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The following are extracts of recent cancer-related news items from local daily newspapers.
Do you see something you want to know more about? Would you like to be sent the whole article? Please contact us.


Cancer in India

Crystalline Compound Found in Asian Medicine, Cuisine Shown to be Cancer Chemopreventive (Newswise)
Asian Health Ministers Pledge to Prevent Tobacco Use (Yahoo News-12/09/ 2008)  
Three IITs to help government regulate tobacco industry (Yahoo News-09/09/2008)
Breakthroughs seen in cancer spread and stem cells (Yahoo News-09/09/2008)

Tobacco companies using legal loopholes to target kids in outdoor ads (Yahoo News-30/07/2008)
Ramadoss to push for smoke free Delhi University (Yahoo News-21/07/2008)
Orissa ranks second in tobacco consumption, next to mizoram (Yahoo News-22/06/2008)
Ramadoss gets Ramdev boost in fight for good health (Yahoo News- 9/06/2008)

'Cancer train' offers uncertain route out of despair in India (Yahoo News-23/05/2008)
'Pictorial health warning has little impact' (Press Trust of India-21/04/2008) 

State may adopt Tata Memorial’s care model for cancer patients (Yahoo News)
India's Biocon to market cancer drug in Pakistan (ANI -10/08/2007)
Novartis loses patent battle for cancer drug (CNN-IBN - 07/08/2007)

Care centres are home to HIV, cancer patients ( IE - 6/08/2007)
Drug companies hope to cash in on anti-tobacco drives-(Hindu Business Line-26/02/2005)
AAPI to curb tobacco use among S. Asians-(Yahoo News-12/02/2005)  
India has highest incidence of gall bladder, mouth and lower pharynx cancer -(Yahoo News-29/01/2005)  
India's Biocon to Launch Its First Drug for Cancer by 2005-End-(Asia Pulse- 17/11/2004)                                                                                             Scientists discover benefits of turmeric in Indian dishes-(Yahoo News- 10/09/2004)                                                                                             Tata group plans cancer hospital in Bengal-(Hindu-08/09/2004)  
Indian patients go to court over cancer drug-(Times of India-08/09/2004)
Govt to set up regional Cancer centre in Kolkata-(Times of India- 23/08/2004)
Indian Software To Help Cancer Research-(Times of India-26/07/2004)

Breast, prostrate cancer cases highest in Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram -(Yahoo News-29/06/2004)
Balendu Prakash in advisory committee of National Cancer Control Programme-(Yahoo News-03/06/2004)
DCGI approves Lambda, a CRO, to conduct Phase 1 trials first time in India-(Yahoo News-10/05/2004)
AIIMS to tell from cell before cancer appears Non-invasive technique will also spot psychiatric, cardiac disorders-(Indian Express-05/03/2004)                  Drug cos to move court against grant of EMR to Novartis-(Times of India-12/02/2004)
Breast Cancer, lifestyle linked-(Sunday Times-24/08/2003)
Smoking causes half of TB deaths in Indian men:international study-(Times of India-15/08/2003)
India tackles children's cancers-(BBC World Service-12/03/2003)
With a Positive Spirit, you can cure Cancer-(Times of India-03/12/2002)

Centre Proposes Bill to Ban Tobacco Use-(Times of India-10/11/2002)
Cigarette Smoking Increases by 35% Among Downtown Collegians-(Times of India-03/12/2002)
Wheelchair bound, this Doctor Covered New Ground in Oncology-(Mid Day-29/10/2002)
HRT use may not Prevent Coronary Heart Disease-(Times of India-17/10/2002)
AIIMS Devises new ways to Fight Liver Cancer-(Times of India-08/10/2002)
Molecular diagnostics for cancer patients-(Times of India Online-31/03/2002)
Report on cancer cases in MSU chemistry dept soon-(Times of India Online-20/02/2002)
Treating Cancer with Ayurveda-(Times of India Online-11/02/2002)

