ST. GEORGE — In observance of World Cancer Day, a conference promoting the early detection and prevention of cancer featured speakers ranging from doctors and scientists to cancer survivors.
The conference, “Wipe Out Cancer,” took place Saturday afternoon at the Desert Hills High School auditorium and was a production of Oncotelligent, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in St. George that promotes early cancer detection and offers free screening and personalized support for patients.
Oncotelligent’s motto is “Let’s be smarter than cancer,” and the conference focused on how the company is getting the word out about prevention, including tips on healthy living, early screening and medical advice.
See video in the media player top of this report.
The organization was founded by Dr. Pravin J. Mishra, who holds a doctorate in molecular medicine, oncology, from George Washington University.
While working in India, Mishra said he constantly received calls from people asking about cancer. When a woman contacted him looking for medical advice for her mother, a late-stage cancer patient whose doctors said she had only months to live, he said he realized he had to help.
Mishra took an individualized approach and advised the woman and her mother on therapies and lifestyle changes, he said, that allowed the mother to live a few months longer than she may have otherwise, just long enough to see her daughter married.
It was then Mishra said he realized that modern medicine’s obsession with finding a cure may be hindering the more important matter of preventing cancer in the first place.
“Why are we focusing so much on a cure? A cure is a state when cancer has already happened,” Mishra said. “Why not focus more on cause instead of cure?”
Mishra currently works for Intermountain Health Care, and as a resident of St. George, he said he started seeing a familiar pattern of receiving calls from the public asking for advice about cancer.
He and a team of scientists, including his brother, Dr. Prasun Mishra, established Oncotelligent in order to help people on an individualized basis.
Services offered include support groups, lab tests, drug price negotiation, genetic testing and finding the right specialist for those already diagnosed.
Prevention education and regular screening are also paramount on the list of services offered by Oncotelligent.
“This is a battle against our willingness to accept that we’re not immortal,” Mishra said.
He argued that truly “outsmarting” cancer means beating it before it does any damage at all and by preventing it entirely.
Recently, the organization offered free screenings to people who would not have otherwise been able to afford them.
“By doing that, we were able to save 50 people’s lives in three months because they would not have gone for cancer screening.”
Mishra said he plans to remain in headquartered St. George and grow the organization globally. Oncotelligent was involved in an effort to screen over one thousand people in India.
“Dr. Mishra was thinking outside the box and realizing this takes a whole village to deal with cancer,” Michael Belnap, a toxicology laboratory supervisor, said.
Belnap began working with Mishra shortly after their first meeting as neighbors when they expressed a mutual interest in the study of cancer prevention.
“I lost both of my grandmothers by the time I was one years old to cancer,” Belnap said.
Belnap has a family history of cancer, and when his 7-year-old niece, Samantha Milbourn, was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma cancer and was able to defeat it, he said he recognized the need for a multifaceted approach to treatment.
Samantha, now 13, had an array of services and volunteers who helped her overcome the disease.
An otherwise less-fortunate patient may not have access to the level of care Samantha had, Belnap said, adding that he recognized what Oncotelligent refers to as “patient navigation,” an individualized approach to each diagnosis, was necessary for each patient.
“As a scientist, I’m amazed at how intelligent a lot of these people on the board are, but as a human being I’m thankful that everyone is volunteering their time,” Belnap said. “Nobody is getting paid a dime for this, and they’re making a real difference.”
The organization offers what services it can to patients regardless of their ability to pay.
“It’s motivating for me when I see someone who comes to me and gets help from my team and my network,” Mishra said. “It’s just so fulfilling.”
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