Pune: Dr Aniruddha Chatterjee from the University of Otago, New Zealand said that epigenetics, his area of research, will help oncologists decide which treatment to offer cancer patients and this will benefit many patients. He is the youngest to be awarded a fellowship by the Royal Society of New Zealand.
Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.
Dr Chatterjee works as Senior Research Fellow and Rutherford Discovery Fellow (Royal Society of New Zealand) at the Department of Pathology with the University.
Speaking to Sakal Times, he noted that his research will be helpful for oncologists.
“The idea is to understand the epigenetic make-up of the cancer tissue. We are also trying to develop a biomarker which will tell us if a patient can respond to a certain type of treatment better or not,” said Dr Chatterjee.
He said every person has a specific gene sequence. This gene sequence has an epigenetic model which directs the gene to express.
“For example, the gene in an eyeball is same as that in the fingernail. However, both are different in colour. Here, the epigenetic directs the gene sequence to express in a particular way to get the eye colour, whereas, in a fingernail, the gene expressed is in a different way,” said Dr Chatterjee.
He said his research deals with the metastasis of cancer and that is how cancer spreads in the body.
“As a part of the body suffers from cancer, these harmful cells affect other vital organs in the body which kills many people. The process of spreading of cancer is called as metastasis,” said Dr Chatterjee.
He said similarly in cancer the gene sequence is similar.
“However, the instruction module is different that is the epigenetics. The primary cancer tumour goes to different parts of the body. There should be an epigenetic marks that make it spread. Our aim is to study what are the genetic markers for spread of cancer and how can these be controlled,” said Dr Chatterjee.
He noted that across the globe, research has been undertaken to study different types of therapies for cancer.
“Currently, after chemotherapy, there is immune therapy coming up where the patient can fight cancer in a better way and this is our associated work. It is seen that in many types of cancers, immune therapy has a better success rate. Overall it is a big advancement in the field,” said Dr Chatterjee.
However, he added that many patients respond to the immune therapy and many don’t. “We are trying to develop a biomarker which can help the oncologists understand what treatment should be given to the patients and for this, we are trying epigenetic make-up of patients. We are trying to analyse the cancer tissue of the patients before they receive the treatment based on epigenetic make-up. We want to be able to predict if the patient responds to which kind of treatment,” said Dr Chatterjee.
While discussing the use of immune therapy in India, he added that the many hospitals have started using the therapy for specific kind of cancers.
“However, the therapy is expensive so it is not affordable for everyone and so at present, it is limited in India. Also, many patients do not respond. However, more types of therapies will be coming out as there is new research coming up all across the globe,” said Dr Chatterjee.