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Curing Cancer

Times of India
11 May 2009
By Arundhati Ranade
Pune, India

City scientist Dr Sandhya Sitaswad has discovered a new treatment for cancer. Her research paper for the National Centre for Cell Science received international attention. She isolated a compound from the root bark of a plant called Tree of Heaven. This extract is far better than anti–cancer drugs being used currently, as its toxic effects are much lower. It has been shown to be most effective against breast cancer.
Heavenly cure for killer cancer
Dr Sandhya Sitaswad Dr Sandhya Sitaswad
The National Centre for Cell Science, a city based national research centre has made a significant breakthrough research to find a novel compound which can treat cancer cells. Incidentally the compound has been isolated from root bark of a plant called Ailanthus excelsa Roxb (tree of heaven). The research paper on the topic by NCCS scientists Dr Sandhya Sitasawad and Santosh Kumar has already been published in an international Science Journal. Government of India’s department of Biotechnology has filed a US and Indian patent for the breakthrough.

The novel or compound is called Ailanthus Excelsa Chloroform Extract–1 (AECHL–1). It has shown anti–cancer activities and scientists believe it could be a better anti cancer drug in the future which is far less toxic on normal cells as compared to the currently used compounds in chemotherapy against cancer. ACECHL–1 has anti–cancer activity against a variety of cancer cell lines of different origin but it could be used effectively, against breast cancer cells, as per the study.

The chemical structure of Ailanthus Excelsa Chloroform Extract-1
NCCS, situated in the University of Pune campus is an autonomous institution of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. Dr G C Mishra, Director, NCCS, while confirming the research of the anti cancer compound said, “It is an important study and useful in its futuristic application.” Dr Sandhya Sitaswad, a scientist from NCCS was working on the project. While revealing the breakthrough research to Pune Mirror Dr Sandhya Sitaswad said, “The compound was isolated from the root bark of the tree by students and researchers at M S University in Vadodara. Then the tests regarding the properties of the compound were done in NCCS.”

Dr Sandhya said, “We have evaluated the in–vitro and in–vivo anti cancer activities of AECHL–1. The tests on animal cells showed that the compound is less toxic on normal cells.” At NCCS, Dr Sandhya along with her student Santosh Kumar checked the effects of the compound on mice. “The effect of AECHL–1 on tumours was also observed. It reduced the tumour to a large extent,” she said adding that Santosh Kumar, her student who is currently in the US had taken a lot of effort to test and examine the compound rigorously.

Why Pathbreaking
To treat cancer cells, currently plant–derived, anti –cancer compounds like Paclitax or metal–based drugs like cisplantin are being used in chemotherapy. AECHL–1 the new compound found by NCCS is much more effective against all types of cancer cells. It was found to be more effective on breast cancer cells. More importantly, it’s toxic effects are far lower than the existing compounds. So the futuristic anti–cancer drug made from AECHL–1 could be more safe and effective.

Roots in the Ancient India
The compound AECHL –1 is isolated from a plant with Asian origin. It is not found in the US or the western world. The compound is isolated from the plant Ailanthus excelsa Roxb, commonly known as tree of heaven or in Hindi Mahanimb or Maharukh. The extracts of various parts of plants are already in use in Ayurveda for its medicinal value. The medicinal use of this plant’s rootbark was there in India since ancient times.

International Note
The world has taken note of this novel compound as a potential anti – cancer agent. The research has already been published in an International Science journal. The paper by the four scientists Sandhya Sitasawad, Santosh Kumar from NCCS along with Manish Lavhale and Shri Hari Mishra from M S university, Baroda were published in ‘Plos one’ journal. The department of biotechnology of the Government of India has filed patient for its anti cancer activity. The US as well as Indian patient have been filed about two months back.

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