The Bharatiya Sanskriti Darshan Trust at Wagholi held it's second international conference on 'Ayurveda for Cancer' at Balgandharva Rangamandir. The motive of this seminar was essentially to acquaint practitioners of Ayurveda and doctors in general about the various new treatments available for cancer through Ayurveda.
Delegates from countries like Japan, Australia and Germany were part of this informative seminar. So far, the Bharatiya Sanskriti Trust has been effectively functioning as an Ayurvedic hospital and research centre, achieving a decent success rate in the treatment of cancer patients. But essentially, the centre's role in cancer treatment has been more of a supportive one. "Only a few years back, the role of Ayurveda was completely negated in the treatment of cancer. But today, more and more practitioners are realising that Ayurveda has a definite role in treating cancer, even if it is supplementary to allopathy," said S P Sardeshmukh, Ayurvedic practitioner at the centre.
"Ayurveda offers no immediate cure to cancer but works as an excellent support system. It detects the root cause and provides treatment accordingly. For example, the side-effects of radiation therapy and chemotherapy are greatly reduced with the use of Ayurveda. Common side-effects like nausea, hair and weight loss and indigestion are solved effectively with Ayurveda." he added.
What is significant is that there is no propagation that Ayurveda must be used exclusively, with no role for allopathy. "At our centre, the welfare of the patient is the ultimate aim. We have never asked our patients to refrain from taking allopathy treatments. Ayurveda can yet play only a supportive role in cancer treatment so we must be open to accepting the various modern diagnostic techniques available," informed Dr Swapna Kulkarni, assistant physician for the centre's cancer research project at Mumbai.
The conference basically echoed the idea that cancer can be effectively tackled, if used in a complementary manner with allopathy. "Ayurveda can offer immense relief from pain to cancer patients. It can also prolong life. Basically it improves the person's quality of life. So even if allopathy is still the first choice, Ayurveda works effectively as an alternative medicine. The scope of Ayurveda in cancer is great which is evident from the kind of response it is generating all over the world," said medical practitioner, Dr Swati Dixit.
Patients suffering from blood cancer may soon have medicare facilities available closer at home. The West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation is in talks with leading doctors for setting up a haemato-oncology care and research centre in Kolkata. WBIDC chairman Somnath Chatterjee said the proposed facility was aimed at treating patients suffering from haemato-oncology related disorders in a centre where an international standard of healthcare would be available at affordable costs.
Chatterjee met Ashish Mukerjee, Sharmila Chanda and R.N. Dutta of Haemato-Oncology Care & Research Trust and discussed the plan. While the trust is keen to set up the hospital, Chatterjee expressed WBIDC's willingness to join the project. The proposed hospital will have specialised diagonistic services with modern equipment, a bone marrow transplant unit, haemato-oncological ICCU for the critically ill and a day-care centre for patients suffering from Thallassemia Leukemia and other Haemato-oncological disorders. It will also house a stem cell transplant unit with banking facility, the first of its kind in the country. Apart from treating patients with dedicated services, the trust plans to involve new doctors. To improve the standard of treatment, the trust envisages collaboration with various haemato-oncological societies, both within the country and outside, to keep pace with developments.
Forty per cent of the oral cancers in the state are due to chewing of pan masala and tobacco smoking. The oral cancer could spread at a much faster pace than the dreaded disease AIDS, as the symptoms of cancer appear within six months. Addressing a press conference here, Society for Cancer in Oral Cavity and Prevention through Education (Scope) managing trustee Dr B Chandrakanth Rao condemned the Tobacco Board and the government for allowing foreign direct investments in the tobacco sector despite the Supreme Court's direction to ban smoking in public places. He said Japan, from being a smokers paradise, with 85 per cent smokers among adult population has come down to 56 per cent after a ban on smoking in public places. To make their anti-tobacco campaigns to be effective, the Japanese authorities have requested for volunteers from Andhra Pradesh.
Dr Chandrakanth Rao decried the lack of accountability and an effective authority to implement the ban in the country despite the fact that there are several organisations and volunteers who could take up the cause.
Indoor air pollution caused by burning of traditional fuels like dung-cakes, wood and crop residues is causing considerable damage to the health of country's rural and semi-urban population with nearly half-a-million women and children dying each year.
India was among the countries which had the largest burden of disease due to the use of dirty household fuels and accounted for 28 per cent of all deaths due to indoor air pollution in developing countries, Dr H N Saiyed, Dr T S Patel and Dr V N Gokani, all from the National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, said. In developing countries, the problem of indoor air pollution outweighed the ambient air pollution, a write up, published in the ICMR Bulletin, said. According to a WHO report, a pollutant released indoors is 1,000 times more likely to reach people's lungs than that released outdoors.
"There is evidence associating the use of biomass fuel with acute respiratory tract infections in children, chronic obstructive lung diseases, and penumoconiosis in the residents of Ladakh villages,"though association of tuberculosis and chronic lung infections with the use of biomass fuels had not been proved, they said.
Lung cancer had been found to be associated with the use of coal in China. However, there was no evidence associating it with the use of biomass fuels, they said and added that cataract and adverse pregnancy outcomes were the other conditions linked with use of biomass fuels.
Scientists here have engineered and tested a new mouse model that develops liver cancer in just 12 to 20 weeks much faster than any of the existing mouse models. It is the first transgenic animal from India for medical research ever to get a US patent (No 6274788).
The arrival of this new transgenic mouse should speed up drug development for liver cancer induced by the hepatitis-B virus (HBV) and hopefully help development of gene therapy for liver cancer, its developers claim. The mouse was engineered by a team led by Vijay Kumar of the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in association with the National Institute of Immunology (NII) both in New Delhi. Others in the team included Mahavir Singh, Satish Totey and Rajesh Anand.
Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) or liver cancer is one of the 10 most common human cancers. At least 50 per cent of individuals chronically infected by HBV develop HCC sometime or other in their life and at present more than 200 million worldwide are infected with HBV. It is known that a protein called 'X-protein' of the hepatitis virus plays a key role in development of liver cancer but because HBV cannot be propagated in cell cultures, studies of HCC were limited to analysis of HBV infected patients and chimpanzees.
Dr Romeo F. Quijano, Southern Co-Chair, International Persistent Organic Pollutant (POPs) Elimination Network (IPEN), said cases of alleged pesticide (Endosulfan) poisoning in Kasargod, if properly built up, could be the first stepping stone for "eliminating Endosulfan from the face of the Earth". Pointing out that nowhere in the world such a strong case over the ill-effects of Endosulfan was witnessed, he said nobody could ask for a better proof of pesticide poisoning.
Delivering a talk on "Pesticide and Health with Special Reference to Chronic Exposure", attended by medical practitioners, farmers and others, at Perla, Kasargod district, Dr Quijano said vested interests had created an illusion that pesticides were necessary for food production. The industry had brainwashed people (especially farmers) that pesticides were a cure for all ills (pests). Studies by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) had shown that non-chemical small-scale farming was more remunerative in the long run.
Dr Quijano, also a toxicology professor of international repute from the Philippines, said many diseases, including cancer, psychiatric manifestations, endocrine disruption, kidney diseases, nervous diseases etc, can be caused by pesticides. "There is no lowest limit for the quantity of pesticide. It is the timing and resistance of the target group that matters. Even a small amount at right time can cause enough and permanent damage.''
He said cent per cent cause-and-effect relationship cannot be established for a fertiliser, but at the same time, 100 per cent establishment was not at all required to protect public health. "In such cases, the precautionary principle, "lack of scientific evidence", should not be the reason for postponing the decision to safeguard public health. Those scientists who vociferously advocate the use of pesticides are not scientists in the true sense, but are only caretakers of corporate interests.''
He advised the industry to evolve ecologically sustainable pesticides. He praised Padre villagers and the Kerala government for taking note of the seriousness of the situation. He hoped that India would show the other developing nations the way by taking a lead in banning the organo-chlorine pesticide. He said India had not signed the Persistent Organic Pollutants agreement of the United Nations. Canada and the Philippines were the first to do so. Since 1994, a lot of progress had been made in banning the carcinogenic pesticides, he added.
Dr Ravindranath Shanbhog, professor of pharmacology at Kasturba Medical College (KMC), Manipal, said the tests conducted by a team of doctors under his leadership proved that endosulfan could cause chromosomal aberration and mutation in the case of rats. Taking up a public awareness campaign was the only way to fight the inefficiency of the government regarding pesticide abuse, he said.
The Bharat Sevashram Sangha, a Mumbai-based charitable organisation, will hand over about 125 houses at Khavda village in Bhuj district, constructed with the help of Times Foundation, to the victims of last year's earthquake. The project involves the construction of 250 houses, of which 125 are ready now.
Over the years, the Sangha has taken part in several relief and social welfare activities. Among other things, it provides free accommodation to cancer patients who come to Mumbai for treatment at the Tata Memorial Hospital. It also provides them free transport to the hospital.
Established in 1917, the organisation has branches across the country and has been serving the needy and providing relief work during natural calamities. ``The whole policy of the Sangha since its inception in 1917 has been to help the needy,'' says Swami Prashantananda, who is in charge of the organisation.
This can surely shock you out of your reverie. The knowledge that cancer is the third biggest killer disease to strike children. And more than adults it's the school-going kids afflicted with the disease who are in need of constant support from their schools and families. A child patient can find it traumatic even dealing with the hairloss following chemotherapy treatment as fellow students end up making fun of him or her. There is nobody in the school to sensitise the patient's classmates to the fact that the hairloss is a side effect of the painful treatment the child has undergone. It is in this regard, that the International Cancer Childhood Day is being observed the world over by 43 nations that are a part of International Confederation of Childhood Cancer Parent Organisation( ICCCPO).
The Chandigarh-based Cancer Sahayta Sahyog, a support group working towards treatment sponsorship and emotional healing of patients, is the only representative for ICCCPO from India. Having the only 'parents group' in the country, Chandigarh is the only city observing the day in India.
In four-and-a-half years, Sahayta working with PGI's radiotherapy, hematology and pediatrics departments, has sponsored treatment costing about Rs 40,000-Rs 50,000 on an average for about 300 patients, 50 per cent of them being children. Yet, As Neelu Tuli, president, Sahayta, says, "Constructive support from the schools, families and friends is needed for the emotional healing of child cancer survivors. "The mother of a cancer survivor told me that from the day everybody in their joint family heard about the disease the cousins were instructed not to play with her child as his disease was considered to be contagious."
She feels that schools and families have to make an effort to make the other children understand that cancer is curable just like any other disease, not contagious at all and that the patients and survivors need compassion. Every month, the group adopts 10-12 children, and buys chemo-drugs for them. The group has also come up with a toy bank donated by the mother of Gagan Toor in the memory of her son in the oncology OPD to make the little patients' hospital visits less gloomy. A function to mark the day, featuring talks by the doctors and volunteers, including a placard rally by St Stephens' students, will be held in PGI's advanced pediatrics Centre auditorium.
