Every year 10 thousand people are added to the burgeoning population with deadly Cancer in India. There are about 2.5 million people already affected by the disease. In most cases, the disease is detected at an advanced stage and chances of survival are grim. In cases, where it is detected at a relatively early stage, the treatment does not guarantee complete cure. But current research using nanotechnology offers hope for Cancer affected. Amrita Centre for Nano Sciences in the southern port-city of Kochi has developed nano particles that can track down Cancer cells and deliver drugs without any damage to non-Cancerous cells in a patient’s body.
“Nano particles which are essentially bio-robotics which when injected into the body track down the Cancer cells and allow us to visualize them. The second is that these nano particles not only attack and allow us to diagnose the cells, but they also deliver drugs to those cells alone and not to the normal cells,” said Dr. Shantikumar Nair, Director of Amrita Centre for Nano Sciences.
The path-breaking research at the Centre now offers immense applications in medical science. The Centre is the first to develop non-toxic nano material for treatment of Cancer. These materials, currently being tested on animals, would be ready for human trials in the very near future. In a few years, scientists at the Centre expect the development to revolutionize Cancer treatment.
“We are one of the first groups internationally to have developed a wide range of contrast agents that are also non-toxic. …. We are now in the process of animal trials. We expect in a few years that there would be human trials and patients would actually be receiving this kind of treatment,” said Dr. Nair.
Unlike conventional treatment using chemotherapy, nano-material-based treatment has no side effects. Of all variants of Cancer, the most promising treatment through nano-technology is in the treatment of brain tumour. The non-invasive treatment makes it absolutely safe and effective.
“We have developed specific nano-particle treatment that can be provided in such a way that they traverse the blood brain barrier, reach the targeted site and be able to kill only the Cancer cells. Part of it is also known as a process of photodynamic therapy. The nano particles once they reach the Cancel cells, when irradiated by light, release certain toxic that kill those cells. So light can be passed through the skull, so there is no need for incision or surgery and you can have very effective treatment in a scenario where treatment is so dangerous with traditional system,” explained Dr. Nair.
Though incidence of Cancer in India are lower than western countries, it is rising at an alarming rate with increasing migration of rural population to cities, increase in life expectancy and change in lifestyles. While it may take some more time for nanotechnology based treatment for Cancer to reach patients, results of research so far in India promises hope for a large number of them.
Dr Shantikumar Nair is regarded as one of India’s foremost scientists in Nano-sciences and Nanotechnology. Recipient of the National Research Award of Ministry of Science and Technology, he taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA for nearly two decades before joining Amrita Centre.