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Miracle Drug for Cancer, Resurgence of Monkeypox, Covid Calming Down: A Status-check on Some Deadly Diseases

By: Nayanika Sengupta

News18.com

Last Updated: June 09, 2022, 13:59 IST

New Delhi

Miracle Drug for Cancer, Resurgence of Monkeypox, Covid Calming Down: A Look at Where Some Deadly Diseases Are Now. (Image: Shutterstock/File)

Miracle Drug for Cancer, Resurgence of Monkeypox, Covid Calming Down: A Look at Where Some Deadly Diseases Are Now. (Image: Shutterstock/File)

A miracle drug to cure cancer may just be here but this is not the first time that science has found an effective treatment to something that was once considered incurable, deadly and some diseases that even had the potential to trigger mass outbreaks

Science might just have had cracked a jackpot in cancer treatment with a recent miraculous trial in which a small group of people with rectal cancer just experienced their cancer simply vanish in the experimental treatment.

The astonishing results were seen in a very small clinical trial in which 18 patients took a drug called Dostarlimab for around six months and at the end, all of the participants of the experimental treatment saw their tumour disappear.

Dr Luis A. Diaz Jr. of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, an author of a paper published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine describing the results, which were sponsored by drug company GlaxoSmithKline, said he knew of no other study in which a treatment completely obliterated cancer in every patient. “I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer,” Diaz said.

ALSO READ: Cancer Disappears Unexpectedly in Every Single Patient Treated in Small Drug Trial

While the miracle drug for cancer may be the first such thing that has happened in the history of cancer, this is definitely not the first time that science has found an effective treatment to something that was once considered incurable, deadly and some diseases that even had the potential to trigger mass outbreaks.

What is the new ‘Miracle drug’ for cancer

In a first, a drug trial has shown 100 per cent success in eradicating cancer in patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, US. The results were presented at the international cancer meeting in Chicago.

A group of 18 people were administered the drug called Dostarlimab for six months and it was seen that the tumours in all of them disappeared by the end of the experimental treatment. These patients were having rectal cancer.

According to a The New York Times report, the drug was administered to 18 rectal cancer patients. The cancer vanished in every single patient, undetectable by physical exam, endoscopy, PET scans or MRI scans, the report said.

Talking about the “astonishing” results, Dr Luis A Diaz Jr of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, an author of a paper published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine describing the results, which were sponsored by the drug company GlaxoSmithKline, said he knew of no other study in which a treatment completely obliterated a cancer in every patient.

“I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer,” Dr. Diaz said.

Meanwhile, at the same meeting where the results of this miracle drug were presented, a team from Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel showcased its “low-cost” innovation with similar drugs to prolong the lives of severely ill head and neck cancer patients, TOI reported. (Scroll till the end of the article to know more about it)

Take a look at some deadly diseases and where they stand now in terms of treatment: 

Smallpox

While the exact origin of smallpox may have been lost in prehistory but, according to research, it first seems to have appeared around 10,000 BC. According to the WHO, smallpox is an acute contagious disease caused by the variola virus, a member of the orthopoxvirus family.

Smallpox was one of the most devastating diseases known to humanity and caused millions of deaths before it was eradicated. It is believed to have existed for at least 3,000 years, WHO says.

In 1980, smallpox was the first disease officially declared to be “eradicated.” The smallpox vaccine was created by Edward Jenner in 1796 and was the first successful vaccine to be developed. Jenner observed that milkmaids who previously had caught cowpox did not catch smallpox and showed that a similar inoculation could be used to prevent smallpox in other people.

ALSO READ: Advantage Indians? As Doctors Hail Smallpox Jab to Battle Monkeypox Rise, A Look at Where India Stands

The global health body launched an intensified plan to eradicate smallpox in 1967. The last known natural case was in Somalia in 1977 and in 1980, WHO declared smallpox eradicated – the only infectious disease to achieve this distinction. This remains among the most notable and profound public health successes in history, WHO says.

Covid-19

First of all, Covid-19 is not a virus but is the disease caused by infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Covid-19 was the name given to the coronavirus disease, the first case of which was reported from China’s Wuhan in the year 2019.

Since then, the disease has come a long way, taken lakhs of lives around the world, destroyed families, and ravaged the global economy due to the multiple lockdowns across the countries that were necessitated to keep the outbreak from spreading further.

ALSO READ: Pfizer Covid Pill Preventing Hospitalisations and Deaths: White House

With several vaccines now in the market, herd immunity building up and several drugs coming to treat the novel virus being introduced Covid-19 is gradually losing its severity but mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing the disease still pose a big threat.

AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, are some of the pharma companies that have developed vaccines against Covid-19 that, according to laboratory tests, have are successful in providing immunity to people from the novel virus to a certain extent but none of these are a 100 per cent effective.

Monkeypox

After over two long years of Covid, the threat of another infection, monkeypox, exploding into an outbreak has now gripped the world. European and American health authorities have identified a number of monkeypox cases in recent days, mostly in young men. It’s a surprising outbreak of a disease that rarely appears outside Africa. Health officials around the world are keeping watch for more cases because, for the first time, the disease appears to be spreading among people who didn’t travel to Africa. They stress, however, that the risk to the general population is low.

Monkeypox is a virus that originates in wild animals like rodents and primates, and occasionally jumps to people. Most human cases have been in central and west Africa, where the disease is endemic.

ALSO READ: WHO Calls Emergency Meet as Monkeypox Cases Top 100 in Europe; Could the Disease be Next Covid? EXPLAINED

Monkeypox belongs to the same virus family as smallpox but causes milder symptoms. Most patients only experience fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.

The incubation period is from about five days to three weeks. Most people recover within about two to four weeks without needing to be hospitalized.