Oral cancer could pip AIDS to the post-(Times of India Online-11/02/2002) Centre for blood cancer patients on the anvil-(Times of India Online-07/02/2002)
Indoor air pollution taking its toll in India-(Times of India Online-06/02/2002)
First Indian transgenic mouse gets US patent-(Times of India Online- 04/02/2002)
`Kasargod instances build strong case against Endosulfan'-(Times of India Online-27/01/2002)
Bharat Sevashram builds homes for quake victims-(Times of India Online- 17/01/2002)
It's a painful but brave young world of cancer survivors-(Times of India Online-14/01/2002)
Satellite cancer centres favoured by oncologists-(Times of India Online-29/11/2001)
Ruby Hall to set up India’s Largest Cord Blood Storage facility-(Express Healthcare-15/10/2001)

AIIMS is now aimless: CAG –(Times of India Online-18/08/2001)
Dabur scouts partners for genome project (Times of India Online-17/08/2001) NHRC seeks reply from 3 states on Endosulfan –(Times of India Online-16/08/2001)
Hyderabad granite has radioactive uranium-(Times of India Online-14/08/2001)
 Relief for cancer patients-(Times of India Online-13/08/2001)
Govt for more facilities at AIIMS-(Times of India Online-09/08/2001)
'Herbal formulation proves efficient cancer cure'-(Times of India Online-07/08/2001)
Govt sends team to Kerala on drug controversy –(Times of India Online-03/08/2001)
10 cancer patients treated at ayurveda foundation still alive-(Times of India Online-02/08/2001)
Haryana plans to install cobalt therapy units-(times of India Online-31/07/2001)
US varsity studies reports of illegal research in India –(Times of India Onlimes of India Online-31/07/2001)
Laser therapy for diabetes treatment –(Times of India Online-29/07/2001)     RCC chief denies testing banned drugs-(Times of India Online-27/07/2001)
Killer pesticide claims two more lives –(Times of India Online-22/07/2001) Debating over euthanasia-(Times of India Online-22/07/2001)
Injectable contraceptive not a shot in the arm: Activists-(Times of India Online-19/07/2001)                                            
When homeopathy brings hope-(Times of India Online-16/07/2001)              John Hopkins using Kerala patients as guineapigs: RCC-(Times of India Online-14/07/2001)
Eli Lilly to make India global bulk drug outsourcing hub-(Times of India Online-14/07/2001)
Is the cancer bomb ticking? –(Times of India Online-04/07/2001)

Has the magic cancer bullet arrived?-(Times of India Online-29/05/2001)
Precautionary steps must to prevent lung cancer-(Times of India Online-12/05/2001)
Aggressive screening programme for breast cancer urged-(Times of India Online-07/05/2001)
Sea water at Alang shows high level of toxic contamination-(Times of India-04/05/2001)
Pune firm will enter cancer drug research soon-(Times of India Online_18/04/2001)

Hyderabad firm to launch cheap leukemia drug-(Times of India Online-18/04/2001)
Efforts on for self-reliance in cancer treatment-(Times of India Online-05/04/2001)
25 m diabetic, 24 lakh cancer cases in India-(Times of India Online)              We care for cancer patients, do you?-(Bombay Times-25/01/00)
Cancer treatment:Kerala’s RCC makes rapid strides through Ayurveda-(Observer-13/01/00)                                                        
India’s first U-cord blood bank will be set up in Pune shortly-(Times of India-12/01/2001)
Parsis more prone to cancer:Study (Bombay Times-26/12/2000)
Cervical cancer is preventable (TOI-30/11/99)
Breast cancer awareness month being observed (TOI-27/10/99)
Ayurvedic drug to help in chemotherapy-(Financial Express-19/9/99)                A hefty dose of claptrap (The Indian Express-22/8/99)
Fighting Cancer –(TOI-27/7/99)
Occupational Cancer attracts little attention from Industry-(TOI- 5/7/99 )
Manufacture Of Asbestos Increases in India -(TOI-1/7/99)
If Ignored, Cancer may take a heavy toll, warn experts - (TOI- 29/6/99)
Air Pollution killed 52,000 urban Indians in 1995, says Worldwatch Institute report -(TOI - 22/6/99)




Treating Cancer with Ayurveda-(Times of India Online-11/02/2002)

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.


