Health & Lifestyle

Could a cancer drug be the answer to a chronically stuffed nose?

A cancer drug that’s been used on the NHS for 30 years could also help clear blocked noses.

A clinical trial is under way to see if paclitaxel, a chemotherapy drug, can help treat chronic sinusitis, which affects one in ten UK adults.

Sinusitis develops when the nasal passages and the lining of the sinuses — air-filled cavities behind the nose, cheeks and eyes — become inflamed and blocked, often as a result of a viral infection such as a cold or flu. This inflammation can lead to difficulty breathing through the nose, and pain or tenderness around the eyes and nose.

Most cases clear up in couple of weeks, once the underlying infection goes, but some people develop chronic sinusitis, lasting several months or even years.

Far from being a minor ailment, studies suggest chronic sinusitis can lead to pain and discomfort as bad as conditions such as arthritis. The symptoms range from a constant runny nose or stuffiness, to a reduced sense of smell.

A cancer drug that's been used on the NHS for 30 years could also help clear blocked noses

A cancer drug that’s been used on the NHS for 30 years could also help clear blocked noses

The inflammation can also lead to the formation of polyps, tiny growths in the sinuses that block air flow and can require surgery under a general anaesthetic to have them removed; 10,000 people a year in England alone undergo surgery to remove these polyps.

Now a team at the National University of Asuncion in Paraguay hopes paclitaxel will help patients avoid surgery and the risks associated with a general anaesthetic.

Dynamic duos 

Nutrients that work best when consumed together. This week: Vitamin D and phosphorous

The mineral phosphorous is found in every cell in our body, but the highest concentrations are in our bones and teeth where, alongside calcium, it helps strengthen them.

‘Phosphorus also plays a role in energy production and is vital for optimal kidney, heart, muscle and nerve function, too,’ says dietitian Orli Rhodes.

Most of our phosphorus intake is absorbed in our small intestine, but vitamin D is needed to help transport phosphorus across the lining of the gut and into our blood.

Try: Brown rice, milk, yoghurt, bread, red meat and oats are all useful sources of phosphorus. For optimal absorption, eat them with vitamin D-rich foods, such as oily fish, eggs or fortified breakfast cereals.

Rude health 

Low sexual satisfaction in middle age may be a warning sign of men’s brain decline, a study in The Gerontologist journal suggests. U.S. scientists measured memory and sexual function in 800 men aged 56-68 and found that a decline in sexual satisfaction correlated with future memory loss.

Paclitaxel — launched in 1993 — is best known as a treatment for breast, ovarian and lung cancers.

More recently it has been used to coat stents (tiny metal tubes) to help clear blocked arteries in patients with poor blood flow in their legs from conditions such as peripheral arterial disease.

This condition occurs when fatty deposits called plaques restrict blood flow in the small arteries in the legs, causing symptoms such as pain when walking.

Stents can clear the blockage, but the implantation procedure causes scar tissue to form on the lining of the arteries. As this scar tissue contracts, it narrows the space for blood to pass through the artery, leading to another partial blockage.

Paclitaxel is added as a coating as it prevents the formation of scar tissue by preventing tissue cells rapidly multiplying. 

The theory is that the drug will have a similar effect in chronic sinusitis.

It does not cause the same side-effects as when used as chemotherapy to treat cancer because it is a much smaller dose and there is not repeated exposure.

The researchers running the new trial, involving 45 patients, plan to use tiny balloons no bigger than a grain of rice, which are coated with paclitaxel to open up the blocked sinuses.

The balloon will be inserted via the nose. Once it is in position on the blockage, it will be inflated so that it gently presses against the inflamed tissue.

This helps to clear the blockage physically, but in addition the drug is immediately absorbed by cells in the lining of the sinuses, reducing inflammation and, just as with cancer cells, it will stop them from rapidly multiplying and causing another blockage.

The first results from the trial are expected at the end of 2024.

Simon Gane, a surgeon at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in London, said: ‘This is an interesting idea and could potentially be useful.

‘But in chronic sinusitis, all the sinus cavities [there are four — behind the cheekbones, the forehead and either side of the nose] tend to become blocked, so you may need lots of balloon treatments in order for it to work.’

