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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Ahmedabad researcher to work on developing saliva-based test for oral cancer

This project will be carried out in collaboration with Dr Kaustubh Patel of HCG Comprehensive Cancer Hospital, Ahmedabad, and Dr Mariana Brait of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Tanavde explained that John Hopkins University’s School of Medicine is also looking to develop early diagnosis of head and neck cancers and has pioneered the use of cfDNA technology. (Representational image)

A 33-year-old research associate with Ahmedabad University’s School of Arts and Sciences will work on developing a non-invasive saliva-based test for early detection of oral cancer, collaborating with a research partner at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, US.

Shanaya Patel Bakeri, who has been working on oral cancer since 2011, is among 10 selected from the country for the prestigious DBT-Wellcome Trust India Alliance Early Career Fellowship for her research project using cell-free DNA. The funding with a budget cap of Rs 1.7 crore is for a period of five years.

The DBT-Wellcome Trust India Alliance is an independent public charity that funds research in health and biomedical sciences in India.

Shanaya will work under the supervision of professor Vivek Tanavde, associate professor of Biological and Life Sciences at the School of Arts and Sciences. Professor Balachandran Ravindran, who has been with the Biological and Life Sciences division at Ahmedabad University as an adjunct professor, is the mentor for the project that will officially take off from January 2022.

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“Head and neck cancers (HNC) under which oral cancer falls, continues to be one of the unresolved problems of the Indian subcontinent with a whopping 1.35 lakh new cases annually due to consumption of tobacco, gutka and khaini. Despite advances in treatment, the survival rate is disappointingly low at five years, a major reason being late-stage diagnosis. Only 14 per cent of the cases are diagnosed at premalignant or stage 1,” says Shanaya.

Highlighting that it is imperative to develop disease-specific non-invasive tests for early diagnosis, shes stated in her proposal, Plasma cell-free DNA (cfDNA) has emerged as a promising non-invasive technology for early detection of cancer.”

Tanavde explained that John Hopkins University’s School of Medicine is also looking to develop early diagnosis of head and neck cancers and has pioneered the use of cfDNA technology.

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“The study aims to identify cfDNA fragmentation patterns from saliva and plasma of oral cancer patients and investigate whether these fragments can be used for early detection,” says Shanaya.
There is no marker for early detection of oral cancer like those available for prostate cancer and breast cancer. “Now, we have identified a few biomarkers. But the need of the hour is to have a marker to detect this cancer early,” she adds.

Pointing out that these malignancies are very painful and the biopsies traumatising for patients, she said, “Now we can use saliva. What we would be working on is if saliva can be used for early detection of oral cancer.”

This project will be carried out in collaboration with Dr Kaustubh Patel of HCG Comprehensive Cancer Hospital, Ahmedabad, and Dr Mariana Brait of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University.

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Shanaya completed her PhD on oral cancer from Gujarat Cancer and Research Institute in 2017, after which she joined the Ahmedabad University in 2018 as a national post-doctoral fellow.

First published on: 22-07-2021 at 01:55:25 am
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