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Azerbaijan to identify genetic factors in oncology

18 April 2014 08:36 (UTC+04:00)
Azerbaijan to identify genetic factors in oncology

By Nigar Orujova

People who are afraid of oncological diseases due to genetic factors will be able to learn about the probability of the disease in advance in Azerbaijan.

These analyses will be carried out in a newly created laboratory of molecular oncology under the National Oncology Center of the Health Ministry, laboratory head Leyla Melikova said.

The laboratory will conduct analyses on any genetic diseases. Along with other researches, diagnostics is currently conducted for identifying hereditary gene mutations of breast cancer, she said.

"If grandmother, mother, aunts and sisters of a woman have breast cancer, there is a genetic predisposition and this woman is in the risk group," Melikova noted.

Mutations contributing to the disease are of two kinds, she said; heritable mutations are passed from parents to children, while somatic mutations are acquired.

Although oncological mutations are considered somatic in 20-40 percent of the cases, genetic mutations can become a cause of cancer, she added.

"As a result of mutations of oncogenes, the cell loses its normal functions and becomes an oncocell," Melikova said.

She noted that if the genes were passed from parents to children, their child enters the high-risk group. In this case, there is a need for molecular analysis.

Breast cancer threats younger women

Unfortunately, breast cancer is growing young in Azerbaijan. Head of the General Oncology Department of the National Oncology Center Samir Gurbanov said if the disease used to happen among women aged 55-65 before, it is most common among 45-50 years old women now.

"Breast cancer did not appear among 25-28 years old women, while now it occurs at the 22-28 age group in 10-12 cases," Gurbanov said.

He said age is of a great importance in this disease. The sooner the tumor appears, the more aggressive the disease will be, and the sooner it reveals itself, the faster it will incapacitate other organs and become less treatable. Therefore, breast cancer shortens the life expectancy of young women more than older ones.

Cancer control is currently carried out in several directions, he added. The first direction is conducting screenings of healthy population.

Women above 35 years of age should go through a mammography or ultrasound every three-six months, he said.

Gurbanov noted that cancer ranks first among diseases with the highest mortality rate even in the developed countries of the world. At present, it is impossible to reduce the number of cases despite the fact that medicine prolongs the life of patients for a while.

"Therefore, the disease was studied at the genetic level, and some results were obtained," he said.

In Azerbaijan, people who are afraid of disease hereditary may already learn about their predisposition, something that can affect the number of cancer patients significantly, he said.

Azerbaijan's chief oncologist Azad Kerimli said 1,519 women were diagnosed with cancer last year. Overall, the number of breast cancer patients reached 9,043 in 2013. 4,221 of these women struggle with the disease for five years or more.

Frightening tendency

The most widespread types of cancer encountered in Azerbaijan are breast cancer in women and lung, trachea, and bronchi cancer in men.

Kerimli believes the total number of cancer patients in Azerbaijan is 34,681.

The rise of oncological diseases is connected to the increase in the country's population, which recently reached 9.4 million people. The number of oncological patients is high in Baku and the south of the country.

However, despite the growth of such patients in the country, their number is quite low compared to other countries, Kerimli said.

"Environmental, nutritional, and reproductive factors play a major role here," he said.

Oncological diseases are not the end of life and there are three ways of fighting cancer - surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. After these treatments and under therapeutic guidance, oncological patients may live for up to 15-20 years afterwards.

Providing cancer patients with medications has recently improved in the country. Fourteen items of chemotherapy drugs for cancer patients were purchased in 2006. The figure rose to 45 in 2012, and 58 in 2013.

The National Oncology Center, established in Azerbaijan in 2009, has given an impetus to the fight against cancer in the country. The center has had an oncological center for children since 2011.

Currently, there are seven cancer clinics in the Azerbaijani regions and the state is providing patients with free medicine for chemotherapy.

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