May 06, 2019
By Arunangshu Das, MBBS, FCPS
Bangladesh is a densely populated country of about 162 million people. Each year about 150,000 people are newly diagnosed with cancer. As a consequence, the health sector of the country is experiencing a big challenge to handle this huge number of patients with limited recourse. Lack of infrastructure and trained health professionals are the two major challenges of cancer care of Bangladesh. Moreover, the practice of evidence-based personalized medicine for cancer treatment is very limited in our country.
I always had a dream to bring the knowledge of evidence-based precision medicine from the west and apply it in my country for the development of cancer care in Bangladesh. However, due to lack of appropriate resources and skilled professionals, it is very difficult to apply these innovative techniques into practice. Therefore, I was always passionate about resource-stratified adaptation of new knowledge. When I was selected as an ASCO International Development and Education Award (IDEA) recipient, it was like my dream came true—not only for me, but also for my country.
I was the first Bangladeshi to be selected as an IDEA recipient. The IDEA fellowship gave me a great opportunity to learn new things, interact with new people who are the leaders in oncology, and observe the latest cutting-edge technology in the field. My IDEA mentor, Dr. Anne Moore, guided me extremely well to fulfill my dream. She helped me to navigate the 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting, which boosted me with a lot of up-to-date information. At the meeting, I was able to interact with so many new people. Then Dr. Moore designed an excellent program for me at Weill Cornell Medicine/NewYork-Presbyterian. Under her guidance I attended ward rounds and multidisciplinary tumor board meetings. I also visited the hospital’s Radiation Oncology Department. At the end, it was a magical journey for me.
Coming back home to Bangladesh, I have engaged myself in research activities for cancer care in resource-constrained settings. My research objective was to find resource-stratified applications of recent developments in oncology. Currently I am working with hypo-fractionated breast radiotherapy and respiratory motion management in left-sided breast cancer. One of my researches in hypo-fractionated radiotherapy for breast cancer was accepted for presentation at the 16th St. Gallen International Breast Cancer Conference and I was awarded a travel grant to attend.
Today, I am relentlessly trying to disseminate new knowledge among the oncologists of Bangladesh. My objective is to establish the practice of evidence-based precision medicine, which I learned during my IDEA fellowship, here in Bangladesh. For the dissemination I am using various platforms like local oncology conferences, society meetings, and hospital-based training and academic activities. So far, I am getting a good response from all, particularly from young oncologists.
But still there is a long way to go. I want to continue to work diligently to improve cancer treatment in my country. ASCO’s IDEA will have a deep impact on the transition towards evidence-based precision medicine in cancer care for the people of Bangladesh.