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Centre of Excellence at IIT Madras to develop biomarkers for early detection of pancreatic cancer

Centre of Excellence at IIT Madras to develop biomarkers for early detection of pancreatic cancer

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras has established a first-of-its kind Centre of Excellence that is undertaking research to develop biomarkers for early detection of pancreatic cancer, according to officials. The sequence data from the “Centre of Excellence on Cancer Genomics and Molecular Therapeutics” will help develop an India-specific cancer genome database, which is critical to identify and develop biomarkers for early detection and understanding the drug response. The data developed could also help to identify drug targets for novel therapeutics, they said.

Pancreatic Cancer (PDAC) is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide and is projected to be the second within a decade. Since the cancer incidence rate is high, most pharmaceutical companies are on the lookout for Indian-specific cancer genome data to establish biomarkers for specific therapeutics.

Since there is no Indian population-specific cancer genome data available today and all studies are based on what is available from the Western population, the patient survival rate is very low compared to Western societies due to genomic heterogeneity.

Elaborating on the research underway, its principal investigator S Mahalingam, Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras, told PTI, “Biomarkers identified from the proposed work will be critical for developing real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) and sequencing-based early diagnostic kits. Also, identified drug targets will be used for developing novel anti-cancer therapeutics for pancreatic cancer”.

“The preclinical cancer models will be of immense help for drug screening and understanding the in-vivo cancer pathogenesis. The successful development of an organoid will facilitate high-throughput cancer drug screening. A similar approach will be extended to other cancers prevalent in India, and this will help to initiate a start-up company on cancer therapeutics and diagnostics,” he added.

Mahalingam said the main aim of the centre is to work towards development of non-invasive biomarker gene panel for early diagnostics, disease monitoring, treatment response and disease monitoring and a preclinical 3D organoid model for disease monitoring and drug screening towards personalised cancer treatment.

“This CoE is a unique collaborative initiative between cancer biologists, bioengineers, computational biologists, and clinical experts, and one of the first-of-its-kind in India. This scale of interdisciplinary effort is required to create significant breakthroughs in improving the healthcare infrastructure of India, for cancer treatment and beyond,” he added.

The CoE will offer its professional and technical services to the scientific community by catering for the applications related to their research on varieties of areas that are mainly focusing on identifying cancer-specific biomarkers, drug discovery, and development from the laboratory to the industry level.

The CoE has also established collaboration with Dr Daniel Murphy at the Cancer Research UK-Beatson Institute, UK, on cancer pathogenesis on novel drug target identification and animal model for understanding cancer pathogenesis.

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