Centre for blood cancer patients on the anvil-(Times of India Online-07/02/2002)

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.


Oral cancer could pip AIDS to the post-(Times of India Online-11/02/2002)

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 taking its toll in India-(Times of India Online-06/02/2002)

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.


First Indian transgenic mouse gets US patent-(Times of India Online-04/02/2002)

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.


`Kasargod instances build strong case against Endosulfan'-(Times of India Online-27/01/2002)

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.


Bharat Sevashram builds homes for quake victims-(Times of India Online- 17/01/2002)

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.


It's a painful but brave young world of cancer survivors-(Times of India Online-14/01/2002)

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.


Satellite cancer centres favoured by oncologists-(Times of India Online-29/11/2001)

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 to set up India’s Largest Cord Blood Storage facility-(Express Healthcare-15/10/2001)

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.


NHRC seeks reply from 3 states on Endosulfan –(Times of India Online-16/08/2001)

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).

Dr Y.S. Mohan Kumar, who first published these cases in the `Kerala Medical Journal' in 1997, told this newspaper that the team was moved by the plight of affected villagers and decided to conduct an epidemiological study. The team would study the population exposed to endosulfan (in Padre village) and compared with `control population' - where there is no exposure to endosulfan (the second village is yet to be identified).

The month-long study, likely to begin on September 20, will analyse data in the two villages and make recommendations to authorities concerned. The team will analyse data in areas where cashewnut is grown; any other crops where endosulfan is used; brief demographic profile of population; healthcare facilities in the area and whether the district health authorities have maintained health records of surrounding villages.

Dr Shanbhog said the study will commence after the monsoon. He has already contacted National Institute of Health (NIH), USA and Indian Institute of Occupational Health (IIOH), Kolkata, to help him in conducting hormonal studies to see whether endosulfan has affected villagers. He said the gene mutation methodology pertaining to atomic radiation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is in place and the KMC has also established amethodology to conduct gene mutation tests. Dr Shanbhog plans to carry out the tests on 3,000 youngsters (of marriageable age) in Padre and surrounding villages. If the gene mutation has occurred in them, he will have to give them a painful message - not to marry or if they do, not to have children to save agony of the future generation.

If the study proves ill-effects of endosulfan, it will help people approach government for rehabilitation and courts for compensation.


Hyderabad granite has radioactive uranium-(Times of India Online-14/08/2001)

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.

Researchers said the rocks in the western part of Hyderabad are more radioactive compared to those in the east. Rocks in the posh areas of Jubilee and Banjara Hills have twice as much uranium as found in Uppal in the southeastern part of the city.

Uranium decays into radioactive radon and, being a gas, it get lodged in the lungs where it can induce cancer by the alpha radiation it emits. The radon hazard could be quite real in houses with basements or closed garage where the radioactive gas can collect and reach the living areas through pipes and air conditioning ducts.


Dabur scouts partners for genome project (Times of India Online-17/08/2001)

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.

The idea: Couple the in-house developed proteomic database with the Human Genome database. Sources also indicated that Dabur is close to finalising a tie-up with a multinational clinical research organisation for conducting clinical trials for all its research products.

"The specific thrust is to bring to the fore an anti-cancer vaccine, which would entail the development of the cancer gene therapy, characterisation and restoration of genetic alteration in cancer cells and the use of suicide genes,'' said an analyst with a foreign institutional firm here.

Cancer and certain malignancies are prevalent in India and the Dabur Research Foundation has identified certain cancers, specifically noticeable in the head and neck, pancreas and the gall bladder, which afflict the Indian population.

