The Indian Express: How to tame the scourge| The Indian Express


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Last week, University of Houston revealed that researchers at the University of Houston have made substantial improvements to a next generation of its research. CancerTherapy that kills tumor cells but leaves healthy tissue intact. The treatment uses genetically engineered or naturally occurring microbes — oncolytic viruses — that replicate in cancer cells and overwhelm them. The therapy also strengthens the cancer patient’s immune system against the tumour. However, this also means that, at times, the oncolytic viruses come up against the body’s natural defence system. At the University of Houston’s Centre for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling, researchers used gene editing to cancel out such an immune response, enabling the anti-cancer microbes to work with all their might. The breakthrough in anti-rectal carcinoma treatment was made last month. Oncolytic virus technology advances offer hope that cancerous tumors can be removed without surgery or debilitating chemotherapy.

Since ancient times, cancer has been a major problem for humankind. Since the second half 20th century, advances in genetics as well as molecular biology have made it much more manageable. Early detection of tumours using non-invasive imaging techniques such as CT, MRI or PET scans has made it possible to differentiate between aggressive and benign tumours. There is a vaccine to treat cervical cancer. Scientists have made important progress in unraveling the intricate links between cancerous cells and individual immune systems. Research has also shown connections between the disease, local environment, cultural practices, individual habits, and other factors. These facets of the disease were not possible to quantify or model 20 years ago. However, computational advances and the ability generate and share large amounts of data have made it possible to gain a better understanding of the disease.

Cancer accounted for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020 — before the world was overtaken by the Covid pandemic, nearly one in six deaths was cancer-related. The fact that two-thirds (or more) of all cancer deaths happen in low- or middle-income countries shows how limited the state-of–the-art research is. The high cost of modern healthcare can often lead to a financial burden for a large portion of the population who are able to access treatment. Even in the US, a report of a Kaiser Family Foundation-NPR survey released last week has revealed that “two-thirds of adults with health care debt who have had cancer themselves or in their family have cut spending on food, clothing, or other household basics”. The Covid pandemic has re-ignited debates on making healthcare equitable and reforming practices — including patent systems — that lock out a large number of people from accessing healthcare. Talks about cancer treatment should be an integral part of these discussions. It’s time the groundbreaking work in research labs reaches people who suffer from the disease.

Express Investigation
The Indian Express is part of a global consortium analysing thousands of emails and documnets from Uber| The Indian Express is part of a global consortium analysing thousands of emails and documnets from Uber


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