Thailand Hub of Talents in Cancer Immunotherapy (TTCI Thailand)
The Global Challenge of Cancer
Cancer is one of the most significant health problems worldwide, especially as the population ages. Although there are various treatment methods, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, none of these methods are completely curative, and they often have significant short-term and long-term side effects. Therefore, research to develop new treatment methods that increase the chance of a complete cure and reduce side effects is of utmost importance.
Current cancer research focuses on immunotherapy, which is a highly effective, modern method that specifically targets molecules in different types of cancer cells. This treatment method stimulates the immune system through special processes, enabling it to recognize and destroy cancer cells without affecting normal cells in the body. This results in a more effective treatment with fewer side effects compared to traditional methods.
There are several approaches to cancer immunotherapy, including 1) cell therapy, which involves engineering immune cells to enhance their ability to recognize and attack cancer cells, 2) antibody therapy, which uses synthetic antibodies to target cancer cells, and 3) cancer vaccines, which teach the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.
In particular, cell therapy development for enhancing the efficiency of engineered immune cells has progressed rapidly, and it is now used as a standard treatment for blood cancer patients in developed countries. This therapy has been highly effective for patients without other treatment options, generating interest in further development for a wider range of cancer types, as well as increasing its efficacy and reducing side effects. Research also aims to simplify and reduce the cost of production.
Moreover, this research can be expanded to apply to other diseases, such as primary immunodeficiency and autoimmune diseases. Effective high-cost immunotherapy treatments, such as this, are currently unaffordable and inaccessible for the general Thai population. There is an urgent need to develop such technology within Thailand as a hospital-use service and, if possible, collaborate with the private sector to register Advanced Therapeutics Medicinal Products (ATMP) for distribution.
Presently, Thailand has expert researchers in the fields of molecular biology, immunology, and physicians specializing in cancer treatment using cells, such as hematological stem cells and CAR T cells. There are ongoing investments in facilities and personnel within various medical schools, making Thailand ready to develop research and services for cell engineering-based immunotherapies.
The establishment of a national center for immunotherapy experts would consolidate the country’s expertise into a single system, fostering collaboration through the presentation of research findings from each institution. This would help secure external research funding, enhance institutional flexibility, and attract more talent to the teams. It would also lead to increased joint research, utilizing each institution’s expertise, connects research teams through a network and funds research with a focus on pushing research toward clinical trials and rapid treatments.
For a country like Thailand, with limited resources, creating such a network is crucial. Nevertheless, maintaining independence and fostering creative competition among institutions is essential to drive innovation. Joint international promotion of the country’s progress is necessary for the primary objective of providing cancer treatment services to the Thai and ASEAN populations, reducing morbidity and mortality rates, achieving health equity, decreasing the importation of foreign immunotherapy treatments, and focusing on creating innovations for cancer treatment. This will lead to the establishment of valuable medical hubs in the future, which can attract international patients and further enhance the country’s research and treatment capabilities.
In summary, cancer research in Thailand is advancing, with a focus on immunotherapy, which offers a highly effective and less invasive treatment option for cancer patients. Thailand has expert researchers and ongoing investments in facilities and personnel, making it well-positioned to develop research and services.
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