Interview

Cancer continues to be a growing burden in India

Varian (a Siemens Healthineers Company), headquartered in Palo Alto, California is primarily focused on cancer treatments such as radiation and diagnostics for the oncology field. Ashok Kakkar, Senior MD, Varian, has been with Varian for about a decade of his 34- year career in the medical technology vertical. He’s worked for GE Healthcare and Siemens, among others, while witnessing the evolution of India’s healthcare industry. Aside from radiotherapy, Kakkar says their portfolio includes advanced diagnostics based on artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve overall effectiveness and efficiency within oncology departments. Kakkar points out that conventional allopathy currently relies on three approaches to cancer treatment, usually prescribed together: Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Further, on average, globally, 60 per cent of cancer patients have prescribed radiation. In India, a study by Tata Memorial in Mumbai indicates the number is 18 per cent, which is interpreted as insufficient access to radiation

With many cancer patients struggling just to survive and also being forced to travel long distances for treatment, what is Varian doing to address such challenges?

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We are a private institution and work with customers in both the private and public sectors. We are encouraging big private operators like Tata Trust, Tata Group, Apollo and Reliance, trying to educate them about the country’s need for oncology solutions and the opportunities that await.

We are trying to work with them to establish hospitals in tier II and III locations. A few years ago, we signed a contract with Reliance to set up 20 such hospitals, all in tier II and III parts of Maharashtra, out of which five are already in place, and more are expected.

With Tata Trust, we entered an arrangement in Assam, along with the state government, to create a joint venture called Assam Cancer Care Foundation, which is 50 per cent funded by the state and 50 per cent by Tata Trust.

We provided them with radiation and other technological solutions. In many cases, we directly engage …

(The full interview is available in the Feb print edition of IMT)

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