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Primary teacher in cancer appeal


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

An appeal has been launched to raise £130,000 to send a primary school teacher to America for potentially life-saving brain tumour treatment.

Melissa Huggins, 27, of Staines, south-west London, is battling a cancerous brain tumour for the second time.

Doctors have told Miss Huggins her tumour is inoperable and a form of treatment not available in Britain is her best hope of survival.

Miss Huggins’ fiance, family and friends have raised £20,000 so far.

Melissa’s Fighting Fund is hosting a range of events and hopes to have enough money in place to allow Miss Huggins to travel to Boston General hospital early in the new year for treatment.

Wedding postponed

Miss Huggins, who teaches at St Ignatius Primary School in Sunbury, discovered during regular screening in late October that her cancer had returned.

"It really humbles you that so many people care so much"
Melissa Huggins

But she said she remains upbeat and grateful for the support she has received.

“It really humbles you that so many people care so much,” she said.

Miss Huggins said she and her fiance had postponed their wedding planned for next year and put the money they would have spent on that towards the treatment.

“I cannot ask anyone else for money if I wasn’t willing to make my own sacrifices,” she said.

Miss Huggins said her campaign was not just about saving her own life but about raising awareness of the need for health officials in the UK to purchase the specialised equipment needed.

“It’s about trying to get a proton machine in this country because it could save so many lives,” she said.

Targeted treatment

The treatment would use highly-targeted protons rather than traditional radiotherapy to kill cancer cells growing in the tumour near the base of her brain stem.

The only machine in Britain that delivers the therapy is a low-energy variety used to treat eye cancers. It is not powerful enough to be used on other cancers.

The proton therapy is deemed more effective because it only targets cancer cells and does not damage healthy tissue surrounding the tumour.

The NHS estimates that creating a fully-equipped proton therapy centre in Britain would cost between £50-100m


This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation

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UN warns of Zimbabwe cholera jump


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

The UN Children’s Fund in Zimbabwe says it is preparing to deal with a possible 60,000 cholera cases in coming weeks, four times current official estimates.

The Unicef chief in Harare, Roeland Monasch, said such a jump could bring the number of deaths to around 3,000.

Official figures say nearly 600 have already died from the disease but aid agencies fear the toll could be higher.

UK PM Gordon Brown says it is an international crisis and the world must tell Robert Mugabe “enough is enough”.

Mr Monasch told the BBC that they were doing all they could to bring mortality rates down.

But he warned that if as many as 60,000 people became infected in the next few weeks, then the cholera epidemic could kill another 2,700.See detailed map of cholera affected areas

He says the actual number of people who have already died is probably far higher than official figures as many clinics and hospitals are closed and people in rural areas frequently just bury their dead.

"Children in Zimbabwe are on the brink, and everyone’s focus must now be on their survival"
Roeland Monasch
Unicef

Unicef’s Zimbabwe Communication Officer Tsitsi Singizi said local authorities did not have the capacity to provide safe water and rubbish collection. Cholera is often linked to contaminated supplies of drinking water.

Tsitsi Singizi said health services had also collapsed, making it impossible to treat the high number of infections.

“The outbreak is really outpacing our response. It’s becoming endemic. Nine out of 10 provinces have reported a cholera case.”

Unicef has launched an emergency response programme to focus on providing basic services – increasing health outreach services, providing nutritional supplements, boosting school attendance, and increasing access to safe water in the short term.

“Children in Zimbabwe are on the brink, and everyone’s focus must now be on their survival,” said Mr Monasch.

The disease has spread to neighbouring South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana.

Condemnation

The situation has forced President Mugabe’s government to declare a national emergency and appeal for international assistance.

But it has also drawn increasing international condemnation of Mr Mugabe, including calls from key African figures for military force to oust him.

Mr Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to share power in September to tackle the country’s economic meltdown but they have been unable to agree on the allocation of cabinet posts.

The deadlocked agreement followed disputed elections, which both men claimed to have won.

In the UK, the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu joined in criticism of Zimbabwe’s government and called for Mr Mugabe and his allies to be overthrown so they can stand trial in The Hague.

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This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation

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‘Injectable bone’ helps fractures


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

A material that can be squirted into broken bones where it hardens within minutes, has been developed by UK scientists.

The toothpaste-like substance forms a biodegradeable scaffold over which the body’s own bone grows.

Its makers, from Nottingham University, said it could help remove the need for painful bone grafts in many cases.

They are working to start clinical trials in the UK, and expect it to be used in the US within 18 months.

The “injectable bone” won a prestigious medical innovation award last week, and is the brainchild of Professor Kevin Shakesheff, from the University of Nottingham.

Its advantage over traditional bone cements is in the hardening process.

While conventional cements give off heat as they harden, killing surrounding cells, and making them unusable in some parts of the body, this polymer does not.

The material has the texture of toothpaste at room temperature, and when it rises to body temperature, this is enough to trigger the hardening reaction.

"The fact that it doesn’t heat up when in the body… is a significant breakthrough"
Mr Andy Goldberg, orthopaedic surgeon

Professor Shakesheff said it was easy to inject into the right part of the body without a surgical incision, unlike bone grafts, which use bone taken from another part of the patient’s body, such as the hip, to plug a damaged gap.

“Not only does the patient need to be opened up, he or she is left with a damaged area – using this would avoid that.

“We believe we can just insert the needle, follow it to the right spot and inject the polymer, which will fill the desired area, and set as hard as the bone on either side.

“Because the material does not heat up, surrounding bone cells survive and can grow.”

Some limitations remain – even though the polymer is as hard as bone within minutes, the join between itself and old bone is weaker, and a leg fracture fixed this way would still need metal pins to stop it shearing apart when the patient tried to walk.

However, he said that the lack of heat as the substance set meant that it could potentially be used in other applications where a tough scaffold was needed to support the growth of new cells.

This could one day even stretch to other damaged areas such as the heart, he said.

‘Fantastic potential’

Mr. Andy Goldberg, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford, and a co-founder of the Medical Futures awards, which honoured the invention last week, said: “This technology has fantastic potential.

“As an orthopaedic surgeon, being able to work with a substance that is flexible, as opposed to using hard bone will make a real difference.

“The fact that it doesn’t heat up when in the body, like many other injectable substances is a significant breakthrough.”

Professor Shakesheff has created a biotechnology firm to help develop and market the invention, and is now working to prove its safety so that it can be used in hospitals.

He said that the swiftest route to market was in the US, where the product could be available some time in 2010.

Professor Richard Oreffo, a specialist in musculoskeletal science at the University of Southampton, said that the material had potential.

“As I understand it, the advantage it has is that the patient’s own cells and growth factors can be delivered with it, and because everything happens at room temperature, they are delivered intact to the patient.”

This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation

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