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The following are extracts of recent cancer-related news items from local daily newspapers.
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'Cancer train' offers uncertain route out of despair in India (Yahoo News-23/05/2008)

In India the "cancer express" is a train on which cheap cancer treatment is offered on the move. It's a 10-hour ride from a district in Punjab with a high prevalence of the disease blamed on excessive use of pesticides to a charity cancer hospital in neighbouring Rajasthan. A study released last year, backed by the government pollution control body, found 103 people with cancer in a sample of 100,000 in one area of Bathinda region compared to 71 in an area nearby with lower pesticide contamination. New Delhi's Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found unacceptably high quantities of pesticides in blood samples from across the cotton-growing district. The presence of the chemical lindane -- a "possible cancer-causing substance" used in pesticides and insecticides and banned in several countries -- was found to be 605 times higher in Bathinda than in the United States. Both studies called for the regulation of pesticide use and pointed out a dire need for further research. There are no national figures for cancer prevalence in India. "The situation is absolutely frightening. And it's not just cancer that people are suffering from," said scientist S.G. Kabra, who is leading a study on the effect of pesticides. Local doctors say kidney problems, skin infections, heart attacks, birth defects, premature greying of children's hair and reproductive disorders have shot up dramatically since the mid-1990s.

At the Bathinda town station, almost every other group waiting on the platform is undertaking the same journey. "We meet many cancer patients on this train. It gives us comfort and strength when we see others who have recovered," says Singh's daughter-in-law Balwinder Kaur, who is making the trip for a fifth time. A few feet away, 55-year-old Joginder Kaur sleeps on a bedsheet spread on the concrete, watched over by her daughter-in-law and brother-in-law. "The doctors have asked us to come every 22 days," says brother-in-law Phool Singh, taking Kaur for the fourth time to the Bikaner hospital in Rajasthan. Cancer treatment at private hospitals is prohibitive even for the affluent, while state-run hospitals provide only basic services, leaving most with little choice but to undertake the 400-kilometre (250-mile) journey to the low-cost Acharya Tulsi Region Cancer Centre in Bikaner. Despite the relative prosperity of Punjab many still struggle to buy medicines. "We have to spend 70 rupees (under two dollars) daily for the two of them," says Charanjeet Kaur, whose parents-in-law have cancer. Two of their extended family have already died of tumours. "Since 2001, around 40 people have died of cancer in our village," said another family member and activist Jarnail Singh in the region's Jajjal village, which has a population of nearly 3,000. One of the 19 districts of Punjab, Bathinda with a population of over a million, forms part of the region's cotton belt, where cancer is said to be widely prevalent.

Cotton is planted just a few days after wheat is harvested and back-to-back cultivation gives insects an opportunity to thrive on the farm, farmers say. Worldwide, cotton requires extensive use of pesticides, but Punjab farmers say chemical sprays were used on an unprecedented scale in the mid-1980s after hybrid seeds were introduced to boost output. "We have 10 acres of land. In one year, we sprayed pesticides worth 60,000 rupees (1,500 dollars) and got a yield worth 70,000 rupees," said Jarnail Singh, who first drew the attention of the authorities to the health problems. Farmers say pesticides were needed only in small quantities when native cotton seeds were used. "Agriculture scientists used to bring these private, multinational companies in the 1980s and they would push the use of pesticides," Singh said. Hybrid seeds would attract several types of pests, and required a combination of up to four pesticides, which made the pests more immune and led to greater pesticide use. And when the American bollworm destroyed crops on a large scale in 2000 even the neighbourhood shopkeeper was selling pesticides, according to Singh. "Farmers sold their jewellery, land, everything to buy pesticide and save their crop," the 67-year-old farmer added. The chemicals contaminated ground water and food and directly affected farmers and farm labourers, many of whom used them indiscriminately without reading instructions. But now, the "cancer epidemic" has motivated nearly 1,000 farmers to turn to chemical-free "natural farming" -- which emphasises the use of traditional Indian methods of farming. 

"Our Indian farmer is an agriculture scientist, water specialist, marketing professional -- all rolled into one. We don't need experts who have destroyed our agriculture," said the natural farming movement's founder Umendra Dutt. Under the practice, farmers use native seeds, fertilisers and "pesticides" made of cow dung and urine, and efficient local irrigation methods. While chemical farming requires inputs worth at least 3,000 rupees (75 dollars) per acre, natural farming costs not more than 100 rupees, farmers say. "Our movement is about farming for liberation," said Dutt.


