Vygon SAS

Partner’s contribution changing lives ABIDING GRACE

Grace, a four-floor building near the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre (RGCIRC), has become a home for children with cancer and their parents during their treatment at the hospital. What started as a personal journey for Mr. Ganesh Krishnan, whose son was diagnosed with lymphoma, transformed into a selfless act of compassion that continues to touch many lives.

When Mr. Krishnan approached Dr. Gauri Kapoor, the head of the Department of Pediatric Oncology at RGCIRC, for his son’s treatment, he never expected to embark on a new mission. After his son completed treatment, Mr. Krishnan wanted to do more than make a one-time gift. Dr. Kapoor proposed a more substantial idea – a permanent home that could accommodate children with cancer and their caregivers. This idea resonated with the Krishnans, but they didn’t know where to begin.

With the support of Dr. Kapoor, Dr. Shalini Misra, and Dr. Sandeep Jain, the Krishnans explored similar facilities in India and abroad. They wanted to create a space that would directly benefit the patients of RGCIRC. After overcoming initial challenges, they decided to incorporate the project as part of their company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR). They found a suitable building, gained approval from Dr. Kapoor, and rented it on a long-term basis.

For the past seven years, Grace has provided a safe and comfortable environment for children and their families. The Krishnans took care of the rent, salaries, and operational expenses, ensuring that the families could focus on their child’s treatment without financial burdens. They made it a priority to not add to the parents’ stress by requesting financial documents. A panel of doctors at RGCIRC makes decisions regarding the families’ needs, and the Krishnans are dedicated to meeting those needs.

Grace has a dedicated staff that attends to the educational and recreational needs of the children. Regular cleaning and maintenance are carried out to ensure a hygienic environment for the children, who are susceptible to infections. The Krishnans actively seek feedback from the families and celebrate festive occasions with the residents. However, Mr. Krishnan humbly states that Grace is no longer his. It has grown roots in gratitude and is now capable of soaring with institutional support into the future.

Mr. Krishnan emphasizes that the success of Grace would not have been possible without the collaboration of the hospital staff and their organization. He praises Dr. Kapoor’s leadership, driven by a larger vision rather than personal ambition. He acknowledges that many people want to contribute to the well-being of others but may not know how or whom to trust. At RGCIRC, he found a group of dedicated individuals who inspire him.

he vision behind Grace is one that allows the impact of gifts to outlast their givers. It embodies grace in its truest sense, providing solace and support to families in need. The essence of this heartwarming story lies in the compassion and empathy that led Mr. Krishnan and his team to create a place of respite for children and their families facing the challenges of cancer. Grace continues to flow, nourishing lives and spreading hope.

Translating Research into Remedy

“We need a very elaborate system to get research work going in a lab, even though research need not be the sole preserve of a laboratory. Given that patient care is the final goal of all research, one may work to find how disease is caused, how it may be prevented and how to rehabilitate a patient post treatment. However, a lab is that vital space where one can look for biomarkers, or make molecular discoveries that help in developing new drugs, finding new ways to test, diagnose, monitor and prognosticate for the disease. And it takes a number of years and intensive investing before it can translate into real benefits for the patient,” says Dr Anurag Mehta, Director, Laboratory Services and Research.

When researchers at IIT, Roorkee found certain proteins in saliva samples sourced from healthy, breast and ovarian cancer patients, and also from those who had undergone chemotherapy, they were not just staring at some laboratory findings. They were, in fact, looking to ascertain an easy, non-invasive alternative to screen patients for metastatic cancers of the breast and ovary. And the salivary proteins could be possible indicators of metastasis in the two cancers that comprise more than one-third of all cancers afflicting Indian women and leading to one-fifth of all cancer deaths.

It was only right that the samples were sourced from the RGCIRC bio-repository, the largest and world-class institution-based bio-bank in India and a fount of about 36,000 consented bio-samples across various cancer indications since 2013.

A bio-repository is a storage area where leftover samples of an individual may be retained once the diagnostic work on samples – blood, urine, tumor, etc. – is over. This tissue that is discarded in the normal course is retained for research in a bio-repository following due permissions from a patient who chooses to contribute. “A bio-repository is an excellent source to accelerate research by providing relevant samples. We can make available, for instance, to a researcher a sample of urine of a patient with gall bladder tumor,” informs Dr. Mehta. “These samples are preserved at temperatures such as minus 180-195 degrees Celsius so that the integrity of the tissue and the molecules of life are not vitiated for research. We collect and keep each sample annotated with information about the patient-donor, maintain an inventory of tissues; issue them and post them out to be delivered at requested destinations. A difficult, resource-intensive task, to say the least! But a bio-repository is a community resource. We believe our work exists only because the community itself exists. Therefore, we run the project as a global outreach program, on a no-profit, no-loss basis through which several organizations are able to further their research.” The bio-repository was founded with Shri RKP Shankardass, a senior Supreme Court lawyer expressing his wish to donate for research. “We requested that the endowment be given towards establishing a bio-repository which would eventually help in research. He gave 50 lakh rupees towards the fund with RGCIRC contributing the other 50 lakh,” says Ms. Swarnima Jaitley, formerly Principal Research Officer with the Department of Research. His bequest included 5 lakh rupees each for funding two research projects on breast cancer which were later published. The bio-repository at RGCIRC caters to the needs of the scientific community focused on cancer and allied research. Apart from its own investigators and academic institutes such as IIT Roorkee, the RGCIRC offers bio-specimens to the Delhi Technical University, University of Delhi, and Jamia Millia Islamia University, etc. The specimens are also shared with other international institutes like Cureline, a global human bio-specimens biotech company, and Reprocell. “We know our tissue samples are being used for diagnostic tests or drug discovery, thereby contributing immensely to state-of-the-art research across the world, including in the USA and Australia. With this, we manage to generate just enough revenue to sustain ourselves,” says Dr. Mehta. But the lab is a different story. “This work amounts to only investing – investing for a long, long time. And it is like a shot in the dark. You may hit the bull’s eye or several years of hard work may come to naught. We may be able to market or commercialize translational research, or new knowledge generated in the process, but the possibilities are remote. We have all that it takes to do cutting-edge research work – we are a comprehensive cancer care center, have immense clinical material and follow-up data and capacity. Our limitation? Funds.” Some families who have lost their loved ones to the disease have sought to give towards research so that work may be carried out in a specific, identifiable area. Dr. Mehta, who has put the institute on the leaderboard of molecular diagnostics, underscores the need for philanthropy in the field. “No single organization not funded by the government or the taxpayer is capable of undertaking this work in India. We need philanthropic organizations and individuals to invest in meaningful research and enable it to become self-sustaining, and then generate revenue. That takes more than a few years.” The institute has several completed and ongoing research projects. Many more are in line awaiting the currency of a long-term vision that is unhurried by the need for short-term accruals. Bio-repositories – as Dr. Mehta says – are for, by, and of the community. They are instruments for future explorations in the vast field of human wellness. The community, therefore, would do well to sow the seeds in spring and, like a fond optimistic farmer, hope to reap a good harvest in autumn – even if it may take several seasons to arrive.

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Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre is today counted amongst Asia’s premier exclusive cancer centres that offer unique advantage of cutting edge technology, put to use by renowned super specialists. This potent combination of man and machine ensures world-class cancer care to not only patients from India, but also from the neighboring SAARC countries and others.

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