IIT Madras To Collaborate With Adyar Cancer Institute To Develop Kit For Early Diagnosis Of Ovarian Cancer

The technology developed from this collaboration with be transferred to a suitable Industrial partner who will manufacture and market the testing kit to the general public.

Indian Institute of Technology Madras is going to collaborate with the Cancer Institute (WIA) at Adyar in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, to develop a point-of-care device for early diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer.

The two institutions have entered into an MoU to further develop and validate this technology and transfer it to a suitable Industrial partner to manufacture and market the kit to the general public.

Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer and eighth leading cause of cancer associated death in women. The number of new cases worldwide in 2020 was 314000 while in India it was 44000; the number of deaths due to ovarian cancer in 2020 was 207000 globally while in India it was 32077 (the deaths include cases diagnosed in earlier years). It is therefore a silent killer since most patients do not have any symptoms in the early stage or have non-specific symptoms which are usually ignored, resulting in most patients presenting in advanced stages of the disease. Additionally, early detection of ovarian cancer has not been possible due to lack of reliable markers or diagnostic tests. 

The MoU towards this collaboration was signed on 29th July 2021 by Dr Selvaluxmi, Director, Cancer Institute, and Prof Ravindra Gettu, Dean Industrial Consultancy and Sponsored Research, IIT Madras, the lead investigators Dr V V Raghavendra Sai, Associate Professor (Biomedical Engineering), Department of Applied Mechanics, IIT Madras, and Dr T Rajkumar, Professor and Head, Department of Molecular Oncology, Cancer Institute (WIA)

Under funding from the Department of Science and Technology, Govt of India, the Department of Molecular Oncology at the Cancer Institute (WIA) had undertaken research to identify proteins which can be detected in the blood which can help in the diagnosis of epithelial ovarian cancers, which accounts for over 90 per cent of the ovarian cancers.

Speaking about the key focus of this collaboration, Dr T Rajkumar, Professor and Head, Department of Molecular Oncology, Cancer Institute, said, “Our research to identify early diagnosis biomarkers for ovarian cancer used blood samples from 138 ovarian cancer patients, 20 patients with benign ovarian cancers and 238 healthy subjects. The study used high end proteomics [Tandem Mass Tag (TMT) based quantitative analysis by high resolution mass spectrometry] for initial identification of proteins which were differentially expressed in epithelial ovarian cancers. There were over 507 blood proteins which were expressed differently between healthy subjects and epithelial ovarian cancer patients. A two-stage validation was then undertaken. 

21 of the 507 proteins in blood that were found to be expressed at different levels were taken up for validation using an advanced technique called Quantibody array. 

In the 2nd stage, 9 proteins found to be expressed at different levels between healthy subjects and epithelial ovarian cancer patients were assessed using sandwich ELISA for each individual protein. 

Highlighting the unique aspects of this collaboration, Dr V V Raghavendra Sai, Associate Professor (Biomedical Engineering), Department of Applied Mechanics, IIT Madras, said, “This gives us an excellent opportunity to work closely with the clinicians towards a deeper understanding of the bottlenecks on the clinical diagnosis and gain from this rich experience to develop robust systems. The clinicians also will have an avenue to see the potential of the latest technological developments and guide us to effectively tailor them to meet the needs. The state-of-the-art high throughput systems, available only in the centralized diagnostic laboratories for screening for disease markers, are limited by the infrastructure, cost, access and sometimes sensitivity. We aim to realize a cutting-edge table-top customizable diagnostic system that can help in decentralization of the diagnosis and  bring a paradigm shift in the way the disease diagnosis is done currently.” 

Using the ELISA assays, a combination of 5 markers (CA125, IGFBP2, SPP1, TSP1 and ADI) showed 90.24 per cent sensitivity and 94.87 per cent specificity. This assay of 5 markers has the potential for early diagnosis of epithelial ovarian cancers. A patent application has been filed. The research has been published in the Journal of Proteomics [2020]. The collaboration with IIT Madras will help develop a single point of care device [instead of doing 5 ELISA reactions] which can help in faster and cheaper early diagnosis. This is not for screening purposes at this point of time”.

On the other hand, IIT Madras has received funding from Indo-German Science and Technology Centre (IGSTC), DST- Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) and Indo-US Science and Technology forum (IUSSTF) to develop point-of-care diagnostic platforms for pathogen detection and disease diagnosis. Novel diagnostic device technologies for important diseases specific to India. In particular, tuberculosis and COVID-19  are at the pre-clinical validation stage. 

Both Institutions will establish a review board and will obtain the necessary ethical clearances to evaluate and review the progress arising from this collaboration. The Cancer Institute (WIA) at Adyar is a comprehensive cancer centre with a hospital, a Research centre, a Centre for preventive oncology, Epidemiology and Cancer Registry and a College of Oncological Sciences. Its Research centre is engaged in research and development in Molecular Oncology and are further involved in identifying biomarkers for early diagnosis, prognosis and in the development of newer therapeutics in the field of Oncology.


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