President calls for project to map cancer genomes

Special Correspondent

VENJARAMOODU: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has called for the creation of a `cancer genome atlas' project for the country whereby all the possible mutations of the DNA in cancer cells can be mapped. "Cancer is caused by the mutation or other changes in the DNA of cells, but no one has done a systematic analysis of all the mutations in various tumours," he said.

Addressing an invited audience at a function held here on Sunday to dedicate the Sree Gokulam Medical College and Research Foundation to the student community, Mr. Kalam said that while the incidence of malaria had come down from 22 lakhs to 18 lakhs since 1998, it was a cause of concern that death cases had risen from 644 to 943.

The conventional drug, Chloroquin, had become resistant to Falciparum, which causes cerebral malaria. But it was praiseworthy that Indian scientists had developed and produced a new drug, Arteether, against cerebral malaria and this drug was being exported to over 40 countries.

Mr. Kalam said scientists at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had achieved a breakthrough by developing a new therapeutic molecule against TB. This molecule had the potential to cure TB in around two months, as against a normal of six to eight months. A new drug based on the molecule, called Sudo-terb, was scheduled to undergo human trials and was hoped to hit the market soon.

The number of HIV infected persons in the State was on the rise, the President said. While there are three sub-types of viruses, classified as `A', `B' and `C', the Indian population was largely affected by the sub-type C. The Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV)-based vaccine against this sub-type had been developed in the U.S. and it was now undergoing Phase-I trials at the National AIDS Research Institute, Pune.


An Indian vaccine had been developed by scientists of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases in collaboration with the Pune institute, Mr. Kalam said. This was a recombinant vaccine containing six genes from the HIV 1-C strain and would shortly go in for Phase-1 trials at the TB Research Centre, Chennai.

In addition to this, a DNA-based vaccine was under development and every effort should be made to make these vaccines available in the next two years.

The President said drug-coated stents had greatly helped the management of cardiac diseases. Very soon, there would be biodegradable stents and the next generation stents may be nano-stents.

Now a truly non-invasive treatment, called External Counter Pulsation (ECP) was making big news in the West, he added.

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