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Mexican public medicine applies innovative treatments for lung cancer patients

10% of deaths from malignant tumours in Mexico are due to lung cancer. Although this type of cancer is not one of the most prevalent among Mexicans, it is nevertheless one of the oncological diseases with the highest mortality rate, along with neoplasms (tumours), sarcomas (a type of cancer that originates in tissues) and melanoma (skin cancer that arises when cells begin to grow uncontrollably).

The National Medical Centre (CNM) "20 de Noviembre”, located in Mexico City, has introduced innovative treatments that have made it possible to better control some variants of lung cancer and increase patients' survival by up to four years.

Oncologist Fernando Aldaco Sarvide, head of the Lung Cancer Clinic, said the new treatment options are immunotherapies that activate the immune system to attack cancer and tyrosine kinase inhibitor drugs (TKIs), which combat variants of the disease related to certain mutations.

He explained that lung cancer involves numerous diseases. Among these, there are those with a mutation called “driver” that is treatable with an oral drug.

These new treatment modalities, in addition to chemotherapy, allow patients who had a life expectancy of one year to now have a life expectancy of up to three or four years, the specialist emphasised.

The CMN "20 de Noviembre" receives approximately 60 lung cancer patients a year referred from all over the country as these cases are considered as too complicated or difficult to treat. Another percentage of lung cancer patients is treated in the oncology units of regional hospitals.

The president of the Mexican Society of Oncology also stressed the importance of raising public awareness about the fact that smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer.

The specialist explained that there is no screening method that can provide early detection, so it is important to combat smoking as a practice of high damage to health. Indeed, smoking acts as a high-risk factor, not only for smokers but also for the so-called passive smokers who inhale the smoke of those who have the habit of smoking.

Other risk factors are exposure to combustible, i.e. people who have cooked for a long time with charcoal or wood, as well as exposure to asbestos in oil industry workers.

Lung cancer is not one of the most prevalent types of cancer, but it is one of the oncological diseases with the highest mortality rate, along with neoplasms (tumours), sarcomas (a type of cancer that originates in tissues) and melanoma (skin cancer that arises when cells begin to grow uncontrollably).

Aldaco Servide said that the death rate from lung cancer in Mexico has been decreasing. "At the end of the 1990s 7 Mexicans died out of every 100,000, and currently that number has decreased to 5.4 every 100,000 people”.

However, he pointed out, in the same period mortality fell by almost 50% in men, whilst for women, it went from 3.7 to 4.2 per 100,000.

In terms of public medicine for state workers, cancer ranked third in the list of the most economically burdensome diseases, after COVID-19 and respiratory ailments.

In 2020, annual expenditure on consultations, hospitalisation, and outpatient care amounted to 6.38 billion pesos, and investment in cancer drugs accounted for 20% of the total expenditure on health inputs, which was 2.151 billion pesos.

In parallel to the care provided by the CMN "20 de Noviembre", the National Cancer Institute is also another Mexican institute specialised in the disease.

The National Cancer Institute was founded in 1946. This Institute is one of the 13 National Institutes for Research and Teaching in Biomedical Sciences in the Mexican National Health System.

Among the most outstanding advances and innovations of the National Cancer Institute is a world-renowned, high-quality Tumour Bank.

The Tumour Bank has enabled the Institute to offer a personalised medicine programme for patients with neoplasms, with the aim to improve the effectiveness of treatments for different types of cancer.

The programme is part of the 12 research projects carried out with the INCan's biobank, where samples of both healthy tissue and tissue with some type of neoplasm are collected for study. Since 2010, thousands of tissue samples have been collected, as well as thousands of blood samples, through patients’ donations.

By obtaining tissues so rapidly, specialists have shortened the research time by two to four years.

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