Chandigarh lab, northeast varsity work on cancer detector

By R.R. Kharmujai, IANS,

Shillong : Chandigarh-based Ind-Swift Laboratories Ltd has come forward to collaborate with the North-Eastern Hills University (NEHU) for research to develop a novel blood-based cancer biomarker for early cancer detection.

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The tool kit, perhaps the world’s first low-cost diagnostic tool for detection of cancer in the human body, was discovered by R.N. Sharan, a professor, and his team of students at the department of biochemistry in NEHU here.

NEHU, which was set up in 1973 in Meghalaya, is one of India’s premier central universities.

“Ind-Swift Laboratories has signed a tripartite agreement with NEHU and myself to further conduct R&D work on my seminal research on the biomarker before making it into a product,” Sharan, a leading biochemist, told IANS.

Sharan filed an Indian patent (PAT/4.18.2/08044) on his cancer detection technology in 2008.

“It should be a simple blood-test kit, much like a pregnancy or diabetes test. I have discovered a bio-molecular marker of cancer in blood, which can easily track cancer through this blood test,” Sharan said.

Sharan said the level of the biomarker in blood, drawn from the finger tip, would serve as an indicator of cancer. This way, the onset or start of cancer in the body can be detected early and timely medical intervention can be made available to the needy person.

According to the agreement, the bio-chemist said, Ind-Swift Ltd will fund further R&D work at NEHU required for converting the laboratory research into a product as well as the mandatory clinical trials to meet the stringent conditions for use of such technology on humans as stipulated by the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI).

“They (Ind-Swift) are very keen on taking this research further to make a product so that society at large benefits from the over two-decade-long painstaking research of Sharan,” said NEHU vice chancellor A.N. Rai.

Sharan said it took him and his team of PhD students over two decades to develop the bio-molecular marker of cancer. “Numerous scientific aspects need to be looked into and understood in mouse and cell culture models before a sound hypothesis can be put forward,” he said.

“We have now developed and standardised a minimally-invasive, non-radioactive and highly sensitive immunoassay to quantify the biomarker in blood samples of patients,” Sharan said.

He said the phase 1 clinical studies have been concluded and published in a leading international peer-reviewed journal. The study involved 112 human cancer patients along with 68 normal individuals as volunteers.

“Eighteen different types of cancer were covered in this study and the results support the hypothesis fully,” he informed.

As per mandatory procedures, phase 2 and 3 clinical trials and a multi-centric study shall be initiated shortly in India by independent authorised agencies in collaboration with Ind-Swift Laboratories covering cancer patients from three-four cancer and general hospitals.

It is proposed that over 500 human samples from patients with almost all types of cancer will be analysed in this clinical study. Potentially, the cancer detection test can be packaged in a simple kit. The test can be conducted by following simple procedures by anyone in primary health centres or even at home.