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In its 50th year, the Cancer Research Institute at Parel, Mumbai moved to Navi Mumbai to become the basic research wing of the Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC), and started functioning from its new premises at Kharghar from the 19th of August 2002. ACTREC, which comprises of the basic and clinical research wings and an educational complex, will carry out mission-oriented research and development on cancers prevalent in the Indian subcontinent, and where there are internationally competitive opportunities, will use state-of-the-art technology in partnership with the Tata Memorial Hospital.
 

During the year, in spite of the disruption of work due to its move from Parel to Kharghar, the Institute has managed to continue with its activities. Research investigations have focused on molecular mechanisms responsible for the causation of the major human cancers in parallel with studies in animal models and cells in tissue culture.

Ongoing investigations on oral cancer have changed focus from alterations in oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes to global analysis of gains and losses of chromosomal regions, gene and protein expression, alteration in genes regulating DNA repair and xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes, role of intermediate filament proteins in epithelial cell transformation, presence of novel HPV, preparation of gene therapy reagents against oral cancer, understanding the molecular mechanisms in immune surveillance and development of single chain antibodies against antigens from oral tumor cells.

With respect to breast cancer, studies have investigated the importance of HLA in breast cancer predisposition in specific ethnic groups such as the Parsis and Maharashtrians and their relation to age of onset of the disease. Epigenetic mechanisms regulating genes involved in cell proliferation have also received attention.

In-depth studies are on to understand the molecular mechanisms of hepatitis B virus infection leading to hepatocellular carcinoma. The utility of the viral mRNA for HBx gene, and circulating antibodies towards the HBx protein are being assessed as markers for viral infection.

Analysis of cytokine profiles and the role of antibodies to the viral proteins E6 and E7 in cervical cancer, cytokine imbalance in lung cancer patients, and the role of urinary cytokines in intravesical BCG therapy in superficial bladder cancer are ongoing. The significance of the T-cell repertoire in T-ALL, presence of HPV in esophageal cancer and HHV6 in lymphoproliferative disorders are also receiving attention. The biology of HIV-2, the virus which has spread only in India and Africa is being studied in-depth. Having an Indian isolate of HIV-2 has also provided the impetus to develop an indigenous retroviral vector for gene transfer.

Studies in cultured cells address questions related to chromatin structure, specific signal transduction pathways, molecules and intermolecular interactions mediating cell proliferation, cell death and functional differentiation, many of which are altered during cellular transformation in response to DNA damaging agents and environmental chemical carcinogens.

Studies on tobacco mediated carcinogenesis have encompassed chemical analysis, examination of the bioactivity of various tobacco products, transplacental carcinogenesis and biomonitoring of habitués. Sizeable effort has been directed towards delineation of the mechanisms of chemopreventive action of agents from Indian foods, such as turmeric, tea and grapes, and development of mechanism-based biomarkers of exposure.

The first transgenic mouse in the country, which was made at the Institute, hosts a gene for a growth modulator. This mouse is being developed as a model for squamous cell carcinoma. In parallel, newer cell lines useful for cancer research and an expression system for the E6 protein of HPV are being developed.

During 2002, scientists at the Institute have obtained extra mural support from different funding bodies to the tune of Rs. 1 Crore. Work from the Institute has led to 19 publications in peer reviewed journals. Eleven students have obtained Ph.D. in different disciplines of life sciences from the University of Mumbai.

The Institute initiated the celebrations of its Golden Jubilee Year with the Foundation Day Lecture by Nobel Laureate, Sir Paul Nurse in January 2002. As its first major scientific activity after the move to ACTREC, it organized the XXVI All India Cell Biology Conference and Symposium where over 250 scientists from India and abroad participated and exchanged views on recent trends in Cell Biology. The Golden Jubilee Year culminated at the celebrations held at Kharghar on the 31st of December 2002 in the august presence of Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Chairman, AEC.

Tata Memorial Centre. Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research & Education in Cancer (ACTREC) Sector 22, Kharghar, Navi Mumbai - 410208, India.
Tel. +91-22-2741 2919 Fax: +91-22-2741 2894 E-mail: cri3@soochak.ncst.ernet.in