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Hospital players enhance focus on cancer care amid a surge in cases

By 2025, cancer cases projected to hit 1.57 million, up 13% from 2020


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Aneeka Chatterjee Bengaluru
Amid rising cancer cases, Indian hospitals are bolstering cancer care services. Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute, Aster DM Healthcare, Fortis Healthcare, and Yatharth Hospitals are slated to expand bed capacity in the next two to three years to address the escalating demand for advanced cancer treatment.

Apollo Hospitals' "Health of the Nation 2024" report, released on April 3, revealed a concerning trend: cancer cases in India are sharply rising. Projections indicate an increase from 1.39 million cases in 2020 to 1.57 million by 2025, a 13 per cent surge in just five years. The burden of cancer, measured in Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALY), is expected to escalate from 27 million in 2021 to nearly 30 million by 2025, earning India the title of "Cancer Capital," according to Apollo's findings.

Delhi's Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Center (RGCIRC), in collaboration with National Chest Institute, plans to enlarge its Niti Bagh Centre daycare facility and incorporate 155 beds over the next three years. Additionally, it has initiated several awareness programmes emphasising cancer prevention and early detection. Expanding its outreach, the institute conducts bi-weekly Continued Medical Education sessions in Tier-II cities, broadening access to vital healthcare resources.

“In addition to organising awareness camps, we consistently hold screening camps in collaboration with NGOs as well. We have extended our reach to underprivileged areas to raise awareness and provide support. So far, around 1,30,000 people have been screened, of which 7,000 were found to be pre-cancerous and 690 were in the early stage of cancer. Patients detected with cancer in the camps are treated free by the institute,” said D. S. Negi, chief executive officer of RGCIRC.

Fortis Healthcare in Bengaluru reported a notable 50 per cent surge in cancer cases in 2022, continuing a trend of 20 per cent year-on-year growth in oncology care observed in 2023-24. The Fortis Cancer Institute provides comprehensive cancer care in Tier-I cities and plans to expand services to Tier-II cities, enhancing access to specialised care for underserved populations.

“Fortis has made significant investments of more than Rs 450 crore in cancer care, setting up top-tier facilities and acquiring cutting-edge technology. Our ongoing investment strategy is focused on further enhancing our oncology services and infrastructure to meet the growing demand for specialised cancer care,” said Anil Vinayak, group chief operating officer of Fortis Healthcare.

Fortis Cancer Institute provides cutting-edge technology in cancer care, boasting Asia Pacific's first Gamma Knife ESPRIT and North India's first MR LINAC. These advancements facilitate precise, minimally invasive tumour therapies, underscoring the institute's commitment to state-of-the-art treatment modalities.

“Expanding our focus on haematologic conditions, we have established the Fortis Institute of Blood Disorders, which specialises in treating blood cancers and disorders, and we have one of the largest and most complex bone marrow transplant units in the country. We are also offering NexCAR19—market-authorised CAR-T cell therapy, developed in collaboration with ImmunoACT,” added Vinayak.

“We project that oncology will contribute 20-25 per cent to our overall business by FY25, expecting revenue of approximately Rs 1,400 crore. This growth will be driven by our continued focus on expanding and enhancing our cancer care capabilities across India,” Vinayak added.

Aster DM Healthcare’s domestic operations offer comprehensive cancer care services, including surgical, medical, and radiation oncology, along with advanced diagnostic and treatment modalities such as digital mammography, robotic surgery, PET-CT, and brachytherapy. They also provide specialised support services such as pain management, palliative care, and interventional radiology.

Aster DM outlines ambitious growth plans, aiming to add 1,700 beds by FY27. Their expansion strategy includes a blend of brownfield and greenfield projects, with an allocated capital of about Rs 1,000 crore. Additionally, the company eyes inorganic expansion opportunities during this period, demonstrating a comprehensive approach to sustained growth.

“The expansion in India will encompass the upcoming Aster Capital in Trivandrum, featuring 454 beds by FY27, and Aster MIMS Kasargod with 264 beds. Then the company will look at adding bed capacity to the existing hospitals in Aster Medcity and Aster MIMS Kannur by about 100 beds each, and Aster Whitefield with 159 beds. The expansion will take the company’s total bed tally in India to more than 6,600 beds,” said Nitish Shetty, chief executive officer of Aster DM Healthcare, India.

Moreover, Aster DM expressed interest in expanding into promising markets like Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and other Tier-II and Tier-III cities. With 70 per cent of its business flourishing in Tier-I, Tier-II, and Tier-III cities, Aster is poised to introduce regional models in additional locations, providing sustainable healthcare solutions.

“We are estimating 15 per cent growth per annum. Our plan is to further enhance our presence both inorganically and organically, with a focus on dominating the market. However, we refrain from experimental moves until we have clarity on our strategy,” added Shetty.

Yatharth Hospitals in Noida is advancing cancer care with cutting-edge treatments like modern linear accelerators (e.g., VERSA-HD with VMAT) and brachytherapy (e.g., FLEXITRON with QA and mould room tech). Additionally, they offer minimally invasive and robotic oncosurgical procedures. In diagnostics, the group provides whole-body PET-CT scans, X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI imaging, mammography, and routine lab services, including immunohistochemistry (IHC), fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) techniques, and frozen sections.

Yatharth has acquired land adjacent to its Greater Noida and Noida Extension hospitals. This move aims to expand bed capacity from 400 to 600 in Greater Noida and from 450 to 700 in Noida Extension. Additionally, the hospital is considering a greenfield project for an additional 300 beds alongside brownfield expansion efforts.

“In addition to organic expansion, we are continuously evaluating inorganic opportunities and strategic partnerships and remain committed to expanding our bed capacity in the coming years. Our commitment remains to complete one transaction every year till FY26. For further inorganic expansion, we are looking at the territories of Delhi NCR, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and are open to both O&M (operation and maintenance) models as well as equity purchases,” said Yatharth Tyagi, director of Yatharth Group of Hospitals.
Tackling the Big C
> RGCIRC plans to expand the Niti Bagh centre daycare facility by incorporating 155 beds over three years
> Fortis Cancer Institute aims to enhance access to specialised care by expanding services to Tier-II cities
> Aster DM targets adding 1,700 beds by 2026-27, with an investment of Rs 1,000 crore
> Yatharth Hospitals to expand across various locations, adding 750 beds

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First Published: May 13 2024 | 2:45 PM IST

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