Ramadoss gets Ramdev boost in fight for good health (Yahoo News- 9/06/2008)

HEALTH MINISTER Anbumani Ramadoss has just won a famous friend in his battle against alcohol, tobacco and junk food. Yoga and lifestyle guru Swami Ramdev, who commands a huge following across the country, has offered to help the Union health ministry to get the masses off unhealthy addictions. "We've been in touch and we'll work together," Ramadoss told HT. Winning support for his clean lifestyle initiative from people other than public health experts is a first for Ramadoss. He has a track record of antagonising many famous people, from Shah Rukh Khan for smoking in public to Vijay Mallya for naming his IPL team after an alcohol brand. Ramadoss and Ramdev now appear to have patched up differences over the curative powers of yoga for AIDS. "Even when I criticised yoga for treating AIDS because of lack of scientific proof, I maintained that Swami Ramdev was doing a public service by promoting this ancient exercise form," said Ramadoss. "Prevention is better than cure and if a healthy lifestyle that includes yoga can reduce the risk of disease and early death, I'm all for it. " Lifestyle diseases cause over half of all deaths among people aged less than 60 in India. Lately, Ramadoss has been advocating yoga in a big way and has requested HRD Minister Arjun Singh to make it compulsory in schools. "Supporting yoga is not a populist decision but one backed by science," Ramadoss said. "Yoga has been scientifically proved to reduce hypertension, overweight and lower stress. And if it is coupled by reduction in smoking, alcohol and junk food, the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancers and diabetes will be reduced drastically," he said.


'Pictorial health warning has little impact' (Press Trust of India-21/04/2008) 

Public health measures such as pictorial health warnings on tobacco products don’t have any immediate economic impact on the industry due to the item’s addictive nature and the time taken for demand reduction, according to various studies. This was stated by Minister of labour and Employment Oscar Fernandes while replying to a written query in the Lok Sabha today. Fernandes said his ministry was receiving representation from various organisations/central trade unions such as CITU, the Tobacco Institute of India, Federation of Farmers Association and others particularly relating to apprehension of loss of employment, arrangement of alternative jobs to the affected ‘beedi’ workers and adverse effect on health among others. "A Group of Ministers (GoM) has been constituted to examine all the aspects relating to the mandatory pictorial warning. It was decided to finalise alternative designs of the pictorial health warnings of appropriate size," he said.


State may adopt Tata Memorial’s care model for cancer patients (Yahoo News)

Inspired by the Tata Memorial Hospital’s model of homebased care for terminally-ill cancer patients, the state plans to rework its 30-year-old cancer care programme for the state. For the past five years, professionals from Mumbai’s premier cancer institute have been doing home calls, armed with medicine and advice to alleviate pain for the suffering. The purpose is to provide palliative or holistic care in the advanced stages of cancer when a patient no longer responds to curative treatment. Since 80% of cases are detected in advanced stages, experts say the burden can no longer be borne only by hospitals. Besides, care in the comfort of their homes serve patients and 
grief-stricken families better. The home-care service has become so popular that the government now plans to use it to rejuvenate its 30-year-old statewide cancer care programme (SCCP). The Tata Memorial model will be replicated across all districts so that patients don’t have to rush to Mumbai for 
help. “We are training doctors and nurses in the districts to create a network of hospitals which can provide provide home-based palliative care,’’ said Dr Mary Ann Muckaden, Tata Hospital’s professor of radiation oncology. The hospital has already trained professionals in 18 hospitals. 


India's Biocon to market cancer drug in Pakistan (ANI -10/08/2007)

India's biotechnology company Biocon Limited has inked a deal with US biopharmaceutical firm Abraxis BioScience Inc for commercialisation of cancer drug Abraxane in India and its marketing in Pakistan. The agreement also gives Biocon the right to market the drug (paclitaxel albumin-bound particles for injectable suspension) in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and certain other South Asian and Persian Gulf countries. "This agreement is an important step in the development of a global commercialisation framework that incorporates unique country-by-country needs," the Daily Times quoted Bruce Wendel, Abraxis BioScience Corporate Development Executive Vice President, as saying. Under the agreement, Abraxis will receive royalties from Biocon, based on net sales of Abraxane in these countries. (ANI)


Novartis loses patent battle for cancer drug (CNN-IBN - 07/08/2007)

It's a milestone for Indian patent laws and promises some relief for cancer patients. After months of delay, the Madras High Court on Monday dismissed drug company Novartis' move to patent its generic drug Glivec. The Court held as valid a legal provision unique to India, which states that modifications of 
known medicines cannot be patented unless they make the drug significantly more effective.Dismissing a petition filed by Novartis - that challenged Section 3 (D) of the newly framed Indian Patent Law - the court ruled that the Section, as amended in 2005, is valid and could not be termed vague, ambitious or unconstitutional. Section 3 (d) of the Indian Patent Act prohibits patenting of modifications made to an existing drug, unless the drug is significantly more effective than the originally patented product. “Challenge by Novartis under Indian Patent Act has been dismissed. Hon'ble court has said that only the dispute resolving body in Geneva has the power of redressal of Novartis' 
grievances if any,” said advocate of Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, A Ramesh Kumar. The Basel-based drugmaker has been wanting to secure product patent for the blockbuster anti-cancer drug Glivec. Indian companies like Natco Pharma had contested Novartis' stand. Natco - like several Indian companies - had launched generic versions of Glivec, arguing the drug was patented before 
1995 and could not be granted patents as per the new patent laws.“The faith and confidence that Indian drug companies had in judiciary has been made known in the open court,” says Company Secretary, Natco Pharma, M Adinarayana.The decision came as a big relief to Indian companies and the case has now been referred to the international tribunal body , making tough the going for Novartis.Novartis says it will not immediately appeal to the Supreme Court but says the High Court decision may have a long term negative impact on investments in research in the country.


