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“Wonder(?) Drugs” for cancer

Prevention is better than cure“, how often we have heard this quote and found quite right it is. Everyone of us has gone through a cycle of preventive vaccination as infants to protect ourselves from diseases that claimed millions of lives in past centuries. But it is not always possible to shield our bodies from each and every type of disease, especially the new and dangerous additions like AIDS or cancer for which sometimes there is no cure.

The death toll due to cancer is rapidly rising in developing countries including INDIA where the lifestyles are deteriorating fast (in terms of health), but the medical facilities to cope with such disease are very limited. Most of the time either the diagnosis is too late to save the patient or the patient is not in a financial condition to undergo the lengthy and expensive medical treatment. Besides, the usual chemotherapy and drugs used to treat the cancer have dangerous side-effects like hair-fall and loss of healthy cells along with the diseased ones.

But, here is the good news. Researchers have come up with results that a daily dose of a few common medicines can prevent the onset of cancer. One of these wonder-drugs is none other than Aspirin. We are familiar with doctors recommending a daily dose of aspirin to patients suffering with or prone to heart disease for relief and prevention of heart attacks. But, a daily dose of aspirin can also reduce chances of colorectal cancer.

Other such medicines are Tamoxifen used in treatment for breast cancer and Iloprost for lung cancer. In general, some humans are more prone to cancer than others due to their genetic profile and/or lifestyle and doctors can identify such patients for this daily drug treatment called “chemoprevention”. For such patients, daily dose of a suitable medicine can decrease the chances of cancer and hence, increase the longevity.

“Chemoprevention” does promise a very bright future and can lead us to a major breakthrough in the treatment of cancer. However, as attractive as these options look, we must not forget that our understanding of cancer as a disease and its treatment is still an on-going process, where everyday brings to light new facts and treatments. Besides, the golden rule is: “Never, never ever take a medicine without consulting your doctor”.

Happy Living……………

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  1. An interesting piece of news is that since November, 2011 patients in India are undergoing trials for a new treatment for cancer called Dendritic Cell Therapy (existing treatments are: chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery). The technique was developed by a canadian scientist called Ralph Steinman and works by activating body’s immune system against cancer cells.
    The research earned a nobel prize for Ralph, but he died of pancreatic cancer before hearing the news of his winning.

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