National Institute of Immunology receives trademark for India’s first indigenous tumor antigen SPAG9



The Department of Biotechnology announced on June 4, 2021, that the SPAG9 antigen which has been developed by the National Institute of Immunology (NII) has received the ASPAGNIITM trademark.

SPAG9 is India’s first indigenous tumor antigen which was discovered in 1998 by Dr. Anil Suri. He heads the Cancer Research Programme at the National Institute of Immunology, a DBT Institute.

In a statement, DBT informed that, currently, ASPAGNIITM is being used in the dendritic cell (DC) based immunotherapy in ovarian, cervical cancer and will also be used in breast cancer.

Cancer research in India:

DBT informed that cancer kills 8.51 lakh people in India every year. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in 10 Indians will develop cancer during their lifetime and one in 15 will die because of cancer.

It is all the more critical now to make extraordinary breakthroughs and innovations for this deadly disease.

In order to implement the innovation and newer modalities for cancer treatments successfully, researchers at the New Delhi-based National Institute of Immunology and the clinicians at the Cancer Institute, Chennai have been working together to translate the new scientific discoveries into improved care.

This team, over the past two decades, has been engaged in translating the breakthroughs that promise to add a highly potent weapon to the armoury against cancer, particularly employing the targeted cancer immunotherapy.

What is an Immunotherapy approach?

It is a new approach that exploits the inner capability of the body to put up a fight against cancer. With the Immunotherapy approach, either the immune system is given a boost, or the T-Cells are being trained to identify recalcitrant cancer cells and kill them.

Under this personalized intervention, those patients who have been expressing SPAG9 protein can be treated with a DC-based vaccine approach.

In the DC-based vaccine approach, a patient’s cells, known as monocytes, are collected from their blood and are modified into what are known as dendritic cells.

These dendritic cells are then primed with ASPAGNIITM and are injected back to the patient in order to help the ‘fighter’ cells or T-Cells, in the patient’s body to kill the cancer cells.

As per DBT, DC-based immunotherapy is affordable, safe and can also promote antitumor immune responses and help in the prolonged survival of cancer patients.





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