Large countries like India and Indonesia should have network of 'satellite cancer centres' spread across the country to facilitate follow-up studies on patients who undergo cancer treatment in the few available hi-tech radiotherapy centres, several oncologists have opined. Participating in a three-day international teaching course on 'Radiation Oncology in the Next Millennium What have learnt from Evidence Based Medicine?', the specialists felt that a large number of patients who come for treatment in urban centres are not available to measure the results or any side effects of the treatment given. "Therefore, it is necessary to have satellite centres where the poor patients can go for a check-up regularly and also the researchers can have their records completed as part of clinical studies," they said.
Speaking on clinical trial methodology, Prof William Leer from the Institute of Radiotherapy, Netherlands, said such satellite centres would also facilitate clinical trials in a comprehensive manner. Leer pointed out that with the increasing use of very sensitive molecular modifiers in the treatment along with radiotherapy, it was important to have follow-ups.
Speaking on the occasion, Tata Memorial Hospital director Dr K A Dinshaw said the hospital was making efforts to establish satellite centres and has one already in rural Maharashtra. "We also train local nursemaids to help in physical examination of oral and cervical cancers so that the patients can come for treatment at an early stage where the prognosis is 80 per cent," she said.
Dr. Dinshaw said palliative care programmes are also urgently needed in the country for pain management, palliative and terminal care, as they are grossly lacking. "Although with the support of WHO, the Government of India distributes oral morphine tablets to regional cancer centres, to be disbursed to patients in need of pain relief, the palliative programme falls far short and has to be augmented."
Dr. Dinshaw said the burden of new cancer cases in the year 2000 was 10.1 million world over with 53 per cent of them in the developing countries. "In India alone, at any given time, there are approximately 2.5 million cases of cancer. 800,000 were diagnosed in the year 2000 and 5,50,000 deaths due to cancer occurred in the country," the TMH director said.
She said highest priority should be given to reliable monitoring systems to manage and control the cancer cases in the developing countries. "The Indian National Cancer Control programme, though not the ideal, has illustrated the feasibility of implementing control activities in developing countries using scarce resources to deliver the maximum benefit to the largest number of people," she informed the delegates from developing countries participating in the course jointly organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency and TMH.
Ruby Hall Medical Centre and Denmark based biotechnology company Mesibo are soon to form a 49:51 joint venture with an aim to establish India’s largest cord blood storage facility at Pune.
Cord blood finds its uses in persons suffering from thalessemia and leukemia.
The National Human
Rights Commission (NHRC) has made chief secretaries of Kerala, Karnataka,
Goa and Director-General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), parties
to the aerial spraying of Endosulfan and sought a reply within four weeks.
It was a heartening development for villagers of northern Kerala, who
have been victims of illnesses ranging from ordinary skin diseases to
cancer - due to aerial spraying of endosulfan by Plantation Corporation
of Kerala (PCK).
Scientists at the
National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) here have disturbing news
for residents of Hyderabad especially those living in rocky Banjara and
Jubilee Hills area. They have found that the granite rocks of Hyderabad
have abnormally high concentrations of radioactive uranium and thorium
compared to elsewhere in southern India.
The global Human Genome
Project may soon have an ally on the Indian turf. Dabur India is scouting
for partners amongst major international institutes associated with the
global Human Genome Project, to access the available database generated
by the project and to use it for cancer research. Research in oncology
has been an important area for Dabur and in order to give it the requisite
shot in the arm, the firm is now planning a global alliance in cancer
gene therapy. Sources indicated that tentative proposals on the usability
of the Human Genome database have already been made by the firm.
Conceived as the premier
national centre of excellence for medical research and education, the
All India Institute of Medical Sciences has grown only in the delivery
of general medical services not its original mandate. But even as patients
don't get quality time from doctors, the institute spends only between
Rs 7 and 12 crore of its annual budget of Rs 600 crore on research. Not
just that. Forty-nine per cent of doctors trained at the country's premier
medical institute leave for foreign jobs even as 18 lakh patients come
to AIIMS every year.
Cancer patients undergoing
chemotherapy will no longer have to depend on expensive imported drugs
to cure its harmful side-effects. Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, the Hyderabad-based
pharmaceutical company, has come out with Grastim, the first indigenous
G-CSF, which is used to prevent neutropenia occurring out of chemotherapy.
The government has decided to increase the number of beds for patients at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences by at least another hundred. The hospital gets about 5,000 patients every day. Union health minister C P Thakur announced a series of steps that would be taken to improve facilities at AIIMS. He announced that a Trauma Centre with a bed strength of 140 will be set up. Already 14.35 acres of land have been allotted for this centre which is likely to be connected to trauma centres all over the country.
The other facilities include:
* Centre for Dental Education and Research at a cost of Rs 23 crore.
* A PET facility to identify lesions in the brain, which cannot be detected in a CT scan.
* Organ Retrieval Banking facility and Organ Bank to meet the demands of organs.
* Expansion of cardio-thoracic and neuro-surgery departments by 80 beds and a similar number of beds will be added in the cancer hospital.
* Expansion of emergency block at a cost of Rs 18 crore.
* Creation of an advanced centre for liver diseases.
* Two dharamshalas with 268 beds for attendants of patients who come from distant places.
* Setting up of a national apex centre for a de-addiction programme.
Scientists in Thrissur
have prepared a multiherbal formulation which they claim helps in preventing
tumours in rats and mice. N V Rajeshkumar and Ramadasan Kuttan from the
Amala Cancer Research Centre have reported their findings in the Indian
Journal of Experimental Biology. The formulation, by the name of 'Cancare',
uses extracts from the plants - Curcuma longa, Phyllanthus amarus,
Allium sativum, Emblica officinalis, Picrorhiza kurroa
and Spirulina platensis. It was studied for its anti-carcinogenic
potential in preventing chemically induced tumours of liver and connective
tissue in female rats and mice respectively, the paper said.
