Cancer Research in Latin America

The Future of Cancer Care in Latin America

Cancer is a leading cause of death in Latin America, with the region experiencing an alarming rise in cases. It is projected that by 2040, 9 out of 10 of the most populous nations in Latin America will see an increase of at least 64% in the number of people diagnosed with cancer annually. This highlights the urgent need to improve cancer care infrastructure and access to advanced treatments [1].

Critical Aspects of Cancer Care in Latin America

  • In 2022, cancer caused 1.4 million deaths, 45.1% of which occurred in individuals under the age of 69.
  • Avoiding key risk factors could prevent around one-third of all cancer cases.
  • The most frequently diagnosed cancers in men are prostate (8.6%), lung (11.7%), colorectal (10.2%), and bladder (5.9%).
  • The most frequently diagnosed cancers in women are breast (30.7%), lung (10.3%), colorectal (9.6%), and uterine (6.4%).
  • The cancers with the highest mortality rates in men are lung (20.6%), prostate (14.5%), colorectal (10.6%), pancreas (7.0%), and liver (6.6%).
  • The cancers causing the most deaths in women are lung (18.4%), breast (17.5%), colorectal (10.6%), and pancreas (7.2%).
  • The region saw nearly 500,000 new cases of breast cancer and over 100,000 breast cancer deaths.

Innovations in Cancer Care Driving Change

  • Precision Medicine: Precision medicine is at the forefront of cancer care innovation. It offers more effective and personalized care by tailoring treatments based on genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.
  • Telemedicine and Digital Health: Adopting telemedicine and digital health solutions has accelerated. These technologies are particularly beneficial in Latin America, where geographical barriers often limit access to care. Telemedicine enables remote consultations, continuous patient monitoring, and timely interventions, improving the overall quality of care.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): AI and ML are revolutionizing cancer diagnosis and treatment planning. These technologies can analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns and predict treatment responses.

Challenges and Opportunities for Clinical Research in Latin America

Challenges and Barriers:

  • Unequal Access to Technology: There are significant disparities in access to high-tech facilities for surgery, radiation therapy, and diagnostics, as well as personalized treatments such as molecular testing, targeted therapies, and immunotherapies [3].
  • Limited Regulations and Expertise: Some countries in the region have regulatory restrictions and limited clinical research experience, making it difficult to participate in clinical trials [3].
  • Drug Coverage: Coverage for expensive medications remains challenging, as many low-income populations lack access to the latest oncology therapies due to unfavorable economic conditions [4].

Opportunities:

  • Ethnic Diversity: Latin America’s ethnic diversity is essential for cancer clinical trials, allowing adequate representation of different population groups [3].
  • Relatively Lower Costs: The region’s lower absolute costs of healthcare and clinical research present an attractive opportunity for investment in cancer research [3].
  • Changing Perception and Increased Participation: The COVID-19 pandemic has improved public perception of clinical trials, facilitating greater participation and understanding of the importance of clinical research [3].
  • Collaborative Groups: Networks like LACOG, SLAGO, and CLICaP have been instrumental in designing and participating in clinical trials, demonstrating the importance of regional and international collaboration [3].

The Future Outlook

The landscape of cancer clinical research in Latin America is transforming, with efforts to improve infrastructure, continuous training, and developing a robust clinical research culture. Projections indicate a significant increase in cancer cases, highlighting the urgency to address these challenges and seize opportunities to improve health outcomes in the region [1], [3].

 

Despite the challenges, Latin America is uniquely positioned to advance cancer clinical research, focusing on diversifying clinical trials, reducing costs, and improving accessibility to cutting-edge treatments.

 

Infographics: 

Argentina

Brazil

Colombia

References:  

  1. Dunleavy, G. (2024). The future of cancer care in Latin America. The Economist. Retrieved from https://impact.economist.com
  2. Pan American Health Organization. (n.d.). Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.paho.org/en/topics/cancer
  3. Goss, P. E., & Strasser-Weippl, K. (2022). Innovation for cancer care in Latin America: Threat or opportunity? The Lancet Digital Health, 4(7), E474-E483. Retrieved from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landig/article/PIIS2589-7500(22)00023-1/fulltext
  4. American Society of Clinical Oncology. (n.d.). Challenges and opportunities in oncology clinical trials in Latin America. ASCO Connection. Retrieved June 13, 2024, from https://connection.asco.org/blogs/challenges-and-opportunities-oncology-clinical-trials-latin-america
  5. Roa, G. J., & Raez, L. E. (2017). Precision oncology in Latin America: Current situation, challenges, and perspectives. ecancer, 11, 920. https://ecancer.org/en/journal/article/920-precision-oncology-in-latin-america-current-situation-challenges-and-perspectives

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