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Philippines
Tapping biotechnology vs cancer
by the Go Negosyo team
15-April-2008 The Philippine STAR

The search for cures for various types of cancer has led pioneers to look more closely at some common plants.

“There are other ways to cure certain cancers apart from using conventional methods,” said Rolando de la Cruz, a Filipino inventor and entrepreneur who won the top award in the 2005 International Trade Fair-Ideas-Invention New Product for developing an organic cream that treats Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), the most common type of skin cancer.

He explained that his invention, DeBBC Cream, was a formulation developed from extracts of cashew nuts and other Filipino herbs. “The viscous substance of cashew nuts and other herbs with the same characteristic can be used as an alternative to the regular painful treatments of skin growths and diseases,” he said. “So I gave it a try.”

“Sometimes curiosity can lead you to things that will even surprise you,” he added. He said that having once worked in a barbershop to pay for his schooling has inspired him to be an inventor, initially specializing in hair care.

De la Cruz is the entrepreneur behind RCC Amazing Touch International Inc., a one-stop shop for skin and hair treatment, which specializes in the natural non-surgical removal of warts, moles and other skin growths.

“The failure of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapies in cancer treatment to reverse the disease has led to a new approach – to scrutinize the use of medicinal plants as cancer treatment and boost the body’s immune system,” explained Vicenta Mendoza-Escobar.

“Medicinal plants contain a large number of phytochemicals that have healing action by enhancing the immune system response, as well as the body’s detoxification and antioxidant systems activity,” she added.

Mendoza-Escobar is a renowned researcher of medicinal plants and is owner of Sol y Viento Phytotherapy Research Center, a company specializing in herbal formulations for health and wellness.

When “Noni,” a formula derived from a Tahitian plant with medicinal properties, became popular in the late 1990s, she studied it and discovered that it was also endemic in the country. “It was commonly known as apatot,” she said.

After establishing apatot’s medicinal properties, she started producing Noni Juice Wine, fermenting the plant without the use of preservatives. But her continuous research eventually led her to discover that mangosteen, graviola (guyabano) and 15 other herbs also had medicinal properties which can be combined with noni.

“The key is continuous research and monitoring,” she said. Her formula, Noni Synergy Herbaltonic, is now being distributed by multi-level marketing groups.

“Studies show that some 33 factors can cause the development of cancer,” she explained. “Exposure to one or more of these environmental, lifestyle, physical and emotional stress factors can lead to cancer, so it is crucial to discern that cancer is not caused by the presence of carcinogen alone but a combination of factors that weaken the body immune system response.”

Since cancer is caused by different factors, biotechnology has been attacking it on different fronts.

Another approach, albeit controversial, is the use of stem cell research or regenerative medicine, which has been sought after as an effective response when cancer is already present.

“Our commitment is to develop custom-designed molecular therapies by adapting advanced techniques to enhance and boost the entire immune system using the inherent wisdom of the body,” explained Dr. Samuel Bernal.

A doctor and biochemist by profession, Bernal underwent a two-year medical subspecialty training in oncology (cancer medicine) in 1979 at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard. He soon founded Strata Lucida, a biotechnology company based in California, and LA-Boston Bioresearch Fund, a biotechnology research and consulting organization, to pursue his research and development on curing cancer.

He also owns Globe TekPro Health which specializes in advanced integrative molecular and bio therapies. “We make it a point to use global, up-to-date, and customized therapy for all types of cancer,” he said.

“We personally and laboriously develop the patients’ own dendritic cells to stimulate the immune system to recognize and destroy tumor cells,” he added.

Regenerative medicine is a new branch of medicine in which cell- and tissue-based therapies are applied to the treatments of various diseases. It promises treatment of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, kidney disease and other degenerative diseases.

“There have been rapid advances in molecular and cell biology in recent years,” he said. “These provided insights into the remarkable self-healing properties of human cells, which, once harnessed, can be very beneficial to all.”

“Curiosity is a good start,” said Dela Cruz on harnessing biotechnological discoveries. “If you have the drive to find out if certain materials or objects can be helpful to others, you’re have a good start.”

Tomorrow, Joey Concepcion, founding trustee of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE), together with Maoi Arroyo of Hybridigm Consulting, will lead the conferring of awards on Dela Cruz, Mendoza-Escobar and Bernal as among Go Negosyo’s Most Inspiring Biotechnology Entrepreneurs, at the 4th Annual Philippine Biotechnology Venture Summit at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health Auditorium in Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City.

The Summit, which runs until Friday, is organized by Hybridigm Consulting, the pioneering technology commercialization firm, under the leadership of Maoi Arroyo. Go Negosyo has partnered for this event, reiterating its strong commitment to recognizing inspiring entrepreneurs throughout the country to present them as role models, in line with PCE’s vision to create an entrepreneurial culture in the country.

The public is invited to attend the Biotechnology Venture Summit to discover and learn innovative business ideas and new opportunities in the biotech field.

For more information on the Biotech Summit, call 810-8639 or log on to http://summit.philbiotech.net.

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