Good news for blood cancer patients

Kollam (Kerala), Sep 22 (IANS): For millions of Indians battling leukemia (blood cancer), there is good news.

The Kochi-based Amrita Centre for Nanosciences and Molecular Medicine has developed a new nano-medicine that can dramatically improve the treatment of drug-resistant Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), when used in combination with Imatinib, the standard drug for the crippling disease.

In another significant invention, the 2006-founded Amrita Centre has devised a mechanism that can effectively prevent recurrence of Glioma, or brain tumour - a deadly disease that affects about four out of every 100,000 people in India.

The two projects will be formally unveiled Sep 26 at the 60th birthday celebrations here of spiritual guru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, her math said in a statement Sunday.

As for CML, it affects approximately two out of every 100,000 people in India annually. Almost 40 percent of these cases are resistant to Imatinib. For such patients, treatment options are extremely limited.

"What we have done at Amrita is to take a particular 'small-molecule inhibitor' class of anti-cancer drug that is currently available in the market and encapsulate it into a protein nano-capsule," said Shantikumar Nair, the centre's director.

"This allows the drug to be absorbed directly into the cancer cells circulating in the patient's bloodstream. This has a marked increase on its efficacy in killing the cancer cells," he said.

"Further, the circulation lifetime of the drug in the blood is increased, which also increases its efficacy."

The nano-encapsulated version of the drug has shown itself to be non-toxic in healthy mice in tests conducted by his department.

It has similarly demonstrated itself to be effective in tests involving blood samples of people with Imatinib-resistant CML, said Nair, an alumnus of the IIT, Mumbai, and Columbia University, New York.

Manzoor Koyakutty, professor at the centre, said the next step was to evaluate its efficacy in fighting mice with CML.

"If it continues to remain non-toxic and effective, we can move on to clinical trials," adds the expert, who has co-invented the drug.

In the case of Glioma, the standard treatment for people suffering from the disease is to excise the tumour, taking care to minimise loss of any healthy brain tissue, said Nair.

Both the projects - nano-medicine for drug-resistant blood cancer and polymer wafer for brain tumour - were partly funded by the department of biotechnology of the Indian government.


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