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How fasting can help immune system better fight cancer

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How fasting can help immune system better fight cancer

New Delhi, June 15 (IANS) Fasting has a myriad of benefits, and now, a team of researchers has claimed that it can even reprogramme the metabolism of natural killer cells, helping them to survive in the harsh environment in and around tumours while also improving their cancer-fighting ability

The new study in mice from researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) in New York revealed that fasting may help the body defend against cancer, starving cancer cells of the nutrients they need to grow.

“Tumours are very hungry. They take up essential nutrients, creating a hostile environment often rich in lipids that are detrimental to most immune cells,” according to immunologist Joseph Sun, the study’s senior author.

Fasting reprogrammes these natural killer cells (a type of white blood cell) to better survive in this suppressive environment, he said in a paper published in the journal Immunity.

For the study, mice with cancer were denied food for 24 hours twice a week, and then allowed to eat freely in between fasts.

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Just like humans, the mice saw a drop in their glucose levels and a rise in free fatty acids, which are lipids released by fat cells that can serve as an alternative energy source when other nutrients are not present, according to Rebecca Delconte, lead author of the study.

During each of these fasting cycles, natural killer cells learned to use these fatty acids as an alternative fuel source to glucose.

This optimised their anti-cancer response because the tumor microenvironment contains a high concentration of lipids, and now they were able to enter the tumour and survive better because of this metabolic training, the authors noted.

While more research is needed, the results suggest fasting could be a strategy to improve immune responses to make immunotherapy more effective.

–IANS

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Ladies, do breast self-exam once a month to catch cancer early

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Ladies, do breast self-exam once a month to catch cancer early

Ladies, do breast self-exam once a month to catch cancer early

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) Self-breast examination just once a month can help women detect the deadly cancer early, and boost treatment outcomes, said health experts on Thursday, amid rising breast cancer cases in the country.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting women worldwide, as well as in India.

Data from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) showed that breast cancer accounted for 28.2 per cent of all female cancers, with an estimated 216,108 cases by 2022.

“You don’t have to go outside for common indications or symptoms; all you need is three fingers and three to four minutes of your time, once a month. Once you become accustomed to it, it usually only takes three minutes. No one else is required; just a mirror and your hand. If you know how your breasts normally feel, you can easily notice any changes or abnormalities early,” Dr Garima Daga, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncology, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre said.

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“Any difference in how your breasts feel during the breast health examination could indicate thickening of the skin, ulceration, nipple discharge, or most commonly, a lump in the breast, underarms, or under the nipple,” she added.

The most common symptoms are usually a lump or any discharge from the nipple. Any bloody discharge, greenish discharge, any lump, this should be taken care of, said the expert.

In the past, many famous Indian celebrities like Tahira Kashyap, and Mahima Chaudhry have been diagnosed and survived breast cancers. More recently, television actress Hina Khan announced her diagnosis with stage three breast cancer. She is currently undergoing treatment.

Worryingly, the cancer, which was once known to affect the elderly, has in the last three decades, surged enormously in people aged 40 or 50.

According to experts, genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors are driving breast cancer even among women who seem healthy. Thus, besides making necessary lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy body weight, eating healthy and balanced food, and doing regular exercise, they said early detection is key.

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Self-breast examinations monthly would go a long way in early detection. The aim should be to detect it at a very early stage because there is no pain in breast cancer in the initial stages.

“It is merely a technique for women to be aware and mindful of the normal status of their breasts so that any deviation from the normal may be picked up at the earliest and shown to the appropriate doctor,” Dr Manjula Rao, Consultant, Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon, Apollo Proton Cancer Centre, Chennai, told IANS.

“It helps to detect cancerous lumps at a much smaller size, hence allowing earlier detection, less severe treatments, and less aggressive surgery like breast conservation, oncoplasty, and sentinel lymph node biopsy,” the doctor said. She advised that it is best done once a month, typically 5-7 days after periods when the breast is at its most supple.

Daga said there is almost 90 to 95 per cent cure in the early stages of cancer. So, if it is detected early, it helps in the prevention of cancer. Unlike earlier, the cure rate has also gone up with early detection.

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–IANS

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Fertility treatments gain acceptance, thanks to advancements: Experts

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Fertility treatments gain acceptance, thanks to advancements: Experts

Fertility treatments gain acceptance, thanks to advancements: Experts

Hyderabad, July 25 (IANS) In a positive shift in societal attitudes, there is growing acceptance of fertility treatments among men and women, thanks to advancements and awareness, say fertility specialists on the occasion of World In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) Day (July 25).

