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News digest – NHS long-term plan, chemo ‘sponge’, NHS waiting times and high fibre diets

by Katie Roberts | Analysis

12 January 2019

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A photo of three nurses.

NHS launches long-term plan with a focus on prevention

The new NHS 10-year plan could save up to 500,000 lives by focusing on prevention and early detection, reports BBC News. We blogged about the announcement, which includes important commitments on cancer, including early diagnosis, more support for smokers and offering genetic testing to all children with cancer. But while the plan has been described as a ‘good starting point’, experts have warned that its success is threatened by NHS staff shortages. The Guardian has more.

Chemo ‘sponge’ could reduce side effects of treatment

Scientists have developed a sponge that could help to mop up excess chemotherapy in the blood and reduce side effects. The 3D printed sponge is designed to sit inside a vein that leads away from a tumour so it can absorb any excess chemotherapy. So far the sponge has only been tested in a small number of pigs that didn’t have cancer, but the device was able to intercept around 64% of the drug on average. BBC News has the story.

High fibre diet can reduce risk of early death

A high fibre diet can cut the risk of early death by up to a third, reports The Sun. Researchers combined results from a large number of studies and found that people who ate foods high in fibre, such as fruit, vegetables and wholemeal bread and pasta had lower rates of diseases like cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Northern Ireland misses cancer treatment waiting time target

Northern Ireland health trusts have once again missed waiting time targets for cancer treatment in 2018, reports the Irish Times. Figures from July, August and September last year show that only 64 in 100 patients who are urgently referred by their GP with suspected cancer started treatment within 62 days. The target is 95 in 100 patients beginning treatment within this timeframe, which has not been met since it was set up in 2009.

Record number of NHS patients waiting too long for cancer treatment

Over 18,000 patients with suspected cancer each month are waiting too long to start treatment or see a specialist in England. The Guardian picked up the figures, which show that performance against waiting time targets has fallen to its lowest ever level.

New molecule boosts immune system’s ability to kill cancer in mice

Researchers have identified a molecule that could boost an immune cell’s ability to kill cancer, reports Medical News Today. This type of immune cell, called a myeloid cell, is often tricked by cancer cells into helping them grow and divide. But researchers have developed a molecule that can stop this deception, which slowed tumour growth in mice.

Price deals encourage people to buy junk food in Wales, says survey

86 in 100 people in Wales think deals like ‘buy one get one free’ encourage people to buy junk food, according to a survey we commissioned. ITV Wales covered the results.

Tackle Scotland’s obesity crisis by ‘restricting junk food deals’, says our CEO

Our CEO, Michelle Mitchell, writes that when it comes to tackling obesity, it’s time for the Scottish Government to act. The comment piece appeared in The Times in Scotland.

Trial to test if gel could help reduce breast density

Scientists are testing if a gel containing a form of tamoxifen could help reduce breast density, a risk factor for breast cancer, reports the Mail Online.  The trial will involve 330 women in the US, Germany and Spain applying the gel daily to both breasts for a year.

People put off seeking medical advice due to embarrassment about symptoms

1 in 5 adults have put off seeking medical advice, according to a new survey by healthcare provider Bupa. The Independent covered the survey results, which found embarrassment over symptoms led to people waiting for more than 2 months to contact a healthcare professional.

And finally

An interesting article in Nature covers research testing a new approach to treat brain tumours for the first time in people. The treatment involves creating a vaccine based on the genetics of a person’s tumour, which could help to boost their immune system’s ability to fight cancer. Scientists found that while technique did generate some immune responses in people with brain tumours, the effects were limited.