Care centres are home to HIV, cancer patients ( IE - 6/08/2007)

Community care centres in Chandigarh provide shelter to chronically ill cancer and AIDS patients. However, experts feel only two of them are not enough. Keeping in mind the number of cancer and AIDS patients getting treatment in Chandigarh and its periphery, more such homes are needed. Our correspondent finds out more Melodious Bollywood music of the 70's drifts in as one enters the community care centre for HIV/AIDS patients in Nayagaon. On careful inspection, the speaker, wrapped in plastic can be spotted high above one of the treetop branches in the yard. "The music goes on for most of the time. It helps in keeping the atmosphere jovial," said project coordinator Sachin Sharma. The 14-bedded community centre is the only hospice for HIV/AIDS patients in and around Chandigarh. Funded by National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), it is run by the UT Red Cross. "We started off with 10 beds, but expanded to 14 because of increasing rush," said Sharma. HIV/AIDS patients from hospitals, government and private, are referred to the hospice. 

"HIV/AIDS patients have many opportunistic infections like TB that need to be managed with regular medication or injections. He is not serious enough to be admitted in the hospital and he also cannot go back home. So he is admitted here," said Sharma. The hospice has a staff of 15 that includes three staff nurses. "Administering of medication, injections, drips are all taken care by the nurses. But it is mandatory that the patient be accompanied by an attendant," Sharma said. The cancer hospice in Sector 43, too, serves as a halfway home for terminally ill cancer patients. "The patient has the option for staying on but he should be accompanied by an attendant," said a staff of the hospice. "We teach the attendant how to take care of the patient, clean his wounds and counsel him," she said. According to experts, the concept of palliative care or pain management is yet to start in India. "Hospitals do not admit terminally ill patients because they will be occupying a bed that can be used to cure someone else," said Dr Feroza Patel, who runs the palliative clinic at PGI. "Therefore, more hospices are needed to look after such patients. In case of cancer, more than 70 per cent patients reach us after their disease has progressed to stage 3 and more," said Dr Patel. "That is when they need painkillers to manage the pain, somebody to treat their wounds and give them moral support," she said. 


Drug companies hope to cash in on anti-tobacco drives-(Hindu Business Line-26/02/2005)

DRUG companies are smelling a long-term opportunity in the several anti-tobacco initiatives getting enforced in the country. And that in turn is fuelling their plans for the tobacco cessation segment, involving therapies to get smokers to kick the habit. Budget 05, it is reported, may announce a health cess on tobacco products. And a global anti-smoking treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), kicks-in across the world on Feb 27. This, combined with the anti-tobacco legislation already in place in the country, has spurred the bullish sentiment on tobacco cessation and last week saw drug companies Pfizer and Elder Pharma unveil plans for the segment. A patented tobacco cessation product from the Pfizer stable will be brought into India in a couple of years, Pfizer India's, Managing Director, Mr Hocine Sidi Said, told analysts last week.With immediate plans for the segment, Elder Pharma has inked an exclusive marketing arrangement with Ceejay Healthcare to market the latter's nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) product Nu Life in the country. Elder Pharma has done post-marketing trials for the product and expects it to add Rs 15 crore to the kitty in the first year after launch, Elder's General Manager, Marketing, Mr Tarun Kumar, told Business Line. Priced at Rs 8 for one miligram, Rs 15 for two milligrams and Rs 10 for four milligrams, the product will be available in two flavours - GoodKha for chewing tobacco and Eucomint for smokers. The product will be available across the country by mid-March, he said.

Ceejay Healthcare had launched the chewing gum NRT product in the over-the-counter category in 2003. But with the OTC strategy being mismatched for a serious NRT product, Elder Pharma got on board and re-launched the product though the ethical route, where doctors would prescribe the product to smokers. Other pharma companies in the fray include Sun Pharma with its Smoquit, also a prescription product and GlaxoSmithKline with Zyban. But it has been a blow hot, blow cold experience for both these companies, with Smoquit not exactly being a brand on fire. GSK on its part had to put Zyban on the back-burner, with the market not being ready for such intensive and expensive treatment, besides there were global reports of side-effects, said an analyst. Putting the issue in perspective, Dr Srinath Reddy, Professor of Cardiology, All-India Institute of Medical Sciences and an expert on the subject said that the FCTC gives countries that are signatory to the treaty three years to have caution labels on tobacco product packs and five years to completely ban advertising. "Despite the legislation being in place, India is still to address cross-border advertising, surrogate advertising and issues around smokeless tobacco. Tobacco cessation products will see a growth as the Centre opens up cessation clinics across the country and more anti-tobacco initiatives are launched."


AAPI to curb tobacco use among S. Asians-(Yahoo News-12/02/2005)

The Medical Students/ Residents/Fellows section of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin has launched a campaign in the US to curb tobacco use by South Asians. AAPI’s 2004-2005 third annual national service initiative this year, dubbed ‘Anti-Tobacco Awareness Among South Asians’, will hold health workshops, health fairs, lectures and seminars. “Tobacco use is an epidemic that adversely affects the health of Americans and South Asians alike,” said AAPI-MSRF co-service chair Kiran Patel. “By providing medical students and residents with a variety of educational resources and platforms, AAPI hopes to promote a healthy, tobacco-free lifestyle for individual communities.”

