'Electronic nose'

Scientists are testing if an 'electronic nose' can help predict who could benefit from lung cancer immunotherapy. Credit: Annals of Oncology

Sugar tax success revealed in new report

Taxing sugary soft drinks has been much more effective at reducing sugar than requesting the food industry voluntarily do so, a new Public Health England report has revealed. Mail Online covered the findings, which show the average sugar content in soft drinks has fallen over 28% since 2015 – that’s 10 times more than sugary foods not hit with the tax. According to The Times(£), the report was delayed by 10 Downing Street because of Boris Johnson’s scepticism of so-called ‘sin taxes’.

UK smoking rates falling fast

Mail Online covered the latest smoking figures, which revealed the number of smokers in the UK has fallen to 6.8 million, dropping by 1 million since last year. It comes a week after news that more than a billion fewer cigarettes are being smoked each year in England.

New drugs available through NHS Scotland

The Scottish Medicines Consortium have released a fresh batch of drug decisions, which included the approval of a personalised immunotherapy treatment for some patients with an aggressive form of lymphoma. They’ve also made 2 lung cancer treatments available through NHS Scotland but rejected a third over cost concerns, as our news report explains.

Not enough NHS nurses despite rise in numbers

The number of NHS nurses has increased by 4.6% in the last 5 years, according to new figures from The Royal College of Nursing. But as BBC News reports, this rise has been ‘eclipsed’ by the increase in hospital admissions – up 12.3% in the same time period. The latest figures come a week after news that almost half of NHS specialist nurses have said their workload made it difficult to properly care for their patients.

And it’s not just nurses that are feeling the strain of an understaffed NHS. In our blog post, we spoke to Dawn Chaplin, a consultant radiographer working in the NHS.

Only a third of women aged 60-65 take part in all 3 cancer screening programmes

Between the ages of 60 and 65, women in the UK are invited to take part in breast, bowel and cervical screening. But according to a new survey of more than 3000 women, only a third of women asked took part in all 3 programmes, with 1 in 10 not taking part in any. Experts say it’s important to understand the reasons why some people decide not to take part. Mail Online has the story.

NHS using out-of-date radiotherapy machines, Times investigation reveals

An investigation by The Times(£) revealed that almost half of NHS trusts in England are using outdated machines to deliver radiotherapy. The figures, which come as a result of freedom of information requests, are particularly concerning given the NHS announced they would spend £130 million on replacing old radiotherapy machines in 2016.

No-deal Brexit could affect childhood cancer treatment

A Metro exclusive revealed the impact leaving the EU without a deal could have on the supply of some medicines. According to the Government report, 3 in 4 medicines come from the EU and some drugs will be ‘particularly vulnerable to severe delays’ in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Cancer charities said it was ‘imperative’ that Brexit does not disrupt the supply of medicines to the UK or threaten international collaboration, which is particularly important for rare and children’s cancers – something The Guardian explored last week.

Targeting DNA faults in children’s cancers

Testing for faults in the DNA of children’s cancers could open the door to more targeted treatments, according to a pilot involving over 200 children. Researchers found that half the children had faults in their DNA that could be targeted by existing cancer therapies, but very few went on to receive the targeted treatments. While it’s not guaranteed that ‘adult’ drugs would be safe and effective in children, experts say that barriers need to be removed to allow more trials to take place, as BBC News explains.

Researchers trial shorter radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer

Scientists in London are testing if delivering radiotherapy in higher doses could cut treatment time without reducing benefits. And early results, picked up by The Sun, look promising. Men who were treated with stereotactic radiotherapy, which is given over 1 or 2 weeks, experienced similar side effects to those treated with conventional radiotherapy for 4-8 weeks. But it’s not a done deal yet – the next step is to evaluate if the treatment is as effective as standard radiotherapy, as well as monitoring long-term side effects.

Faulty BRCA2 gene increases risk of prostate cancer

The BRCA2 gene fault is better known for its link to breast and ovarian cancer in women, but it’s also associated with increased prostate cancer risk. And new study results found the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test, a blood test that measures PSA levels, was more likely to pick out more serious forms of prostate cancer in men who carry a faulty version of BRCA2 than those who don’t. But the study wasn’t able to look at whether PSA testing reduced the number of people who died from prostate cancer, which is needed to prove the value of screening. Previous studies have shown that PSA test isn’t a reliable way to screen for prostate cancer in the general population, as our blog post explains. The Telegraph has this one.

Awareness of HPV-cancer link low amongst US adults

Around 7 in 10 adults in the US are unaware that the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes oral, anal and penile cancers. The Sun picked up the latest survey results, which found awareness was slightly higher amongst women than men. HPV infection is most frequently linked to cervical cancer, but the virus can also cause vaginal, penile and anal cancers and increase the risk of some mouth and throat cancers.

And finally

Mail Online covered an ‘electronic nose’ that could help predict who might respond to some immunotherapy drugs used to treat lung cancer. Treatments that target the immune system are becoming increasingly important in lung cancer treatment, but they don’t work for everyone, so scientists are working to find new and better ways to predict who is most likely to benefit. The ‘eNose’, which sniffs out chemicals found in the breath, has had promising early results, but researchers now need to put it to the test against more established techniques.