After years of research, a group of Indian scientists have found out that the secret formula to treat oral cancer wounds lies in honey. An inter-disciplinary research group comprising chemical engineers, bio-technologists and doctors at IIT Kharagpur have developed a therapeutic patch which is made of silk and embedded with honey.
Experiments at the lab of School of Medical Science and Technology at the IIT have shown that the patch not only heal the cancer wound faster, but also minimise the chances of recurrence of the oral cancer after surgical intervention.
“Honey is well-known for its remarkable wound healing potential, and anti-cancer and antibacterial properties. The technology involved in this process is modulating cellular environment by using biometrically devised honey-silk fibroin scaffolds,” researcher Monika Rajput said.
The soft nano technology concepts have been devised by IIT-Kharagpur professor Rabibrata Mukherjee while the idea of using honey came from Jyotirmoy Chaterjee.
“Many patients have to go for surgeries in case of oral cancer. After the affected part of the body is removed, it causes a wound which may have some cancerous or pre-cancerous cells left in it. Therefore the chances are high that you will contract cancer again. Our technology helps patients control these wounds,” said co-researcher Nandini Bhandaru.
Currently, there is no available therapeutic patch particularly for oral cancer wound in market, which can heal the wound faster and minimise the chances of recurrence.
The team has already filed a patent and their research work has been published in the international journal of the American Chemical Society ‘ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering’. Before commercialising the technology, the scientists will have to conduct experiments on animals and then on human patients.
“In our lab, the tool has been found to enable growth of healthy cells, while hindering growth of cancer-associated cells which fail to grab the patterned micropillar structure in the scaffold. On the other hand, the healthy cells grab the patterns very well and grow faster,” the researchers said.
The membrane sheet is made of silk because it is flexible and bio-compatible with the human body. Since the tool uses cheap and easily available materials like honey and silk, the cost of the technology will also be cheap for patients once they are able to commercialise it by making it available in the market with a pharma company.
India has an alarming figure for deaths due to oral cancer with one death every six hours, states Indian Dental Association. Around 40 per cent of all cancer related cases can be attributed to oral cancer. Though treatments are available at early stages, recurrence is a common concern.