Liver tumours were
induced by administering n-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) in female rats and
tumours of connective tissue (sarcoma) were induced by administering 20-methylcholanthrene
(20-MC) subcutaneously in female mice. The two chemicals are known environmental
carcinogens whose carcinogenicity has already been demonstrated in several
animal species, the scientists said.
The government has
sent a team of experts to Thiruvananthapuram to enquire into reports that
a banned drug was tried on cancer patients without their consent, Health
Minister Dr C P Thakur said. The team is likely to return in four days
and report its findings.
The government told
the Lok Sabha that 11 cancer patients treated at the Ayurveda and Siddha
Research Foundation in Dehradun in 1997 were found to be leukemia free
after 90 days of medication and 10 of them were alive till date. Health
minister C P Thakur told the House during question hour that the treatment
was part of a centrally-sponsored research project to evaluate the effect
of metal-based ayurvedic formulation on acute pro-myelocytic leukemia
(APML) in October, 1997.
Carbon dioxide laser
gas therapy which has been used to treat various types of cancers has
now been found to be effective in treatment of diabetes, particularly
to avert the necessity of amputations of limbs, according to Dr A R Undre,
professor of surgery, National Board of Examinations, New Delhi. Addressing
doctors and general practitioners of the continuing medical education
(CME) programme at the Habib Esmail Hospital here in south Mumbai, Undre
reported his preliminary finding that carbon dioxide laser gas has successfully
stopped the process of infections becoming florid leading to ulcers and
saved patients from amputations.
The Haryana government
plans to install cobalt therapy units and trauma centres in various parts
of the state to treat cancer patients and provide immediate medicare to
the victims of highway accidents, Haryana's minister of state for health,
M L Ranga said. He said the central government had released Rs 1.5 crore
each to install a cobalt therapy unit at general hospital Bhiwani and
set up a trauma centre at Karnal.
He said that the sub-centres in the districts of Yamunanagar, Karnal and Ambala would now be run by panchayati raj institutions for a period of two years as a pilot project to implement health sector reforms under the sector investment programme. He said that health welfare committees were being constituted in these districts to improve the health services.
"We are going to conduct an investigation to try to fully develop the facts," O'Shea said, declining further comment. The university said it learned of the anticancer trial in March from media reports in India and told the faculty member that a Hopkins board should have reviewed the study before it began. It also ordered the faculty member to follow university procedures for a follow-up study.
The Regional Cancer
Centre (RCC) has denied the allegation that a banned drug, producing toxicity,
has been tested on unsuspected cancer patients. "We have not tested on
patients any banned drug as alleged. What we have used is not banned in
the United States as alleged in some media reports," RCC director Dr M
Krishnan Nair said.
poisoning has claimed two more lives in Padre village last week. Laxmi
(70), wife of Koragappa Rai, and Vasantha (18), son of Kunjappa Naika,
both residents of Vaninagar in Padre village, are the latest victims of
the dreaded organochlorine compound, endosulfan.
A major controversy
seems to be brewing over the alleged trial of a drug on unsuspecting cancer
patients at a hospital here by the world-famous Johns Hopkins University
of the US. The drug, tetramethyl nordihydroguiaretic acid or NDGA (M4N),
was allegedly tested on 24 patients over the last two years at the Regional
Cancer Centre (RCC) here, soon after it was tested on 36 mice in the US.
Reports in the local media said the drug was tried on patients suffering
from head and neck tumors during 1999-2000. Several complaints have already
reached Chief Minister A.K. Antony's office. Also, some of the RCC doctors
are planning to take matters to court.
The trial of another
drug, Foscan, at the RCC has raised hackles as the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) of the US and the European committee empowered to give approval
for drugs have more than once blocked clearance.
A senior RCC doctor
said the issue came to light "when one of the doctors in RCC found out
that his patients were being used as guinea pigs for this new derivative,
without his consent. "When he protested he was sidelined and he has now
approached the State Human Rights Commission and the Kerala High Court
"The team led by the
RCC director Dr M. Krishnan Nair instead of removing the tumors on the
24 patients as soon as they were detected, delayed the surgical intervention
for varying periods to find out the efficacy of the chemical on cancer
cells," he said.
In fact, Nair, in
a press statement on February 28, took a joint credit with John Hopkins
University in announcing that the drug had been effective in treating
certain cancers caused by viruses, the media reports have said. Sources
said the RCC had no role in the development of the drug except in its
trial on patients. Nair added: "We got the consent of all the patients
and moreover the ethical committee has also cleared this."
But a senior doctor
at the RCC alleged that Nair allowed phase III trials of an untested chemical
on unsuspecting patients by making them believe they were being treated
with the latest drug from the US. Phase I and II trials in all countries
pertain to human trials.
Several women's and
health organisations have condemned the Centre's decision to promote a
hazardous bi-monthly contraceptive injection Net En on a trial basis in
12 medical colleges around the country, including Maharashtra.
company Eli Lilly and company is close to inking a deal with two companies
to globally source gastrointestinal and tuberculosis bulk drugs from India,
a top company official said. "We are taking two companies to outsource
gastrointestinal and tuberculosis bulk drugs to begin with for our global
operations," Rajiv Gulati, managing director, Eli Lilly Ranbaxy Ltd, its
Indian arm, told reporters here. Gulati, however, declined to divulge
more details on the deal, but said that the company was likely to make
India a global bulk drug outsourcing hub.
