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News digest – ‘No-deal’ Brexit predictions, nurse shortages and a ‘surprising’ DNA discovery

by Katie Roberts | Analysis

20 October 2018

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An image showing the structure of DNA

Drug approvals could be delayed by a ‘no-deal’ Brexit

Access to treatments being reviewed in Europe, including cancer drugs, could be delayed if the UK and EU can’t agree terms on Brexit, reports the Independent. Drug manufacturers have been told they would need to apply for UK approval separately unless a deal is agreed on drug regulation.

For the latest on how a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would affect cancer treatments, check out our blog post.

NHS nurse shortage leaves breast cancer patients without specialist support

Terminal breast cancer patients are not being provided a dedicated specialist nurse, according to the charity Breast Cancer Care. Almost 3 in 4 NHS trusts don’t provide specialist nurses, despite a commitment from the Government that all cancer patients would have access to designated nurses by 2020, reports the Independent. And nurses aren’t the only staff the NHS is short on – read this blog post for more.

Women more likely to experience side effects of chemo

Women experience chemotherapy side effects, including vomiting, hair loss and infections, more frequently than men, reports the Mail Online. Researchers looked at the complications of chemotherapy in people with oesophageal and stomach cancer, presenting their findings at a large European cancer conference that kicked off this weekend.

Artificial Intelligence to detect cancer

Google has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system to help detect late-stage breast cancer, the Telegraph reports. The Google software, called LYNA, has been programmed to recognise certain characteristics of tumours by analysing scans from cancer patients. In early studies, doctors using LYNA were able to analyse scans quicker and more accurately. But it’s still early days. According to the developers, the next steps are to test the software in a real clinical setting.

Could celebrity endorsements for prostate cancer testing do more harm than good?

The Independent looks at the potential negative impact celebrities like Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull might have by urging men to ask their GP for the ‘prostate-specific antigen’ (PSA) test, which is used to look for signs of prostate cancer. You can read more about these challenges in this blog post.

Wait for ovarian cancer diagnosis in UK longer than many countries

Women in the UK reported waiting an average of 22 weeks for ovarian cancer test results, according to a new report by the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition. Three in 10 UK women reported being given the all clear or a cancer diagnosis within a month, compared with 4 in 10 women globally. The Sun has the story.

GPs aren’t giving enough exercise advice, says Public Health England

Most GPs do not advise people to do some exercise, despite evidence of health benefits, reports the Telegraph. Public Health England said nearly 3 in 4 GPs weren’t mentioning exercise to their patients, because they didn’t feel they had the right knowledge, skills or the confidence to do so.

Weigh kids every year up to age 18, says Royal College

Children and young adults should be weighed and have their body mass index (BMI) recorded each year, says the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. They warn that 23 in 100 boys aged 11 will be obese by 2030 if current trends continue. Telegraph and BBC News have the story.

Developing robots that can analyse skin changes

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are developing a robot that can collect and analyse data from the skin, BBC News reports. The prototype is fitted with suction cups to help it move around the skin and is programmed to detect heart rate and muscle activity. Technology like this could be adapted to look for skin abnormalities, including skin cancer, but it’s a way off yet.   

And finally

Scientists investigating DNA faults in healthy cells have uncovered some surprising results, reports the New York Times. Using highly sensitive techniques to read DNA, they discovered that healthy cells in the oesophagus contain higher levels of DNA damage than previously thought. And the researchers estimate that over half of the healthy cells in the oesophagus contain faults linked to cancer by middle age.