In a bid to provide multi-disciplinary panel of cancer experts to patients, Tata Memorial Hospital today introduced a service called Virtual Tumour Board (VTB).
The Board comprises various cancer experts, surgeons, paramedics from major government-run as well as private hospitals and cancer institutes, where complex cases of cancer patients are discussed to get opinions on treatment and its procedure. The discussions are web-based and conducted at certain hours.
"VTB provides the hospitals a free expert opinion from leading cancer specialists including TMH experts to plan treatment of cancer patients in an effective and timely manner," said Dr C Pramesh, professor and chief, thoracic surgery, Department of Surgical Oncology, TMH.
While the Board was officially launched today in the presence of Union Health Minister J P Nadda and Maharashtra Health Minister Deepak Sawant, it has been functioning for last two months on a smaller scale.
Dr Kailash Sharma, Director, Academics, Tata Memorial Centre said, "There are 96 centres in country that are currently linked with this centre. We are steadily increasing the number of participants in the board.
"On a specified day, the cancer experts as per their availability are participating in the virtual discussions, where some centres present the cancer patients' case and other provide their opinion.
Cancer patient's cases are complicated and one city can not have all types of experts. In such situation, the required experts can chip in once they get to know the details of the patients, disease and its complexity."
He said another benefit is that patients need not have to travel to major city for treatment. "Once the centre that is treating the patients decides the course of action after listening to the experts, the patient can be treated the centre itself. This will save a lot of expenditure of patients on travel and living in major cities," Sharma added.
Dr C Pramesh said the Board can have participants such as surgeons, pathologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and imaging technologists among others.
"Outcome is far more superior as a group of cancer specialists are present for the guidance. Most of the major cancer hospitals in major cities discuss the disease case with group of exerts and then prepare the course of treatment. "But, in other towns or small cities, due to limited doctors and experts, they do not have such facility. These doctors can present the case of the patient before the experts all across the country and seek their opinion. To bridge such gap, we as a part of National Cancer Grid, felt that we should offer a group of experts can get together and opine," he said.
Pramesh said they are taking up complex cases because such participation is helping doctors significantly.
"100 to 120 people are participating at any time in the VTB. Currently, some 26 centres are active and soon all the 96 centres that are linked with VTB will start participating in it.
"We are increasing by 4-5 centres every week. We would like to make the VTB meetings daily. With all the 96 centres getting actively participative, we will be able to do discussions daily," he added. PTI