Stating that the company
would focus on clinical trials in the country, Gulati said for chemical
research the company was planning to enter into contract research agreements
with local companies. "We (the global parent) are in an advanced stage
of discussion with some local companies here for conducting chemical research,"
He said that the company was eyeing clinical research, specially in the area of cancer and cancer relating to neck and head as it was typical in India.
A N Mukherjee does not want to carry on living anymore and wants to 'die
with dignity'. A former merchant navy captain, Mukherjee "has not really
recovered" from two successive cerebral attacks and says wishes to end
his life rather than carry on a painful existence.
Bangalore is dotted with homeopathic hospitals housed in compact buildings, bustling with people who come there hoping for cure after losing faith in other branches of medicine. And to their surprise, many times, they get cured and that too at a nominal fee. Dr BP Manjunath's Vijaya Clinic in Hanumanthnagar is one such place. But before you wonder about the magical healing potential of homeopathy, Dr Manjunath tells you, "There is no miracle involved in it."
He explains further: "It's just a good understanding of the system of medicine and the problem, and applying one's knowledge and experience. My father was one of the first few trained homeopaths - for me it's also a tradition that I'm proud to carry on." This comes from a doctor who has solved some of the cases that had been considered incurable. He was recently awarded the Kempe Gowda award by the state government.
"I never dissuade my patients from going for allopathy. There are many cases where it's needed, and I continue my medicine." He is a consulting physician at Bangalore Institute of Oncology, Sevakshetra, Srikrishna Sevashrama, Indian Institute of Management.
Sixteen-year-old Rahul Kunagal was cured of asthma. Sandeep, a cerebral palsy patient, who used to go to a special school, is now able to go to a normal school after a one-and-a-half year treatment with Dr Manjunath. The doctor has also cured several patients with blood and breast cancer.
"Homeopathy also helps in improving sperm count there by giving hope to childless couple. I have helped around 15 such couples. Many of these cases were referred to me by allopathy practitioners, the improvement in the sperm count before and after the treatment in many cases is amazing," says the doctor.
Helping the alcoholics and drug addicts is a work close to his heart. "In homeopathy we have medicines that develop aversion to drinks, and also the effects of smoking like tremors, dimness of vision, sexual problems, etc."
The doctor however ridicules claims that homeopathy can cure diatetes. Educating people about health and all-round development is another of his passions. He has conducted over 1,000 free medical camps in rural Karnataka.
The doctor, who hails from Baguru in Channarayapatna, has a systematic rural development project going on at Amaravathi, in Kolar district, for the past 20 years.
The hazards of industrialisation are beginning to show. First it was the oxides of nitrogen and sulphur posing a major health risk. Now it is benzene in the air that is giving sleepless nights to health experts for its known carcinogenic effects.
Over 10,000 people are already dying in Delhi from pollution related causes every year and now doctors have noted a rise in incidence of cancer - the most prominent being leukemia or blood cancer, cancer of gall bladder and the urinary tract.
The culprit, they say, this time is benzene, a known carcinogen and other aromatic hydrocarbons emanating from petrol, diesel and some chemicals and dyes industries.
"After much hue and cry was raised, the government brought down the benzene content in petrol, but the total aromatic content of unleaded petrol still remains as high as 48 per cent as against 25 per cent in the United States," says Prof H B Mathur, Emeritus Professor, Delhi College of Engineering and an air pollution expert.
During combustion most of the aromatic compounds get converted to benzene. If the vehicle has a catalytic converter, it can take care of benzene, but most of the vehicles on Indian roads have no converters which means more and more benzene is being spewed out into the air, says Prof Mathur.
"Breathing polluted air is one of the factors responsible for cancer. Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) causes cell mutations, which may ultimately lead to cancer," researchers at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) say. "Diesel exhaust which has a high fraction of both (PAHs and SPMs) causes 10 times more mutation than leaded petrol, which in turn is 10 times more mutagenic than unleaded petrol. In cities like Delhi, diesel exhaust is becoming the main source of PAH and particle emissions."
"In India, relatively high levels of aromatic compounds such as benzene, toulene and xylene are added to unleaded fuel to increase its octane content so as to minimise the antiknocking properties of fuel, which wears the engine of the vehicle. The combustion of these aromatics leads to production of PAH - known carcinogens.
Dilip Biswas, chairman, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) however, says benzene levels in petrol have been contained at source and brought down to the international standard of one per cent.
"The rise in cancer cases are in no way to be attributed to the benzene in unleaded petrol," says Biswas.
Though no concrete studies have been done to show the exact increase in cancer cases, doctors say they are witnessing a perceptible increase in the number of cancer patients reporting everyday.
And neither is unleaded fuel the only culprit nor lowering benzene in petrol the only answer, they insist.
"Most of the patients coming to us are industrial workers especially in the dye trade and from petrol pumps who are showing cancer of blood, urinary bladder, skin and gastrointestinal tract," says Dr Samir Kaul, cancer specialist at Apollo hospital here.
"And these cases are not just from Delhi... Industrial workers from Jamshedpur are reporting in large number, even those from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Mauritus are coming," says Dr Kaul, noting this should be a cause for concern.
"The increase is definitely there, more so in urban areas," says Dr Jyotsna Fuloria, an oncologist, adding a large number of petrol pump workers are also coming with blood cancer.
In fact more cases are being reported in the Gangetic belt right from Pakistan to Calcutta whereas the incidence is very low in south India, she says.
However, Dr Vinod Kochupillai, head, Institute's Rotary Cancer Hospital at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, (AIIMS) says that leukemia incidence is known to increase in areas with high radioactivity, but whether unleaded fuel is increasing it cannot be said for sure.
