Friday, January 25, 2013

New fight needed against killer malaria in Asia

This is not so local, but it is 'within' the vicinity...

Posted: 02 November 2012

A mosquito warning sign at a village in Pailin province, some 350km northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (AFP/File - Tang Chhin Sothy)
SYDNEY: Asia accounts for 88 per cent of all malaria cases and most of the 46,000 annual deaths occurring outside Africa, a new report shows Friday as experts demand more urgency in fighting the deadly disease.

Leading scientists and health experts meeting in Sydney this week at the "Malaria 2012: Saving Lives in the Asia-Pacific" conference also want tougher political leadership and regional coordination.

Most international efforts to defeat malaria have so far focused on Africa, where the majority of deaths occur.

But out of the 3.3 billion people at risk from the mosquito-borne disease, 2.5 billion live outside the African region.

Fatoumata Nafo-Traore, director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, the global framework for coordinated action against the disease, called for that to change.

"Asia accounts for the second highest burden of malaria, second only to Africa," she said.

"In the face of persistent economic uncertainty and profound changes in the landscape of global development aid, the region needs strong political leadership.

"It also needs to develop financing strategies that include substantive and sustained domestic investment, traditional multilateral and bilateral aid and truly innovative sources of funding."

She was speaking at the launch of a new report, "Defeating Malaria in Asia, the Pacific, Americas, Middle East and Europe", a joint initiative with the World Health Organization.

It showed that the parasite threatens more than two billion people each year in the Asia-Pacific region, while smaller numbers are at risk in the Americas (160 million) and Middle East (250 million).

According to the report, there were some 34 million cases of malaria outside Africa in 2010, claiming the lives of an estimated 46,000 people.

The Asia-Pacific, which includes 20 malaria-endemic countries, accounted for 88 per cent, or 30 million, of these cases and 91 per cent, or 42,000, of the deaths.

India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea were hardest hit.

Outside Asia, there were 1.1 million cases in the Americas and 1,200 deaths and 2.9 million cases in the Middle East and the Caucasus with 3,100 deaths.

The three-day Sydney conference focused on growing resistance to the drug used everywhere to cure the life-threatening disease -- artemisinin, which is central to the efficacy of anti-malarial treatment.

Resistance has been detected in Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Vietnam and the report said it stood to "unravel the hard-won gains of recent years".

This includes 43 malaria-endemic countries worldwide reporting declines in malaria cases by 50 per cent or more compared to the year 2000, according to the WHO.

The Asia-Pacific has traditionally been the epicentre for the emergence of drug-resistant malaria parasites, and the report said the spread of artemisinin resistance needed to be urgently addressed.

"Anti-malarial drug resistance is one of the greatest challenges to continued success in controlling and eliminating malaria in the Asia-Pacific," said Robert Newman, director of the WHO's Global Malaria Programme.

"There is an urgent need for coordinated action against this public health threat, as called for in the Global Plan for Artemisinin Resistance Containment.

"It will be critical to galvanize political action and secure investments to implement an emergency response plan for the Greater Mekong sub-region."

Despite the progress, an estimated 216 million malaria cases still occur in the world every year and cause around 650,000 deaths, mostly African children under five.

- AFP/ck

Taken from; source article is below:
New fight needed against killer malaria in Asia

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Breast cancer screening saves lives: study

Posted: 30 October 2012

Breast cancer x-ray (posed picture)
PARIS: The benefits of preemptive breast cancer screening outweigh the risks, a study said Tuesday, insisting the practice saves thousands of lives.

The new research adds to the debate about the dangers of overdiagnosis, which sees some women undergo invasive treatment for cancers that would never have made them ill or even been diagnosed were it not for the scans.

"Breast screening extends lives," concluded a panel of researchers in The Lancet medical journal.

The team had analysed data from other trials conducted over many years in Britain, where women aged 50 to 70 are invited for a screening mammogram every three years.

The data, it said, pointed to a 20 per cent reduction in mortality -- or one death prevented for every 180 women screened.

