IIT-M in process of creating India-specific cancer genome database

February 18, 2018 12:57 pm | Updated 12:57 pm IST - Chennai

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 04/04/2016: Photo shows the entrance of IIT Madras. 
Photo: M. Srinath

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 04/04/2016: Photo shows the entrance of IIT Madras. Photo: M. Srinath

IIT-Madras is in the process of creating an India-specific cancer genome database aimed at early detection and development of better treatment strategy for the disease.

The National Cancer Tissue Biobank (NCTB), a first of its kind community-based initiative in the country, is collecting cancer tissues from Indian patients “to generate a cancer genome database which was not available so far.”

Prof S. Mahalingam, the faculty-in-charge of NCTB, said different types of cancer tissues were being collected for this purpose.

“This [collection of samples] is critical for identifying the specific changes happening in our own population to develop the diagnostic kit for early detection [of cancer] and this will help us to design a better treatment strategy,” he told PTI .

Prof Mahalingam, from the Department of Biotechnology at IIT-M, said creation of such a genome database would also help in developing a specific drug for India’s population.

For instance, the available medication for cancer treatment was “based on the western [countries’] population” and developed for them though these were being used in India too, he said.

While there was an 80-90% success rate of these medication in treating cancer in the western countries, it was less than 50% in India, Prof. Mahalingam said.

Creation of such a pool with samples of different types of cancer and their study would give an indication on what is going on in the community regarding the disease. There could be differences in the way two persons affected with the same type of cancer respond to the treatment, he said.

Tissue samples are collected from medical and education institutes the NCTB has tied up with and only the “unused” ones of a patient are brought to the bio bank for further research, Prof. Mahalingam said.

The samples, ranging from breast cancer and oral cancer to gastro-intestinal cancer, are taken after prior consent from the patients and their families and strict confidentiality is maintained, he said.

Till now, the NCTB has samples collected from over 1,800 patients and it has tied up with nine medical and educational institutes in Chennai and Puducherry for this purpose, he said, adding efforts are on to expand this association.

Further, any cancer researcher in the country can get tissue from this bio-bank “through proper channels,” Prof. Mahalingam said.

“They need to have an ethical clearance from their host institutions. We also have an ethics committee, monitoring committee. Any Indian researcher can approach us,” he said.

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