Raising Awareness on the International Childhood Cancer Day

All | Awarness  |   GeneralHealthcare

Raising Awareness on the International Childhood Cancer Day

Author Name : Dr Nirupama M P

Bringing Hope By Raising Awareness On
The International Childhood Cancer Day

February is a special month every year not because of the one extra day we get in a leap year every four years, but this is the only month in which we can all take part in raising awareness on cancer on two different days. The World Cancer day is organized by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) on 4th February, which is a global campaign that focuses on educating people about cancer and brings hope and positive spirit. The UICC has launched a 3-year campaign – I am and I will – and 2021 marks the final year of the campaign that is geared towards driving positive impact globally by raising awareness on preventable cancer deaths. The International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD), celebrated on 15th February, is another worldwide campaign that raises awareness on childhood and adolescent cancers and provides support to children affected by cancer. The symbol of growth and renewal – Tree of life – is a three-year ICCD campaign that runs through 2023 which aims to send a positive and powerful message that childhood cancers can be cured and survivorship can be achieved.  

Cancer affects any part of the body and all individuals irrespective of age and gender. Abnormal changes in the genes cause seemingly normal cells in the body to start growing in an uncontrolled fashion, resulting in a lump or mass of cells. In the advanced stages of the disease, the abnormally growing cells get the ability to migrate from where they originally started growing and spread to other organs such as lung, liver, and brain in the body – making it a metastatic disease that is often difficult to treat. 

Cancers can be broadly categorized into two main types based on their origin – solid tumor and hematological cancer. A solid tumor is one in which the abnormal cell growth in a tissue leads to the formation of solid mass or lump. Hematological cancers on the other hand arise in the blood and because blood is liquid, uncontrolled growth of blood cells do not form lumps.   

In children, the most common types include acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Wilms tumor, Burkitt lymphoma, and retinoblastoma. Cancer is a leading cause of death among young children with about 300,000 new cases diagnosed every year and the cost of caring for a child with cancer amounts to $800,000 USD. For a list of tumors that have high prevalence in children, see table below. While it is difficult to know the exact reason of why one has cancer, research has given us some clue about certain risk factors that predisposes to cancer. Unlike adults, where lifestyle and environmental factors such as unhealthy diet, smoking, or tobacco usage can play a large role in developing cancer, these factors are least likely to lead to tumor development in children. On the other hand, inherited or acquired genetic mutations, exposure to radiation, infections such as HIV and Epstein Barr Virus, and prior cancer treatment have all been linked to pediatric cancers.

 

The above table highlights the fact that treatment can increase the likelihood of survival of children affected with cancer with the overall 5-year survival rate reaching 84.5% across all childhood cancers. Although gaps in access to healthcare exists, including diagnosis and treatment, which is widened by socioeconomic disparities. For example, in high-income countries such as USA, about 80% of the children with cancer are more likely to get cured, whereas in low and middle-income countries, the cure rates precipitously drop down to 20%. In low- and middle-income countries, children and their families lack access to healthcare that keeps proper diagnosis and an early and effective treatment out of reach for many children. Realizing this challenge, the World Health Organization has launched a cancer initiative in 2018 with the goal of attaining a survival rate of atleast 60% among children by 2030. While this requires a collective effort from individuals, scientific community, governmental institutions and all other stakeholders, let us all support this ambitious goal by coming together as a community and raising awareness on childhood cancer – Together, all our actions matter. 

References: 

https://www.uicc.org/what-we-do/convening/world-cancer-day 

https://www.who.int/cancer/childhood-cancer/en/ 

https://www.thenccs.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/the-economic-impact-of-childhood-cancer.pdf 

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer-in-children 

http://dcp-3.org/chapter/900/treating-childhood-cancers-low-and-middle-income-countries 

COVID-19 And The Year Of 2020

All | Awarness  |   GeneralHealthcare

COVID-19 And The Year Of 2020

Author Name : Gopinath Rajadinakaran

Covid19 and the year of 2020

With only a few days left to close the year of 2020, the time is right to reflect on how the year has gone by. The Covid-19 started spreading rapidly around the globe early this year and it is hard to realize that we have spent almost a year in this pandemic. Almost all of us have spent this year by social distancing, isolating, working remote, and limiting or restricting travel plans altogether to protect not just our loved ones but also our neighbours and even the people whom we don’t know — all to limit the spread of the contagious coronavirus. The deadly Covid-19 virus has infected nearly 80 million people worldwide so far and it has taken a toll on over 1.7 million lives (Source: Google).