Dabur India is planning to commence clinical trials for two new chemical entities (NCEs) and one new drug delivery system (NDDS) in the anti-cancer segment over the next 16 months, as it gears up to become a major player in the oncology business. The company will file investigational new drug applications (INDs) for two new NCEs. Currently, these products are undergoing pre-clinical trials. This, analysts state, is in addition to its first anti-cancer NCE which is currently undergoing phase-I clinical trials. Through its wholly-owned UK subsidiary, Dabur Oncology Plc, the company is also in negotiations with two foreign patent holders of anti-cancer molecules for carrying out joint development activities


AIIMS is now aimless: CAG –(Times of India Online-18/08/2001)

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.

A report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India tabled in Parliament says even among the projects sanctioned, final reports have not been submitted in most cases (of the 339 research projects commissioned between 1991 and 2000, no final reports have been received for 153). None of the findings were patented or commercialised. Most of the money is diverted for infrastructure support, which too continues to be deficient, it laments.

AIIMS director Dr P K Dave says the report covers the period between 1991 and 1995, though the report itself notes that it has covered the period till 2000. "Things have improved since then," he adds. But concedes that AIIMS faces an enormous patient load: "About 350 patients come to the casualty every day. To function as a hospital it has to prioritise."

The report adds that AIIMS could not use a substantial part of resources it received under the National Illness Assistance Fund for providing treatment to the poor. "A small amount of Rs 10 lakh received in 1997 remained deposited till October 1999 and until March 2000 only Rs 4.85 lakh could be used."

Insiders agree there has been a gradual erosion of values and the work culture at this premier institution. Not only is there a brain drain as pointed out by the report, but even senior faculty members take up plum foreign assignments, while retaining their jobs and the perks that go with it.

As a result an environment of apathy has taken over. At least three to four terminally ill cancer patients are turned away from the cancer centre for lack of space every day. A specialised treatment centre, which was to have been completed in 1995, remains only partially functional, even as the director promises its completion by this year-end.
Teaching too has suffered due to shortage of staff. 100 assistant professors have been appointed on an ad hoc basis. As a result, it has failed to develop even on academic excellence.


Relief for cancer patients-(Times of India Online-13/08/2001)

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.

Neutropenia is the rapid loss of neutrophils, one of the two forms of white blood cells in the body. When a patient undergoes chemotherapy, along with the malignant cells, a number of neutrophils, which are an intrinsic part of the human immune system, are also destroyed. "Thus the patient's immune system gets damaged and he is unable to go for further chemotherapy or even dies in the process," senior manager, process development K. Uma Devi said.

G-CSF, or granulocyte colony stimulating factor, is a drug used to prevent the destruction of white blood cells during chemotherapy. Till date, Indian patients had to depend on Neupogen, a G-CSF manufactured by US-based company Amgen, as a cure for this. Being a monopoly, the drug was exorbitantly priced- each vial of Neupogen costs around Rs 5,000.

Indian patients now have a cheaper option. "Grastim is the first biotechnology molecule to be developed in India right from the molecular biology stage," DRL executive vice-president Jayram Chigurupati said. Grastim is priced at Rs 2,460, half that of the multinational product.

Clinical trials of Grastim have proved successful. "Grastim was observed to have reduced the incidence of neutropenia by 53 to 58 per cent in patients," D.C Doval of the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute said. The product was launched in Kolkata. "This will be of immense help to needy cancer patients," renowned oncologist A.P. Majumdar said


Govt for more facilities at AIIMS-(Times of India Online-09/08/2001)

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.


'Herbal formulation proves efficient cancer cure'-(Times of India Online-07/08/2001)

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.

Many chemicals extracted from various plants have been shown to possess anti-oxidant and anti-mutagenic properties. These have been reported to inhibit carcinogenesis in animal models.

