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Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan: Nadia becomes first open defecation free district in West Bengal

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

“An achievement, which every Indian should be proud of. An achievement, which every person from Nadia wore on his sleeve today, as they strutted out to be part of massive celebrations in the district. An achievement, that has changed the future of Nadia’s children forever,” reads a post on UNICEF India’s website honoring a community-led transformation in a small district of West Bengal.

Setting a benchmark for the rest of the country, Nadia has been declared as the first open defecation free (ODF) district in West Bengal under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.

It was noted in the district census report of 2011-12 that out of the total population of 5.16 million, around 30 per cent of the households in Nadia had no access to toilets and the residents defecated in the open.

Such unhygienic conditions caused health issues among the residents of Nadia. In 2012-2013, more than 10,000 diarrheal cases and 28 deaths were caused due to diarrhea. Apart from facing severe health issues, women also had to deal with sexual violence, shame and guilt as they had the sole option to defecate in the open.

The district, under the administration of P.B Salim and with the technical support of UNICEF, decided to cede more importance to sanitation and aimed for an Open Defecation Free Nadia.

Soon 3, 55,609 toilets were built at an astonishing rate. The front line workers and the Anganwadi employees worked together to highlight the hazards of open defecation, and inspired the masses to seek for a better living. Not only the adults, but even young children did their bit to make their district hygienic.

In the record time of 18 months, the toilet coverage in the district increased from 66 per cent in July 2013 to 100 per cent by March 2015. About 5.16 million citizens of the district attained access to sanitary toilets.

“Bengal is proud of its achievement. To make whole of West Bengal Nirmal is our promise and we’re working hard to achieve this,” said the proud Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during an event.

David McLoughlin, the Deputy Representative of UNICEF India said, “UNICEF is proud to be a partner with Mission Nirmal Bangla and we are sure that its success is inspiring other districts in West Bengal as well as other states of India to take strong action to stop open defecation.”

Indeed, it’s a moment to rejoice and a time to celebrate the power of unity.

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Immunotherapy Drugs Show Significant Improvement Against Breast Cancer: Study

Side effects need a close look, both doctors said. Nearly all study participants had typical chemo side effects such as nausea or low blood cell counts.

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Breast Cancer
This undated fluorescence-colored microscope image made available by the National Institutes of Health in September 2016 shows a culture of human breast cancer cells. For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown promise against breast cancer in a large study that combined it with chemotherapy to treat an aggressive form of the disease. VOA

For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown promise against breast cancer in a large study that combined it with chemotherapy to treat an aggressive form of the disease. But the benefit for most women was small, raising questions about whether the treatment is worth its high cost and side effects.

Results were discussed Saturday at a cancer conference in Munich and published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Drugs called checkpoint inhibitors have transformed treatment of many types of cancer by removing a chemical brake that keeps the immune system from killing tumor cells. Their discovery recently earned scientists a Nobel Prize. Until now, though, they haven’t proved valuable against breast cancer.

Breast Cancer
Weight loss may lower breast cancer risk for post-menopausal women. Pixabay

In the study

The new study tested one from Roche called Tecentriq plus chemo versus chemo alone in 902 women with advanced triple-negative breast cancer. About 15 percent of cases are this type, their growth is not fueled by the hormones estrogen or progesterone, or the gene that Herceptin targets, making them hard to treat.

Women in the study who received Tecentriq plus chemo went two months longer on average without their cancer worsening compared with those on chemo alone, a modest benefit. The combo did not significantly improve survival in an early look before long-term follow-up is complete.

Failed protein test

Previous studies found that immunotherapies work best in patients with high levels of a protein that the drugs target, and the plan for the breast cancer study called for analyzing how women fared according to that factor if Tecentriq improved survival overall.

breast cancer
FILE – A patient receives chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer at the Antoine-Lacassagne Cancer Center in Nice, July 26, 2012. VOA

The drug failed that test, but researchers still looked at protein-level results and saw encouraging signs. Women with high levels who received the combo treatment lived roughly 25 months on average versus about 15 months for women given chemo alone.

That’s a big difference, but it will take more time to see if there’s a reliable way to predict benefit, said Dr. Jennifer Litton of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She had no role in running the study but enrolled some patients in it and oversees 14 others testing immunotherapies.

“We’re really hopeful that we can identify a group of women who can get a much bigger and longer response,” she said.

Another breast cancer specialist with no role in the study, Dr. Michael Hassett at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said he felt “cautious excitement” that immunotherapy may prove helpful for certain breast cancer patients.

Breast Cancer
Breast cancer cell, Wikimedia Commons

Side effects and cost

Side effects need a close look, both doctors said. Nearly all study participants had typical chemo side effects such as nausea or low blood cell counts, but serious ones were more common with the combo treatment and twice as many women on it stopped treatment for that reason.

Three of the six deaths from side effects in the combo group were blamed on the treatment itself; only one of three such deaths in the chemo group was.

Also Read: New DNA Tool To Predict People’s Height And Risk For Cancer

Cost is another concern. Tecentriq is $12,500 a month. The chemo in this study was Celgene’s Abraxane, which costs about $3,000 per dose plus doctor fees for the IV treatments. Older chemo drugs cost less but require patients to use a steroid to prevent allergic reactions that might interfere with the immunotherapy. Abraxane was chosen because it avoids the need for a steroid, said one study leader, Dr. Sylvia Adams of NYU Langone Health.

The study was sponsored by Roche and many study leaders consult or work for the company or own stock in it. (VOA)