Most of the cancers are multifactoral and cannot be attributed to one single factor. "Increased life expectancy, high alcohol, tobacco intake, changed food habits and industrialisation all are known to cause cancers... But we cannot point the finger to one single factor, says Dr Kochupillai.
Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), the nodal agency for collecting data on cancer has not released any such data after 1989.
"Even the data then showed that Delhi had the highest incidence of cancer (5 per 100,000) followed by Mumbai (4 per 100,00) and Bangalore," she says.
Generally cancer cases are on rise, she says but points to the fact that since no official data is available it cannot be definitely said which cases are increasing.
"It has been proved that 35-40 per cent of all cancers in India are tobacco related, not much work has been done on leukemia or other cancers," she says.
Meanwhile, tests at the Institute of Oncology in Bologna, Italy found that fuel additives benzene, toluene and xylene produced cancerous tumours when ingested or inhaled. Benzene is particularly harmful and is linked with childhood leukemia.
Researches in Sweden in 1993-94 also showed that service station workers had unexpectedly high rates of leukemia. Unleaded fuel when pumped into a tank releases aromatic compounds. A person at the service station is thus at a higher risk from benzene and other volatile organic compounds at the petrol pump.
"We really need a good epidemiological study to point towards the rise and the relationship between various factors in causing cancers as most of them are multifactorial," notes Dr Fuloria.
Indian cancer researchers have taken a giant step on the road to discovering the ultimate cancer cure by developing a drug that selectively targets the cancer cells without harming the healthy ones.
Researchers in Kolkata claim that patients in very advanced stages of cancer for whom all other treatments had failed have been brought back to excellent health with the help of a drug formulation they have developed after research spanning more than a decade.
"We have what we think magic bullet against cancer," says Manju Ray, a biochemist at the Indian Association of the Cultivation of Science (IACS) where the drug was developed under a project funded by the department of science and technology and the council of scientific and industrial research.
Most currently available anti-cancer drugs are toxic because they also damage the normal cells. Ray says the IACS formulation, containing methylglyoxal as the lead ingredient, combats only the diseased cells, the cherished goal of cancer researchers worldwide. Methylglyoxal is a metabolite in the human body produced during glucose breakdown.
Others involved in the project are Swapna Ghosh of IACS, Manoj Kar and Subhankar Ray of the university college of science, and Santajit Datta, a medical practitioner. Results of human trial conducted by them with the new drug have recently appeared in the Indian Journal of Physics.
Lung cancer may emerge as the major cancer epidemic among men in India in the next five to ten years if preventive steps were not taken immediately, according to the executive chairperson of the Cancer Institute in Chennai, Dr V. Shantha. She was delivering the keynote address at the South Zone Workshop on `Development of an Atlas of Cancer in India' organised by the Indian Council for Medical Research and World Health Organisation. Dr Shantha said 45 per cent of all male cancers could be lung cancer.
At present lung cancer occupied the third position and if no measures were taken up it could emerge the number one. The growth of lung cancer had increased to 1,57,000 per year from 1,00,000 in 1983, she added.
There was strong need for taking some definitive anti tobacco measures to check the rise. Dr Shantha said that the incidence of oral cancer among men however was on the decline. She stressed the need to network cancer registries in the country and starting of new registries in rural areas.
ICMR director general N.K. Ganguly who inaugurated the workshop said the lack of epidemological data was hampering research against cancer in the country. He said by the year 2020 cancer could emerge a major burden in the country.
Renowned cancer specialist Dr Suresh H Advani has called for introduction of aggressive breast screening programmes in the country, as early diagnosis and treatment were vital in decreasing mortality rate in breast cancer. Addressing the three-day conference on "Recent Advances and Controversies in the Practice of Medicine in the New Millennium" Dr Advani said the identification and modification of risk factors, early diagnosis and treatment and improved treatment strategies have checked the mortality rate in recent years despite an increase in incidence. Advani, head of medical oncology at Tata Memorial Hospital here also stated that introduction of adjuvant therapy involving chemotherapy in breast cancer management shows significantly better results over the years.
Vice Admiral Vinod Pasricha, who inaugurated the conference, said modernisation of INHS involving introduction of ultra modern facilities and equipment would be completed by December 2002. INHS Asvini, which organised the seminar, has been in service for the betterment of health in the stressful environment of defence forces since 1951.
Dr A K D'Cruz, professor and surgeon, Tata Memorial Centre pointed out that the emphasis in the treatment of cancer is shifting from survival to quality of life.
Chemical analysis of sea water and sediment sites at Alang in Gujarat have shown extensive contamination by toxic compounds at all sampling sites. Alang is the largest ship-breaking yard in Asia where ships are sent from several countries for scrapping.
While 95% of these ships are composed of steel which is recovered, the remaining 5% comprises toxic wastes which are dangerous to workers’ health.
High levels of polycyclic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were found in soil and sea water samples. PAHs are residues found after burning of petroleum and other similar products. These residues are known carcinogens and can cause havoc to the worker’s health. Many other toxic poisons from scrap metal such as organotins, heavy metals, dioxins and furans are also widely distributed throughout the area.
Research on monoclonal antibodies for evolving new mechanisms of treatment for various types of cancer has been a prerogative of the Western multinationals till now.
However, for the first time, an Indian start-up company, Exogen Biosystems, focussing on biomedical research, is set to bring the research to India, adding a new dimension to cancer research. The Pune-based company will soon enter into an agreement with a US-based pharma giant for the contract research programme. The research will be first of a kind in this part of the world.
