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Introduces ready-to-use therapeutic food to reduce dropout at chemotherapy stage, cut infection risks

Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), which provides free treatment to almost 90 per cent of children suffering from cancer, has started providing ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) to thousands of malnourished patients. Therapeutic foods are usually made of a mixture of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, minerals, sugar, and other ingredients.

By bringing free nutritional support to these children, the hospital aims to bring down the dropout rate at chemotherapy stage as well as reduce infection risks.

According to TMH officials, the hospital get 2,500 new cases of paediatric cancer every year, and of those 60 per cent children are malnourished. The malnourished patients are associated with higher risk and increased mortality.

“The chances of malnourished kids dropping out of chemotherapy and quitting the treatment mid-way are very high as the side-effects of the chemotherapy are significant. We have done a three-year study involving 260 malnourished kids (in the 5-10 age group) suffering from cancer. Of these, 130 were put on RUTF and the remaining patients on normal food for four to six weeks. We observed that those on RUTF support gained more weight compared to others,” said Dr Shripad Banavali, head of medical and paediatric oncology at TMH. The study was conducted between 2015 and 2018.

Majority of the children included in the study were suffering from blood cancer, he said. “We get children from all over the country, and many are underprivileged, coming from small villages and belonging to families who can’t afford even one meal a day. In such situations, these underweight kids cannot tolerate chemotherapy, which puts them at risk of infection,” said Dr Banavali.

Dr Maya Prasad, associate professor, medical oncology, who had conducted the study, said, “Not a single kid, who was on RUTF support, dropped out of chemotherapy. Even the side-effects of chemotherapy were minimal. We have seen weight gain of almost one-and-ahalf kg among these kids. While those on normal diet gained only half-a-kg weight.”

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Published on January 25, 2019
mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com

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