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Magnesium's role in fighting cancer, boosting immunity revealed

25/01/2022

Magnesium is an essential macromineral, which means we all need to consume relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the recommended daily amount of magnesium adults 19-51+ years should consume is 400-420 mg daily for men and 310-320 mg for women. Almonds, cashews, peanuts and spinach are all good sources of magnesium. But walnuts are even more magnesium-rich, providing around 158mg of the macromineral per 100g. Consuming enough magnesium in your diet is linked with a number of health benefits, including healthy bones, lower type 2 diabetes risk and better cardiovascular health. Magnesium is also linked to improved muscle contraction and nerve transmission, as well as better regulated blood pressure and boosted immunity. Previous research has shown that mice on a low-magnesium diet experience faster rates of cancer spread. Furthermore, said mice have weaker immune defenses against influenza viruses. Now, Swiss scientists have discovered that a type of immune cell, called a cytotoxic or “killer” T cell, need magnesium to do their jobs and eliminate cancerous or infected cells. The researchers discovered that magnesium activates a protein called LFA-1 on the surface of cytotoxic T cells, which they use to lock on to their targets. Senior author Dr. Christoph Hess, Ph.D., from the University of Basel in Switzerland and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, explains: “In the inactive state, this docking site is in a bent conformation and thus cannot efficiently bind to infected or abnormal cells.” “If magnesium is present in sufficient quantities in the vicinity of the T cells, it binds to LFA-1 and ensures that it remains in an extended — and therefore active — position.” The researchers also found, through analyzing data from past clinical trials of cancer immunotherapies, that low serum levels of magnesium were associated with more rapid disease progression and shorter survival. The Swiss study appears in the journal Cell. *image by Pera Detlic from Pixabay

Common amino acid found in asparagus linked to spread of breast cancer

08/02/2018

The food you eat could influence the growth rate and spread of cancer, a new study has found. According to scientists at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, breast tumours in mice struggled to grow without the dietary nutrient asparagine, which is found in asparagus, poultry, seafood and many other foods. When mice with an aggressive form of breast cancer were placed on a low-asparagine diet or given drugs to block the amino acid, their tumours struggled to spread. Scientists hope to be able to take advantage of cancer’s so-called culinary addictions in the future and develop new treatments based on certain foods. Prof Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: "Interestingly, the drug L-asparaginase is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which is dependent on asparagine. "It's possible that in future, this drug could be repurposed to help treat breast cancer patients." But before you ban asparagus from your home, be aware that more research is needed, including trials in humans. Also, because asparagine is present in so many foods, it is almost impossible to avoid. Baroness Delyth Morgan, the chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said people should not drastically alter their diets as a result of this research. "We don't recommend patients totally exclude any specific food group from their diet without speaking to their doctors,” she said.

Prostate Cancer Drug Found to ‘Extend Lives’

28/05/2015

For prostate cancer sufferers, docetaxel is usually only given after hormone treatment has failed. But now a major study has revealed that earlier treatment with the drug can extend life expectancy anywhere from 43 to 65 months. The results, which will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology, are being labelled as “potentially game-changing”. In the UK alone, 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and 11,000 die from the disease every year. The trial was conducted across Britain and Switzerland and involved 2,962 men. At the start of their treatment, some of the men were given six doses of docetaxel and subsequently lived 10 months longer than those that weren’t. However, patients who had already seen their cancer spread past their pelvis saw their life expectancies increase by 22 months. One of the researchers at Warwick University, Prof Nicholas James, who was involved in the study said he was very pleased with the results and emphasised that the NHS needed to act upon them quickly: "To see a 22-month survival advantage off six lots of treatment given several years earlier is a very big benefit.” Furthermore, the fact that docetaxel is out of patent means that it represents a potentially cost-effective method of treatment. Commenting on the study’s findings, Cancer Research UK said the results were “important” and "show that it should be given earlier in a man's treatment".   Photo credit: NHS

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