AAPI’s medical student section, which has 35 chapters in the US, hopes to reach thousands of adults, adolescents, and children with the campaign. “Our national service project presents an incredible opportunity to rally medical students and residents behind this important cause,” said AAPI-MSRF co-service chair Sunit Jariwala. “Through the concerted effort to involve our organization’s membership, we hope to increase public awareness surrounding the dangers of tobacco use and also save lives in the process.” AAPI, which represents 35,000 physicians and 10,000 medical students in the US, is also partnering with non-governmental organizations in India to attack the tobacco epidemic there in collaboration with the American Cancer Society’ International Affairs Department and with AAPI's network of NGOs and their community affiliates.


India has highest incidence of gall bladder, mouth and lower pharynx cancer-(Yahoo News-29/01/2005)

India has the world's highest incidence of cancer of the gall bladder, mouth and lower pharynx, according to a report published in the British Medical Journal. The report was based on India's first cancer atlas, scheduled for release soon by the Health Ministry. The atlas was produced by the Indian Council of Medical Research using Bangalore-based National Cancer Registry Programme's data drawn from 105 hospitals and private clinics in 82 of the 593 districts in the country. The survey included more than two lakh cancer patients.

According to the survey, the age-adjusted incidence of gall bladder cancer in women in New Delhi was 10.6 per lakh of the population. This is the world's highest rate of women suffering from gall bladder cancer. Similarly, the world's highest incidence of cancer associated with tobacco was found to be in the districts of central, south, and northeast India. The incidence of cancer of the lower pharynx in men was found to be 11.5 per lakh population in Aizawl district of Mizoram. This is again the world's highest incidence of cancer of the lower pharynx in men. With an incidence rate of 7.6 per lakh population, Aizawl district also showed the world's highest incidence of tongue cancer. The district also recorded the country's highest rate of stomach cancer among men. ccording to the report, the incidence of mouth cancer among men in Pondicherry was 8.9 per lakh, making it one of the highest rates in the world for men. Rates of stomach cancer were high among men in Bangalore and Chennai. The survey also detected thyroid cancer in women in the coastal districts of Kerala, Karnataka, and Goa. "Lower pharynx cancer may be linked to tobacco use, but we're going to explore the genetic components of stomach cancer," Dr. Eric Zomawia, pathologist at the Government Hospital in Aizawl and also a collaborator on the project, was quoted as saying in the journal. The atlas also highlights the reality and confirms earlier observations that breast cancer has replaced cervical cancer as the leading site of cancer among women in Indian cities and that lung cancer is the most common cancer in men in Kolkata, Mumbai, and New Delhi.


Tata group plans cancer hospital in Bengal-(Hindu-08/09/2004)

The Tata group is looking at fresh investments in West Bengal and is also setting up a cancer hospital on the occasion of the birth centenary celebrations of JRD Tata and Naval Tata. Once it comes up, it will be the first specialty hospital to be set up by the Tatas outside Mumbai but not attached to any of its several production centres located all over India. The details of the hospital are being finalised in consultation with top brass of the Mumbai based Tata Memorial Hospital.


India's Biocon to Launch Its First Drug for Cancer by 2005-End-(Asia Pulse-17/11/2004)

Indian biotech major Biocon today said its first oncology product 'Teera-hr3' for treatment of head and neck cancer would hit the market by the end of next year and five more cancer products were in the pipeline. "Our first cancer product, which is currently undergoing phase-II clinical trial, is expected to be launched by the end of next year," the company chairman and managing director Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said.
The Bangalore-based company's new molecule, which is an Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) receptor-based antibody, is being prepared in collaboration with the Cuba-based C-Map company. Shaw, who was speaking at the launch of its new diabetes product 'Insugen' in the Delhi region, said the company was contemplating coming out with five more cancer drugs once the first one gets into market. 'Thera-hr3' is undergoing trial at the Kidwai Institute of Oncology in Bangalore, Clinigene International Ltd, a division of Biocon, CEO A'S Arvind said. Thera is an adjoint of chemo and radio therapy, he said. He said four arms of the clinical trial of the drug were over and added that the trials were being currently carried out only in India. "90% of the cancer cases reported in the country are head and neck cancer caused due to the use of tobacco," he said. About incidence of this particular type of cancer, he said that on a conservative estimate over 70,000 cases were reported annually in India. The other five proposed cancer treatment products will be aimed at other varieties of cancer like colon and breast cancer, he added.


Scientists discover benefits of turmeric in Indian dishes-(Yahoo News-10/09/2004)

The growing popularity of Indian food is evident from the increasing number of Indian restaurants opening up across the country. But it is not merely the lure of the palate that ensures the success of the cuisine, now health benefits will add to the charm of a well-cooked roghan josh. Scientists have found that spicy food could protect the body against damage that leads to cancers, in particular leukaemia. Most children in India grow up with the knowledge of the benefits of turmeric, but on Thursday, a childhood leukaemia conference in London was told that the root that gives yellow colour to Indian dishes is an anti-oxidant which can protect against environmental chemicals that damage DNA. Scientists now increasingly believe that lower rates of leukaemia in Asia may be due to the difference in diet.

