Kerala researcher’s biodrug holds promise in cancer cure

Turmeric has always been lauded for its therapeutic properties.

Published: 16th February 2022 06:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th February 2022 04:27 PM   |  A+A-

Dr Lekha Dinesh Kumar at the lab at CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Turmeric has always been lauded for its therapeutic properties. Its cancer-curing properties have always been known and, this time, a researcher from the capital city has proved it yet again. In a major leap in science and research in cancer cure, Dr Lekha Dinesh Kumar has blended two research technologies — RNA interference (RNAi) and nanotechnology — thereby developing a biodrug that is non-toxic and bio-compatible and ensuring site-specific delivery of the same to targeted colon and breast cancerous cells.

Curcumin, an active component in turmeric, has potent anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is ideal for cancer therapeutics, said Dr Lekha who works as project leader, cancer biology, at CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad. Curcumin along with other biological components are used to transport the biodrug.

Dr Lekha

The research which got published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal ‘Nanoscale’ involved a collaboration of CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) and CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL). The ‘gene-silencing approach’ or RNAi method is used here. The RNAi is a promising tool for targeted and focused therapy for chronic diseases like cancer.

This is combined with nanotechnology, thereby developing nanocarriers that target RNA and silence it, or silence the over-expressed gene. “It is the over-expressed gene that leads to cell multiplication and then to tumour and cancerous growth. The technology shuts the gene down, selectively,” said Dr Lekha. It was the lack of safe and effective delivery methods for RNAi molecules has been the primary challenge that prevented the potential of RNAibased therapy, she said.

“This could be addressed by using nanotechnology. The combinatorial approach of using nanocurcumin to encapsulate the drug allows in the enhanced targeting and uptake by the cancerous cells at the tumour site,” said the Thiruvananthapuram native. The proposed biodrug developed by Dr Lekha is non-toxic and bio-compatible. The results proved that nano-RNAi biodrug formulation efficiently regresses the tumours by effectively knocking down target genes.

The pre-clinical studies were done in mice models. “We could see that after the administration of the drug, there was a one-fourth increase in the lifespan of the mice. This, when compared to humans, ensures good longevity. A onefourth increase in lifespan would mean an increase of 20 to 25 years for humans,” says Dr Lekha. The next step involves clinical trials in humans.


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