GU gets nod for cancer research

Guwahati, Oct. 23 : The department of science and technology has given its go ahead to Gauhati University to conduct research on ways to neutralise the toxic side effects of currently available cancer drugs.

The nod was given recently after the department was satisfied with the research done so far by a team of faculty members of the university.

The department, set up by the Centre in May 1971, aims at promoting new areas of science and technology in the country.

The approval assumes significance given the alarming rise in the number of cancer patients in the Northeast.

The vice-chancellor of the university, Okhil Kumar Medhi, who is heading the research team, told The Telegraph that almost all cancer drugs currently available in the market tend to be highly toxic to healthy as well as malignant cells, as they are made of metals.

He said patients who take such drugs usually have suffer painful side effects.

Medhi said the university is concentrating on ruthenium-based drugs that would have minimum toxic side effects and some of them would be totally free from any side effects.

“For the past several years, cisplatin made of platinum has been considered to be the most successful anti-tumour drug in the world. But cisplatin causes unpleasant side effects and is not effective on secondary cancer cells. In recent years, ruthenium-based molecules have emerged as a promising anti-tumour and anti-metastatic agents with potential use in platinum-resistant tumours or as alternatives to platinum,” the vice-chancellor said.

Medhi said the university is currently experimenting with ruthenium-based molecules on animals and is trying to gauge the quantum of toxic side effects it is producing. He said the research done so far has shown minimal side effects of the ruthenium-based molecules and the university is hopeful of inventing some painless drugs. He claimed that the university is the only institution in the country carrying out research on ruthenium-based drugs.

Medhi said he recently made a presentation on the status of the research before an expert committee of the department of science and technology, which was happy with the university project.

“The expert committee was very happy and asked us to go ahead. The research project might extend beyond five years or more and the department of science and technology will bear the entire expenses,” he said.

Medhi said considering the alarming rise in the number of cancer patients in the region, it is high time for institutions to conduct a comprehensive study. “Prevention is always better than cure. We are also trying to do research on preventive medicines to tackle the dreaded disease effectively. With the availability of various medicinal plants in the Northeast, there is a possibility of exploring preventive treatment for cancer. But for such research, highly sophisticated machinery and expert technicians are required to preserve and protect the medicinal plants at laboratories,” Medhi said.

He said the anti-cancer drugs made from medicinal plants would be cheaper and a large number of patients who cannot afford the costly cancer treatment would greatly benefit from such medicines.

He said the university is also ready to collaborate with renowned institutions in the country to carry out such research.