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A Kashmiri scientist has made a path-breaking discovery that not only adds to our understanding of spread of cancer but could also pave way for new treatment of prostate cancer.

Dr Khalid MuzaffarMasoodi, a scientist working at SKAUST K, in collaboration with University of Pittsburgh USA has published a paper in February issue of Nature Oncogene, a leading cancer journal from Nature publishing group. The paper presents the identification of DHX15, a newly discovered gene that drives the spread and growth of cancerous cells in human body. This is the first study to reveal how DHX15 expression is associated with prostate cancer recurrence and provides a “potential new molecular target for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer”.

DrMasoodi, who happens to work in SKAUST, an agriculture university, said the stream of science was never a constraint in chase of his research dreams. “We have major projects funded by AYUSH ministry and others, and we have been able to satisfy these ministries that plant and medicine research go together,” he said.

Talking about his discovery, DrMasoodi said, “We were astonished to find that DHX15 had a role in cancer’s spread round the body, but to discover how it also appears to drive the growth of prostate cancer cells is a real game changer.” Dr. Masoodi works as an assistant professor and team leader at the Transcriptomics Laboratory, Division of Plant Biotechnology.

In his message to young scientists of Kashmir, DrMasoodi said, “We have a treasure of over 3000 medicinal plants in Kashmir. If we begin to explore these, we can produce world class researches. But the condition is, we use the sciences of today, exact, precise,” he said. “This is just the beginning,” he said.

Vice-Chancellor of SKUAST-K, Prof. Nazeer Ahmed, said this study confirms DHX15 as an exciting new target for prostate cancer treatment – and one with great potential for the future of medicine. Dr. Ahmed congratulated the team led by Dr. Masoodi for taking this research to new heights by attracting funding of Rs 2 crore from Govt. of India for identifying new drugs from medicinal plants against prostate cancer and creating a fluorescence imaging facility at SKUAST Kashmir.

With an increase in incidence on endocrine related cancers in the farming communities especially the paddy and apple growing population in Kashmir Valley, Dr. Ahmed emphasized, the research will help the farming community of Kashmir in circumventing and timely controlling the menace of cancer in the valley. For the first time SKUAST-K has attracted funding for drug discovery against cancer.

DrMasoodi recently discovered three new prototype drugs against prostate cancer that are highlighted in recent issues of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics and Endocrinology. The first of a new generation of these drugs which can fight, and possibly cure, prostate cancer have been successfully tested in mice xenograft models.