Dr. Anup Majumdar, Ex-Professor & Head of Radiotherapy, Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education & Research and S.S.K.M. Hospital, Kolkata, briefly shared with BE, an excerpt from his lifelong experience in treating cancer patients. He said, “Even after being in the field of clinical oncology for long forty years, I feel shaken when I come across a new cancer patient for treatment; whether this patient will remain well for long years or will there be an early relapse irrespective of stages. It is purely because of uncertain outcome of response to therapy. Even for an early stage, the cure rate is 90 – 95%, but not 100% and who will fall within this 90 -95% is very critical to say in spite of all available predictive factors.”
Majumdar also mentioned, “Cancer being considered as a dreaded and life threatening disease , various forms of research are going on across the globe on cancer in different laboratories, institutes and hospitals with inch by inch towards betterment, but not all the results on experimental animals are reflected on human sufferer. In India about 10 lakh new cases are detected each year and death accrual being 6-7 lakh every year. India accounts for third highest number of cancer cases amongst women after China and US. Cancer of cervix and breast is very high in females whereas men suffer mostly from lung, throat, oesophagus and prostate cancer. Unfortunately most of the cases are detected late when form of therapy is mainly palliative one. Lacks of proper knowledge, regular health check-up, availability of medical services close by, mostly contribute for the late diagnosis. In most of the situation the disease grow silently inside the body and spreads over many sites and organs thus making it incurable.”
He added, “Now what are the general symptoms and signs of cancer? These are though not very specific but may be associated with cancer. Some symptoms are fatigue of unknown cause, any lump or thickening under skin, glandular enlargement, skin changes or change in character of existing mole, unintended change in body weight, non-healing ulcer, change of voice or hoarseness, persistent cough, sudden changes in bladder and bowel habit, muscle or bone pain without any trauma and unexplained bleeding from any source. One should be cautious but should not anyway think that with any of these symptoms he/she is having cancer.”
Debasish Bandyopadhyay, a Bengali scientist from the Department of Chemistry, University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, Texas, USA, has discovered a new path in the direction of chemotherapy researches for prevention of the SiHa type of cervical cancer. Many experts believe that Bandyodadhay’s research may help in attaining a meaningful cure for the SiHa type of cervical cancer.
Bandyopadhyay’s findings have been published in one of the world’s major science-journals, ‘Oncotarget’ dated June 6, 2017 and published online May 22, 2017, as a paper titled, ‘Stereochemical preference toward oncotarget: Design, synthesis and in-vitro anticancer evaluation of diastereomeric beta-lactam’.
Cervical cancer is mainly of six types. The worst or the most hazardous type of cervical cancer is ‘SiHa’. According to the World Health Organisation Report (2015), 78 of the 100 patients of cervical cancer are victims of SiHa. There is still no effective drug for it.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every year cervical cancer kills more than 250,000 women and 85% of these deaths occur in developing countries. Cervical cancer is globally the fourth most common cancer in women. As per the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR), one woman dies of cervical cancer every eight minutes in India. Cervical cancer stands second in India among women.
Cervix is the lowest part of the uterus and is a very narrow link between the uterus and the vagina. In normal cases, its diameter can never be more than four inches. During sexual intercourse, the infliction triggered by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in the women’s body is the cause of this cancer spreading rapidly across the whole cervix. But in some cases, the virus is in a ‘sleeping’ condition. In that case, there is no risk of cervical cancer.
However, having sexual intercourse at an early age or with a male who practices intercourse with a large number of women, increases the risk of cervical cancer. Chances increase if the woman gives birth many times. Even, having sex with many men can be a cause of cervical cancer. If the cervix gets infected many times, the chance of cervical cancer increases. The medicines for AIDS can also be the cause of this cancer.
Severe abdominal pain and irregularity in menstrual cycle.
A constant secretion with or without blood, bad odour from the vagina.
Pain at the time of mating is the other symptoms of this.
Debasish Bandyopadhyay informed that several drugs called ‘colchicine generic’ are already in use to treat cervical cancer but none have proved effective. Additionally, there are side effects. Researchers in Bandyodadhay’s team claim that their discovered organic compound molecules (Beta-Lactam) may solve this problem. According to Bandyopadhyay and his team, if a drug is made from their discovered organic compound molecule, it is likely to be more effective and successful than the drugs that are present in the market. At the same time, the chances of side effects will also be comparatively less.
Causes of SiHa type cervical cancer
Various proteins in our body are responsible for the occurrence of cancer. There are more than 20 thousand proteins in our body. It has been possible to identify 73 proteins that are responsible for 400 types of cancer. Cancer can occur if the secretion of those particular proteins in our body is more or less than the specified amount.
Chemotherapy is often done to prevent the spread of cancer. The main task of chemotherapy is either to ‘kill’ or ‘bound or encircle’ those proteins whose increase or decrease causes cancer. The chemotherapy drugs enter the body and reach the tumour cells and do one or two of those two functions. To do this, chemotherapy drugs contain special types of organic compounds called inhibitors and there are specified inhibitors for each of the cancer inducing proteins. The inhibitors that kill or bind the bad proteins are called antagonists. And the inhibitors that trigger good proteins to do the work of binding the bad proteins are called agonist. Excessive exudation of ‘beta-tubulin’ is responsible for the ‘SiHa’ type of cervical cancer.
The drawbacks of ‘colchicine’
According to Bandyopadhyay, “We have observed that colchicine kills many healthy, normal cells of a patient’s body along with the tumour cells. It is unable to recognise its target cells after entering the body.” Beta-lactam’s organic compound molecule also has two parts namely ‘Cis’ and ‘Trans’. ‘Cis’ is used in all medicines of antibiotics. ‘Trans’ is never used in antibiotics.
Bandyopadhyay said, “For many years, scientists had believed that cancer could not be cured by beta-lactam’s ‘Cis’ skeleton. It will only be ‘trans’ skeleton. Since 2000, research has started around the world in this regard. But that idea is not right, we have shown that.”
He claims that they first showed that the micro-organic compounds of Cis skeleton’s beta-lactam could kill tumour cells of ‘SiHa’ cervical cancer. Beta-tubulin can be tied by this micro organic compound. While doing so, they do not kill the surrounding healthy, normal cells. A test was run on a rat in this regard and it was successful. Bandyopadhyay informed, “After this, we will run a test on guinea pigs and we expect those tests to succeed. After that, it will be tried on humans.”
Researchers claim that skin cancer, like melanoma in mice, is also cured by the ‘Cis’ skeleton’s beta-lactam. The protein (beta-tubulin’s) increase or decrease is the cause of the ‘SiHa’ type of cervical cancer. Excessive discharge of that protein is responsible for the birth of tumour cells causing melanoma. Researchers found that in order to kill the tumour cells of melanoma, ‘Cis’ skeleton’s beta-lactam is six times more effective than the popular medicine colchicine.
From the perspective of an oncologist
Eminent oncologist, Dr. Anup Majumdar, gave his comment on the subject research. He stated to BE, “This is a very innovative research outcome. But there is a big gap between laboratory methods and assured clinical success and for that, different phases of trials are needed with publication of results, presentation in clinical seminars and a final approval. I hope all those steps will be overcome and this research will prove useful for the suffering population.”
Still two big ‘hurdles’ to cross
This research study in chemotherapy is certainly a ‘break’. But there are still two hurdles for Bandyopadhyay and his team. They need to succeed in their tests on guinea pigs and then they need to ace human trials. According to experts, if these two hurdles are overcome, then invention of strong, effective medicines for the SiHa type of cervical cancer and melanoma is a feasible reality.