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In the news: Call for personalised cancer care, the WHO backs taxes on sugar drinks and more

A wrap of the big health news of the week.

New approach to cancer care

Cancer specialists have called for personalised and evidence-based treatments for the various forms of the disease rather than a generic approach. Oncologists from 15 countries at a conference in New Delhi last week noted that rates of incidence of different cancers varied among countries and populations. Personalisation could allow cancer treatments to be less aggressive and need to be more precise, they said.

According to news reports, Nancy Lee of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York pointed out that head-neck cancer is more common in India than in the US where there is greater lung cancer and other cancer incidence. The annual incidence of head and neck cancers worldwide is more than 550,000 cases, while in India, out of the 11 lakh incidences a year of cancer overall, between 2.5 lakh and 3 lakh cases are of head and neck cancer.

Trials that Lee’s team, has conducted have shown that tumour mutations were also different in different cases, which again points towards the need for personalized treatments.

Professor of head-neck surgery and otorhinolaryngology at the AIIMS and the organising chairman of the conference, Alok Thakar, detailed a change in stratety in cancer treatment in which a tumour board assesses how a patient is to be treated based on multi-disciplinary planning. Thakar also stressed that it was important to improve quality of life of the patient along with ensuring his or her survival. He said that it is essential for cancer treatment to work like a team sport in which radiation, medical and surgical oncologists work together.

Cheaper insulin, hepatitis B injections?

Researchers at the Institute of Microbial Technology in Chandigarh have developed technology to produce protein-based medicines like insulin, the clot buster streptokinase and the hepatitis B vaccine. The work that has been the first of its kind in India is expected to bring the cost of these medicines by three or four times.

India is largely dependent on imported and patented technology for these three medical products among others But India has the second largest burden of diabetes and hepatitis patients in the world after China. India has 66 million diabetics and 40 million hepatitis B patients.

The researchers worked on finding a new expression vector for the protein-based medicine to replace the vector in use which is patented and so adds to the cost of the vaccine. The present cost of hepatitis B vaccine in India ranges between Rs 45 at the Serum Institute and Rs 250 per paediatric dose of 10 microgram in 0.5ml, the Times of India reported. The cost of adult dose of 20 microgram is nearly double. For insulin, the price varies from Rs 140 to Rs 325 per injection.

Institute of Microbial Technology team says that their technology, once scaled up can bring the cost of the hepatitis B vaccine to around Re 1 per dose, while the lowest production cost reported for the existing vaccine is Rs 4 per dose.

WHO recommends sugar taxes

On October 11 the World Health Organisation recommended that countries tax sugary drinks to counter an overwhelming global addiction to them leading to epidemics of obesity and diabetes, to say nothing of tooth decay. In its report “Fiscal policies for Diet and Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, the WHO said that a 20% increase in the retail price of sugary drinks would result in proportional reductions in their consumption.

The director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development Dr. Francesco Branca said that nutritionally, people don’t need any sugar in their diet and that sugar intake must be kept below 10% of a person’s total energy needs. Another cut by 5% would result in additional health benefits, said Branca.

In India the health ministry has been contemplating the regulation of advertising, and increasing the tax on both junk food and sweetened beverages, according to media reports. Speaking to The Hindu, the chairman of the National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation, Anoop Misra, said WHO’s recommendation could not have come at a better time and is particularly suited to India where sweet and sugar intake is high.

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India, UK and the US agree that this one factor is the biggest contributor to a fulfilled life

Attitude can play a big role in helping us build a path to personal fulfilment.

“I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.”

— Walt Disney

Throughout our lives we’re told time and time again about the importance of having a good attitude, whether it be in school, on the cricket pitch or in the boardroom. A recent global study of nearly two million people further echoed this messaging. When asked to think of someone who is living fully and to cite the number one reason for that fulfilment, “attitude” stood out as a top driver across India, the US, the UK, and a dozen other countries.

The resounding support for the importance of attitude in life is clear. But, what exactly is a “good attitude”, how exactly does it impact us, and what can we do to cultivate it?

Source: Abbot Global Study
Source: Abbot Global Study

Perhaps, for all of us in India the example closest to heart is the evolution of the Indian cricket team and its performance in crucial tournaments. The recent team led by M S Dhoni has had the type of success that we never witnessed since India started playing international cricket in the 1930s. Most observers of cricket, both the audience and experts, agree that other than the larger pool of talent and intense competition, a crucial new element of the team’s success has been its attitude—the self-belief that they can win from impossible situations. The statistics too seem to back this impression, for example, M S Dhoni has been part of successful run chases, remaining not out till the end on 38 occasions, more than any other cricketer in the world.

As in cricket so in life, good attitude is crucial but not easy to define. It is certainly not simply the ability to look at the bright side. That neglects the fact that many situations bring with them inconvenient realities that need to be acknowledged and faced. A positive attitude, then, is all about a constructive outlook that takes into consideration the good and the bad but focuses on making the best of a situation.

Positive thinking can shield people from stress, allowing them to experience lower rates of depression. A positive attitude also improves the ability to cope with different situations and even contributes to longer lifespans.

While having a positive attitude may not come naturally to all of us, we can cultivate that spirit. There are systematic ways in which we can improve the way we react to situations. And simple exercises seem to have a measurable impact. For example:

· Express gratitude. Start your day by acknowledging and appreciating the good in your life. This morning exercise can help reorient your mind towards a constructive outlook for the entire day.

· Adjust body language. The body and mind are closely linked, and simple adjustments to body language can signal and invite positivity. Simple steps such as keeping your posture upright, making eye contact and leaning in during conversations to signal positive interest have a positive impact on you as well as those you interact with.

· Find meaning in what we do. It is important to give purpose to our actions, and it is equally important to believe that our actions are not futile. Finding the purpose in what we do, no matter how small the task, often energizes us towards doing the best we can.

· Surround yourself with positive people. Your friends do matter, and this is a truth as old as the hills. The ever popular ancient Indian treatise Panchatantra, a collection of stories dating back perhaps to the 1st century BC, offers advice on how to make and keep suitable friends. And that remains relevant even today.


In addition to these steps, there are numerous resources available to help people around the world adopt a positive attitude and lead a more fulfilled life. Abbott, a global healthcare company, is committed to helping people live the best life possible. Their website and newsletter feature life hacks for work or personal time like those listed below. These are great tools for those ready to lead a more fulfilled and meaningful life, starting today.

Source: Abbot Global Study
Source: Abbot Global Study

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.

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