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India’s First Indigenous Tumour Antigen SPAG9

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    Science & Technology
  • Published
    7th Jun, 2021


India's first indigenous tumour antigen SPAG9 was discovered by Dr Anil Suri in 1998who is heading the Cancer Research Program at National Institute of Immunology (NII). In a recentdevelopment, theSPAG9 antigen has received the trademark ASPAGNIITM.


  • Researchers at the New Delhi-based National Institute of Immunology (NII), an Autonomous Institute of Department of Biotechnology (DBT),and clinicians at Cancer Institute, Adyar, Chennai have been working together to translate new scientific discoveries into improved care for cancer patients.
  • Over the past twodecades, this team has been engaged in translating breakthrough that promises to add a highly potent weapon to the armory against cancer especially employing targeted cancer Immunotherapy.


  • Currently, ASPAGNIITM is being used in dendritic cell (DC) based immunotherapy in cervical, ovarian cancer and will also be used in breast cancer.
  • The ASPAGNIITM is a true example of translational cancer research and the Atmanirbhar Bharat spirit. It will eventually be helpful to patients in India and the world.
  • This will be a real morale boost in affordable, personalised, and indigenous products for cancer treatment.

DC-based immunotherapy

  • Immunotherapy is a new approach that exploits the body’s inner capability to put up a fight against cancer. With this approach, either the immune system is given a boost, or the T cells are “trained’’ to identify recalcitrant cancer cells and kill them.
  • In this personalised intervention,those patients expressing SPAG9 protein can be treated with DC-based vaccine approach.
  • In DC-based vaccine, patient’s monocytes from their blood are collected and modified into dendritic cells.
  • These dendritic cells are primed with ASPAGNIITM and are injected back to the patient to help the ‘fighter’ cells, or T-cells, in the body to kill the cancer cells.
  • DC-based immunotherapy is safe, affordable and can promote antitumor immune responses and prolonged survival of cancer patients.

Dendritic cells

  • Dendritic cells (DCs) are antigen-presenting cells derived from bone marrow precursors and form a widely distributed cellular system throughout the body.
  • DCs exert immune-surveillance for exogenous and endogenous antigens and the later activation of naive T lymphocytes giving rise to various immunological responses.

Situation of cancer in India

  • Cancer kills8.51 lakh people in India every year (International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2020,Globocan).
  • As per World Health Organization (WHO), one in 10 Indians develop cancer during their lifetime, and one in 15 dies of cancer. 


  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization.
  • IARC coordinates and conducts both epidemiological and laboratory research into the causes of human cancer.

Global Cancer Observatory

  • The Global Cancer Observatory (GCO) is an interactive web-based platform, developed by WHO, presenting global cancer statistics to inform cancer control and cancer research.
  • The platform focuses on the visualization of cancer indicators to illustrate the changing scale, epidemiological profile, and impact of the disease worldwide, using data from several key projects of IARC’s Section of Cancer Surveillance (CSU), including GLOBOCAN; Cancer Incidence in Five Continents (CI5); International Incidence of Childhood Cancer (IICC); and Cancer Survival in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Central America (SurvCan).