Vaccines are biological machines or molecules that can power our immune system to offer protection against the deadly coronavirus. When a sufficiently large population is given the coronavirus vaccine, more people would have become immune to the virus. For Covid-19 to keep spreading, it needs to infect individuals who are not immune, but the virus would fail in this process if it infects individuals who are already immune from taking vaccines. The point at which the virus cannot spread anymore is referred to as having achieved the herd immunity. But to achieve the herd immunity on a large scale, we need vaccines in the first place and the entire world has been closely watching for these mighty molecular machines. In the past few months, there was a lot of discussion around the different vaccine technologies, their effectiveness and side effects, as well as the storage conditions and logistical challenges of keeping the vaccines in an active state before being delivered to the patients. So, where do we exactly stand in terms of developing a vaccine and when do we expect to achieve the herd immunity?

Who are the front runner candidates?

Several biotech and pharma companies around the globe have flocked to the race of developing vaccines to beat the novel coronavirus. Vaccine candidates are being developed and clinically tested using various technologies, for example, viral vector, DNA or RNA, or protein-based [1]. Due to the faster development timeline, the mRNA-based vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have gained early traction in the scientific community. To everyone’s surprise, these vaccines boosted effectiveness hovering around 95%, which is well above the 50% threshold set by the FDA and the 40% levels seen with the Flu vaccines [2].

Who can get the vaccines?

In the US, the FDA granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for Pfizer’s vaccine early December in individuals over 16 years, and shortly a week after, Moderna’s vaccine has also been granted the EUA for people over 18 years [3, 4]. While a EUA is not the same as the full approval, the emergency authorization cautiously grants the use of vaccines in certain individuals as determined by the regulatory body. Because there is insufficient information on the effectiveness of the vaccine in children and pregnant women, they are currently not eligible to receive the vaccines but clinical trials are underway for these patient groups [5]. The UK and Canada were among the first set of countries to issue emergency use, which was followed by the US and the European Union. It is expected that more countries will join this list to make these vaccines available to their fellow citizens [6].

What to expect after getting vaccines?

The currently available Pfizer and Moderna vaccines’ need to be administered in two doses that are given at least 3 to 4 weeks apart, and it is essential to receive the two shots in order to get full protection from the virus. The clinical trial results from a two to three month follow up of participants have shown that these vaccines can cause mild to moderate symptoms, but experts say these symptoms are a result of the immune system working hard to protect us from Covid-19 [7]. It should also be kept in mind that these symptoms are not specific to the coronavirus vaccines but other vaccines such as the flu vaccine can also cause side effects such as fever or fatigue [8].

Some individuals with a history of allergy could potentially experience anaphylaxis, a rare life-threatening allergic reaction, but it is unclear whether an ingredient in the vaccine causes this or people with allergies are especially sensitive to the vaccines. This has been reported in the UK in two individuals, who have successfully recovered after taking EpiPen, and as a result, the UK regulators have restricted access to the Pfizer vaccine for individuals with a past history of anaphylaxis.

Conclusion

The year of 2020 may have started on a negative note with Covid-19 spreading rapidly around the world, but we are ending this year on a positive note with at least two vaccines already having received the EUA and a few others that are in the late-stage clinical development expected to show results in early 2021. It is true these vaccines have side effects with some individuals experiencing mild to moderate symptoms, but as the experts suggest, the protection coronavirus vaccines offer far outweighs the side effects. Latest reports indicate that over 4 million vaccine doses have been administered successfully in nine countries and while we are far from reaching the herd immunity, this gets us one step closer towards that ambitious goal. Let us all hope, the year of 2021 will bring back the normalcy we all yearn for!!