With advanced technologies improving IVF success rates, and offering new hope to couples, the acceptance of fertility treatment is growing.

According to specialists, egg freezing allows individuals to balance careers and future parenthood. More men are participating in fertility health, recognising infertility as a shared concern.

Voicing concern over declining fertility rates, they highlighted the need for continued education and access to services. Breaking down stigma and fostering open discussions are essential for supporting those facing infertility.

Fertility Specialists at Nova IVF Fertility note a rising trend in infertility due to lifestyle factors, late marriages, and delayed parenthood. Urban areas are seeing more women aged 35 and above seeking fertility treatments, while in rural regions, the average age of patients is 22-23 years.

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Telangana, in particular, has seen a decrease in fertility rates, with the current rate at 1.8 children per woman, significantly below the recommended replacement rate of 2.1.

“Ten years ago, we saw reduced sperm count in a few patients but now this has become severe, where men have extremely poor sperm quality and quantity below the needed levels. In women, while a fall in egg quality is observed, there are cases of adenomyosis – a disorder producing heavy bleeding during periods on the rise,” said Lakshmi Chirumamilla, Fertility Specialist, at Nova IVF Fertility, Hyderabad.

“A decade ago, persuading people to pursue fertility treatment was difficult due to the stigma. Today, 30 per cent of our patients have more acceptance towards taking up fertility treatment, a significant shift from 10 years ago. In the last 10 years, technology has evolved tremendously. Couples can now screen for genetic issues using tests such as Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGTA). Innovations such as DNA fragmentation and artificial intelligence in embryo selection can lead to increase in IVF success rates. Additionally, advancements in cryopreservation allow for the effective storage of eggs, sperm, and embryos, providing flexibility for those wishing to postpone parenthood,” she said.

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According to Hima Deepthi, Fertility Specialist at Nova IVF Fertility, couples and women are much more aware of the biological clock and its impact on fertility health.

“Over the last decade, there has been an increase in the number of women enquiring about egg freezing. We are receiving 50-100 queries for egg freezing, which was almost nil a few years ago. If couples would like to plan for children later, they should think about freezing their eggs, sperm, or embryos so that there is an option to preserve their fertility,” she said.

Kamineni Fertility Centre expert V. Hemalatha Reddy emphasises the shift in attitudes toward male infertility, saying, “The change in perception regarding male infertility is encouraging. Ten years ago, men were often resistant to undergoing semen analysis and reluctant to acknowledge that infertility issues might stem from male factors. Today, there is a growing openness among men to undergo semen analysis, reflecting increased awareness and acceptance of male fertility health. This shift is crucial for a holistic approach to fertility treatments. By understanding that infertility is a shared concern, couples are more likely to seek comprehensive treatment options, leading to better outcomes.”

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–IANS

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Rising infertility rate may impact demographic future of India: Experts

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Rising infertility rate may impact demographic future of India: Experts

Rising infertility rate may impact demographic future of India: Experts

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) India is seeing a significant spike in infertility rate that may impact the demographic future of India, said experts on World IVF Day on Thursday.

World IVF Day is observed every year on July 25 to commemorate the remarkable advancements in infertility treatment and reproductive endocrinology, as well as to fight the stigma that often surrounds couples facing infertility.

“India is currently facing a significant challenge with rising infertility rates that could impact its demographic future,” Kshitiz Murdia – CEO and Co-Founder of Indira IVF, told IANS.

“In India around 15-20 million couples are infertile and male infertility contributes around 40 per cent to this. We have observed a steady rise in male infertility in this country for over a decade now,” added Ashwini S, Infertility specialist, Cloudnine Hospital, Bangalore

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in six people worldwide experience infertility in their lifetime.

Murdia said the reasons for infertility in India include high rates of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), affecting up to 22.5 per cent of women, growing substance abuse, shifts in lifestyle, and an increase in sexually transmitted infections.

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“Environmental factors like high levels of air pollution and exposure to toxins can alter DNA contained within the sperm,” Ashwini told IANS.

In addition, more and more urban couples are also opting for late marriage owing to career commitments, this leads to delayed parenthood because as men age, sperm count and mobility go down, which makes conceiving harder.

Murdia said that even though “around 27.5 million married couples are struggling to conceive, only a small fraction, approximately 2,75,000, undergo IVF treatments each year”.

“While the country enjoys a demographic advantage with a predominantly young population, this is threatened by increasing infertility and an ageing populace, potentially leading to demographic issues similar to those seen in other Asian countries with ageing populations,” he added.

