IIT Madras researchers find alternative source for anti-cancer drug

So far, the lead molecule for an anti-cancer drug has been sourced from trees leading to overharvesting. The new method is sustainable.

IIT Madras researchers find alternative source for anti-cancer drug IIT Madras researchers find alternative source for anti-cancer drug
Team Careers360 | Feb 25, 2021 - 12:22 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have identified a sustainable and high-yielding alternative source for camptothecin, the lead molecule, used in anti-cancer drugs. The alternative source will prevent the destruction of a large number of trees from which camptothecin has thus far been sourced.

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The drug processed through a new microbial fermentation method can be economically efficient for production. It will thereby be able to fulfil the market demand at a large scale, a statement from the institute said.

The science involved

Topotecan and Irinotecan are two widely-used anti-cancer drugs. These drugs are being produced by using camptothecin as the lead molecule.

Camptothecin is an alkaloid isolated from the Chinese tree Camptotheca acuminata and the Indian tree Nothapodytes nimmoniana.

Endophytes, the microorganisms that reside within plants, are said to have the ability to produce metabolites associated with the host-plant.

The research established a sustainable and high camptothecin yielding endophyte, as an alternative source for commercial production of camptothecin, the statement said.

Nearly 1,000 tons of plant material is required to extract just one ton of camptothecin. Due to extensive overharvesting to meet the market demand both these plants are now critically endangered.

The team

Led by Smita Srivastava, associate professor, the other members include Suresh Kumar Rayala, professor, Khwajah Mohinudeen, research scholar and Rahul Kanumuri, senior research fellow, department of biotechnology, IIT Madras

R. Uma Shaanker, professor and N. Soujanya, researcher, from school of ecology and conservation, University of Agricultural Sciences, Gandhi Krishi Vigyan Kendra Bengaluru also formed a part of the team.

“The plan now is to use the isolated novel strain for the development of a microbial fermentation based sustainable bioprocess for large scale in vitro production of Camptothecin, preferably in collaboration with interested Industrial partner(s)”, said Srivastava.

It is projected that by 2026, the new cancer cases in India annually would reach 0.93 million in male and 0.94 million in female patients, according to a study published in Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention.

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