A latest research paper shows a diet low in nutrients might help increase the lifespan of humans.
The research conducted on laboratory animals argues that dietary restrictions can result in higher rates of cellular recycling and repair mechanisms in the body. But, according to them, this effect evolved to help organisms during famines.
The authors explain that animals need less food for survival as the stored nutrients in the cells can be recycled and reused.
“This is the most intriguing aspect, from a human health stand point. Although extended lifespan may simply be a side effect of dietary restriction, a better understanding of these cellular recycling mechanisms that drive the effect may hold the promise of longer, healthier lives for humans,” said lead study author, Dr Margo Adler, an evolutionary biologist at UNSW Australia in a press release.
“This effect has been demonstrated in laboratories around the world, in species ranging from yeast to flies to mice. There is also some evidence that it occurs in primates,” Adler said
“But we think that lifespan extension from dietary restriction is more likely to be a laboratory artifact,” said Adler. She further explained that the most commonly believed theory is that this effect evolved to enhance the survival chances during times of famine.
The authors explained why no extension in lifespan is seen in the wild. This is because restricted diets lower the ability of the immune system to fight diseases and reduce the muscle strength necessary to defend against predators.
“Unlike in the benign conditions of the lab, most animals in the wild are killed young by parasites or predators,” Adler explained
“Since dietary restriction appears to extend lifespan in the lab by reducing old-age diseases, it is unlikely to have the same effect on wild animals, which generally don’t live long enough to be affected by cancer and other late-life pathologies,” she added.
The paper is published in the journal ‘BioEssays.’
A new type of drug that “revs up” the immune system to destroy cancer is being tested on humans for the first time. Scientists at the University of Southampton have developed the treatment in an attempt to tackle cancers, such as those of the pancreas, head and neck, that are particularly hard to deal with using available techniques.
The new drug works by increasing the ability of the immune system to recognise and attack tumours.
Recent research has suggested that many cancers can switch off immune cells, leaving them unable to follow their natural course of attacking the tumour and stopping its growth.
The new drug, which is called ChiLob 7/4, turns these cells back on and increases their numbers. By giving patients a vaccine at the same time that can train these immune cells to target cancer, doctors say they can focus the immune system’s attacks on the tumour.
A trial of 26 patients with pancreatic cancer has already shown encouraging results and now the scientists are to start a £5 million European Union funded trial of the new treatment next year.
Prof Martin Glennie, a cancer specialist who has led the research at the University of Southampton, said: “What we are finding is there are a whole spectrum of receptors on immune cells that switch them on and off.
“Some cancers are able to switch the immune cells off. We have been working on a drug that effectively puts the foot on the accelerator to rev up the immune system.
“If we use this with a vaccine we can steer the immune cells and train them to target the cancer.”
The drug is the latest in an emerging field of cancer treatment known as immunotherapy that attempts to exploit the patient’s own immune system to tackle tumours rather than relying upon chemotherapy or radiotherapy to kill the cancer cells.
So far one cancer immunotherapy has been approved for use in patients.
Called Ipilimumab, it effectively reverses the dampening effect of cancer cells on the immune system by switching it back on and has been approved for use against melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
The University of Southampton is now establishing a dedicated Cancer Immunotherapy Centre to carry out research on more of these drugs.
Already scientists there are working on a number of other compounds like ChiLob7-4 that can target cancer in this way.
Professor Glennie said: “Ipilimumab works a bit taking the brakes off part of the immune system called T cells, while our compound revs up the T cells – it is like giving them a caffeine hit.
“We believe this could provide us with some quite wide spectrum treatments, unlike many of the new cancer drugs which are for specific cancers and even individuals. This makes them very expensive.
“We believe many cancers have immune cells in them that are trying to react against the tumour but have been switched off. So if we turn them back on then they should destroy the cancer, especially when used in combination with other treatments.”
Professor Glennie said he hoped ChiLob7-4 could start being used widely in patients within the next five years if the clinical trials are successful.
Pancreatic cancer affects around 9,000 people in the UK each year and has extremely low survival rates – less than four per cent of patients survive for longer than five years.
He added: “We know from our phase one trials that it produces symptoms like the flu, but this is relatively mild compared to the side effects of chemotherapy and disappears once the antibodies have gone away.
“We think these kind of drugs could be particularly useful in difficult to treat cancers but potentially could be used in all cancers.”
MUMBAI: Tata Memorial Centre, a premier cancer treatment institute in the country, today announced that its researchers have found an inexpensive way to screen for cervical cancer — the most common cancer among Indian women — which can prevent 72,600 deaths worldwide each year.
The procedure, involving use of vinegar, curbed the deaths caused by the cancer by 31 percent in a group of 1.5 lakh women, it said. Cancer of the uterine cervix is the most common cancer affecting Indian women with an estimated 142,000 new cases coming to light every year and 77,000 women dying of the disease, a TMC spokesperson said here today. “India accounts for one-third of the global burden of cervical cancer. The disease is caused by infection with a virus called human papilloma virus (HPV) and is related to poor genital hygiene. “The disease develops slowly and most women experience no symptoms until it reaches advanced stages when treatment is often unsuccessful. Cervical cancer is preventable if the disease is detected at early and treated in time. “Cervical cancer incidence declined dramatically in high- income countries after introduction of organised population-based screening programmes using cervical cytology (Pap smear test),” he said.
“However, in India, a national population-based Pap smear screening programme is difficult to implement because of logistic problems related to need for laboratory facilities and expert cytologists.” Visual inspection of the cervix after application of 4 per cent acetic acid (VIA) is a low-cost alternative, he said. However, efficacy of VIA test, conducted by trained health workers, was yet to be ascertained. So Tata Memorial Centre embarked on this research; funds were provided by National Cancer Institute, USA, supplemented by TMC and Women’s Cancer Initiative, Mumbai.
The study involved 150,000 women in the age group of 35-65, living in “relatively low socio-economic settings in 20 clusters in Mumbai suburbs”, TMC spokesperson said, adding that participation was entirely voluntary.
The researchers divided the participants into two groups: 75,000 women living in 10 clusters were allocated to the `screening group’ while another 75,000 women were allocated to the `control group’. Women in the `screening group’ were invited to a cancer education programme followed by VIA test. This group received four rounds of screening and cancer education every two years. Women in the `control group’ did not receive the VIA test but were given cancer education. They were also asked to report to TMC in case they experienced any symptoms suggestive of cervical cancer.
According to TMC, results showed that VIA screening is safe, feasible and “acceptable to Indian women”, as there was an “overwhelming participation”. “The study data recorded at the completion of 12 years show that cervical cancers were detected significantly early among the screening group….There was 31 per cent reduction in death-rate from cervical cancer in the screening group compared to the control group. Many more `pre-cancers’ were also detected in the screening group and were treated, indicating that these women are unlikely to get cervical cancer in future,” the spokesperson added.
VIA test can prevent 22,000 cervical cancer deaths in India and 72,600 deaths in “resource-poor” countries world-wide annually, TMC says. The results of the study were announced at the annual meeting of American Society of Clinical Oncology, underway in Chicago.