Male infertility is also particularly on the rise in urban areas owing to a sedentary lifestyle and stress, which impacts hormonal balance causing issues in sperm count and quality.

It is becoming increasingly prominent as the rate of declining sperm counts has accelerated to 2.6 per cent per year since 2000.

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“IVF clinics are witnessing a growing influx of patients struggling with low sperm counts and azoospermia — a condition where no sperm is present in the semen,” Murdia said.

More worrisome is the fact that it is “now significantly impacting younger males”.

“If not addressed, these issues could significantly alter India’s population structure, leading to a demographic crisis characterised by an ageing population, a situation for which the nation may not be fully prepared,” Murdia said.

–IANS

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India's medical devices industry to grow five-fold to $50 bn by 2030: DCGI

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India's medical devices industry to grow five-fold to  bn by 2030: DCGI

India's medical devices industry to grow five-fold to $50 bn by 2030: DCGI

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) With proper regulation, India’s medical devices industry is estimated to grow five-fold to $50 billion by 2030, said Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) Rajeev Singh Raghuvanshi on Thursday.

He was speaking at a conference on the classification of health products organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the national capital.

The DCGI underlined the benefits of regulation, including quality monitoring and international acceptance, which collectively boost industry growth.

“Regulating an industry provides many advantages, the foremost being quality monitoring and standardisation, which is critical in healthcare as it deals with people’s lives. A regulated industry builds international confidence in the products manufactured, boosting growth. Projections indicate that by 2030, the industry could grow to about $50 billion, which is five times its current size,” said Raghuvanshi.

He also warned against compromising quality for profitability and highlighted unethical practices, emphasising the need for industry-wide commitment to high ethical and quality standards, given the healthcare sector’s critical impact on human lives.

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India currently imports 80 per cent of its medical devices, with only 20 per cent domestically manufactured. The government has introduced numerous incentives, schemes, and policy interventions to shift this balance.

Raghuvanshi noted the licensing of over 3,200 manufacturing units and 10,000 import licences within one and a half years, showcasing significant progress.

He stressed the need to reverse the import-manufacture ratio and achieve a net positive trade in medical devices.

“For in vitro devices, we currently have about 280 manufacturing licences and around 900 import licences. Despite manufacturing many in vitro devices domestically, almost 100 per cent of the reagents used are imported. This area holds significant business potential and opportunities,” he stated.

Madhur Gupta, Technical Officer at the World Health Organisation (WHO), echoed the need for India to develop in-house reagents for diagnostic kits within the next three to five years.

“This shift would not only reduce costs but also improve access,” Gupta said, while calling for a unified approach to strengthen diagnostic schemes in collaboration with states.

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The conference attended by more than 100 industry delegates from the healthcare sector also featured a dedicated session on the definition and categorisation of health products, emphasising their roles in preventing disease, promoting health, managing health problems, and providing rehabilitative, assistive, or palliative care.

–IANS

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Early cancer detection startup Navaux gets new funding

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Early cancer detection startup Navaux gets new funding

Early cancer detection startup Navaux gets new funding

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) US-based cancer detection startup Navaux on Thursday announced receiving fresh funding, which it said, will play a “pivotal role” in entering the Indian market.

The life science company secured an undisclosed investment from angel investor Karna D. Shinde.

This comes as India is rapidly emerging as a hub for health-tech innovations, a trend highlighted by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s recent announcement in the Union Budget 2024-25, which offers relief to cancer patients by exempting three crucial cancer treatment medicines from customs duty.

“This investment will play a pivotal role in helping Navaux, a company specialising in early cancer detection technology, establish connections within the Indian healthcare industry as they prepare to introduce their cutting-edge solutions to the Indian market,” the company said in a statement.

Navaux’s innovative ACTIVH test, developed based on preclinical studies, can predict the onset of cancer up to 3-4 years in advance, which can help individuals make lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking and alcohol, to potentially prevent the development of cancer.

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Further, ACTIVH is a critical tool for patients undergoing cancer treatments, providing real-time insights into the efficacy of chemotherapy, radiation, or other therapies by monitoring Hepsin levels in the blood. A decrease in Hepsin levels indicates effective treatment, while an increase signals the need for alternative therapies.

“Early cancer detection significantly improves survival rates. Navaux’s ACTIVH is a boon for patients and their families. Determining aggressive cancer development before symptoms arise will lead to longer survival and a better quality of life for patients,” Shinde said.

“Moreover, biomarkers like Hepsin offer the potential for future therapies that are more effective and produce fewer side effects,” he added.

–IANS

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