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How digi-tech is helping cancer patients through difficult times

Noor Anand Chawla

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When Covid-19 descended on humanity last year, our existing healthcare systems were completely unprepared to deal with it. In the process, the treatment of underlying and serious non-communicable diseases such as cancer was relegated to the back-burner. There was no time or resources to devote to patients who were not suffering from Covid-19. However, these NCDs, as they are called, continue to live and thrive amongst us as they always have, targeting people across age groups and health categories. 

When diagnosed with a deadly disease like cancer, now more so than ever before, a person’s first thought is to read up and gather the best possible information pertinent to them. These questions range from ‘what other treatments are available?’, ‘what clinical trials could be suitable?’, ‘who are the top experts for this particular cancer type and stage?’. However, the scattered and often inaccurate information available on the internet is difficult to assimilate and understand. This prompted some enterprising individuals to think of a solution where cancer patients could stay updated with the latest developments in the field while staying connected to experts and other patients like them. 

Dr Gunjan Bhardwaj founded Innoplexus, an AI company driving drug discovery along with pharma and biotech companies. This led to the launch of the CURIA app which aims to help patients navigate their cancer journey. The app offers patients access to much-needed and tailored information about treatments, clinical trials, and cancer experts. 

“CURIA seeks to empower cancer patients and their families. The app uses AI with 37 patents and over 100 patent applications to scan terabytes of data available on the internet daily, organise it and extract cancer treatments, clinical trials and experts. This data is then curated and uploaded on the app by our team of medical experts,” explains Dr Bhardwaj.

After logging on, patients answer a questionnaire about their cancer type, stage and demographics, and then receive information about treatments, clinical trials and experts, tailored to their profile. This allows them to have productive discussions with their doctors, and make important and informed decisions for their course of treatment. Physician experts on the app are listed by years of experience in the field, level of research conducted and their prominence in the industry. 

A popular feature of the app is ‘Cancer Twin’ that addresses the need for patients to connect with someone like them. For this, the app’s algorithm matches patients with the most similar cancer profiles, encouraging them to share experiences through a private chat, anonymously. “All conversations are encrypted through blockchain, bringing in the highest level of security to protect patient’s information,” assures Dr Bhardwaj.

Cancer cases have been steadily on the rise over the past few decades. The medical fraternity is continuously innovating treatments to improve the patient’s overall experience and chances of survival. With numerous trials taking place around the world simultaneously, it can be difficult for the medical fraternity to keep up. Through its proprietary AI, CURIA presents an international overview of the latest information, to make people aware of all the options available to them. 

“We believe tools such as CURIA are important to ensure that oncologists are open to discussing patients’ options with them — it takes a lot of time and dedication from an oncologist for each patient. With CURIA, we’re trying to help both the patient and the doctor,” says Innoplexus India Co-MD Amit Ananpara. Though targeted primarily at patients, the app is a powerful tool for physicians as well, as it allows them to see a tailored overview of options for each patient, and use it as a starting point for their research on that patient’s case. Physicians in India can learn and read up on therapies that have been approved internationally. They are also able to submit an application to a clinical trial, making the process much easier than it otherwise is.

Its founders are quick to highlight, however, that due to the complex nature of the disease, the app should not be treated as the replacement for a doctor, and the information provided on the app should be discussed with a physician. The CURIA app is currently available in English, German, Spanish, French, and Italian, with plans for Indian regional languages in the works. 

The writer pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be reached on nooranand@gmail.com.

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