Praava Health hosts Bangladesh’s first molecular cancer diagnostics lab

Praava Health, a network of family health centers in Dhaka, has opened the first molecular cancer diagnostics laboratory in Bangladesh. Praava will soon offer immunohistochemistry services and expanded cancer risk panels to provide more nuanced cancer diagnoses.

Data on the cancer burden in Bangladesh are unreliable and sparse. It is estimated that there were more than 100,000 cancer deaths in 2018 — accounting for 10% of all deaths in the country. New cases are predicted to rise from 150,781 cases in 2018 to 250,726 cases in 2035.

With limited reliable diagnostics technology in the country, many sophisticated tests are shipped abroad for analysis, resulting in unnecessary delays and risk of contamination. As a result, many Bangladeshis are left with conflicting laboratory results that delay treatment and increase the risk of death.

Sylvana Sinha, Founder, Managing Director, and CEO of Praava Health with colleagues from the molecular cancer diagnosis lab at Praava Health

“This is extremely personal for me,” said Sylvana Sinha, Founder, Managing Director, and CEO of Praava Health. “Several of my relatives with cancer was wrongly diagnosed by doctors in Bangladesh, resulting in countless extra doctor visits and scares for our family. When I founded Praava Health, one of my biggest priorities was to offer a full range of world-class diagnostics services, including for cancer.”

Cancer treatments in Bangladesh are also sometimes limited. Clinical oncology has traditionally relied on tumor location, grade, stage and a patient’s overall physical condition to determine the right treatment approach. Because of the distinct nature of each tumor, this one-size-fits-all approach often leads to ineffective treatment and poor patient outcomes.

Scientist performing nucleic acid isolation from blood collected from a cancer patient

Diagnostics that identify specific cancer characteristics can help doctors provide more targeted treatment. Praava Health’s state-of-the-art facility enables patient-specific tumor profiling that translates into personalized therapies. Additionally, Praava’s laboratory uses a process called liquid biopsy, which isolates and analyzes DNA and RNA samples from patients’ blood and tissue. This technique provides fast and reliable results and helps patients avoid invasive and painful tests.

Phlebotomist performing blood collection from a patient prior to subsequent investigations

The laboratory was established under the leadership of Dr. Zaheed Husain, a cancer immunologist who spent many years running a laboratory at a world-class teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School.

“Modern day cancer therapy is all about personalizing medicine,” said Dr. Husain. “The techniques we use in our lab allow us to detect very small changes in patients’ tumor samples, allowing the clinician to find the right treatment for each patient.”

Praava’s molecular cancer diagnostics lab is currently focused on early detection of cervical, breast, colorectal and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) – some of the most prevalent cancers in the country. The molecular cancer diagnostics laboratory has already processed more than 500 tests in Bangladesh.

In addition to cancer diagnostics, Praava Health offers consultations with family health doctors and specialists, other lab and imaging diagnostics, and an in-house pharmacy. For more information about Praava Health, visit http://www.praavahealth.com/.

Tareq Salahuddin

Dr. Tareq Salahuddin is a Special Correspondent of News Hour. He is a Public Health Professional working in development sector. Dr. Tareq, a medical graduate, is a member of Public Health Association of Bangladesh and a Member of the Governing Council of World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA), a J2J Fellow on HIV/AIDS and a member of the International AIDS Society. To know more about Dr. Tareq, please visit his personal website or simply Google his name.
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