Cancer: Proliferation and Resistance to Cytotoxic Drugs

Cancer. A word synonymous with fear. The diagnosis of cancer can be extremely disheartening and to most is associated with death.  However, over time the treatment for cancer has come to be very promising with survival rates increasing each year.

However, it has come to knowledge that the cytotoxic drugs used to treat cancerous tumours are being inhibited by the body. Cells in the body normally contain proteins which aide with the efflux of toxins such as in the blood barrier and gut. However these proteins can also use this technique to actively transport a drug across the plasma membrane and out of the cell. These proteins are called multidrug resistance-associated proteins (MRP) which to the family of ATP-binding cassette ABC transporter proteins. 

  The MRPs are needed for cell maintenance and homeostasis but can cause serious damage. There are however inhibitors of MRPs such as MK571. The MK571 will inhibit the effect of certain MRPs and can allow cancer sufferers to be rid of drug resistance. MK571 blocks T cell activation, and as MRPs use T cell lymphocytes to destroy the drugs they display on the cell surface membrane, it results in the halting of drug inhibition.

Although MRPs have been found to affect the cytotoxic drug activity, they are now known to affect cell motility and proliferation.  Cell motility and proliferation are essential for growth and in turn life.  This is a separate notion from MRPs affecting cytotoxic drugs and so it can be assumed that MRPs affect the development of cancer before the use of drugs. Therefore the study of MRPs and their activity is vital for to maintain the high survival rates from cancer.

Complementary medicine: Bane or blessing?

Due to the changing dynamics in the doctor-patient relationship, there is a large emphasis on patient choice currently. As patients become increasingly knowledgable, apart from just being well-informed about the nuances of the latest medical treatments and therapies, there is also a growing interest in complementary medication. Complementary medication is taken alongside conventional medication which is traditionally prescribed by doctors and physicians. Examples of complementary medication include allopathy, homeopathy, traditional chinese medicine and acupuncture. However the growing popularity of complementary medicine has generated considerable discussions with regards to whether they should be recommended for patients.

Although doctors may not be fully convinced about the therapeutic benefits of complementary medicines, discouraging patients from taking them may not be entirely compliant with patient autonomy. When adhering to patient autonomy, doctors are ultimately respecting the decisions which patients take. Although doctors could take the liberty to inform patients about the lack of evidence substantiating complementary medicine, I believe that coercing them to not pursue complementary options may not be entirely appropriate. Furthermore, complementary medicine may also have the capacity to address the spiritual needs of patients which modern medicine may not always be able to satisfy. Medication, therapies and treatments can undoubtedly help to alleviate any physical challenges which patients experience whilst a doctor’s empathy and compassion can provide much needed psychological support. However, addressing a patient’s spiritual needs may not always be straightforward and some complementary medication specifically focus on providing spiritual support for the patient. For instance, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture seek to harness the inner energy which humans are said to possess. Hence, complementary medicine could help to address the multi-dimensional concerns of patients. However, the fundamental principles upon which complementary medicine function are not as well validated and verified as conventional medicine. Modern medical practice functions on the basis of evidence-based medicine whereby research projects and studies have been conducted to justify the proposed benefits of treatments, therapies and drugs. Thus, medication and drugs prescribed by doctors are clinically proven and can be relied upon to relieve the patients of their symptoms. However, the therapies offered by complementary medicine are not as rigourously assessed or evaluated through extensive research. Hence, the benefits of these remedies still remain questionable as there is insufficient scientific evidence to corroborate their claims. Additionally, the regulations concerning complementary medicine are lax as compared to conventional medicine.

Apart from just extensively assessing the advantages of treatments and medication, medical practitioners are also expected to uphold a high level of clinical practice by undetaking various tests which help to ensure that they possess the skills and knowledge to be given the responsibility of providing care for patients. If any substantial deficiencies are discovered in their clinical practice, their license as qualified doctors could be revoked. However in complementary medicine, such strict regulations and checks do not exist. Hence, you could have practitioners who abuse the patient’s trusts in them or major compromises in care could go unnoticed. My personal opinion is that it would be unfair to generalise complementary medicine as being fraudulent.

I believe that patients should take the responsibility to carefully consider the options available to them with regards to complementary medicine. In order to minimise the risks that they are exposed to, they should research into the therapy or medical programme they are interested in greater detail. They should definitely try to be aware of who is the practitioner, what are their qualifications, what are the success rates and how are the experiences of patients who have undergone the same treatment? If they are able to

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Do stem cells hold the key to discovering a cure for Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological movement disorder which leads to uncontrollable tremors and difficulties in movement and coordination for patient’s. It remains an incurable disease as a possible cure has eluded researchers and scientists thus far. Fortunately, this cure may not be as unfathomable as once thought and stem cell research has proven to be a promising area. Theoretically, embryonic stem cells could introduced into the brain of a patient with Parkinson’s and they could differentiate into the dopaminergic neurons which die off in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s. These stem cells will be extracted from embryos of infertile adults, elective abortions and even the umbilical cord. However, there have been ethical and scientific barriers which have resulted in stem cell research becoming highly controversial.

