India is developing a cost- effective and cheaper vaccine for controlling cervical cancer, the most reported cancer in the country, in collaboration with the WHO and a US-based company.
Inaugurating the new research and development complex of the Institute of Cytology and Preventive Oncology (ICPO) here on the outskirts of Delhi today, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said the facility has taken the initiative to make a vaccine that works against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the major agent causing cervical cancer in women.
ICPO has signed a MoU with pharmaceutical major Merck to develop the vaccine.
"Women will benefit because of the cancer prevention vaccine. Most women are not even aware of cervical cancer. Detecting it among unmarried women is difficult. For this, we are planning to carry out urine tests," Ramadoss said.
Around 1.4 lakh cervical cancer cases are reported every year in India among women, followed by breast cancer (80,000) and mouth (70,000) cancer. About 2.5 cancer cases are reported in the country every year.
Ramadoss said the government's focus is on cancer reseach it has recommended the formation of a separate department of research to the Planning Commission. "This idea has been okayed by the prime minsiter," he said.
He suggested to ICPO that it start a cancer research hospital in its complex.
India, he said, is the only developing country to be a member of the International Agency in Research in Cancer at Lyons in France. "This will help us in exchanging information about new developments," he said. More
Celebrities, he said, should follow their moral code when they depict smoking on the big screen. He was referring to Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan's yet to be released movie "Don".
Ramadoss also said 10 million children under the age of 15 are addicted to tobacco.
To counter such problems, he said the government wanted to make its National Cancer Control Programme "very vibrant", he said.
N K Ganguly, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said ICPO has several firsts to its credit. The ICPO is a institute under the ICMR.
"Twenty years ago they were the ones who introduced pap smear screening for early detection (of breast cancer). It was an epoch-making step. The other was district-level reporting of cervical cancer and mapping the HPV virus," he said.
Now, he said, they are producing the HPV vaccine.
ICPO director B C Das, who received the Ranbaxy Foundation Award two days ago, said the organisation was the first to find that turmeric could possibly be used as an anti-cancer drug. "Now, national clinical trials are being conducted on this by various institutes," he said.
John W Sellors, senior medical advisor (reproductive health) in PATH, a US-based NGO working on emerging epidemic diseases, said cervical cancer kills women earlier than breast cancer. He said there are no organised screning programmes in India and no trained human resources.