However, as carcinogenesis is a multifactorial process and, thus, individual chemicals, might not always be effective in inhibiting cancer of various types in humans, scientists prepared a multiherbal formulation, the report 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.

Animals were divided into groups and administered either the carcinogen alone or in combination with Cancare. Reporting the results, the scientists said all carcinogen treated rats developed liver tumours by the end of 30th week. However, tumour development was inhibited in rats given Cancare. Half of the rats given 30mg per kg Cancare developed tumours while none in the group given 150 mg per kg of Cancare showed any tumour. All the mice administered the chemical had developed sacomas after about five months while Cancare prevented tumour development in a dose dependent manner. The formulation also increased the life span of mice administered the chemical.

Rajeshkumar and Kuttan said Cancare protected the liver against cancer induced by NDEA. The findings are significant in view of the fact that NDEA has been detected in edible vegetable oils, alcoholic drinks, steamed and fried fish and is also formed in the body. Poor treatment success rate and limited treatment options have made liver cancer a leading cause of death in developing countries. The protection offered by Cancare is attributed to the combined effects of various plant constituents rather than any single component, they said. Its various components have been shown to be contributing in scavenging of oxygen free radicals, inhibition of carcinogen activation, and regulation of cell cycle and oncogenes. All these activities might be responsible for the protective action of the formulation, they said.


Govt sends team to Kerala on drug controversy –(Times of India Online-03/08/2001)

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.

Enquiries conducted by the Drug Controller of India have revealed that the Regional Cancer Centre, which is alleged to have tried the drug on its patients in collaboration with the John Hopkins University, US, had taken permission from the authorities as per the rules, he said.
But it seemed the research team had not taken permission from the Institute's Ethical Committee, adding that John Hopkins University, which was said to have prepared the drug, had stated that it did not collaborate in the trial.

He said the drug, tetra methyl form of nor dihydro guaretic acid (NDGA), is not banned in US as has been reported in the media. As per the rules, for trying any drug on patients, their informed consent is to be taken and RCC has stated that it had informed the patients about the drug. The government team would enquire into all these aspects. If the RCC is found guilty of neglecting the guidelines, proceedings would be initiated against it, Thakur said.


10 cancer patients treated at ayurveda foundation still alive-(Times of India Online-02/08/2001)

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.

In a clinical study conducted on 15 patients of APML at the Chandra Prakash Cancer Research Foundation in Dehradun, four patients died, he said. "It has been found that out of 11 patients who completed 90 days of treatment all were found leukemia free on the assessment of bone marrow and 10 out of 11 patients are alive," Thakur informed Haribhau Shankar Mahale (JD-S) and M V V S Murthi (TDP).

He said, however, the complete project report has not been received as yet from the principal investigator and the drug is under clinical trial. A drug development committee was constituted in May this year comprising ayurvedic experts and modern pharmacologists to oversee the development of the drug used in the treatment of APML cases. The committee has observed that various requirements are yet to be fulfilled in order to standardise the drug which uses metal and minerals as ingredients.


Laser therapy for diabetes treatment –(Times of India Online-29/07/2001)

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.

Elaborating the process, Undre said, carbon dioxide dries up and coagulates infected areas and kills bacteria. So far seven patients suffering from septic holes and similar infected wounds have been treated with remarkable success at the city's Jaslok Hospital.
"One patient has even been discharged recently and one more will walk away from the hospital in the next few days," he said.

Undre also told CME participants that carbon dioxide laser and related equipment costs Rs 45 lakh and was currently available only at the Tata Memorial Hospital and Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai. This technology has been used for treating larynx and uterine cancer also, he added.


Haryana plans to install cobalt therapy units-(times of India Online-31/07/2001)

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.


US varsity studies reports of illegal research in India –(Ti–(Times of India Onlimes of India Online-31/07/2001)

Johns Hopkins University is investigating whether a faculty member conducting a study in Kerala violated its policies on research involving human subjects. The unidentified professor conducted a clinical trial at the Regional Cancer Centre in Kerala in 1999 and 2000 of a experimental anticancer drug, the university said.