Turmeric is also said to slow the rate of diseases such as Alzheimer's and to possess anti-inflammatory properties that could help with Crohn's Disease. Speaking at the conference, Professor Moolky Nagabhushan, of Loyola University Medical Centre in Chicago, said turmeric blocks some of the harmful effects of cigarette smoke, protects against chromosome damage and prevents dangerous chemicals forming after eating processed food. It has been seen that curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its yellow colour, stops leukaemia cells multiplying. He said: "Our studies show that turmeric - and curcumin - in the diet mitigate the effects of some of these risk factors." Ken Campbell, of the Leukaemia Research Fund, said leukaemia was rare in people of Asian descent. He said: "This suggests that lower rates of childhood leukaemia in India, China and Japan may, at least in part, be due to differences in genetically determined susceptibility."


Indian patients go to court over cancer drug-(Times of India-08/09/2004)

India's Supreme Court has admitted a petition from an organisation representing cancer patients that challenges the government's decision to grant Novartis the exclusive marketing rights for imatinib, a drug that has emerged as a frontline treatment for chronic myeloid leukaemia. The petitioner, the Cancer Patients Aid Association, has said that exclusive marketing rights for the drug would eliminate cheaper generic versions of the drug and make the treatment unaffordable to thousands of patients in India. "Shutting down access to the drug by making it unaffordable is tantamount to denying patients the right to life," said Mr Yogendra Sapru, the association's chairman. Although Indian laws do not permit product patents on drugs, the Indian patents office has granted Novartis exclusive marketing rights for imatinib under the provisions available in an international trade agreement on intellectual property rights signed by India. 

The company's product, Glivec, is a crystalline form of imatinib mesilate, a compound that blocks a specific protein implicated in chronic myeloid leukaemia. The drug has been approved for this cancer in the European Union and in more than 60 countries. When Novartis introduced Glivec in India in May 2002, several Indian drug companies began to produce generic versions of the compound. But after Novartis received exclusive marketing rights last November, local manufacturers have had to stop selling the generic versions. "The cost of a month's dose of Glivec is 120 000 rupees [£1400; $2600) 10 times higher than what the generic versions used to cost patients," said Mr Sapru. "The overwhelming majority of patients in India do not have this kind of money."

A spokeswoman for Novartis India said that more than 2380 patients in India currently receive the drug free under the Glivec international patient assistance programme. "No patient who requires Glivec and meets medical and economic criteria for inclusion into the programme is denied the drug," she said. She said that oncologists and haematologists in India were familiar with the procedure for enrolling patients into the programme. Patients who were not insured and who had no funds to draw on were eligible for the programme. However, doctors say that patients have been affected by the lack of generic versions. "Dozens of patients have had to stop treatment after the generics went out of the market," Dr Purvish Parikh, head of the department of medical oncology at the Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, said.

The association has petitioned the court to direct the government to impose a price control on the drug. Experts in international trade law say that the government has the authority to fix prices despite the grant of exclusive marketing rights. "The international trade agreement and Indian laws allow the government to take steps to protect the health of its citizens," said Sourirajan Srinivasan, managing trustee of LoCost, an organisation that has been tracking drug pricing practices and producing cheap generic drugs for the domestic market. "The real question is whether the government is willing to act."


Govt to set up regional Cancer centre in Kolkata-(Times of India- 23/08/2004)

Centre would soon open a national cancer facility here at a cost of Rs 55 crore to augment research on various aspects of the dreaded disease, Union Health minister Ambumani Ramadoss said here today. Inaugurating an undergraduate MBBS course at the Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research here, Ramadoss said the Union government had sought a 'bigger piece' of land from the West Bengal government to create the Regional Cancer Research Centre (RCRC). "Though the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI) is doing very good research work, we need a bigger facility for more advanced research," the minister said. West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee said though the RCRC was initially planned as an annexe of the CNCI at its campus, the Centre later proposed to take up a massive Rs 55 crore project. "We have identified land in the new township of Rajarhat for the project," he said.


Indian Software To Help Cancer Research-(Times of India-26/07/2004)

In a repeat of the Indian software success story, an indigenously developed laboratory information management software is helping the global research community in drug discovery and development. The software has been adopted by biotechnology companies and research and development (R&D) institutes in developed countries like US and Canada and helping them in the discovery and development of novel cancer therapies. Arius Research is a biotechnology company focused on cancer therapy through the discovery and development of novel anticancer monoclonal antibodies (MAbs). It has built a proprietary technology platform, FunctionFIRST that rapidly identifies powerful MAbs targeting a variety of cancer indications. Arius is working on the delivery of a personalised therapy by matching multiple antibodies to the distinct antigenic characteristics of each patient’s tumour cells thereby increasing efficacy and avoiding side effects.

