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IIT Madras Establishes CoE for Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer

Written by : Jayati Dubey

October 25, 2023

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The data from this centre is crucial for creating an India-specific cancer genome database, essential for developing early detection biomarkers and understanding drug interactions with the genome.

In a recent development, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, has launched a one-of-a-kind "Centre of Excellence on Cancer Genomics and Molecular Therapeutics" focused on researching and developing biomarkers for the early detection of pancreatic cancer.

The data generated by this centre will contribute to creating an India-specific cancer genome database, crucial for identifying and developing early detection biomarkers and understanding drug responses. Additionally, this data may aid in identifying potential drug targets for innovative therapeutics.

Pancreatic cancer is currently the fourth leading cause of cancer-related fatalities worldwide and is predicted to become the second leading cause within a decade. Given the high incidence of this cancer in India, pharmaceutical companies are keen on obtaining India-specific cancer genome data to establish biomarkers tailored to the Indian population.

Currently, most studies rely on Western population data, resulting in a lower patient survival rate due to genomic differences.

S. Mahalingam, the principal investigator of the research and a member of the Department of Biotechnology at IIT Madras, said, "Biomarkers identified from the proposed work will be critical for developing real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) and sequencing-based early diagnostic kits. Also, identified drug targets will be used for developing novel anti-cancer therapeutics for pancreatic cancer."

The research also involves the development of preclinical cancer models to aid in drug screening and understanding in-vivo cancer pathogenesis.

Furthermore, the centre is creating a 3D organoid model for disease monitoring and drug screening, which will have applications in personalised cancer treatment.

The scope of this endeavour spans beyond pancreatic cancer and will be extended to other prevalent cancers in India. This multi-faceted approach lays the foundation for future start-up companies dedicated to cancer therapeutics and diagnostics.

Mahalingam emphasised that the centre's primary goal is to develop a non-invasive biomarker gene panel for early diagnosis, disease monitoring, and treatment response. This initiative brings together experts from various fields, including cancer biology, bioengineering, computational biology, and clinical expertise.

It represents a unique collaborative effort in India to significantly enhance the healthcare infrastructure, not just for cancer treatment but for healthcare advancements across the board.

The Center of Excellence is set to offer its professional and technical services to the scientific community, catering to research applications that focus on identifying cancer-specific biomarkers and advancing drug discovery from laboratory settings to industry-level applications.

Furthermore, the centre has established collaborations with Dr Daniel Murphy at the Cancer Research UK-Beatson Institute in the UK to study cancer pathogenesis, novel drug target identification, and animal models for understanding cancer pathogenesis.

In a similar development in August this year, researchers from IIT Madras created a Machine Learning-driven computational tool designed to enhance the identification of cancerous tumours in the brain and spinal cord. Termed 'GBMDriver' (short for GlioBlastoma Multiforme Drivers), this innovative tool is now accessible to the public online.

About Chime India

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is an executive organization dedicated to serving senior digital health leaders. CHIME includes more than 5,000 members in 56 countries and two US territories and partners with over 150 healthcare IT businesses and professional services firms. CHIME enables its members and business partners to collaborate, exchange ideas, develop professionally and advocate the effective use of information management to improve the health and care throughout the communities they serve. CHIME's members are chief information officers (CIOs), chief medical information officers (CMIOs), chief nursing information officers (CNIOs), chief innovation officers (CIOs), chief digital officers (CDOs), and other senior healthcare leaders. The CHIME India Chapter became the first international chapter outside North America in 2016 and is now a community of over 70+ members in India. For more information, please visit


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