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News digest – NHS staff shortages, cervical screening error, HPV jab catch-up and ‘fat-clogged’ cells

by Katie Roberts | Analysis

17 November 2018

2 comments 2 comments

A photo of three nurses.

NHS staff shortages could reach 350,000 by 2030

The NHS faces a growing staff crisis that could leave hospitals short of 350,000 staff by 2030, reports The Guardian. The figures come from three leading health sector think tanks, who warn that not addressing the staffing gap could lead to spiralling waiting times and worsening patient care.

We’ve estimated that NHS cancer staff numbers will need to double in the next 10 years to cope with growing demand. Our blog post has the figures.

Targeted drug gets initial ‘no’ for women with advanced ovarian cancer

The targeted drug olaparib (Lynparza) has been initially rejected on the NHS for women with advanced ovarian cancer whose cells carry a faulty BRCA gene and have previously responded to chemotherapy, reports the Mail Online. Olaparib is already used to treat these women on the NHS at later stages of their disease after other rounds treatment, but extending its use wasn’t deemed cost-effective. The initial review came after clinical trial results showed offering olaparib earlier could hold the disease at bay after chemo. The decision will be reviewed in April 2019.

Standard chemo still most effective for HPV-positive throat cancer

Standard chemotherapy remains the most effective way to treatment throat cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Patients treated with radiotherapy and the chemotherapy drug cisplatin were more likely to be alive 2 years later than those treated with radiotherapy and a targeted drug. And side effects were similar in both groups. Our news report has the details.

Cervical screening letter error affects nearly 50,000 women

Almost 50,000 women weren’t sent NHS letters about cervical screening, reports the Telegraph. Some of these letters contained screening results, but the majority are believed to have been appointment invitations or reminders. NHS England say that so far, the error isn’t known to have caused any harm.

Cancer screening review launched in England

NHS England has launched a review of cancer screening programmes, reports BBC News. The review will cover the 3 national screening programmes – breast, cervical and bowel – and will look at if they’re making the best use of technology and how to ensure the necessary staff are trained to deliver the programmes. The review will also look to learn lessons from the recent high-profile cervical and breast screening mistakes. The report is expected next summer.

Boys may not be offered HPV ‘catch-up’ jab

The Government may not offer boys ‘catch-up’ vaccinations for 14 to 18 year old bolds who will miss out on the HPV vaccine, reports Pulse and the Mail Online. Earlier this year, the Government announced that boys in England would be offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) jab, which had previously only been available for girls. HPV linked to 7 cancers, including throat, penis and cervical cancers. Read our blog post for details on the proposed boys’ vaccination programme.

Are smokers who spend time with vapers more likely to attempt to quit?

New research, funded by Cancer Research UK, found that smokers who regularly spend time with vapers were around 20% more likely to have made a recent attempt to quit. But the researchers believe that spending time with vapers was not the reason behind the recent quit attempt. A much stronger indicator was if an individual used an e-cigarette themselves. ITV News has the story.

Statins prevent breast cancer spread in mice

Scientists have found that cholesterol-lowering drugs, called statins, could help prevent breast cancer spreading to other organs in mice. The Sun covered the early research, which tested the drug in mice and on human cells in the lab. In these experiments, statins reduced the growth of breast cancer cells in other organs like the lungs and the liver, but the drug didn’t stop the growth of the original tumour. Clinical trials will be needed to test if the drug could benefit people with breast cancer.

BBC Radio 5 Live visits the Francis Crick Institute

On Wednesday, BBC Radio 5 Live joined us at the Francis Crick Institute in London, speaking to some of our amazing researchers and patient advocates, as well as our executive director of Research and Innovation.

Call for UK ‘freakshake’ ban

Campaign group Action on Sugar called for a ban on so-called ‘freakshakes’ and milkshakes with over 300 calories this week, the Independent reports. Freakshakes are milkshakes that have extra sweets, cake and chocolates added. One high street restaurant was found to sell a 1280 calorie freakshake that contained 39 teaspoons of sugar.

And finally

Scientists have uncovered a potential new explanation for how obesity can affect the immune system. BBC News covered the new research, which found that fatty by-products can accumulate in type of immune cell that play an important role in killing cancer cells. In lab tests this ‘fat-clogging’ stopped the immune cells from working properly. But the BBC’s headline was a stretch to suggest this definitively explains how obesity causes cancer. Find out more about the leading theories for how obesity can cause cancer in this blog post.



  • Carole Cass
    5 January 2019

    Very interesting articles especially the one about statins preventing the spread of cancer Also the breath test for detecting tumours which could save many lives.

  • davd
    19 November 2018

    good work


  • Carole Cass
    5 January 2019

    Very interesting articles especially the one about statins preventing the spread of cancer Also the breath test for detecting tumours which could save many lives.

  • davd
    19 November 2018

    good work