The professor, from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, which is separate from the university's medical school, did not receive approval for the study from a Hopkins review board and has been directed to stop working on the study, the university said. Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea would not identify how many people participated in the study or the experimental anticancer drug that was used. The research was conducted in India because "the type of tumour that was under investigation is more prevalent in that part of the world, meaning Asia in general," O'Shea said.

"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.


RCC chief denies testing banned drugs-(Times of India Online-27/07/2001)

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.

He said the drug in question would not produce any toxicity either, adding the drugs were used not as part of treatment but only on an experimental basis. The RCC, a premier cancer treatment and research institution run on state and central funds, has been the focus of a controversy following reports that a banned drug developed by Johns Hopkins University had been tested on cancer patients raising serious medico-legal and ethical questions.

The issue came in the open after a radiobiologist in the hospital filed a petition before the state human rights commission alleging that patients were subjected to tests that exposed them to toxicity.


Killer pesticide claims two more lives –(Times of India Online-22/07/2001)

Suspected endosulfan 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.

These are said to be the ill-effects of organochlorine chemical endosulfan sprayed for eliminating tea mosquitoes in cashewnut plantations by using helicopters since the past 25 years. As the awareness spread, writ petitions were filed in the courts of Kerala and finally the PCK stopped spraying endosulfan. But the effects like CNS-related disorders -- ranging from epilepsy to more serious mental retardation, cancer, skin disease, physical abnormality among children are surfacing.

Scientists and doctors say that long-term exposure to organochlorines like endosulfan lead to genetic mutations, cancer due to deformity of cells (usually breast cancer, prostrate cancer), cerebral palsy, vision impairment, stunted growth, impotency among other serious abnormalities.

According to Dr Y.S. Mohana Kumar, who first published these abnormal cases in the `Kerala Medical Journal' in 1997, says that since the past one decade, more than 51 persons have died of cancer, 38 have been the victims of cerebral palsy, 49 due to CNS symptoms, 33 epileptic, 16 have visual disorders. He points out that such abnormal diseases, confined to a place are very rare. The reason could only be attributed to endosulfan, he asserts. The doctor in Muliyaru, Bovikkana and Periya found these cases during a house-to-house visit. Moreover, villagers say that their previous generation had never been afflicted by these diseases.

Doctors point out that a thorough study was needed to establish to link the deaths to endosulfan. They also add that organochlorines are slow poisons, the effects of which would not be evident immediately but are gradual. But with the Kerala government not ready to ditch its cash crop agenda (cashew plantations) on the Karnataka border, relief may be a mirage for these beleaguered villagers.


John Hopkins using Kerala patients as guineapigs: RCC-(Times of India Online-14/07/2001)

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 for justice."

"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.
Earlier, in 1996, the university was the target of a huge public outcry after the state government gave it the go-ahead for its Asian School of Public Health at Munnar. People feared the local population would be used as guinea pigs for medical research.


Injectable contraceptive not a shot in the arm: Activists-(Times of India Online-19/07/2001)

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.

According to the state committee of the All-India Democratic Women's Association, one of the 12 organisations involved in the protest, the hormonal preparation is known to have several side effects such as disturbances in the menstrual cycle, abnormal blood clotting and depression. The long-term adverse effects include the risk of cancer and loss of bone density. Moreover, return of fertility is not assured.


Eli Lilly to make India global bulk drug outsourcing hub-(Times of India Online-14/07/2001)

US-based pharmaceutical 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.

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.


Debating over euthanasia-(Times of India Online-22/07/2001)

Seventy-eight-year-old 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.

Chetna Duggal was just 10 when she saw her grandfather, a cancer patient, dying a painful death. A decade later Chetna, now in college, is reliving the nightmare. Her mother is suffering from the incurable Alzheimer's disease and she knows once again that there is nothing medical science can do to cure her.

