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is all set to start research on covid-19 and cancer.  The apex biomedical research body will support scientists in conducting the research with over 5 crores for up to five years to advance research on various aspects of covid-19 and cancer in terms of prevention, epidemiology and diagnostics. 

People suffering from cancer are highly vulnerable to covid-19. However, there is no specific data on number of cancer patients died due to coronavirus in India, doctors claim that several cancer patients have lost their lives. 

India Cancer Research Consortium (ICMR-ICRC) is a research collaboration established under the aegis of the Indian Council of Medical Research-Department of Health Research (ICMR-DHR) to promote, articulate and prioritize cancer research in the country.  The consortium works towards identifying the gaps in cancer research in India by bringing together all stakeholders—government, non-government institutions, academic institutions and industry to improve cancer outcome.  

“For last two years, there was lack of funding for research. Now when the department has received some funding for research, we will focus on linkage of cancer and covid-19," said a senior official in ICMR. 

The Consortium’s Technical Advisory Group has identified six key thematic areas to prioritize and articulate research challenges. The panel selected six thematic areas are prevention and epidemiology, diagnostics, therapeutics, palliative care, basic biology and innovation. 

“Apart from covid-19 and cancer, the sub areas that have been identified under the thematic groups are covid and cancer tobacco and cancers, cancers in special groups (tribal population), development of newer tools and early diagnostics for cancer," said a spokesperson at ICMR. 

“Ovarian cancers (correlation with rampant use of infertility drugs and incidence of ovarian cancers), alcohol and obesity related cancers and development of validation assay/tool/solution which are ready to be rolled out for clinical trial in 3 years," the spokesperson said adding that the duration of the research projects will be for three years which can be extended up to 5 years. The grant provided per proposal will be up to 5 crores for the total duration.  

Priority will be given to projects that are ready for implementation/scalability in the form of deliverables and point of care technologies and to projects from North-East region, considering the high incidence and paucity of data on cancer in the North-East, the official said. 

Covid-19 pandemic has severely hit clinical trials in oncology with enrolment decreasing significantly and trials being suspended, a research paper published in the Asia Pacific Journal of cancer care earlier in September had said. 

The paper titled -- Covid-19 and Its Impact on Cancer Patient’s Outcome and Cancer Research – had pointed out that ongoing clinical trials were facing problems with patient evaluations leading to impact on quality of data being generated. There have been reports regarding suspension of about 200 oncology trials in March and April in 2020, reflecting the concerns regarding feasibility of oncology trials, the study had said. 

Researchers have highlighted that there are concerns regarding the feasibility and continuity of ongoing trials from the investor side also as the returns on their investment in clinical trials will be impacted due to the treatment gaps and the resulting anomaly in the collected data. 

“This initiative will help to explore effectiveness of newer strategies to tackle the problem including teleoncology and self-sampling. Translation of Novel research and devices  may  be expedited into point of care technologies," said Ravi Mehrotra, former, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Indian Cancer Research Consortium (ICMR).

“Due to the Covid pandemic, cancer screening and treatment facilities have taken a big hit. At most tertiary cancer centres the attendance of patients has been reduced by mire than half. Patients are presenting with advanced stages, thus making treatment less effective and much more expensive," he said.

At least 45,083 new coronavirus cases were reported in the last 24 hours with 457 deaths. The active caseload is presently 3,68,558 which constitutes 1.13% of the country's total positive cases. India’s cumulative vaccination coverage has already crossed the 63 Crore landmark.

While the last 24 hours saw a total of 17,55,327 tests being conducted with cumulative 51.86 Crores tests, weekly positivity rate remained at 2.28%.

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