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News digest – cutting sugar, a new NHS target, lab-grown mini tumours, and… vitamin C as a treatment?

by Michael Walsh | Analysis

1 April 2017

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  • Voluntary guidelines to reduce children’s sugar intake have been released, with proposed limits set for 9 foods, including breakfast cereals and biscuits. It’s hoped that the measures will cut sugar consumption by 20% over the next 3 years, but we’ve been clear that the food industry really needs to act now to make this happen. We reported on the story as did the Guardian.
  • NHS England has set a target of 5,000 more people each year to survive cancer by 2019. It will also introduce a new 28 day target for patients to be diagnosed or given the all clear following a referral, as we reported. It remains to be seen how successful this will be given the shocking recent record of meeting targets, particularly when budgets, resources and staff are already stretched. The Daily Mail also reported this one.
  • It seems we’re talking every week about NHS waiting times being missed, and this time it’s the turn of Scotland. The target of 62 days from referral to beginning treatment hasn’t been met for around 4 years now, and we’ve said that it’s absolutely critical that improvements are seen soon. The TimesBBC and Scotsman all covered the story.

Number of the week

5,000 – the extra number of people NHS England hopes will survive their cancer by 2019

  • And it’s a similar picture in Northern Ireland with only 68% of cancer patients starting treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral, falling way short of the 95% target. The Belfast Telegraph covered this one.
  • A plan for children whose cancers don’t respond to conventional treatment to have their tumour DNA sequenced as a possible way to suggest different treatments was reported by the Telegraph and Sky News, but not all children will be offered this.
  • With the Pill in the news again last week, the Guardian looked in a little more detail at how it affects cancer riskWe’ve also got more information.
  • We spoke to the Express about why survival for pancreatic cancer is so low, and what we’re trying to do about it.
  • An Australian study reported that keyhole surgery is a better approach for women with early stage womb cancer than the more invasive surgery that is commonly used. Our news report has more.
  • We launched a clinical trial in GP surgeries testing a ‘sponge-on-a-string’ as a possible way to detect Barrett’s oesophagus – a condition that can increase the risk of developing oesophageal cancer. Our press release has the details.  

  • BBC News and the Express reported on a new method to help GPs assess the risk of bowel cancer in people under 50. The symptoms of bowel cancer are more likely to be down to other, less serious, conditions and this can make it harder for GPs to know who needs further tests. Early diagnosis is important as it means treatment is more likely to be successful.
  • A team looked at the genetics of a number of brain tumours, finding new variations in the DNA that might be useful in assessing risk of the disease, but the effects of the variants were small. Larger studies will be needed to test the impact the discovery might have on brain tumour research. The Mirror reported on this one.

And finally

  • The Express and Evening Standard covered a study looking at vitamin C and cancer, but the headlines didn’t reflect the findings of the study. While the results were encouraging, the study was designed to look at safety rather than effectiveness of high-dose vitamin C combined with standard treatment, not to determine if this was more effective than standard treatment alone. The study included just 11 brain tumour patients, so it’s far too early to conclude that “Vitamin C can beat cancer”.