Health Care Global (HCG) — India’s largest privately-owned chain of cancer care hospitals — is conducting an interesting study that aims to find whether every person consuming tobacco will get cancer, or whether some are more susceptible than others.
Speaking to South First, HCG Bengaluru’s Head-Neck Surgical Oncology and Robotic Surgery Dean and Regional Director Dr Vishal Rao said that the study’s outcome would indicate whether carcinogens from tobacco were leading to cancer in all those with tobacco exposure, or if genetic factors were rendering certain smokers more susceptible to cancer than others.
What is the study all about?
Rao, also the associate dean for research and academics at HCG Bengaluru, explained that researchers were looking into a complete genomic study of at least 10,000 volunteers.
This study, according to him, was also an attempt to understand how tobacco consumption impacted the human system and the overall genes, and which any particular drug could act better on a particular tobacco-related cancer when compared to non-tobacco-related cancers, and if this was based on the genetic pathway.
“This study will tell us the risk analysis of cancer in people who smoke. It will also tell us in which part of the body the carcinogen is mutating, helping in understand and implementing the target-based treatment protocol,” Rao explained.
He said in some cases when gene mutations happen in a particular area of the body, they may be resistant to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. In such cases, it would be best to take undergo surgery.
However, there may be cases where the mutation shows that the tumour is changing fast and may spread quickly. Then, the first option would be chemotherapy instead of surgery, he added.
The researchers are also trying to ascertain the difference in impact between chewing tobacco and smoking.
Detailed study will take time
Rao clarified that this would be a long study, with a large sample size and involving multiple departments.
He said at least 30 percent of the around one lakh new cases that come into hospitals every year are of tobacco-related cancer.
“Hence, the data we are going to have will play a huge role in understanding the genetics of tobacco-related cancer. Also, the study insights and findings will be released in phases,” he added.
Rao said that the first phase of the study had delivered some impressive findings, which would be released for publication soon.
Importance of Indian data
Rao said that this study was also enabling them to develop signature microbes for each cancer.
Every individual has their own macrobiotic signature. This is determined by their genetic heritage.
This changes throughout life, depending on the kind of food people eat, the environment they live in, the air they breathe, and other factors.
The study is expected to find out the kind of impact different varieties of tobacco have on these macrobiotic signatures.
“When we know that our overall consumption of tobacco and habits of tobacco use are different from the West, our immune system is different, the kind of products used is different in the Indian population, and our genes are different, then why are we still using the treatment based on Western data? Our study will benefit from the local Indian data,” he said.
Rao also said that the research evidence would be shared publicly in various stages over the next few years.