Many religious groups strongly oppose the idea of therapies and treatments revolving around the use of stem cells as they believe that it would be equivalent to murder. They postulate that an embryo should be regarded as a life form and destroying it for even medical uses would be a contravention of the principle of sanctity of life.

In response to this argument, many people have questioned if such embryos can even be regarded as a life form. Anatomically, young embryos do not possess definite and clear-cut structures which resemble us humans and in the extremely early stages, they are essentially a cluster of cells. Hence, there does seem to be considerable ambiguity in ascertaining if embryos do indeed possess the necessary traits to be considered a life form. Additionally, scientists have also said that the embryos which are used in stem cell research will be eventually destroyed. If that were to be the case, it could seem justifiable to make use of these embryos in stem cell research as at least they could play a substantial role in the treatment of patients and could yield significant improvements in one’s quality of life.

Beyond ethical considerations, there have also been scientific concerns which have stifled the process of translating stem cell research findings into therapies and treatments for patients. Based on the experiments which have been conducted, majority of the studies have discovered that stem cell therapy would tremendously increases one’s risk of suffering from cancer. The stem cells which are injected into the patient’s brain could divide and proliferate exponentially and eventually lead to the formation of tumours which could then become malignant. Only in a small proportion of the studies has it been found that stem cell therapy would be advantageous to the patient. Hence, unless scientists and researchers are able to identify a way through which they are able to regulate the growth of stem cells, it could expose the patient to unnecessary risks which could outweigh the benefits of such a therapy. I believe that through further research into the divisive properties and mechanisms for regulation of stem cells, we will be able to shed more light on this highly promising field of biomedical research

Obesity News UK-Tackling Obesity

The problem of childhood obesity is becoming such an issue that the government has said that if need be they will impose bans on the quantities of sugar, salt and fat in foods. It can include a cap of 30% less sugar in children’s cereals. Baby food up to the age of one year is closely monitored by controlling and having limits for the quantity of sugar, salt and food. The government now believes one of the ways to tackle obesity is to increase the age to which the foods are monitored and controlled.
Other European countries have started introducing legislations to control their levels of obesity as well. In France, food and drink is controlled in schools and all marketing and advertising of foods high in fat, sugar and salt is banned unless if they are taxed and presented with a health warning.

However, many people are inevitably unhappy with this proposal. People who do manage to control their diets well believe they should be able to enjoy their foods as before. Other ideas could include a logo which manufacturers could put on their foods if they follow the limits set out by the government. This way there is still choice and a healthy option has been offered.

Another proposal from Westminster Council which has been remarked as “absurd and shocking” by many is that those who don’t exercise could face benefit cuts. GP’s can prescribe leisure activities such as swimming and fitness classes, which if they decline could cause them to see their benefits slashed. People prescribed health regimes by their GP would be given ‘smart cards’ which will track their use of the leisure centre. However, you can always be rewarded for following the health regimes, so this can also act as an incentive.

But this can have emotional implications; one view is that any plans for health should be holistic as there may be emotional reasons associated with food.

So, even an issue such as obesity has many views associated with it. But one thing is for sure, which even the government has identified – that it needs to be tackled.

Obesity killing more people than hunger

Obesity killing more people than hunger:

It has recently emerged in The Lancet that we have reached the point in time that we have more people dying from obesity than hunger. Does that mean fewer people are dying from hunger? No. It means more people are eating more. The imbalance in the distribution of resources, namely food in this case, is growing. And the countries with most developed health care systems are suffering the most. Such as us, the UK.

A  BBC report published shocking figures showing that 1 in 3 children in the last year of primary school (year six) is overweight or obese. And this number is an increase from last year, showing the problem is getting worse. Another interesting point is that this number was nearly double in poorer areas compared to richer areas. Why is this so? Because fattier food is cheaper than healthy foods. You can buy fried “chicken & chips” from £1.99 whereas salads often start at this price. Therefore, not only these kids but many times their parents may opt for this option for their kids meals.

Therefore, it is of course the governments responsibility to make healthier foods more affordable. The government has recently announced their plans to increase the minimum price for alcohol, similarly they need to lower prices for healthy foods & implement cheaper and accessible sport activities such as weekend programmes. These children, are tomorrows adults. Obesity leads to a huge number of future complication. Diabetes and heart disease to name a few. To save the immense amount of money that will be spent then by the NHS it is better to tackle the problem now.