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Q&A: Cancer in the developing world

Reporter Joanne Silberner spoke to GlobalPost about her recent reporting on cancer in Uganda, Haiti, and India.
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A large pink ribbon hangs from the North Portico of the White House on October 26, 2009 in Washington, DC. While the US has fought against cancer for decades, the disease's new battleground, reports PRI, is the developing world. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

This week, Public Radio International’s The World launched a special series called “Cancer’s New Battleground – the Developing World.” 

The five-part series, reported by Joanne Silberner, explores cancer in Uganda, Haiti, and India, and looks at the challenges to fighting cancer that are unique to the developing world. Silberner is a freelance reporter and artist-in-residence at the University of Washington in Seattle, and she covered health issues for NPR for 18 years.

She spoke to GlobalPost about why she pursued this story and what she learned from her reporting.


Beyond Movember: The innovations of cancer fundraising

Cancer has a human problem as long as there have been humans, but here's a look at how fundraising for cancer research is changing.

Colombia's president has cancer

It might seem like a wave of Latin leaders with the disease, but cancer is a growing problem among the Latin American population overall.
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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, sitting, is surrounded by farmers during a recent event in the Vichada department, eastern plains of Colombia. (Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images)
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is due on Wednesday for surgery to remove a tumor on his prostate, putting the 61-year-old on an alarming list of Latin American leaders who have fought cancer in recent years. The list includes Brazilian leaders, both former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and incumbent Dilma Rousseff, Paraguay’s ex-President Fernando Lugo and Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.

Bubble tea tapioca "pearls" contain carcinogens, says German health authorities

Colorful Taiwanese drink "bubble tea" could contain cancer-causing agents, claims German study
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Four Bubble Tea drinks from the Teahouse in Houston, Texas. (Wikimedia Commons/Wikimedia commons)
German health authorities have come out against bubble tea, says AFP, claiming the tapioca "pearls" the drink contians have nasty cancer-causing carcinogens in them.

Cancer survival study sparks controversy

A controversial new study in the journal Health Affairs, says that cancer patients in the United States live considerably longer than Europeans.
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A hard drinking, hard smoking people, with a shockingly low life expectancy: that's the medical view of the Scots. Now Scotland will be the site of a major trial of a new early cancer detection test. (Jeff J Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images)

The bad health habits of the Scots has provided fodder for articles for decades. They are portrayed as a nation that drinks too much, eats too much fried food and collectively smoke like chimneys.

It is, of course, not true. But those who grow up in deprived areas of Scotland do fit the stereotype. Their life expectancy is shockingly low for a western country: 57.5 years for men and 61.9 years for women.


Can video games cure cancer?

Technological advancement is often driven by the hardware demands of new video games. Now researchers say that such advancements are aiding in cancer research.
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Visitors play at the 'Starcraft' stand of U.S. video game company Blizzard Entertainment during the 'gamescom', Europe's biggest trade fair for interactive games and entertainment on August 19, 2009 in Cologne, Germany. The inaugural gamescom in Cologne is a five-day games expo for consumers and trade. (Alex Grimm/AFP/Getty Images)

The biggest motivation for the advancement of computer technology is, more often than not, the hardware demands of new video games. As hardcore gamers run out to buy the latest pieces of hardware for their Skynet level computers, the cost for top of the line equipment is driven down.

A report on Wake Forest University gives a glimpse into the lab of biophysicist Samuel Cho, where he uses advanced GPUs (graphics processing units), to simulate cellular life. In the simulations, Cho can see the hidden states in the folding and unfolding of the RNA molecule in human telomerase enzyme found in cancerous cells, giving scientists a more accurate view of how the cellular molecule functions for the first time. 

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“If it wasn’t for gamers who kept buying these GPUs, the prices wouldn’t have dropped, and we couldn’t have used them for science,” Cho says in the report.

Researchers hope to develop a new drug that would stop the human telomerase enzyme from adding onto the DNA of the cell, so the tumor dies. 


Komen exec Karen Handel quits over Planned Parenthood funding cuts

"I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen's future and the women we serve," Karen Handel wrote in her letter of resignation.

Britain mourns the loss of a brilliant native son

The death of Christopher Hitchens at 62 has brought forth tributes from all across British society.
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Christopher Hitchens in combative pose at a book festival in Los Angeles in 2004 (AFP/Getty Images)
The death of Christopher Hitchens at 62 has brought forth tributes from all across British society.
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