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IHPBA 2008 focuses on latest trends and R&D

Suja NairMumbai

The inaugural function of the eighth Congress of International Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association (IHPBA) was held at Renaissance hotel from 27th February to 2nd March 2008. Dr P Jagannath was the chairman of the five-day conference which was attended by the who’s who of the healthcare industry from all over the world. The aim of the conference was to generate awareness about recent trends, statistics and research in diseases affecting the liver, pancreas, gall bladder and also on the emergence of new technologies in the healthcare industry, nutrition etc. Though the conference was mainly related to healthcare and surgeries, importance of drugs was definitely not over shadowed as they play a very crucial role in prevention, control and cure of diseases.

The five-day conference also became an arena for discussions on risk benefit ratio of newer drugs, quality of drugs and quality of life after using these drugs. They also pondered over how to strike a balance between them. Stressing importance on developing preventive medicines, Dr Rajeev M Joshi, Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary and GI cancer surgeon, Professor of Surgery and Head of Unit, T N Medical College and B Y L Nair Charitable Hospital, said, “Taking preventive measures beforehand is the best defence against any disease. For that reason there is research being conducted on developing preventive vaccines, especially for critical diseases like cancer, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.”

Other topics discussed were on side-effects of lifesaving drugs and how to combat these problems. Joshi said that there are sometimes severe repercussions caused by consumption of life-saving drugs. Drugs that are used during chemotherapy or for that matter, even the common painkillers are taken with known risks of impending side effects. The only solution is to make it more compatible and safe for patients. Joshi opines, “One thing we have to remember is that all drugs do not work the same for all patients; some may respond to a medicine, whereas some patients may not. In case of diseases like cancer we need to know that the drugs may not be have the same effect on all of its patients, unlike a fever where the effect of paracetamol will be same on almost all. We need to modify and refine the present drug off their problems through research and create new drugs that are safe and efficacious.” The bottom line is that drugs cannot be replaced for anything else, but through research and studies they can be improved so as to be more effective with fewer side effects.

Another speaker on the opening day was Steven M Strasberg, Prutt Professor of surgery, Head, Section of Hepatobilary-Pancreatic and Gastrointestinal Surgery, Centre for Advanced Medicine, Washington University in St Louis. He opined that understanding the nature of the disease is very essential for finding a cure for them. He said, “In case of cancer too we need to know the mechanism of it in order to get an appropriate cure. Normally, cancer occurs due to the mechanisms of the onco genes and the suppresser gene, and once their intra cellular mechanism is understood then only it is possible to develop a method to cure or stop the growth of cancer.”

Further, he elaborated on the importance of drugs in controlling dangerous diseases with the example of cancer drug Avastan. He explained how the drug worked by inhibiting a receptor, called vegep, which causes cancer. And when this receptor is covered with the molecule avasten, it stops functioning properly and it gradually slows down the growth of cancer. This shows how important a drug is as a therapeutic agent. He also spoke on how important drugs can sometimes enable surgery. One such example is Orbitox. They are very powerful molecules used in chemotherapy. as they shrink the cancer tumour, so that patients who were previously not candidates for surgery can opt for surgery.

In all, the conference was a good forum for interaction on most topics concerning hepato-pancreato-biliary surgery and related areas. It saw the presence of world-renowned hepato pancreato biliary doctors engaged in the treatment of liver, pancreas and gall bladder related diseases.