GUWAHATI, July 27 - An Assam-origin scientist, who is now working as an assistant professor with Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), has made a path-breaking discovery in determining a major cause of liver cancer. The discovery has the potential to serve as a therapeutic target for drug design by providing direction to the management strategy for this terminal disease. Together with Prof Keigo Machida of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles and other collaborators, Dr Hifzur R Siddique, the Assam scientist from Karimganj, has discovered that the central regulatory pathway of liver cancer is caused by alcohol and hepatitis infection. The findings of the study have been published recently in Nature Communications 11 (2020).
The research of Dr Siddique led to the molecular mechanisms of a cancer-causing protein, TBC1D15. He, together with his team, found that the cancer cells and cancer stem cells accumulate TBC1D15, which promotes cancer in two ways� initially by interfering with the normal asymmetric cell division and then enhancing the cancer-causing NOTCH protein.
Dr Hifzur has been working on these cells for a decade and has set up a dedicated lab to initiate pioneer research on Cancer Stem Cells at AMU. Cancer Stem Cells are rare cells found in the tumour, which are responsible for cancer initiation recurrence, invasion, and metastasis. Thus, these cells were considered as �root cause� of almost all types of cancer. At the initial stage of therapy, the cancer cells are killed either by chemotherapeutic drugs or radiation. However, a few cells survive and help the recurrence of the tumour after a gap.
Dr Hifzur maintained that annually, more than 7,82,000 new cases of liver cancer patients are diagnosed world over. The five years� survival rate of these patients is found to be restricted between 10 and 20 per cent, against that of the 91 per cent of the patients with breast cancer. Significantly, liver cancer is largely traced in developing or underdeveloped countries, which report between 80 and 83 per cent of such patients.
Excess alcohol consumption causes different diseases, including cirrhosis, and ultimately leads to liver cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, France, has designated alcohol as the �Type-1� cancer-causing agent. The situation gets worsened when hepatitis infection occurs in an alcoholic person. According to the American Cancer Society, liver cancer death rate has also been increasing since 1980 by 2.7 per cent every year.
Indian alcohol consumers prefer hard liquor and distilled spirits over beers. In India, 80 per cent of alcohol consumption involves these stronger beverages. In one of the reports of the leading scientific journal Lancet, more than half of all alcohol drinkers in India, fall in the criteria of hazardous drinking. The alcohol content in traditional alcoholic beverages such as �Arrack�, �Toddy�, country liquor, etc., ranges from 20 per cent to 40 per cent. The alcohol content in illicit liquor is much higher, ie., up to 56 per cent.
The Lancet reported that more than half of those who consume alcohol in India would fall into the category of hazardous drinking. Dr Siddique informed that presently almost 3.3 million deaths in India were attributed to alcohol consumption. Unlike many western countries, the consumption of alcohol in India is witnessing a dramatic rise � for instance, between 1970 and 1995, there was a 106.7 per cent increase in the per capita consumption.
Dr Siddique has so far received 23 awards for his scientific research works. He is an editorial member of six scientific journals and a reviewer of 30 scientific journals. He has so far published 73 scientific papers.