Ms Acharya said, “Arius has taken the step of implementing a LIMS to manage the volume and complexity of data generated during drug development. Biotracker LIMS was selected for its flexibility, feature rich components, and ability to integrate numerous complex data systems.” She also said that Biotracker enables life sciences labs to keep an accurate track of samples, reagents, instruments, processes and output from the time these samples or resources are acquired, right through to the final stage of research. The software is based on guidelines set forth by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


AIIMS to tell from cell before cancer appears Non-invasive technique will also spot psychiatric, cardiac disorders-(Indian Express-05/03/2004)

A new diagnostic technique to be unveiled at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in less than 5 months promises to help doctors detect diseases like cancer before their symptoms appear. The Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is a non-invasive procedure performed on a Rs 150 million machine. It can detect the biochemical changes the body goes through at the cellular level during a disease. Therefore, cancer, for example can be detected much earlier-even before the tumour appears-and chances of survival will increase. "Traditionally MRI or CT scans can see structural details only," explained Dr. A. Malhotra, Head of Department of Nuclear Medicine. "but before the structure deranges, biochemistry is affected. This technology helps us identify the disease at that level. Besides, instead of sectional scans, the entire body can be scanned in one sweep." The institute which is the second in the country and the only government institution to get this will not be charging for the tests. "Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai has an older version which can just test the biochemical changes but the one here can simultaneously detect the physical abnormalities."said Sharma.


Breast, prostrate cancer cases highest in Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram -(Yahoo News-29/06/2004)

Kerala might have better health standards than the rest of the country, but this state capital has reported the highest number of breast and prostate cancer cases in India. This is largely due to hormonal factors, affluent lifestyles and lack of exercise, says cancer specialist M. Krishnan Nair. "The incidence of breast and prostate cancer in Thiruvananthapuram is the highest in the country, followed by Mumbai and Delhi," he told reporters after launching a lifetime cancer care scheme at a private hospital here. Breast cancer affects 30 out of every 100,000 women, a health research project had found, Nair said. It also revealed that the proportion of girls among the total number of females afflicted by cancer was on the rise in Kerala. More women in Kerala were also being affected by cancer of the uterus, Nair said, quoting the survey. "In Kerala, over the years, the average age of women having cancer of the uterus has gone up from 45 to 55 as compared to two decades ago," said Nair. All this added up to a dramatic increase in the number of new cancer patients in the state. From 20,000 annually, this had gone up to 35,000, Nair pointed out. As if this were not frightening enough, cases of oral cancers could rise dramatically as more and more people in Kerala were getting addicted to chewing "paan" or betel leaves, Nair contended.


Balendu Prakash in advisory committee of National Cancer Control Programme-(Yahoo News-03/06/2004)

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has included Vaidya Balendu Prakash of VCP Cancer Research Foundation, Dehradun in the Programme Advisory Committee (PAC) of National Cancer Control Programme. He is the first ayurvedic practitioner to be made part of this committee, which consists of India's top ranking oncologists. The Ministry's PAC is drawn from various ministries and medical institutions and is chaired by joint secretary in the Department of Biotechnology. There are seven medical practitioners in the committee, it is learnt.


DCGI approves Lambda, a CRO, to conduct Phase 1 trials first time in India-(Yahoo News-10/05/2004)

The Drug Control General of India (DCGI) and the Indian Centre for Molecular Research (ICMR) has cleared the first Phase 1 trial project to be conducted by an Indian Contract Research Organisation (CRO), the Ahmedabad-based Lambda Therapeutic Research. Currently the biggest contract research organization (CRO) in India, Lambda has recently been contracted by an Indian pharma major to conduct Phase 1 trial of a new molecule in the country. According to Ashish Kumar Dasgupta of Lambda, there will be two trials of oral and intravenous dosage forms and are scheduled to commence around the third week of May. It is the first time an Indian CRO is engaged in conducting Phase I studies. The protocol has been approved by the DCGI and ICMR last week, he said. He informed Pharmabiz that there are few more Phase I studies under various stages of discussions for the CRO. It may be recalled that Lambda was also the first Indian CRO, which has two clinical research facilities in India. It has 100 beds facilities at Mumbai and Ahmedabad for the conduct of Bioequivalence studies. Lambda is conducting almost six to eight pivotal studies a month for submission in Europe and US. The CRO now awaits USFDA inspection, which is expected to begin soon. Lambda is equipped with 12 HPLCS and 4 LC/MS/MS. Very soon few more LC/MS/MS will be added to enhance the bioanalytical capability. Lambda has also forged into phase II-III trials in various therapeutic segments like Anti-cancer, gastro-intestinal, autoimmune disorders, respiratory diseases etc.


Drug cos to move court against grant of EMR to Novartis-(Times of India-12/02/2004)

Drug cos will move court against grant of EMR to Novartis globally, industry sources said. Annually, 5,000 CML patients are added to the current 15,000 sufferers in India. While the international cost for treatment is estimated at Rs 1.10 lakh for each patient in a year, Natco sells the same at one-tenth the cost. "Granting of EMR to Novartis' Glivec is a gross violation of the Indian Patents Act," Rajeev Nannapaneni, vicepresident, business development said.


Breast Cancer, lifestyle linked-(Sunday Times-24/08/2003)

Statistics available with Gujarat Cancer and Research Institute (GCRI) show that one in four women diagnosed with cancer in Ahmedabad suffers from breast cancer. Cancer specialists say that late marriage and late child bearing, coupled with fall in breast feeding period among urban women is taking its toll. Besides, the fat rich and modern lifestyle where women do less physical work and lead a sedentary life, plays a role.


