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NEIGRIHMS study shows that a simple, low-cost intervention increases cure rates and survival in breast cancer

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Shillong, May 11: The results of a landmark multi-centric Indian breast cancer clinical trial, in which Dr. Caleb Harris, Surgical Oncologist at NEIGRIHMS, was a co-investigator, was recently published in the ‘Journal of Clinical Oncology’, one of the topmost journals in the world. In a first of its kind globally, the study has shown sizable benefit of a simple, cost-effective intervention prior to surgery. If implemented all over the world, it has the potential to save over 100,000 lives every year.

An upbeat Dr. Caleb Harris stated, “We have been a part of this study since 2017, and offered this treatment to eligible patients. Large randomized trials are the ideal way to study innovative treatment modalities and the successful conduct of this trial will definitely pave the way for many such studies. Preventing spread of cancer cells from the tumour by using such interventions has not been investigated adequately. Local anaesthesia blocks certain cellular activities which prevents activation of mechanisms that increase spread of cancer cells in the body. We were part of an open-label, multi-center randomized controlled trial to test the impact of infiltration of local anaesthesia prior to surgery in the area surrounding the breast tumour on disease-free survival with very encouraging results.”

Very proud of this monumental achievement, Director of NEIGRIHMS, Dr. Nalin Mehta, said apart from this trial, the department of Surgical Oncology at NEIGRIHMS was involved in many novel research projects. He encouraged all faculty members to take up research projects that would benefit the society.

This randomized controlled trial entitled ‘Effect of Peri-tumoral Infiltration of Local Anaesthetic Prior to Surgery on Survival in Early Breast Cancer’ was conceived and designed by Dr Rajendra Badwe from Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai. It was conducted on 1600 women at 11 cancer centres across India, including NEIGRIHMS, Shillong, from 2011 and 2022.

An important milestone in the treatment of breast cancer, it was carried out over 11 years in 1600 women undergoing breast cancer surgery. The trial involved injection of a commonly used anaesthetic (painkiller) drug in the area around the tumour just before the surgery. Results reveal that this simple and cheap intervention (approx. Rs. 100/- per patient) increases cure rates and survival markedly, with benefit ongoing for several years after surgery. In comparison, far more expensive drugs (approx. Rs. 10 Lakhs per patient) have yielded very low benefits in women with early breast cancer. Remarkably, lifespan of breast cancer patients can be prolonged considerably using this economical technique which requires no additional expertise as against other extremely expensive alternatives.

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