Friday January 18, 2019

Immunotherapy Drug Pembrolizumab May Treat Rare Pregnancy Cancer, Says Research

An immunotherapy drug - Pembrolizumab- has the potential to treat a rare pregnancy cancer belonging to a group of diseases called gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD), results of a clinical trial show

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Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy Drug May Treat Rare Pregnancy Cancer. Pixabay.

London, Nov 27: An immunotherapy drug has the potential to treat a rare pregnancy cancer belonging to a group of diseases called gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD), results of a clinical trial show.

Three out of four patients with the cancerous forms of GTD went into remission after receiving the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab in a clinical trial carried out by researchers at London’s Imperial College.

The findings, published in the journal Lancet, suggest that immunotherapy could be used as a a safer alternative to conventional treatment for the disease.

Pembrolizumab is the trial drug/ immunotherapeutic agent:

The trial, which took place at Charing Cross Hospital, is the first to show that Pembrolizumab can be used to successfully treat women with GTD, according to the study

The researchers hope that this small early stage study could provide another treatment option for women who have drug-resistant GTD and lead to a 100 per cent cure rate.

“We have been able to show for the first time that immunotherapy may be used to cure patients of cancerous GTD,” said Professor Michael Seckl, lead author of the study.

The current treatments to tackle GTD cure most cases of the disease. However, there are a small number of women whose cancers are resistant to conventional therapies and as a result have a fatal outcome,” Seckl added.

“Immunotherapy may be a life-saving treatment and can be used as an alternative to the much more toxic high dose chemotherapy that is currently used,” Seckl said.

GTD is the term used to describe abnormal cells or tumors that start in the womb from cells that normally give rise to the placenta. They are extremely rare but can happen during or after pregnancy.

Globally, 18,000 women are diagnosed annually with cancerous forms of GTD, most of whom are cured with chemotherapy or surgery.

However, up to five per cent of these women’s outcomes are fatal due to factors such as chemotherapy resistance and rare forms of the cancer such as placental site trophoblastic tumours (PSTT) that develop four or more years after the causative pregnancy has ended. (IANS)

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Midwives Want To Reduce Maternal Mortality In South Sudan

South Sudan has added more than 800 midwives and nurses since 2010.

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Midwives, SUDAN
A woman holding her baby in a nursery watches another newborn who is attached to a ventilator at Juba Teaching Hospital in Juba, April 3, 2013. South Sudan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. VOA

More than 60 people graduated in Juba this week with diplomas in midwifery and nursing. Their goal? To reduce South Sudan’s high rate of maternal mortality.

Eight men were among the 66 graduates of the Kajo Keji Health Science Institute — an unusual occurrence in South Sudan, where midwifery is associated almost exclusively with women.

Samuel Ladu Morish, 26, says he felt he could no longer sit by and watch young women die because of childbirth.

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A woman sits inside a mosquito tent in the town of Abyei, Sudan. VOA

“A lot of mothers are dying so [for] me particularly it pains me. That is why I felt I have to do that course, to try my level best to stop maternal mortality rate in South Sudan,” Morish told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

Twenty-one-year-old Leju Henry, another male graduate, said he’s been asked many times why he decided to pursue a course in midwifery. Like Morish, Henry said he wants to help South Sudanese women, especially those who suffer complications in child labor.

“Most people think midwifery is a job for females only, but that is not the truth. … the definition of midwifery [is] that a midwife simply means someone who assists in child above all, but not necessarily means a fellow woman,” Henry said.

According to figures published by the World Health Organization in 2017, South Sudan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world — 789 women per 100,000 live births.

south sudan's war, chikungunya, maternal mortality
In this photo taken Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, the winner of Miss World South Sudan 2017, Arual Longar, poses for a portrait at a shelter for street children in Juba, South Sudan. VOA

The rate has actually fallen in recent years, a trend that Makur Koriom, the undersecretary of South Sudan’s Ministry of Health, attributes to increased training of midwives and nurses.

Also Read: Sudan Suffers From A Chikungunya Outbreak

He says South Sudan has added more than 800 midwives and nurses since 2010.

“We believe that’s important, because to address the current health challenges, investing in human resource is very important. But, of course, investment at [the] secondary level without concurrent development at the community level also will not yield [good results], because most of the issues happen at the community level,” Koriom told VOA. (VOA)