Both of them have therefore joined Kolkata's first association that supports euthanasia - the dictionary meaning of which says it all - "the practise of killing someone painlessly in order to stop their suffering when they are dying or have an incurable illness."

"I have seen my grandfather die before my eyes and I couldn't do anything to end his suffering. Now I see the same thing happening to my mother. Why do they have to suffer so long and wait for death to come? If death is inevitable why can’t we choose the time? I surely don't want to suffer this way," Chetna said. "I don't call this living, the way I am now. I would rather die," Mukherjee echoed.

The Association - The Kolkata Society for the Right to Die with Dignity - is just two months old (they were registered only in April), but already they have over 50 members including a few people like Mukherjee who are sufferers themselves and want Euthanasia to be legalised in India. Till date only Netherlands has legalised Euthanasia. Similar bills are pending before the US Congress and the British Parliament. The association has even roped in the support of medical experts like Oncologist Jaydip Mukherjee and legal eagles like Deepankar Chatterjee..

"My husband says we should not play God. But I feel we should exercise our own judgement when it comes to dealing with our own lives," said association secretary Uma Bhatia.

However, legalising Euthanasia in India may take a long time, even decades. "The main fear is that of misuse, if Euthanasia is legalised. In a large and poor country like India what stops a son from doing away with his critically ill father to grab property, once the older man has signed a will supporting euthanasia? If there is a law there are loopholes and these might be deadly," said lawyer Anup Sengupta.

"Corruption is so institutionalised here that even doctors can be bribed and if euthanasia is legalised that may happen in a lot of cases," warned senior medical practitioners S K Chatterjee.

Admitting that KSRDD was "still in its infancy" Bhatia said: "the real need of the hour is to spread awareness among people and build up a huge membership to create public pressure. Money is also urgently needed". The association plans to take part in seminars, hold workshops with doctors, lawyers and students and build up public awareness on mass scale in the future.


When homeopathy brings hope-(Times of India Online-16/07/2001)

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.


Is the cancer bomb ticking? –(Times of India Online-04/07/2001)

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.


Has the magic cancer bullet arrived?-(Times of India Online-29/05/2001)

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.


Precautionary steps must to prevent lung cancer-(Times of India Online-12/05/2001)

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.


Aggressive screening programme for breast cancer urged-(Times of India Online-07/05/2001)

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.


Sea water at Alang shows high level of toxic contamination-(Times of India-04/05/2001)

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.


Pune firm will enter cancer drug research soon-(Times of India Online_18/04/2001)

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.


Hyderabad firm to launch cheap leukemia drug-(Times of India Online-18/04/2001)

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.


Efforts on for self-reliance in cancer treatment-(Times of India Online-05/04/2001)

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).


25 m diabetic, 24 lakh cancer cases in India-(Times of India Online)

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.


India’s first U-cord blood bank will be set up in Pune shortly-(Times of India-12/01/2001)

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 more prone to cancer:Study (Bombay Times-26/12/2000)

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.


Cancer treatment:Kerala’s RCC makes rapid strides through Ayurveda-(Observer-13/01/00)

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.


Ayurvedic drug to help in chemotherapy-(Financial Express-19/9/99)

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.


We care for cancer patients, do you?-(Bombay Times-25/01/00)

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.


Cervical cancer is preventable (TOI-30/11/99)

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.


Breast cancer awareness month being observed (TOI-27/10/99)

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.


A hefty dose of claptrap (The Indian Express-22/8/99)

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.


Fighting Cancer –(TOI-27/7/99)

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.


Occupational Cancer attracts little attention from Industry-(TOI- 5/7/99 )

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.


Manufacture Of Asbestos Increases in India -(TOI-1/7/99)

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.


If Ignored, Cancer may take a heavy toll, warn experts - (TOI- 29/6/99)

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.


Air Pollution killed 52,000 urban Indians in 1995, says Worldwatch Institute report -(TOI - 22/6/99)

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.