Cancer cure

By Keya Acharya
Published: Sunday 15 December 1996

In the US $5.15 billion world anti-cancer market, where 75 per cent of the contribution comes from the US alone, India's share of the market is a mere 100 crore, with a 12-13 per cent annual growth.

But one of the main manufacturers of anti-cancer plant alkaloids in India is Southern Herbals, which is also among the largest producers in the world. These alkaloids are Vincristine (VCR) and Vinblastine (VLB), found in catharanthus roseus or the Madagascar periwinkle -- considered to be very potent in chemotherapy treatment of lung and testicular cancers and leukaemia.

Although the extraction of the alkaloids is a complicated process, Southern Herbals -- located in Jigani of Anekal taluka which lies 25 km outside Bangalore -- commands a price higher than world averages (about US $39.50/mg of VCR and US $14.60/mg of VLB).

VLB inhibits lymphomas but has much less effect on leukaemia while VCR suppresses leukaemia in children. With the international purity standard being 95-105 per cent, Southern Herbals produces VCR and VLB at a 106 per cent purity level.

The plant receives technical support from the United Nations (UN) Industrial Development Organization, the UN's Asia Pacific Centre for Technology Support, the International Executive Service Corporation, and the Research Triangle Institute of the US as well as the Central Institute of Aromatic plants of India and the Indian Institute of Managements.

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