Smoking causes half of TB deaths in Indian men:international study-(Times of India-15/08/2003)

If the Indian man wants to enjoy his 70th birthday, he must stub out the cigarette and bidis. Proof has arrived from researchers in Chennai after studying smoking habits of India's living and the dead-78,000 urban and rural men since 1995. Of these, 43,000 died of various causes during the 90s and 35,000 are living subjects from Tamil Nadu. This is the first completed study of deaths by smoking in India. At current death rates, about a quarter of cigarettes or bidi smokers would be killed by tobacco between 25-69 years; those killed at these ages losing an average 20 years of life expectancy. Half the smokers who die from TB are in their early 30s, 40s and 50s. Over 4000 deaths were recorded due to TB.


India tackles children's cancers-(This story was featured in the radio programme Health Matters on the BBC World Service.)

An Indian cancer centre is helping children battling against the disease using a special treatment programme. The Cancer Institute in Madras has seen cure rates improve dramatically over the last 20 years. The institute opened in the 1950s with just 12 beds. It is now one of India's most important centres for cancer treatment, providing free treatment for children who would otherwise have to go without. Around 7% of patients in the hospital are children. More than half of them have blood cancers such as acute lymphatic leukaemia, where too many white blood cells are produced.

Doctors say children who come to the hospital for treatment often have more serious problems than those in Western countries. Medical oncologist Dr S G Ramanan said they often develop cancers at an older age. They also tend to develop a more aggressive form of the disease, in which a different type of lymphocyte - the T-cell lymphocyte - multiplies. He said: "Biologically, the T-cell lymphocytes behave differently; they need more aggressive treatment. "The other point is the children come with a large burden of leukaemia, with high counts, and big enlargement of various organs - the liver, spleen, lymph nodes. "And the most important point would be the nutritional status is definitely inferior to the Western country patient."

Children who attend the hospital may also have picked up infections from overcrowded clinics or hospitals they have already visited. The combination of sickness and malnourishment means they can be too weak to cope with the treatment. So the hospital spends a week helping them build up their strength so they are ready for treatment. They can then begin their cancer treatment. In the early 1980s, the centre introduced a treatment plan for children's cancers of six months of intensive treatment and the up to two years where the child is monitored at home. Doctors say the situation has improved significantly. Cure rates in India have increased from 10 to 15% prior to its introduction to up to 60% cure rates now. The centre also runs activities to help the children relax, such as dancing.

Ranga Kumar runs a voluntary support group called Sanctuary which provides a whole range of non-medical needs to patients and their families. She said: "We call people over to teach the children dance, miming, music, painting, whatever. "We have regular music sessions for all the patients, which I feel is very therapeutic." She added the centre aims to provide emotional support for patients. "The minute they are diagnosed with cancer, not only the patient but the whole family is shattered, so we are with them, helping them with empathy to go through the treatment and come out of it. "We have cured cancer patients in our group, so when they tell them, look, we have gone through this and come out of it, and we are perfectly all right, I think that gives them a lot of strength to fight the disease."


With a Positive Spirit, you can cure Cancer-(Times of India-03/12/2002)

Former Minister of State and parliamentarian, Dr. Shrikant Jichkar who recently suffered from cancer of the adrenal glands and was in a terminal stage of the disease has recovered completely. A positive attitude and the strength to fight cancer is what a person needs. In September 2000, when told that his cancer was in its last stages and that he had only 15 days to live, he decided to take it head on. He not only survived the 15 days, but also went on to recover in the next 6 months.


Centre Proposes Bill to Ban Tobacco Use-(Times of India-10/11/2002)

Union Minister for Health Shatrughan Sinha has said here that the centre will impose a ban on the use of tobacco and tobacco products in two phases. A bill will be introduced in the next session of parliament banning advertisements on tobacco, the import of tobacco and the sale of gutkha and other tobacco products near educational institutions. Mr. Sinha said the bill also proposed a ban on the sponsorship of any event by a firm manufacturing tobacco products. In the second phase, the union government intends to impose a total ban on the use of tobacco and tobacco products including gutkha. Replying to a query, Mr. Sinha said he was not at all afraid of the gutkha lobby. "I am not afraid of losing my job either on this issue. I am not 'bikau'. I am 'tikau'," he said, adding that one person died every 40 seconds in India due to tobacco consumption.


Cigarette Smoking Increases by 35% Among Downtown Collegians-(Times of India-03/12/2002)

With a minimum of 4 pan galas in the vicinity of every South Mumbai college, cigarette smoking has increased by about 35% among youngsters in the last three years. A sample survey by collegians in South Mumbai colleges revealed that alarmingly, two out of five collegians smoke on average four to 12 cigarettes per day. The proportion of younger students and women smokers has also gone up. Along with opening more stalls, new brands have been introduced to entice students. While more stalls have begun to sell Marlboro worth Rs. 3.50 to Rs. 4 each, generally used by heavy smokers, Classic Milds that has entered the stalls about 3 years ago is termed standard cigarette today. Cool Mint, a cigarette with menthol flavour worth Rs. 3 by Gold Flakes is the latest to have entered the market just a week ago. With cigarettes now even being used as throat coolers, there is no sign of the cigarette trend witnessing a downfall.


