About 77,000 cases of oral cancer are reported in India every year and an estimated five people die from the disease every hour. This accounts for a quarter of the total number of cancer patients in the world and this number is increasing continuously over time.
Late detection of this disease is also one of the reasons for so many deaths due to cancer. Patients either live in remote areas of the village, where there are only primary health centers in the name of the hospital or both treatment and investigation are out of reach. Or sometimes the symptoms are ignored for a long time. Due to all this, cancer is detected after a long time. By then this disease has come to its last stage and its treatment is not possible.
One of the biggest reasons for all these delays in cancer detection is the investigation, which 18-year-old Nikhiya Samsher from Bengaluru has been striving to make affordable and accessible for a long time. He has designed a device called “Quitpuff” for this. Nikhia is a graduate of Greenwood High International School.
The Better India In an interview given to Nikhiya said, “It is a device that detects the risk of cancer in advance as well as checks whether a person has cancer or not and if it is, then What stage are you on? The result is out in 15 minutes and the price is just Rs 38.
an incident that shell gave Eyes
This is an incident from the year 2015. At that time Nikhiya was studying in class VIII. She was a part of the ‘Compassionate Clowns’ program. In this, the students had to dress up as different characters and go to the children’s ward and make them happy.
Nikhiya recalls, “One day after meeting the children, as I was leaving the hospital, I saw a man. His face was covered with bandages and his jaw was removed. I immediately gestured to the nurse accompanying me and asked what had happened to them? The nurse told me that he is suffering from oral cancer and is in the last stage.”
The nurse told that she is one of the lucky patients who survived even after coming to this stage. Otherwise most do not get a chance to survive. That day Nikhiya came to know about the cruelty of this disease.
Determined to find a cheap and accessible solution
While searching the internet, he came to know that if the disease of cancer is detected late, then it worsens the condition of the patient and then there is no chance to fight it. Nikhiya says, “I started looking for ways in which the disease could be detected at an earlier stage. During this research, I found that the technology for cancer screening is very expensive and is available in few hospitals. Apart from this, it also takes a long time to get its result and for this it is necessary to have a lab.
Nikhiya then decided that she would gather more information about the disease and find herself a cheap and accessible solution to diagnose oral cancer.
and then started searching
In the year 2016, Nikhiya started reading scientific research papers posted on the Internet regarding oral cancer screening. At that time Nikhiya was young and she studied in class nine. He was finding it difficult to understand many medical concepts, but he did not give up. She started taking help from her parents in this regard. Nikhia’s parents are dermatologists (dermatologists).
Seeing Nikhiya’s dedication and hard work, both of them introduced her to Tania Das. Tania is a senior researcher at ICAR-National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources. Nikhiya had made him his guru. “With their help, I understood the concept behind oral cancer screening methods,” she says.
Later Taniya introduced him to the scientific analyst Chaitanya Prabhu. Chaitanya became Nikhiya’s second guru. With their help, Nikhiya learned about the chemical compositions needed for the test and understood how to use them and work with those chemicals.
How did you test?
Nikhiya says, “For six months, with the support of both the gurus, I kept doing research at my home. During that time, I created a reagent that helps detect oral cancer from saliva. When both my mentors approved it, I ordered these chemicals from a pharmaceuticals supplier and started testing at home.”
This reagent was made by mixing three types of chemicals – thio-barbituric acid, trichloro-acetic acid and ortho-phosphoric acid. These chemicals detect the presence of a biomarker, malondialdehyde, in the body. Malondialdehyde gives information about cancer-causing cells.
Nikhia also used malondialdehyde acid for the training of composition. He filled a test tube with water and heated the mixture by adding reagent to it. Then there was no reaction and there was no change in the color of the liquid. But when malondialdehyde acid was added to water and reagent was added, the color of the water changed.
Nikhia said, “The extent to which the color of the water will change depends on the amount of malondialdehyde acid present in the water. If its color is light yellow, then it indicates that the cancer is still in the early stage and if its color changes to dark brown, then it indicates the late stage of cancer.
Trial done on smokers and non-smokers
In 2018, when Nikhia was convinced about her Quitpuff Regent, she approached Victoria Hospital in Bangalore. There, a random trial was conducted between smokers and non-smokers. Its price was kept at Rs 38.
She adds, “My request to use the device for testing has been approved. Between June 2018 and February 2019, 500 people’s saliva samples were taken and tested. The device was showing accurate results up to 96 percent. According to him, along with this device, all these people were also subjected to a general examination in the hospital and on the basis of this, its result was assessed.
Based on the findings, Nikhiya and Chaitanya prepared a paper on Quietpuff and it was approved and published in the year 2020.
People will be able to check themselves for free
At present, Nikhia has not launched this device for commercial use, but improvements are being made in it. It’s not easy to use right now. It takes 15 minutes for the results to come from the device and the test also requires heating. So she is working on a solution which is paper based.
She says, “In the future, I am looking forward to taking this test technique to the people by placing it in a tobacco box in the form of a piece of paper. So that people themselves can do this test for free and can be alert about their health.
Original article: Roshini Muthukumar
Edit: Archana Dubey
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