National University of Medical Sciences (NUMS) Rawalpindi has won a grant of over Rs 7 million from the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for conducting research into identifying “biomarkers” for detection of cancer at an early stage in Pakistani population.

This was stated by Asma Saleem Qazi, Assistant Professor (Molecular Pathology) Department of Biological Sciences (DBS) NUMS, whose research proposal was selected by HEC through a competitive process held across the country under the National Research Program for Universities (NRPU). This research project will last for three years, she added.

The “development of diagnostic panel for early-stage cancer detection” project will gather samples from the Pakistani population which would help in early diagnosis of cancer. Currently, “cancer among patients in the country is detected when it is already spread and the chances of their survival are very low”, she said.

According to WHO, the number of overall new cancer patients in Pakistan in 2020 stood at 178,338, among them 88,015 were males and 90,373 were females.

Dr Asma said the majority of females were affected by breast cancer while males were mostly afflicted by lip and oral cancer. There were “various causes behind cancer including smoking, using different types of ‘paans’ (betel leaves), and air and water pollutants, she added.

Meanwhile, NUMS and the Malaysian University College Sedaya International (UCSI) are also collaborating to study the anti-cancer potential of certain hemi synthesized derivatives or plant extracts in treating cancer.

Under the “Research excellence and innovation grant”, UCSI is funding the project which is a recognition of NUMS research potential, said Dr Asma. She and her team in collaboration with Malaysian scientist Dr Lionel In Lian Aun and his team have jointly developed the project.

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