Wheelchair bound, this Doctor Covered New Ground in Oncology-(Mid Day-29/10/2002)

Dr. S.H. Advani won the 31st Dhanvantari Award, India's greatest recognition in medicine, which is awarded annually since 1973 for outstanding contributions to medicine. Dr. Advani, who came to India from Karachi at the time of the partition, studied at Grant Medical College, specializing in Oncology. He trained in the US, UK and Japan and performed bone marrow transplant procedures. Dr. Advani was part of the largest cooperative clinical trial in India to treat ALL in children. The trial on 1200 children increased success rates from 20% to 70%, showing that doctors in developing countries, too, can get good results.


HRT use may not Prevent Coronary Heart Disease-(Times of India-17/10/2002)

Indian gynaecologists who continue to recommend Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to control the symptoms of menopause and in preventing heart disease and osteoporosis may need to rethink their prescriprions. A recent issue of the Lancet warns that the use of HRT may heighten the risk of breast cancer, may not be protective against coronary heart disease and is associated with an increased risk of stroke.


AIIMS Devises new ways to Fight Liver Cancer-(Times of India-08/10/2002)

Liver cancer may not necessarily be a death sentence as medical scientists have devised novel methods of buring them or injecting drugs directly into fatal multiplying cells. Medical scientists at AIIMS had demonstrated the procedures. A long needle with an uninsulated tip, attached to an insulated one, is inserted into the tumour inside the liver. Gradually, electric energy is allowed to flow into the tumour. High frequency electric waves pass into the tumour burning it completely. To facilitate the evn distribution of electric energy through the tumour, chilled saline is circulated simultaneously through the tumour. In another process, drugs are delivered directly to the tumour bed. A catheter helps deliver the drug mixed in poppy seed oil to the site. This helps to cut off the blood supply to the tumour even as the drug acts on it and kills it. The techniques do have risk of complication as high as 10% and mortality of 1%.


Molecular diagnostics for cancer patients-(Times of India Online-31/03/2002)

Taking advantage of the new emerging branches of genomics and proteomics, a pharmaceutical group has brought the molecular diagnostics to cancer patients in India and opened up a molecular diagnostic lab. The technology, which the Dabur group claims, is being provided for the first time to cancer patients in India, will help in diagnosis of cancer and predicting what kind of treatment is needed for cancer patients. So far diagnosis was done on the basis of morphology of cells, Dr Rama Mukherjee, director, Dabur Research Foundation said. However, the new lab, which had been opened up in Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre, Rohini, diagnosed cancer on the basis of presence of certain abnormal molecules. The new diagnostic methods would help in customising treatment for cancer patients, she said. It would enable identification of patients who require different therapies.

There are certain patients who respond to very mild therapies while others required intensive therapies, Mukherjee said. For example, there are about 20-25 per cent of breast cancer patients who are positive for a molecule called her2neu, a receptor which is over-expressed in cancer patients. This receptor transduces the signal for proliferation of cancer cells. If molecular diagnosis showed presence of these receptors, such patients could be given a drug called Herceptin. The drug blocks the receptors, thus preventing cell proliferation. The technique, which measures qualitative and quantitative differences in molecules called DNA (deoxy ribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid), was more sensitive as it could detect even one cancerous cell in 100,000 normal cells, she said. It would also be useful in monitoring treatment and determining the minimal residual disease to prevent its relapse. Initially there were plans to offer 15 molecular tests, of which eight had been made available and rest seven would be offered from May this year.


Report on cancer cases in MSU chemistry dept soon-(Times of India Online-20/02/2002)

The inquiry committee, which was set up a few months ago to investigate the bizarre case of four teachers of the MSU department of chemistry becoming victims of different types of cancer, plans to submit its detailed report and findings. The committee has recommended that the chemistry laboratory should be overhauled and modernised to avoid any mishaps. Out of the four, who were affected by cancer, two had passed away and a third - Prof S Kansara passed away after she was diagnosed with lung cancer. A special inquiry committee was instituted to look into the four cases of cancer in teachers working in the chemistry laboratory where hazardous chemicals are used in the laboratory for experiments and research. The committee plans to provide two sets of recommendation to the MSU vice-chancellor Prof V D Pathak - the first would involve short term measures and the second would include long term measures.

According to Pathak, the committee does not have conclusive proof to establish that the four cases are related to the chemistry laboratory. It might be possible that the cancer was not caused due to chemicals in the laboratory. "But they have submitted proposals to overhaul the existing laboratory and upgrade it to modern standards. The short-term measures that the committee has suggested include a proposal to upgrade the laboratory. The three main changes that are suggested is changing the drainage system that carries chemicals into the drain, ensuring that the fumes in the laboratory are immediately removed and exhaust fans are in good working condition and changing the table top. Wood absorbs chemicals and it is possible that some chemicals seep in and can affect the person who works in the laboratory" he said. According to him, the chemicals that are being used were also checked. Department head Prof A K Rakshit said, "We are doing all that is possible to ensure that the best quality of chemicals are utilised. Though there are some aromatic chemicals that can be carcinogenic such incidences have not occurred in other laboratories", he said. The inquiry committee comprises eminent cancer specialists of the city.