Harmala Gupta is a cancer survivor and social activist who has pioneered cancer support services in India. After her brush with cancer, she founded the first cancer support group in India, ‘Cancer Sahyog’ in 1990.

In 1996, she initiated a 3 month pilot project in collaboration with the cancer hospital in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, to bring palliative care to the homes of six patients with terminal cancer along with Ruth Wooldridge, a nurse from the UK. This was the beginning of CanSupport’s home-based palliative care programme.

Today, CanSupport’s home-based palliative care programme is the largest in India.  At any one time more than 2000 cancer patients and their families are being visited and cared for by our palliative care teams. It is well regarded both at home and abroad for the high quality of its services which continue to be provided free of charge to underprivileged cancer patients and their families resident in Delhi and the National Capital Region.

Harmala worked in a honorary capacity as Founder-President and CEO of CanSupport till 2012 when she handed over to a professional management team. She continues to be the Founder-President and an active member of the Managing Committee.

Harmala is also the Founder-President of Cancer Care India (CACI), a network of cancer support groups which seeks to provide a nationwide platform for cancer advocacy and awareness. She has published articles in national dailies and journals and currently maintains a blog on the CanSupport website. She has participated in many conferences and workshops around the world where she has shared her vision and expertise as a social entrepreneur, cancer volunteer and support person. She is also the reciepient of numerous national awards.

Harmala is on the governing board of the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute in Delhi. She is a fellow of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) in Geneva and has been on the Executive Committee of the Indian Association of Palliative Care (IAPC).


Harmala has received several awards. They include the following:

  • In August 2019, she was conferred with the "Healthcare Humanitarian Award" by FICCI in New Delhi.
  • In January 2016, she was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by Cancer Care India (CACI) in New Delhi.
  • In February 2015, she was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by V Care in Mumbai.
  • In September 2014, she was conferred the Spirit of Shanti Award by the Brahmakumaris in New Delhi.
  • In February 2014, she received the Medallion of the Governor General of Canada.
  • In November 2012, she received the Annual Women’s Bravery Award from the Kirtan Sanjivani Pushplata Ranade Trust, Pune.
  • In November 2010, she was one of the Kiran Lifetime Awardees of the National Women Excellence Award 2010 instituted by Women’s International Network.
  • In September 2010, she received the National Award for best social activist from the Journalist Association of India & the Journalist Federation of India.
  • In November 2009, she received The Silver Phoenix Award from the Indian Institute of Planning & Management, New Delhi.
  • In November 2008, iCONGO (Indian Confederation of NGOs) conferred her with Karmaveer Puruskaar, a national award for social justice and action.
  • In December 2005, she received an award for outstanding contribution to social service instituted by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, from the President of India.
  • She was given Outstanding Woman Social Worker Award for the year 2005-06 by FLO, the ladies wing of FICCI (Federation of Indian Commerce & Industry).
  • In 2000, she was honoured with the first Distinguished Alumna Award by her alma mater, Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi.
  • In 1999, she was among the first awardees of the `Inner Flame Award instituted by Full Circle Publications, a unit of Hind Publications.


  • In 2003 she was given a fellowship to participate in the prestigious Hospice & Palliative Care Study seminar held in Britain.
  • In 2003 she was also awarded a bursary to attend the Multi-Professional Course in Palliative Care at St. Christopher’s Hospice.
  • In February 2002, Harmala was granted a UICC International Fellowship to visit the Hospice Care Association (HCA) in Singapore to study daycare and homecare.
  • In 1994-95, Harmala was the recipient of a Times of India fellowship to study alternative systems of medicine for cancer in India. She subsequently wrote up her findings in a manuscript.


  • `Cancer Sahyog: Meeting the Challenge of Cancer Survivorship International Psycho-Oncology Society Newsletter, Dec 95
  • `Cancer Support Groups: Providing a Sheet Anchor of Support, Lecture Notes in Psycho- Oncology, NIMHANS, Bangalore, Mar 96.
  • `Fighting Cancer Naturally, Life Positive, June 96.
  • Type C: Taking Cancer Out of the Closet, Life Positive, Oct 96.
  • The Social Side of Tobacco, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre Newsletter, Vol.1, No.2, August 98.
  • `When the End is Night, Psychological Foundations  The Journal, Vol.1 (1), June 99.
  • A Journey from Cancer to CanSupport, Indian Journal of Palliative Care, Vol.10, Issue 1, June 04.
  • Harmala Gupta with Dr. S. Tanneberger, Italy & India Unite to Help People with Cancer, I for Italy, Apr.-Sept. 04.
  • How Basic is Palliative Care?, International Journal of Palliative Nursing, Vol. 10, No.12, Dec. 04.
  • How Basic is Palliative Care? A Response to the Responses so Far, International Journal of Palliative Nursing, Vol.11, No.2, Feb. 05.
  • Community Participation in Palliative Care: A Comment, Indian Journal of Palliative Care, 11, Issue 1, June 2005.
  • Harmala Gupta with Dr. Inder Raj K. Grewal, CanSupport: Pioneering Domiciliary Palliative Care in Delhi, S. Tanneberger, et. al. (eds), Cancer in Developing Countries: The Great Challenge for Oncology in the 21st Century,W. Zuckschwerdt Verlag GmbH, Munich, Germany, 2004.
  • Final Exit, Positive Health, published by VHAI, New Delhi, 2006.
  • Joris Gielen, Harmala Gupta, et al, The Attitudes of Indian Palliative Care Nurses and Physicians to Pain Control and Palliative Sedation, Indian Journal of Palliative Care, Vol 17, Issue 1, Jan-Apr, 2011.