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World Cancer Day

Times of India
4 February 2010
By Umesh Isalkar
Pune, India

Breast cancer detection to be more accurate Scientist Says Method Is Early Diagnostic Marker
Breast cancer detection in India is set to become more accurate. A diagnostic method developed by scientists from Pune-based National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) claims to act as potential early diagnostic marker even in patients whose early cancer stage could not be detected by prevailing methods of screening.

The diagnostic method is aimed at detecting cancer patients among those whose cancerous stage could not be detected even by the prevailing three methods of screening. Of the 34 triple negative patients at Ruby Hall Clinic, the biomarker found three patients positive for the cancer.

Cancer biologist Gopal Kundu and his group from NCCS claim that Osteopontin (OPN) – a chemokine like extracellular matrix-associated protein – can act as an early diagnostic and prognostic tissue and plasma marker in breast and other cancers.

This research has found place in the prestigious international journal – Cancer Research 2008 (Chakraborty, Jain and Kundu) – and Carcinogenesis, 2010 (Behera, Kumar and Kundu). The research is significant for improving longterm survival of breast cancer patients as quite a large number of them in India go undetected in the early stage with the prevalent screening methods. The scientists claim to have analysed the efficacy of his biomarker by using it on various grades of cancer patients at the Ruby Hall Clinic. “I found that the method not only acts as a clinical tumour marker in positive patients, but also as potential early diagnostic marker in triple negative breast cancer patients. This has been confirmed by other international scientists. Studies are on to explore the method’s efficacy in detecting other forms of cancer in its early stage,” Kundu said. “We are planning to develop a special reagent in the form of a kit for detection of cancer which can be affordable to the common man.” It will take another four years for the research to benefit the common man, Kundu said.

“Discussions are on with a private company for product development. We need to generate funds from the Government of India.”

“While much evidence has suggested that OPN is associated with cancer, its functional contribution to cancer remained poorly understood,” said G C Mishra, Director of the NCCS, adding, “Our scientists, by developing early diagnostic and prognostic clinical cancer marker, have made a significant contribution to the understanding of this protein in relation to cancer.” Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in women both in India and around the world. The incidence of breast cancer is rapidly increasing in most of major metropolitan cities in India partly because of adoption of western lifestyle, food habits and increased in life expectancy.

“Unlike the developed countries, breast cancer in India is diagnosed at a much later stage. Therefore, detecting breast cancer at an early stage to improve breast cancer control and survival is the need of the hour,” said Kundu.

It would be interesting to use OPN as marker in triple negative patients as most of the known clinical marker will not work there, he added. Kundu also plans to study the role of OPN in evaluating the spread of cancer from its primary site to other places in the body (Metastasis).

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