This meant that the UK screening programmes "probably prevent about 1,300 breast cancer deaths every year," said the report.

But there is a cost.

Nearly 20 per cent of breast cancer diagnosed by screening would never have caused any problems, said the study.

The panel, set up to advise British policymakers, estimated that among every 10,000 women invited to screening from the age of 50 in the Britain, 681 cancers would be discovered, of which 129 would be overdiagnoses, and 43 deaths prevented.

The report showed that "the UK breast-screening programme extends lives and that, overall, the benefits outweigh the harms," The Lancet wrote in an editorial.

"Women need to have full and complete access to this latest evidence in order to make an informed choice about breast cancer screening."

The team conceded there were limitations to its work, including that all the data scrutinised was more than 20 years old.

Cancer experts have been at loggerheads for years about whether the benefits of screening outweigh the harm of overdiagnosis.

All cancer, once picked up in the screening process, is treated, often with surgery as well as radio- and chemotherapy, as it is impossible to tell which growths would have remained undetected for the remainder of a woman's life.

In August, medical experts Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz wrote in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that screening only narrowly decreased risks that a 50-year-old woman would die from breast cancer within 10 years -- from 0.53 per cent to 0.46 per cent.

Up to half of women screened annually over 10 years experienced at least one false alarm that required a biopsy, they said.

And in 2010, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine said mammograms have only a "modest" impact on reducing breast cancer deaths.

The latest panel had been created by the national cancer director for England, Mike Richards and Cancer Research UK chief executive officer Harpal Kumar.

Its work, said The Lancet, "should begin to lay the benefits versus harm controversy to rest".

- AFP/ck

Taken from; source article is below:
Breast cancer screening saves lives: study

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Aspirin helps fight some colorectal cancers: US study

Aspirin, I could say, is the 'drug' of the century: I've known it since I was young and my parents were taking this pill, and now am old, and it is still a current item, appearing now and then in the news, local and abroad...

Posted: 25 October 2012
Aspirin. (AFP/Getty Images/File - Tim Boyle)
WASHINGTON: Aspirin can help prolong the life of patients suffering from colorectal cancer tumours with a specific genetic mutation, according to a new study released Thursday.

The study of 900 patients carried out by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute -- an affiliate of Harvard Medical School -- found that the painkiller produced a "sharp jump in survival" among certain patients.

"For patients whose tumours harboured a mutation in the gene PIK3CA, aspirin use produced a sharp jump in survival," with 97 percent of those who took aspirin still alive after five years, compared with 74 percent who did not take it, researchers said.

The drug had no impact on survival rates among patients without a PIK3CA mutation, they added, in a news release accompanying the publication of the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"For the first time we have a genetic marker that can help doctors determine which colorectal cancers are likely to respond to a particular therapy," said lead author Shuji Ogino, of the Harvard School of Public Health.

He added that more research must be done before the findings can be considered definitive.

Some 20 percent of colorectal cancer patients have tumours with the mutation, the study said, adding that patients without the mutation can take aspirin, but it can sometimes lead to gastrointestinal ulcers and stomach bleeding.

Colorectal cancer is one of the world's deadliest diseases. The National Cancer Institute expects some 140,000 Americans to be diagnosed with the disease and some 50,000 to die from it this year alone.

- AFP/lp

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Aspirin helps fight some colorectal cancers: US study

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Researchers create heart cell model for ARVC

Posted: 24 October 2012By Sara Grosse
Lab personnel looking at a specimen
SINGAPORE: Researchers at the National Heart Centre Singapore have created the world's first human heart cell model for an inherited heart muscle disease, which is commonly associated with sudden cardiac death.

The model was developed using a technology which converts skin samples from an arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) patient into heart muscle cells on a petri dish outside the body.

The research team discovered that key characteristics of ARVC, such as abnormal "fatty changes" reproduced in the heart cells.

The model could help researchers understand the disease better and develop new and improved treatment for patients.