The research on monoclonal antibodies is still in a nascent stage in the West and the company is trying to bring it to India and gain the first-mover advantage. It is looking for venture capital funding to part-finance its plant near Pune. During phase-II, which will take about two years' time, Exogen will take the entire research module and molecular material from its outsourcing company in the US.
During phase-III, which is crucial since it will go through tests relating to effects on humans, the company might collect samples from across the country to study the effects of the treatment mechanism under Indian and Asian geographic conditions. The company might also go for a patent claim subject to its contribution to the programme. The type of cancer on which to lay the focus will be decided only during phase III. It could be for throat, lung, breast or blood cancer. The effort is to develop a therapeutic model. Once this is available, it would add a whole new dimension to cancer treatment.
The drug is expected to be made available in the US only by the end of 2005. The findings of the research would be of importance to India since it is one of the nations with high incidence of cancer-related cases.
According to a World Health Organisation estimate, there were more than eight lakh cancer cases in the country. Another study recently suggested that out of every 1,000 persons, around 140 males and 135 females were found to have a form of cancer. About 35 to 40 per cent of the total cancer cases were related to leukemia.
For the first time in the country, an Indian firm is coming out with an indigenously manufactured drug for leukemia. Shanta Biotech, a Hyderabad-based biotechnology company, will introduce Shaneferon (Alpha Interferon 2a) by September this year.
The drug, which is in the third phase of clinical trials at its Hyderabad office, will be ready in a few months and will be introduced into the market after necessary permissions from the government.
Shanferon will essentially treat chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) patients. At least 4,000 cases of CML are reported every year in the country. Out of every 10 patients, only one can afford to get treatment. The drug being used now, Interferon, manufactured by Western pharma giants, costs anywhere between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 1.25 lakh per individual. Shanferon would not cost even one-third of that amount.
Fulford, Rosche Piramal and US Vitamins market interferon in the country.
The government is making concerted efforts to make the country self-reliant in cancer treatment and develop a tele-therapy system, according to Vinay Kohli, secreatry, information and technology (IT) ministry. Several IT departments along with their affiliated institutes were working on this and soon there would be introduction of online consultancy and treatment for cancer patients, he said at the inaugural session of the seminar on 'Role of IT in Healthcare' organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
About 24 lakh cases of cancer were estimated to be prevalent in the country in 2000 while the number of diabetic patients stood at 25 million, the Rajya Sabha was informed. Based on the application of incidence rate of cancer from the population-based cancer registries of ICMR, to the entire country, the projected number of new cases in 2000 was 7.9 lakh, minister of state for health and family welfare A Raja said.
The Centre is providing financial assistance for development of oncology wings to government medical colleges and hospitals that include cobalt units and installation of cobalt therapy units in government institutions and NGOs under National Cancer Control programme.
Danish biotech major, Mesibo, the world leaders in stem cell research are planning to establish a prominent umbilical cord blood bank facility in Pune in association with a leading hospital in the city. The centre will ensure the cryogenic preservation and life-long storage and preservation of umbilical cord blood of children soon after birth.
Blood from umbilical cord contains certain cells that are never produced again. These cells might be of incredible value to the child later in life.
Parsis suffer more from cancer of the breast, endometrium, lymphomas and leukemia than non-Parsi communities, says a study done by Mumbai Cancer Registry, based on data collected for the last five years.
Experts say the reasons for the variation in the patterns are different habits, customs, and economic status. Late marriagee, infrequent breast feeding and low fertility are responsible for the higher rate. Inbreeding also adds to the problem. The lower use of tobacco is responsible for the low rate of oral cancer. The importance of hygiene in the community reduces the cases of cervix cancer.
A unique centre for providing Ayurveda treatment to cancer patients has come up at the Regional Cancer Centre in Tiruvananthapuram. The unit inaugurated by state Governor Sukhdev Singh Kang was set up on the basis of an agreement between the Dehradun based Vaidya Chandra Prakash Cancer Research Foundation and the RCC for testing the efficacy of Ayurvedic treatment for cancer.
A new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi study tests a herbal remedy that reduces the side-effects of chemotherapy. Dr. Anurag Shrivastava of the AIIMS and his team have come out with a study that suggests that Maharishi Amrit Kalash, a herbal formulation significantly reduces the side-effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients.
The Marathon of Hope was started by Terry Fox, a young Canadian who was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1977. Fox first started the run in Canada and helped raise $23 million. Today this run is being held in 125 different countries as a tribute to him, and also to make cancer patients realize that if this young man could do it, they can too. A run was organised in Mumbai by Canada Life on January 23. About Rs. 20 lakhs were expected to be raised and will be donated to Tata Memorial Hospital for cancer research.
At a gathering organised by the Indian Society of Oncology, after inaugurating the chemotherapy wing of the Mahavir Cancer Treatment Centre, one of India's leading oncologists and chemotherapy expert, Dr. S. H. Advani, said that cancer is no longer a dreadful disease since it can be prevented and treated. Cancers of the mouth, cervix and breast, which account for 70% of cancer cases in India, can be detected at an early stage and are curable if community education programmes increase the awareness level about the disease. Dr. Advani has said that cancer of cervix is completely preventable if women can keep their genitalia clean and in a hygienic condition and their partners agree to circumcision.
Dr. Advani pointed out that incidence of cervical cancer was negligible amongst Muslims and Jews worldwide and among Muslim women in India, where men undergo circumcision in childhood. Since the unhygienic condition of the male genitalia could be a factor responsible for cancer of the cervix in Hindu women, Hindu men should also undergo circumcision. Women should undergo Pap smear tests at regular intervals for early detection.
Unmarried, issueless or women who couldn't breast feed their children run a higher risk of contracting breast cancer. Mammography at regular intervals for women above the age of 35 years will help detect the disease at an early curable stage.
