healthcare

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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These GIFs show you what it means to miss breakfast

That monstrous roar is your empty stomach.

Let’s take a glance at your every day morning routine. You crawl out of bed, go for a quick shower, pull out and wear your neatly ironed clothes at the speed of light and then rush out of the house, making sure you have your keys and wallet in place.

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You walk into office, relieved because you have made it to work on time. Stifling yawns and checking emails, you wonder how your colleagues are charged up and buzzing with energy. “What is wrong with these people” you mumble to yourself.

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Slowly, you start to change. You start snapping at colleagues and start arguing with your computer. You take out your frustration on anything or anyone in sight.

To add to the aggressive behaviour, you’ve completely lost your focus. After some time, you simply forget what you were doing.

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Unable to bear the hunger pangs, you go for a mid-morning snack. It is only when a colleague asks you for a bite do you realize that you have developed into a fully formed, hunger fueled, monster. Try not to look at yourself in the mirror.

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If only you had spared not even twenty or ten but just 5 minutes in the morning and not skipped breakfast, your story would look completely different - as you will see in this video.

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The fast dip in your mood and lack of focus is because your body has missed its most important meal of the day – breakfast. Research has shown that skipping a meal, especially in the morning, worsens the mood because there is a drop in the blood sugar. This in turn affects the levels of serotonin and dopamine, the chemicals produced in the brain that control our moods and feelings. In simpler English, not having breakfast is going to make you really cranky and confused!

Morning is also when the body needs maximum nutrition to function efficiently through the day as you’ve just woken up from a full 7 hours of no food (and if you’re sleeping less than that, that’s a whole other article).

So in short, having a breakfast could make you go from looking like the earlier GIFs to this:

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