Source: Assam Tribune Relevance: GS Paper lll (Science and Technology)

Context: A recent study suggests that mutant wolves inhabiting the area surrounding Chernobyl, the site of the world’s most severe nuclear disaster 35 years ago, have acquired anti-cancer capabilities. This breakthrough holds promise for potential advancements in cancer treatment.

Anti-Cancer Evolution in Chernobyl Wolves:

  • Recent studies show Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ) wolves have genetic changes providing anti-cancer benefits.

  • After the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, wolves' numbers in the CEZ surged as humans left the area.

  • The disaster caused the release of carcinogenic radiation, leading to the evacuation of over 100,000 people and the creation of a 1,000-square-mile Chernobyl Exclusion Zone to limit radiation exposure.

  • Despite the decades since the explosion, wildlife, including wolves, thrives in the CEZ, seemingly unaffected by the radiation.

  • The unique cancer resistance of these wolves has prompted extensive research to understand their resilience.

  • Cara Love, a Princeton University evolutionary biologist and ecotoxicologist, has spent ten years studying these wolves, including collecting blood samples in 2014 and tracking some with GPS collars.

Other important Advancement in Cancer Treatment:

CAR T- cell therapy:

  • CAR T-cell therapies mark a significant innovation in cancer care, opening up new treatment avenues for specific cancer types.

  •  Unlike traditional treatments such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy that involve drugs, CAR T-cell therapies modify a patient's own cells to boost T-cell activity against cancer cells.

  • These therapies have received approval for certain cancers, including leukaemias, which arise from white blood cell-producing cells, and lymphomas, originating in the lymphatic system.

CAR T-Cell Therapy Procedure:

  • T cells are collected from the patient's blood and then genetically modified in the lab to include a gene for a receptor that targets a specific protein on the cancer cells.

  • This engineered receptor, called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), is inserted into the T cells, which are then grown in large numbers in the lab.

  • The enhanced CAR T cells are infused back into the patient to fight the cancer.


  • CAR T-cell therapies exhibit a heightened level of specificity compared to targeted agents, actively prompting the patient’s immune system to combat cancer, resulting in enhanced clinical effectiveness.

  • This characteristic is why they are often coined as “living drugs”.

Challenges of CAR T-Cell Therapy:

  • Complex Preparation: The intricate process required for CAR T-cell therapy production limits its broad application. India reported its first homegrown therapy trial in 2021, a decade after the initial global clinical success.

  • Varying Efficacy: While effectiveness in some leukemias and lymphomas can be up to 90%, results in other cancers are significantly lower.

  • Serious Side Effects: Risks include cytokine release syndrome, causing widespread immune response and damage to healthy cells, as well as neurological issues like confusion, seizures, and speech problems.

  • Cost Concerns: The high price of CAR T-cell therapy poses affordability issues in India, with doubts about its economic viability for the wider population due to high costs.

Recent Development:

  • Recently, Immuno Adoptive Cell Therapy (ImmunoACT), a company incubated at IIT Bombay, has obtained marketing authorization approval from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) for the first Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cell (CAR-T cell) therapy product known as NexCAR19.

  •  It is a domestically developed CAR-T cell therapy targeting CD19.

  •  CD19 serves as a biomarker for B lymphocytes and can be employed as a target for leukaemia immunotherapies.

  •  This achievement is the outcome of a collaborative endeavour spanning a decade between IIT Bombay and Tata Memorial Centre (TMC).

In conclusion, the discovery of cancer-resistant abilities in wolves of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone showcases nature’s adaptability to radiation exposure. Led by Cara Love, ongoing research sheds light on these adaptations, offering insights into wildlife resilience and its implications for both animal and human health in radiation-affected areas.

Advait IAS