MDR TB bigger problem than cancer: Expert

Sir Tom Blundell, Fellow of Royal Society and professor at University of Cambridge said that Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis was acute in the India and there was a growing need to develop drugs to combat the disease.

He was speaking at a media interaction session held, following a two day international symposium on ‘Chemical Biology - Drug Discovery Programme’, at Manasagangothri premises.“Between 1940 and 1960, there were a large number of drugs used to treat TB. In the next 30 years, no new drug was developed to combat the disease,” he said.

Second line drugs

He also raised concerns on the use of second line drugs to treat MDR TB, which was toxic to the patient. “Development of new drugs are essential,” he said, and added that MDR TB was a bigger problem than cancer in the world.  

Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the microbe responsible for the disease has a complex life cycle. Studies should be conducted on the microbe, to tackle MDR TB, a disease affecting a large number of people, especially in developing countries, such as India and South Africa.

Cancer cure

Even though drugs developed to counter a disease works on a large percentage of the population, some people have negative reactions due to these drugs. Such issues will be successfully tackled with developments in personalised genomics, he said.

Speaking on the developments in cancer therapy, Blundell said that the process of sequencing genomes of different cancers was already on, and studies are being conducted to understand the evolution of cancer cells in the human body. “If we understand cancers at a genomic level, it will be possible in the future to design personalised medicines for individuals, who are afflicted with the disease,” he said.

Tapas K Kundu of Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research said that a complete cure to cancer was not possible. However, scientific progress in the field of medicine has prolonged the life of a person who is suffering from cancer. He said that affordable drugs must be developed to combat the disease in India.

Drug trials

Kundu said that there were several issues regarding drug trials in the country. While there were social issues for human trials of even approved vaccinations, pharma companies too maintained secrecy about the trials conducted, he said.

He said that drug trials in India was not smooth and the problem was compounded due to the low availability of data on drug trials.

K S Rangappa, Vice-Chancellor, University of Mysore said that despite research in genomics to combat cancer, chemotherapy was still the most widely used method to treat the disease. “Research in therapeutics, designing new molecules to treat diseases and checking for the toxicity of these compounds has to be pursued for better drugs,” he said.

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