Home Semasa #Semasa: Alarming cancer deaths among Asians

#Semasa: Alarming cancer deaths among Asians

by Air Times Correspondent

KUALA LUMPUR, 27 JULY – Every 11 seconds, one Asian alarmingly dies of cancer.

Cancer Research Malaysia (CRM) chief executive officer Andy Khoo said there was, nevertheless, progress made in fighting the illness the past 22 years in the country.

He added that globally, one in two people would get cancer in their lifetime, owing to living longer, with half of them aged 70.

More Asians, Khoo, said died of cancer annually compared to other ethnicities in the developed world.

“The good news is that because of medical research, survival from cancer has doubled in the last 50 years.

“Today, at least one in two cancer patients will be cured of the disease, and we now have the tools to reduce our risk of cancer and to improve survival from the disease.

“Sadly, 90 per cent of the world’s cancer research is focused in North America and Europe, and there is not enough research on Asians.

“This means that we are being left behind and survival from cancer is lagging in these countries.

“Owing to greater western research on cancer affecting Caucasians, the disease appeared to be ‘racist’ with its unique DNA, mostly affecting Asians.

“In Malaysia, women of Indian heritage have a higher likelihood of being affected by the ‘BRCA1’ mutation for breast cancer, while Malay and Chinese have a greater propensity for ‘BRCA2’ mutation,” he said at the launch of the ‘Terry Fox Run 2023’ at the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur.

Present were Canadian High Commissioner Wayne Robson and Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur general manager Blaise Montandon, who presented CRM with RM43,100.

Khoo revealed that Malaysia had in 2019, became the first Asian nation to successfully develop its own oral vaccine for head and neck cancer – from the nose until the throat areas.

“There are two particular protein profiles unique to cancer that do not naturally occur in humans.

“Training our own defence systems in our bodies to identify and fight any cells, with those two protein traits, becomes a vaccine for us.

“However, a lack of about RM60 million funds has prevented us to do human trials from the discovered vaccine, except for some trials on animals that showed over 80-90 percent efficacy.

“The fact that cancer is not transmissible like Covid-19, meant there is relatively limited funding for it,” Khoo said, adding that CRM had built the country’s first AI-powered mobile app for early detection of oral cancer and had begun genetic counselling for breast and ovarian cancer patients.

Khoo added that through research, they now knew more about cancer than before.

“Today, with screening and better therapies, more than nine out of ten breast cancer patients survive more than five years, if it is detected and treated early.

“But progress for other cancers (particularly those common with Asians) has been slower and there is still more to be done. We need all the help we can get,” said Khoo.

News reports stated that Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. In 2020, it was responsible for 10 million deaths, or about one in six deaths.

In the same year, there were 29,530 cancer deaths, which contributed to 15.4 per cent of medically certified deaths in Malaysia.

By 2040, the number of cancer cases in Malaysia was expected to double, becoming a major problem with significant impact on the community and healthcare system.

The Health Ministry’s 2012-2018 statistics showed that the most common in Malaysia was breast cancer (19 per cent), followed by colorectal (13.5 per cent), bronchus (9.8 per cent), lymphoma, nasopharynx, leukaemia, prostate, liver, cervix uteri and ovary.

The 3.5km ‘Terry Fox Run 2023’ – which offers a limited-edition commemorative medal and a Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds T-shirt – expects 3,000 participants at the Kepong Metropolitan Park in Kuala Lumpur on September 9.

“This run serves more than just a community event as it is a powerful initiative to raise awareness about the significance of impactful cancer research, to honour the enduring legacy of Terry Fox.

“Our mission is to uncover better treatment and save more lives from this devastating disease,” said Khoo, adding the run would be expanded to Melaka and Penang.

The history of the ‘Terry Fox Run’ goes back to 1980 when the 18-year-old Canadian, who lost his leg to osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer), ran 5,374 kilometres of the ‘Marathon of Hope’, across his country to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.

Through rain, snow and heat, he continued his Marathon of Hope until he was forced to stop because cancer appeared in his lungs. He died the following year, but not before raising Canadian $24 million for the cause.

Meanwhile, Robson said the ‘Terry Fox Run’ over the years had significant impact on advances in research and hoped that Malaysians would continue taking up the fight against cancer.

Photo courtesy of Cancer Research Malaysia: Cancer Research Malaysia (CRM) chief executive officer Andy Khoo (left) and Canadian High Commissioner Wayne Robson at the launch of the “Terry Fox Run 2023’ at the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur. – airtimes.my

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