Our motto is accurate diagnosis without unnecessary testing

Dr Zaheed Husain is a cancer immunologist who heads the Laboratory of Immunobiology and teaches medicine at the Division of Interdisciplinary Medicine and Biotechnology in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, one of the teaching affiliates of Harvard Medical School. He is also the senior director of cancer diagnostics at Praava Health, the first molecular cancer diagnostics lab in Bangladesh, which will be launched in Dhaka soon.

Explain the name Praava.

The word Praava is a combination of the words “Pran,” which means life, and “Ava,” which means light. Praava means excellence of life.

What kind of healthcare service will Praava provide?

We want to give hope to patients and ensure proper diagnosis of diseases so that patients get appropriate treatment. Our primary goal is to bring back the concept of “family doctor” – the doctor who knows you and your family, and can help you manage your day-to-day health needs, and referring you to other specialists or hospitals when required. They will also follow up on your progress. We will also focus on the creative use of IT in healthcare, starting with Bangladesh’s first patient portal which will give patients access to their medical records and make appointments online or from their phones. However, Praava will not provide hospital service.

What sets Praava apart from other diagnostic centres in Bangladesh?

We want to create a hub of medical services. We will have a large pool of doctors specialised in different disciplines. And we will have facilities for all medical tests so patients can get quick and accurate services. Our motto is accurate diagnosis without unnecessary testing. We also want to introduce cancer-related tests which are not available in Bangladesh yet.

Tell us about the cancer diagnostics lab.

Praava Health’s molecular cancer diagnostics lab will be the first molecular cancer diagnostics lab in the country with a state-of-the-art facility for cancer screening and diagnosis. Initially, we will offer KRAS mutation detection for treatment of colorectal cancer, HER2/neu gene amplification to diagnose breast cancer, and HPV DNA genotyping to detect cervical cancer. In future, we plan to roll out other molecular diagnostic test panels including BRAF, CTNNB1, EGFR, FOXL2, GNAS, PIK3CA, TP53, as well as blood-based testing – or liquid biopsy – and quantitation of circulating tumour cells over time. There are other technologies that Praava will bring to Bangladesh as well.

What is molecular cancer diagnosis?

Immunotherapy and molecular cancer diagnostics are leading the way in cancer treatment. Using genetic markers in our DNA, molecular cancer diagnostics can help us learn whether an individual has a predisposition to a particular type of cancer, which can facilitate prevention or early detection. It has the best prospects for survival. Also, molecular cancer diagnostics can help us understand the best treatment options for a patient who has already been diagnosed with cancer. It has been effective in reducing cancer mortality based on early detection as well as identification of effective treatments. For the first time ever, there is hope for patients who are in despair.

How big an issue is cancer in Bangladesh?

Cancer is the sixth leading cause of death in Bangladesh, and here the cancer-related death rate is expected to be 13% by 2030, increasing from 7.5% in 2005. There are an estimated 1.5 million cancer patients in Bangladesh, with around 200,000 patients newly diagnosed every year.