Since Nov,Nobel-winning cancer therapy in quiet Indian trials

Fifty-six patients have so far been enrolled for the trials at eight centres across India

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Published: February 2, 2012 2:30 am

A technique of cancer therapy which won Canadian immunologist Ralph Steinman the medicine Nobel in October has been undergoing clinical trials in India for the last 3 months.

Dendritic cell therapy (DCT) — the fourth line of treatment after chemotherapy,radiotherapy and surgery — involves the activation of the body’s immune mechanism against malignant solid tumours. Fifty-six patients have so far been enrolled for the trials at eight centres across India.

The trials began in November,and investigators,though barred from talking by a confidentiality clause,are upbeat about the initial progress.

Steinman identified dendritic cells in 1973 and later pioneered the therapy to treat his own pancreatic cancer. He succumbed to the disease two days before the award was announced,but remains a laureate because the Nobel committee was unaware of his death.

In dendritic cell therapy (DCT),the body’s own cells (monocytes) are harvested in the lab,processed to form dendritic cells,making them more potent with the introduction of cytokines,interleukins and growth factors,and reintroduced into the body by a vaccine-like injection.

Unlike conventional anti-cancer therapy,DCT has no side-effects. DCT for prostate cancer received US FDA approval in 2010,and has shown promising results with kidney cancers.

Hyderabad’s Bibi General Hospital and Cancer Centre and Indo-American Cancer Institute,Gurgaon’s Medanta the Medicity,Delhi’s Sir Gangaram Hospital,Pune’s Ruby Hall Clinic,Bangalore’s Narayana Hrudayalaya,Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital and Chennai’s V S Hospital have signed up for the trials.

“The best part of DCT is that no new agent is introduced into the body. It only jacks up the body’s own immune mechanism,” said Dr P P Bapsy,principal investigator and medical oncologist at Apollo,Bangalore.

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