To shed new light on the condition, the research team used skin samples from a patient, and replicated the gene disorder to understand its mutations better.

Associate Professor Philip Wong, the director of the research and development unit at the National Heart Centre said: "We can take the patients' skin samples and then we can produce this human heart model outside the body and use this to understand more about the individual's disease process and also to test potential new treatments on this individual before he manifests the disease."

The heart model can also potentially predict whether a patient is at risk of sudden death, as well as correct the condition through treatment.

ARVC occurs in an estimated one in 2,000 people.

The heart disease typically manifests in individuals in their 20s and 30s, with an estimated 1,000 individuals in Singapore affected by it.

The condition causes part of the muscular wall of the heart to break down over time.

Common symptoms include palpitations and light-headedness.

It is not a common condition but can be fatal, with the risk of sudden death, especially during vigorous exercise.

Besides ARVC, a human heart cell model has already been developed for long QT syndrome, which is an inherited heart rhythm disease.

In future, researchers hope to produce a bank of cells of patients with inherited cardiac conditions in Singapore, so as to understand the disease further.

- CNA/xq

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Researchers create heart cell model for ARVC

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

French panel rejects study linking GM corn to cancer

I saw the GMO videos in Youtube, the Monsanto blah-blah-blah... could this be it?

Posted: 22 October 2012

Corn in a field. (AFP/Philippe Huguen)
PARIS: An investigative panel on Monday rejected a contested French study that linked genetically-modified corn to cancer in rats but called for a "long-term, independent" probe into the issue to advise the public.

The Higher Biotechnologies Council (HCB) said it found "no causal relationship" between the rats' tumours and consumption of Monsanto's NK603 GM corn or the Roundup herbicide that was part of the experiment.

The experiment's methods were also "unsuitable", it said, in a report made at the government's request.

"The scientific committee (of the HCB) concludes that the study provides no scientific information regarding the detection of any health risk linked to NK603 corn, whether it was treated with Roundup or not."

"The HCB's Economic, Ethical and Social Committee, for its part, affirms that the study is not conclusive.

"However, in order to answer the public's questions, the committee recommends that a long-term, independent, transparent study, with adversarial views, be undertaken under government auspices."

In September, a team of researchers led by Gilles-Eric Seralini at the University of Caen, published a long-term study that said rats fed with Monsanto's NK603 corn and/or doses of Roundup developed tumours.

The paper, published in a peer-reviewed science journal, unleashed a storm in environmentally-sensitive Europe, where GM products are subject to widespread restrictions.

NK603 has been engineered to make it resistant to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup.

This enables farmers to douse fields with the weed killer in a single go, thus offering substantial savings.

Seralini said his experiment was the first to test GM corn rodents' normal lifespan of two years, as opposed to the standard 90 days. Two hundred male and female rats were split into 10 groups of 10 animals.

One was a "control" group which was given ordinary rat food that contained 33 percent non-GM corn, and plain water.

Three groups were given ordinary rat food and water with increasing doses of Roundup, reflecting various concentrations of the herbicide in the food chain.

The other six were fed rat food of which 11, 22 or 33 percent comprised NK603 corn, either treated or not with Roundup when the corn was grown.

The researchers said they found that NK603 and Roundup both caused similar damage to the rats' health, whether they were consumed together or on their own.

But critics said Seralini manipulated the media to boost the impact of his findings and faulted his experiments and gaps in his data.

On Friday, six French science academies joined the accusers, saying that the work "does not enable any reliable conclusion to be drawn" and had "spread fear among the public."

The joint statement, an exceptional event in French science, was issued by the national academies of agriculture, medicine, pharmacy, sciences, technology and veterinary studies.

The government ordered two fast-track official investigations into the study.

The second report, by the National Agency for Food Safety (ANSES), was due to be released later on Monday.

The paper was published on September 19 in a peer-reviewed specialist journal called Food and Chemical Toxicology.

- AFP/al

Taken from; source article is below:
French panel rejects study linking GM corn to cancer

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