Monkeypox can be fatal for up to one in 10 people and is thought to be more severe in children. People exposed to the virus are often given one of several smallpox vaccines, which have been shown to be effective against monkeypox. Anti-viral drugs are also being developed.

ALSO READ: Monkeypox Unlike Coronavirus, Won’t Spread Like Wildfire: ICMR’s Top Virologist to News18

The WHO, however, has said it was not concerned for now that the spread of monkeypox beyond the African countries where it is typically found could spark a global pandemic.

Polio

Polio or poliomyelitis, is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus for which there is no cure but there are vaccines that have eradicated the disease by 99 per cent.

The virus spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis. While most people who catch the disease recover fully, in about 1 per cent of cases polio can leave its sufferers with permanent physical disabilities, paralysis being the most severe one. The virus spreads along the nerve fibers in the spinal cord and eats away at the nerves inside the parts of the body that allow us to move.

ALSO READ: From Smallpox ‘Animal Product’ Fear, to Polio Jab Conspiracy Theory, Vaccine-hesitancy Irks Since 18th Century

Cheap and effective vaccine have eradicated polio through most of the developed world and only three countries – Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan – still see regular cases of polio.

According to available information, the first effective polio vaccine was developed in 1952 by American medical researcher Jonas Salk. The Salk virus, made available to humans in 1957, comprised an injected dose of inactivated poliovirus.

Yellow fever

Yellow fever is another disease for which there is no cure but has safe and effective vaccines that can provide immunity within one week in 95 per cent of those jabbed and, according to WHO, prevent a person from getting the disease for life by just one dose of the jab.

Yellow fever is characterised by a yellowing of the skin and affects the liver and kidneys, causing fever, jaundice, loss of appetite, chills, muscle pains and headaches.

While vaccines have been able to provide protection against this disease to the world, once contracted, there is no known cure it and the virus has a high mortality rate. An estimated 50 per cent of people who experience a severe case of the illness will die.

ALSO READ: Why Haven’t We Terminated Mosquitoes Despite Them Killing Millions of Humans?

As per WHO numbers, in 2021, nine countries in the WHO African Region (Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic (CAR), Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, and Republic of Congo,) reported human laboratory confirmed cases of yellow fever (YF) in areas that are at high risk for the disease and have a history of YF transmission and outbreaks.

Rabies

Rabies is another such infection that has a fully effective vaccine but has no effective treatment once the infection is established in a body.

Rabies is defined by the WHO as a vaccine-preventable viral disease prevalent in more than 150 countries. Rabies is a zoonotic disease, which, in simpler terms, means it’s transferred from animals to humans.

Rabies causes reaction in the nervous system, which leads to excitement, paranoia, anxiety, confusion and even fear of water. Another common symptom of rabies is hyper-salivation, or foaming at the mouth.

ALSO READ: Thane Man Mistakenly Given Rabies Vaccine Instead of Covid-19; Two Medical Staff Suspended

Dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans, as per WHO. Vaccinating dogs is the most cost-effective strategy for preventing rabies in people.

According to WHO, Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is virtually 100 per cent fatal. In up to 99% of cases, domestic dogs are responsible for rabies virus transmission to humans. Yet, rabies can affect both domestic and wild animals. It is spread to people and animals through bites or scratches, usually via saliva.

If you think you’ve been exposed to rabies, you need to get a series of shots to prevent the infection from gripping you.

AIDS

To begin with, there are a lot of myths surrounding AIDS that need to be cleared out. Anyone can get AIDS and not really know about it. AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is the last stage HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) which is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS. Getting HIV doesn’t mean the end of the world for the patient. It may take years for an HIV-positive person to reach the stage of AIDS. And, most people who die from HIV/AIDS do not die from the virus itself but rather from the so-called “opportunistic infections,” which take advantage of a weak immune system.

According to agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the CDC, since the HIV/AIDS epidemic began in 1981, more than 70 million people worldwide have been infected with the virus, and approximately 35 million people have died from AIDS. In sub-Saharan Africa, almost 1 in every 25 adults reportedly has HIV.

There’s no cure for HIV/AIDS, but medications can control the infection and prevent progression of the disease. AIDS becomes life threatening as it severely damages the immune system and might give an infected person serious illness even when its something as normal as fever that doesn’t cause serious illness in people with healthy immune system. These are called opportunistic infections or opportunistic cancers.

Mumbai doctors come up with low-cost cancer therapy 

At the cancer meeting in Chicago where doctors from New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center presented the results of the immunotherapy drug that made rectal cancer disappear from all patients in their trial, a team from Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel showcased its “low-cost” innovation with similar drugs to prolong the lives of severely ill head and neck cancer patients, a TOI report said.

At the central government-run Tata Memorial Hospital, the medical oncology team added a tenth of the regular dosing of an immunotherapy drug called ‘nivolumab’ to the treatment plan of 76 patients with metastatic head and neck cancer. While immunotherapy generally costs between Rs 2-3 lakh per month, this group got the low-dose immunotherapy drug at Rs 25,000 per month.

Dr Kumar Prabhash, head of the oncology department at Tata Memorial Hospital, said that with its price tag, immunotherapy is out of reach for 97 per cent of the cancer patients that can benefit from it.

With low-dose nivolumab, the patients had also undergone the regular chemotherapy regimen meant for their advanced disease. This group was compared with another group of 75 similar patients who only got chemotherapy. If the median overall survival was 6.7 months in the second group, it was 10.1 months in the first group, the report said.

Dr Shailesh Shrikhande, deputy director at Tata Memorial Centre, said that while he, as a scientist, is optimistic but guarded as more data is awaited.

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first published:June 08, 2022, 10:24 IST
last updated:June 09, 2022, 13:59 IST