One of out of every 13 Filipino women is expected to develop breast cancer in her lifetime, according to the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology. The organization reports that the Philippines also has the highest incidence of breast cancer in Asia with the disease listed as the country’s most prevalent type of cancer.
Medical researchers, however, are quick to allay fears, noting that breast cancer is both preventable and curable with proper treatment. “Early detection may just be the key to keeping our body healthy. Nipping it in the bud before it grows too complicated,” says PHILAB Industries Inc. chairman and Genomics Institute of Asia (GINA) founder Tom Navasero.
PHILAB, the country’s pioneer science-based builder, service-provider, and equipment supplier, is one with the month of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness campaign as it pushes for innovative preventive measures against the disease. PHILAB recently launched its Breast Cancer Gene 1 and 2 (BRCA1 and 2) tests, which are used for screening breast and ovarian cancer markers. BRCA1 and BRCA 2 are tumor suppressing genes, and hereditary genetic mutations affecting these genes show higher risks of breast and ovarian cancer.
“We’re providing lower-cost, faster turnaround time for these tests,” says Navasero. PHILAB is currently offering an accelerated version of breast cancer diagnostics previously conducted by a foreign firm. The tests run by PHILAB cut medical expenses by more than half and reduce patients’ waiting period to seven days from the thirty days compared to the test provided by the foreign firm. Navasero, likewise, notes PHILAB’s speedy process in conducting confirmation tests—mandatory follow-up exams after the detection of breast cancer. “Because the entire test is done in the Philippines, waiting time is cut short and patients can get their results within the next 24 hours,” said Navasero.
The tests are part of PHILAB’s genomics program. Genomics, the study of an organism’s entire genome, can be applied to analyze an individual’s genetic makeup, allowing for personalized medical treatment. PHILAB’s genomics program now utilizes Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) genetics diagnostics, an accelerated method in detecting predisposed diseases in each patient.
PHILAB is currently using the innovation to shift healthcare focus to a preventive approach, seen by the company as another effective way other than the curative model utilized by most medical facilities in the country. In light of this, Navasero extends his support for breast cancer awareness even beyond October, stressing the need to get tests and regularly visit the doctor for checkups.
The PHILAB chairman also notes that the detection and treatment of the disease is a personal mission after his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago. “Genomic testing played a big role in saving my mom. We’re hoping to do the same for many other women and even men out there,” said Navasero.
PHILAB was founded in 1960 by Hector Navasero, an Agricultural Economist from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). The company pioneered the development of research and scientific laboratories in Asia starting with UPLB and the International Rice Research Institute. In October 2013, Tom Navasero took over the company from his father as chairman of the board, a little over a year after establishing GINA.