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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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Money plays a big role in leading a fulfilled life. But here are some other factors to not discount

A large global survey has some surprising answers to how we think about life.

What’s the one thing that makes you feel most fulfilled? This was one of the simple questions asked to more than two million people in a worldwide survey conducted by Abbott, the global healthcare company. According to the survey, on a scale of 100, with 100 being “living fully”, Indians ranked themselves at 61, behind the global average of 68.4 and much behind China at 79 and Mexico at 75. Not surprisingly, with such a massive scale and scope, the survey results offered some startling insights into how people across countries think about their lives.

One of the biggest paradoxes the survey uncovered was that most people—nearly 44% of the respondents—felt money was the ultimate stumbling block keeping them from a fulfilled life. When asked about the one thing that makes them feel most fulfilled, money was not the number one response for even a single country. So why did people still claim it to be the top barrier?

One way to understand this is to study the top things that do make people fulfilled across the world. This showed a remarkable consensus. Globally most respondents selected “family” as the number one factor of fulfillment except in China, where “health” was considered more crucial to personal fulfillment. Attributes like “spirituality”, “success”, “giving”, “travel”, “community”, “health”, “music” and “adventure” also scored well in different parts of the globe.

Source: Abbot Global Study
Source: Abbot Global Study

It is clear that money can enable us to accomplish many of the things which give us a sense of fulfillment. It enables us to travel more, learn new things and even take better care of our health.

However, it is when we consider the pursuit of money as the primary key to fulfillment and an end in itself that the problems begin. Perhaps this is because we postpone our immediate happiness or ignore the things that give us joy for the sake of some distant financial goal. In India, especially, there is a tendency to prioritise work over family and friends. In the pursuit of wealth, we often avoid social occasions and get-togethers and skip simple acts of companionship like dining with family or wishing friends on important occasions like birthdays or anniversaries. Tellingly, nearly 23% Indian respondents chose “priorities” as the top barrier to fulfillment. This can lead to fatigue or burnout. It can also lead to increased emotional distance from friends and family, and contribute to a general sense of apathy in life. To top that, we may never realise how much money is enough money to do things that will bring us happiness and may continue to chase money at the cost of other joys. While being financially responsible is undeniably a virtue, it should not distract us, at least for long, from other drivers that directly contribute to personal fulfillments.

Ultimately, happiness is a choice. Many people choose to hold on to the “negative stimuli” in their lives. They choose to focus on the problems they face rather than the positive aspects in their life. Once you choose to be happy and focus on taking decisions that will make you happy rather than just make you money or bring you superficial success, it will become a lot easier to feel fulfilled. Think of happiness as a resource—an asset that needs be grown and cultivated just like your bank balance.

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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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