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Genetic analyses can benefit those at risk of hereditary cancer

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By Dr. Gurdeep Sethi & Dr. Sudhir Borgonha

Genomics and genetic analysis are the most effective ways to manage cancer, not only in India but also across the globe.

Hereditary cancers are seen in approximately 10 per cent of the Western population, with a higher incidence in India. Hereditary cancer has high prevalence in breast and ovarian cancer patients. We see a very strong shift in this trend, with an increased incidence of cancer in India’s younger population. The section of the population that is at risk of hereditary cancer will certainly benefit from genetic analysis.

With genetic testing, we can understand the genetic profile of the cancer. This knowledge leads to choice of targeted drugs that are designed to counter the cellular functions of the mutant proteins. Patients on active chemotherapy regimens are reassured that they do have alternative directed treatments if they do not respond to the ongoing treatment regimen. In the long run, targeted therapeutics would replace generic chemotherapy.

There is a great potential for targeted therapeutics. Cancer medicine, however, is evolving every day. There is much research and data to process and we still do not understand the full potential of genetic analysis and the benefits of targeted therapy based on the gene mutation. In such a scenario, if there is a targeted protein identified with effective medication available, then it would be better to treat the patient based on literature available after they have failed conventional treatment options.

New therapeutic drugs are being developed every year and their side effects are better controlled. Even though the cost of chemotherapy has drastically come down over time, targeted therapy has fewer side effects and causes lesser collateral damage to normal tissue. It is almost four to five times the cost of current chemotherapy regimens. As time progresses and these medications become generic, they would replace chemotherapy in the long run.

Genetic analysis of a tumour can support the choice of therapy at the initial stages of diagnosis as well as throughout the course of treatment. Cancer cells can mutate (change) and be present as a disease in multiple variant forms. This essentially means that we need a fresh “snapshot” of the genetic profile of each patient’s cancer at every stage of the disease. New target proteins are produced due to these mutations.

To introduce new drugs to target these changes, an understanding of the genetic profile of a cancer — quite like time-lapse photography to capture a sequence of events — is absolutely vital. Liquid biopsy is precisely the technique to use to achieve this.

The challenge in this setting is getting the patient to understand the concept in the first place and then accept the increasing cost with the recurring tests. This process of longitudinal cancer care with follow-up liquid biopsies is already the norm in the United States. It makes sense scientifically, and insurance companies cover the cost. In the long run, liquid biopsy-based personalised cancer therapy will become the norm in India as well.

(Dr. Gurdeep Sethi is Founder, Millennium Cancer Center, Gurugram. Dr. Sudhir Borgonha is Chief Medical Officer, Strand Life Sciences, Bengaluru. The views expressed are personal. They can be contacted at [email protected] and [email protected])

IANS

Health

Ebola death toll rises to 200 in Congo

The DRC authorities declared the outbreak in North Kivu province on August 1. It was also reported in the northern province of Ituri.

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Ebola Infection

Kinshasa, Oct 21 : The death toll in the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has risen to 200, the Health Ministry has said.

According to statistics released by the Ministry on Saturday, of the 200 cases confirmed in Beni and surrounding areas, 117 have died of the virus while 61 others recovered after treatment, Xinhua news agency reported.

The DRC authorities declared the outbreak in North Kivu province on August 1. It was also reported in the northern province of Ituri.

The World Health Organization said the 10th Ebola outbreak in DRC does not currently constitute a public health emergency of international concern.

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Cycling, walking in nature may improve your mental health

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London, Oct 20: People who commute — walking or cycling — through natural environments are more likely to develop better mental health than those who commute less, according to a new study.

Natural environments included all public and private outdoor spaces that contain ‘green’ and/or ‘blue’ natural elements such as street trees, forests, city parks and natural parks/reserves and all types of water bodies.

“Mental health and physical inactivity are two of the main public health problems associated with the life in urban environments. Urban design could be a powerful tool to confront these challenges and create healthier cities. One way of doing so would be investing in natural commuting routes for cycling and walking,” said Mark Nieuwenhuijsen from the University of Barcelona.

For the study, published in the journal, Environment International, the research team examined nearly 3,600 participants who answered a questionnaire about their commuting habits and their mental health.

The findings showed that respondents commuting through natural environments on a daily basis had on average a 2.74 point higher mental health score compared to those who commuted through natural environments less frequently.

This association was even stronger among people who reported active commuting, the team said.

“From previous experimental studies we knew that physical activity in natural environments can reduce stress, improve mood and mental restoration when compared to the equivalent activity in urban environments,” said first author Wilma Zijlema from the varsity.

“Although this study is the first of its kind to our knowledge and, therefore, more research will be needed, our data show that commuting through these natural spaces alone may also have a positive effect on mental health.”

IANS

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Number of Zika virus cases reaches 100 in Jaipur

A total of 1,11,825 houses have been screened. Special precautions are being taken in the Zika-affected areas.

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Zika virus

Jaipur, Oct 18 : The number of people infected with the Zika virus has gone up to 100 in Jaipur, officials said on Thursday.

State Chief Secretary D.B. Gupta held a review meeting and directed the officials to carry out anti-larvae activities in educational institutions and administrative buildings in Jaipur.

Veenu Gupta, Chief Secretary (Medicine and Health) said, “Medical teams in Jaipur are carrying out screening and fogging activities. A total of 1,11,825 houses have been screened. Special precautions are being taken in the Zika-affected areas.”

She said that there was no shortage of medicines at health centres. She also directed district officials to monitor the regular availability of medicines and testing equipment in hospitals.

Gupta directed officials to take measures to prevent breeding of mosquitoes in the Rajasthan Police Academy, Police Line and the RAC Battalion.

She asked the Army officials to check the spread of mosquitoes and larvae in their area.

Gupta instructed officials to pay special attention to tourist places such as Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar and Albert Hall.

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