By Shardul Nautiyal
Nutrition for cancer patients or onco nutrition which is a complementary therapy along with anti-cancer medication for disease management is picking up in India with the onco nutrition market growing at 31 percent as against less than 20 percent over the past three years. This is propelled by the growth in technological interventions and infrastructure of cancer care centres in public and private sector. According to experts, onco nutrition along with anti-cancer therapy plays an important role in cancer disease management. Need for anti-inflammatory medication along with onco-nutrition is a complete solution that needs to be looked at.
According to Dr Purvish M Parikh, Professor and Head of Clinical Hematology, Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Hospital (MGMCH), Jaipur and Former Head of Medical Oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), Mumbai, “Nutrition is an important component in health and illness. It is exceedingly important in oncology because many times the benefits of intended treatment do not occur because nutrition per se is very poor to begin with. Oncology patient requirement in terms of calories, proteins and trace elements is different as compared to other patients.”
He added that there is a lot of focus today on targeted therapy, personalized medicine and immuno-oncology drugs because when you are using these drugs, the patient’s immune system needs to be modified so that drugs become more effective. There are drugs which work through the immune system. Immunity increases with the use of nutrients and so that drugs work better.
“Bacteria in the gut are called gut microbiota and sometimes if these bacterias get disrupted, it can turn into bad bacterias. It can lead to cancer due to poor diet and contaminants in the food. Usage of antibiotics for infections and disease of the liver can also lead to cancer. Prebiotics and Probiotics lead to reversal of bad bacteria to good bacteria in the intestines. Therefore, onco- nutrition products are very crucial for cancer patients. Otherwise the risk of colon cancer and stomach cancer increases,” Dr Parikh concluded.
“Clinical nutrition market in India is growing at 22% CAGR and onco nutrition is over Rs 400 crore market,” according to Raktim Chattopadhyay, Founder & CEO, Esperer Onco Nutrition (EON). “We are trying to create this market as it is a concept selling market. We are educating hospitals on onco nutrition as a complementary therapy. We are focusing on Research and Development (R&D) for evidence generation because in clinical nutrition, the drawback is lack of clinical evidence. There is a need for building clinical evidence,” added Raktim Chattopadhyay.
Esperer Nutrition (EON) is a research based nutraceutical firm specializing into disease prevention and management of cancer through onco-nutrition. Experts also say that onco nutrition is one of the critical components of cancer care therapy today. There is also anti-cancer treatment alongwith anti-inflammatory medication which helps in the intake of onco –nutrients. There is also importance of a proper balanced diet which is rich in proteins, fibre and low in lipids and fats. Doctors have been talking about a balanced diet, proper anti cancer treatment and use of anti-inflammatory drugs but according to experts onco nutrition is also important.
“Besides this, the need for onco –nutrition is also required as according to WHO data, 30% of cancer related deaths happen globally because of malnutrition. In India, currently 12 lakh new cancer patients are added annually with a total number of existing cancer patients at 30 lakh,” Raktim Chattopadhyay informed.
Onco nutrition is an old concept in Western countries as a lot of research has happened there. In India, the social economic conditions are different, the priorities towards accepting onco nutrition has changed lately. According to experts, onco nutrition is also crucial as Chemotherapy is required every month. During chemotherapy drugs are cytotoxic which not only kills cancer cells but also normal healthy cells of the body. Therefore nutrition is very much required to protect healthy cells for treatment of cancer.
If the cancer therapy is done without taking into account the nutritional status of the patient then the desired clinical or treatment outcome is not achieved. Nutritional interventions in cancer treatment are a parallel and complementary therapy along with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. “In India, when we talk about prognosis, at what stage the patient first time comes to the doctor that matters a lot with reference to cancer disease management. If a patient comes at a later stage, then the survival is less. So nutrition plays an important role especially when the patient comes at an early stage,” Chattopadhyay emphasised.
He further added that it is easy for the doctor to do nutritional assessment of the patient at an early stage. This makes the body stronger and the cancer patients can take the treatment. It makes the body susceptible so that the patient can take the treatment. In Western countries, nutritional assessment is a must on the basis of which treatment protocol is designed.
“We are trying to set the protocol for nutritional care in cancer patients. Our objective is how cancer patients can be assessed so that the nutritional interventions can be done before the treatment starts. Further, nutritional interventions can be done during the chemotherapy. Onco-nutrition are also required post treatment as most of the relapses and infections happen after the treatment,” Chattopadhyay concluded.