CHENNAI: In a bid to develop a cancer genome database specific to the Indian population, IIT Madras has now proposed to establish a national facility on cancer genomics. The facility will be completed in the phase II construction of the National Cancer Tissue Biobank, established on IIT-M premises in 2014.
The proposed project, a three-way joint venture between the Indian Council for Medical Research, the ministry of health and family Welfare and IIT- Madras was discussed with Union health and family welfare minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey during his visit to the facility on Saturday. Through this, the researchers will be aiming to create a cancer genomic database specific to the Indian population. This will not only help in early detection of cancer in Indian patients but will also play a key role in developing new therapies specific to the Indian population, said Prof. S. Mahalingam, coordinator of the National Cancer Tissue Biobank, department of biotechnology, IIT-M.
The researchers have planned to develop this population-specific database by carrying out the whole-exome and RNA sequencing for the different cancer tissue samples available at the National Cancer Tissue Biobank and this database will also be made available to scientists of Indian institutions, according to a statement from IIT-M.
The tissue biobank which has already collected cancer tissue samples from more than 3,000 patients, has an infrastructure to store 60,000 tissue samples according to Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras. The facility has also been making commendable advancements in cancer research, already having signed MoUs with hospitals in Chennai and Puducherry to collect cancer tissue samples. Speaking about this, Prof. S. Mahalingam said, "IIT Madras researchers have begun the sequencing of the genomes of cancer patients starting first with breast cancer samples and completed whole-exome and transcriptome sequencing for 300 cancer patients."
Lauding the efforts of researchers at IIT-M, minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey remarked that the advanced research facility will help the nation and will help win the war against cancer. Dr R.S. Sharma, head, scientist-G and senior deputy director-general, division of reproductive biology, maternal and child health, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and Dr Usha Agrawal, scientist F, ICMR-National Institute of Pathology, Delhi, were also present during the minister's visit to the campus.