Men in India mostly suffer from head, neck, mouth and lung cancer because of the frequent use of tobacco and smoking. The incidence could be prevented if the use of gutka and tobacco was stopped.
Regarding leukemia, Dr. Advani said that prolonged weakness and lack of hemoglobin were major symptoms of the disease.
Dr. Advani said that the next millennium would see advancement in cancer treatment. Due to development in biotechnology, gene therapy would revolutionise treatments procedures.
For details on CPAA's cancer prevention initiative, click here.
The month of October was observed as Breast Cancer Awareness month by health authorities internationally. V Care, a voluntary group in Mumbai, which provides emotional support to cancer patients, launched an awareness programme on breast cancer.
The recent radiation scare about the Uranium Corporation's mining operations suggests an attempt to compromise India's nuclear competence. Initial news reports of a radiation threat at Jaduguda were carried in a local weekly. It alleged that the incidence of cancer and birth deformities was exceptionally high as a result of uranium mining and careless waste disposal. A health survey conducted in the area showed that while the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has estimated the national average incidence of cancer to be 74 per one lakh population, in Jaduguda the incidence is only 22.
Sunil Dutt was presnt at the inauguration of the M.N. Budhrani Cancer institute in Pune. Sunil Dutt is a multi-faceted personality- actor, director, producer, social worker and politician and also a pioneer of the cancer awareness drive in the country after his wife Nargis was struck by it in early eighties. He started the Nargis Dutt Cancer Foundation with the help of NRIs and collected millions of dollars to upgrade the cancer institutes in India.
The subject of the recent L&T oration at the 49th National conference on occupational health at Hyderabad was on asbestosis and asbestos-related diseases, which indicates the seriousness of hazards posed in India by asbestos.
Occupational Cancer, the disease caused by emissions at the work place, poses an increasingly serious health problem. But the subject has attracted relatively little attention from industry, labour, public health bodies or the medical profession. It has been proved beyond doubt that the presence of certain physical and chemical agents in the working environment can cause cancer among workers. There are a number of newer chemicals, which have proved to cause cancer. Vinyl chloride causes cancer of the liver. As a general rule occupational cancers arise at those sites where the particular carcinogen has the most prolonged and intense contact with the tissues.
Asbestos causes cancer of the lining of the lungs and abdominal organs known as mesothelimomas. The dyestuff industry causes cancer of the urinary tract, usually the bladder as a result of inhalation or absorption by the skin of chemicals like betanapthylamine and benzidine. Rubber industries cause bladder cancers due to the chemicals used in the processing and hardening of rubber. Iron ore mining causes lung cancer due to high radioactivity in the air in mines. The commonest occupational disease, silicosis is caused by dust. Since Percival Pott first described chimney-sweeper cancer of the scrotum in 1775, a large number of occupations have arisen with a potential capacity to produce cancers in different parts of the human body.
Sometimes, cancer is noticed several years after a worker retires from service. Several institutions in the world have shown through research that pollution in work places causes cancer, but unfortunately people in India are ignorant of the danger. Banned chemicals are used clandestinely by small-scale industries.
While the manufacture of cancer-causing asbestos products has been banned in advanced countries, it is growing in India because of the lack of awareness in the society.
Exposure to asbestos dust and fibres causes lung cancer but most workers are too afraid to protest for fear of losing jobs, says Vijay Kanhere, an activist in industrial and environmental safety. Several of these factories are operating in Mulund and Andheri in Mumbai. Quite a few are not known to take adequate precautions to protect workers from asbestos dust.
Workers also face serious risk of asbestos fiber pollution while demolishing buildings or plants, which have used asbestos. In India extensive use is made of asbestos corrugated sheets especially in rural areas as roofing material and to a smaller extent in walls, partitioning and fencing.
Painting of asbestos sheets does not reduce the harmful effects of the material specially if the sheets break, expert point out.
Asbestos is a silent killer, both for the manufacturing industry as well as the consumers. Excessive inhalation of asbestos dust causes the fibers to get trapped in the lungs. Asbestos is one of the single largest sources of occupational cancer.
The Supreme Court in India has laid down several safeguards for workers who are normally denied any compensation if they suffer from lung disease after they cease to be in employment. It has directed that all industries should maintain health records for a minimum period of 40 years from the beginning of employment of a worker or 15 years after retirement and factories should provide health insurance to workers dealing with asbestos.
While advanced countries are banning the manufacturing of hazardous material, multinational companies from these countries are setting up units in the developing countries to manufacture these very products.
One out of six Indians is likely to die of cancer in the next 20 years because of a general failure to detect the disease at an early stage. The worst victims could well be women who have, in recent times, shown an unusual vulnerability to cervical cancer.
More than 1,00,000 women are affected by the disease every year in India and an estimated 80 per cent of them could die in five years time for failure to go in for an early detection.
The Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute in Calcutta has initiated a mass detection programme, which aims to test 6000 women in the next 2 years for early signs of cervical cancer but the task of getting women to volunteer for a check-up was a problem. Women in the age group of 30-64 years have the maximum chance of developing the disease. Periodic check-ups and Pap test are therefore, mandatory. In Western countries, women get the Pap test done every three to five years. In fact, insurance companies have seen to it that it is made compulsory.
A recent examination of 207 cities by the World Resources Institute, Worldwatch noted, ranked Mexico City, Beijing, Shanghai, Teheran and Calcutta as the five worst in terms of exposing children to sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates.
"Just by breathing the air in their homes and streets, these children inhale the equivalent of two packs of cigarettes each day.’ It said.