Secrets of an A-List body 

THIS WEEK: Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s arms

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, 37, wore a halter-neck dress that highlighted her toned arms during the press tour for the latest Indiana Jones movie

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, 37, wore a halter-neck dress that highlighted her toned arms during the press tour for the latest Indiana Jones movie

Actress and writer Phoebe wore a halter-neck dress that highlighted her toned arms during the press tour for the latest Indiana Jones movie.

Phoebe, 37, is tight-lipped about her workout regimen, admitting only that she once had abs ‘spray-painted’ onto her torso before a red carpet event — but it looks like she does a bit more than that.

WHAT TO TRY: Tricep dips will strengthen your shoulders, arms and chest.

Sit on the floor, knees bent, with your palms on the ground (or at a small distance just behind your body) with thumbs pointing forward and fingers spread, elbows bent.

Push into the palms and straighten your arms, lift your hips, open your chest and roll your shoulders back.

Bend the elbows to bring your bottom to the floor. Perform three sets of ten, three times a week.

Why gout raises risk of erectile dysfunction

Gout medication may lower the risk of impotence.

Gout occurs when there is a build-up of crystals of uric acid in the joints (uric acid is produced when purines, found in red meat, liver and seafood, are broken down).

Now a study in the journal Andrologia, based on data from 500,000 men, has shown that the risk of erectile dysfunction is 59 per cent higher in those with high blood levels of uric acid.

Men taking uric acid-lowing drugs had a 27 per cent lower risk of impotence.

The researchers, from Shandong University in China, said high levels of uric acid may reduce blood flow to the penis. Drugs such as allopurinol help reduce the amount of uric acid made by the body.

Drinking mineral water rich in bicarbonate can reduce heartburn, reports BMJ Open Gastroenterology. Over six weeks, volunteers given the mineral water cut their need for heartburn medication by a third. It is thought that bicarbonate mineral water works in the same way as bicarbonate of soda, a common remedy, by neutralising stomach acid.

‘Super cells’ may improve survival for Covid patients

A new treatment can increase survival rates from severe Covid by almost 40 per cent, suggest trials involving more than 100 patients, who received either the new therapy or standard care.

The intravenous treatment, ExoFlo, relies on ‘exosomes’ messenger cells, which carry instructions to other cells in the body, for instance to heal damaged tissue and tackle inflammation.

The exosomes in ExoFlo are derived from human bone marrow and are thought to help repair damaged lung tissue.

The U.S. developer, Direct Biologics, is also trialling it for long Covid.

A new treatment can increase survival rates from severe Covid by almost 40 per cent, suggest trials involving more than 100 patients (File image)

A new treatment can increase survival rates from severe Covid by almost 40 per cent, suggest trials involving more than 100 patients (File image)

Can controlling gum disease tackle type 1 diabetes?

Tests are under way to see if treating gum disease will help control blood sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes.

Around 100 people with type 1 diabetes are undergoing extensive dental treatment, known as full mouth debridement — where plaque and bacteria are removed from the teeth and gums — in a trial at the University of Florence in Italy.

Their blood sugar levels will then be monitored.

One theory is that the inflammation associated with gum disease increases blood sugar levels, in turn making the body more resistant to the effects of insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to inject this hormone as they produce none naturally.

Latest step to prevent falls: electric leggings 

High-tech leggings that stimulate leg muscles have been developed to reduce the risk of falls in older people.

The leggings have tiny vibrating devices sewn into the fabric just above the knee; these are hooked to a battery in the waistband through wires hidden inside the garment.

As they vibrate, the gadgets activate the muscles. Studies show this type of vibration strengthens muscles and makes them less sore after exercise.

When scientists at the University of Talca in Chile tested the prototype leggings on a small group of volunteers aged between 60 to 80 — they wore the leggings for ten minutes, three times a day — it improved both their posture and gait (making a stumble less likely) after just three days, reports the journal Medical & Biological Engineering & Computing.

A poor sense of smell, which can be caused by sinusitis, may be linked to the risk of future depression, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, in the U.S.

Data from 2,000 older people over an eight-year period showed that those who had problems identifying scents also reported more symptoms of depression.

Researchers said sense of smell and depression may be linked through both biological (e.g. change in brain volume) and behavioural (e.g. reduced social function) mechanisms.

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