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Oncologist for a paradigm shift in cancer treatment

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Dr Azra Raza shares her groundbreaking research and explores the human experience at Habib University’s 8th Yohsin Lecture

Our Special Correspondent

Karachi, Dec 3: A leading physician and researcher has underlined the importance of early detection of cancerous cells in the human body and a paradigm shift in the conventional curative treatment of the disease.

“There is a difference between curing and healing. If somebody needs a cure, you give them an antibiotic. Still, healing is about healing the entire body, not just an organ,” Dr Azra Raza, a distinguished global leader in the fight against cancer said.

Dr Azra Raza emphasizes the drawbacks of studying tumors as static entities in unrealistic environments. Tariq Khalique

Addressing a select audience on “Confronting with Passion the Conundrum of Life,” under the 8th Yohsin Lecture at the Habib University Campus here on Friday last, she passionately advocated for a shift towards early detection to improve treatment effectiveness, emphasizing the drawbacks of studying tumors as static entities in unrealistic environments.

Dr Raza, the Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine, and Clinical Director at Columbia University’s Edward P. Evans Foundation MDS Center, delved into questions arising in the face of unsolvable medical challenges, specifically focusing on the human costs of diseases like cancer.

The internationally acclaimed oncologist strongly opposed the conventional “slash-poison-burn” approach and advocated for a more cost-effective, less toxic, and efficient strategy for the future.

Through a captivating blend of poetry and science, weaving the works of Ghalib along with medical profundities, she offered a unique perspective on the remarkable resilience of the human spirit when confronted with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

She elaborated on what is missing from the current approach to treating cancer. The talk explored the current cancer landscape, posing uncomfortable questions about the ongoing war on cancer, advocating for change, and highlighting ways individuals can contribute to shifting the paradigm.

Dr Raza outlined how the conventional focus of cancer research has always been on late-stage disease, when tumors are large, and patients are severely ill. She argued that billions spent on targeting specific mutated genes or signaling pathways are misguided, as tumors are complex masses with varying genetic and cellular abnormalities.

As a dedicated researcher, she brought her wealth of experience to the forefront. Actively treating 30-40 cancer patients weekly, Dr Raza directs a cancer research lab and has made significant contributions to the field, publishing novel findings in medical journals.

Her groundbreaking ideas, as outlined in the bestselling book “The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last,” advocate for a paradigm shift in cancer treatment from eradicating every cancer cell to early prevention.

Earlier Habib University President Wasif A. Rizvi, in his welcome speech elaborated the concept of the concept of “Yohsin,” derived from the motto of the university, inspired by Imam Ali’s words: “The worth of every human is in their Yohsin which encompasses qualities like grace (husn), generosity (ehsaan), and excellence (ahsan). Hence the primary purpose of the lecture series is to foster intellectual discourse that aligns with these virtues.

The Yohsin, a significant component of the lecture series sponsored by the office of the President, serves as a platform to engage civil society, the University’s faculty, and students with distinguished scholars, thinkers, and critics of our time and facilitates insightful discussions on a diverse range of subjects.

“Past speakers, distinguished profiles like Noam Chomsky, Reza Aslan, Vali Nasr, among others, exemplify and embody these qualities,” he said.

Habib University is a premier institution of higher education in Pakistan, dedicated to cultivating critical thinking, interdisciplinary learning, and academic excellence. Established in 2010 the private liberal arts university offers undergraduate degrees in science, engineering, arts, humanities, and social sciences.

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