Indian-led Saudi team makes major cancer diagnosis breakthrough

July 17th, 2008 - 5:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, July 17 (IANS) An international team of scientists led by a Saudi Arabia-based Indian has made a major breakthrough in lung cancer diagnosis. The team, led by Vadevel Masilamani of King Saud University’s (KSU) College of Science, has discovered a new lung cancer biomarker that is expected to greatly help in the early diagnosis of the disease.

A biomarker is any substance that is measured biologically and associated with an increased risk of disease. Cancer biomarkers are certain proteins found highly elevated in blood plasma due to the abnormal metabolic activity of cancer cells.

The research breakthrough was the result of a joint collaboration between Masilamani’s KSU team, scientist Elango of the Florida-based Thendrel Inc., and MCD, an Indian diagnostic centre, the local media reported.

Masilamani and his team, the reports said, discovered a totally new biomarker after he employed a laser-based optical analysis of biomarkers found in blood plasma, urine and sputum. The new biomarker, it has been discovered, is found exclusively in the plasma and sputum of lung cancer patients.

“This would mean that we can, for the first time, quantify the damage done to the lungs by heavy smoking. We can warn heavy smokers with facts and figures, that they are only two years or three years away from serious malignancy,” the reports quoted Masilamani as saying.

The newly discovered biomarker is present in 83 percent of plasma and sputum of lung cancer patients but totally absent in normal plasma or sputum of other patients like those suffering from breast or colon cancer.

In the course of his 15 years’ work in India, Canada, Italy and Saudi Arabia, Masilamani, a professor of spectroscopy and medical laser, has also developed a new technique of diagnosing cancer called optical diagnosis of cancer.

According to Masilamani, the new technique would help diagnosis of cancer in any part of the body through the testing of five millilitre blood and five millilitre of fasting urine.

He added that an expert committee set up by the Indian Council of Medical Research has validated this particular protocol. The KSU has announced a reward of 50,000 Saudi riyals ($13,347) and a gold medal for each member of the university’s research team.

Other members of of the KSU team included Mohamad Al-Salhi, also a laser physicist like Masilamani, Abdul Rehman Al-Diab, head of medical oncology, Hajjar and M.H. Akeely, both onco surgeons, and two graduate girl students, Nadia Yousef and Wafa Al-Saleh. Except Masilamani, all the others are Saudis.

According to the reports, the new breakthrough is to be patented in the US and a chair for laser diagnosis of cancer will be created at the KSU.

Stating that Masilamani and his team would bring international fame for the university, KSU rector Abdullah Al-Othman said: “We want to become a world class university for research and development.”

He added that 350 million riyals ($93.2 million) had been collected by the university as part of a major research and development programme that was being carried out with the support of businessmen to boost the country’s scientific and technological progress.

“The university is also planning to set up an endowment fund worth 500 million riyals,” Al-Othman said.

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