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News digest – lockdown, ovarian cancer blood test, statins and Government spending review

by PA Media Group | Analysis

31 October 2020

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Illustration of COVID-19 coronavirus.

New national COVID-19 restrictions announced for England

This afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a second national lockdown in England. Under the new restrictions, which will come into place on Thursday 5th November until Wednesday 2nd December, people will be required to stay at home unless they have to go to school, university or work that cannot be done from home. People will however be able to leave their home for medical appointments or emergencies.

The new restrictions also recommend that people who are at high risk of developing severe illness due to an underlying health condition work from home during this period. The list of those considered at high risk includes people with certain cancers or who are undergoing chemotherapy or other treatments that can affect the immune system. There’s more information about the recommendations and the support available on the government website, and the Government will write to everyone who is considered clinically extremely vulnerable with more detailed advice.

Until Thursday 5th November, existing local COVID-19 alert level measures will remain in place in England. Restrictions will vary depending on where you live in the UK. For the latest advice in your area please visit the following websites:

We’ll have more information on the new measures in the coming days. If you have questions about cancer, you can talk to our nurses, Monday to Friday 9-5pm, on freephone 0808 800 4040.

Ovarian cancer blood test ‘better than previously thought’  

A new investigation into an existing blood test to detect ovarian cancer has uncovered better-than-expected capabilities. Co-funded by Cancer Research UK, researchers at the Universities of Cambridge, Manchester and Exeter found the CA125 test could be more predictive than originally thought and may even pick up other forms of cancer. Our blog post and BBC Radio 4 have more  

Time to invest in cancer care’s future 

Now is the time for Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the UK Government to invest in the future of  cancer research, services and care, writes Matt Sample, policy advisor at Cancer Research UK in his latest blog post. The upcoming spending review presents an opportunity for a ‘cancer reset’, with the country facing an “immense challenge” that must be faced head on.

Head and neck cancer drug gets approval for NHS use  

The immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) has been approved for use on the NHS in England as an option for some adults with head and neck cancer. In green-lighting the treatment, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence said around 950 people whose cancer has either spread or returned could benefit. Pembrolizumab was initially rejected in January, but additional data helped NICE to fully evaluate its benefits, as detailed in our news report. 

Immunotherapy – longer term side effects are emerging 

A new piece in the Daily Mail takes a look at type of immunotherapy drugs called monoclonal antibodies which started to come to prominence for cancer around 9 years ago. At a cost of around £100,000 per patient a year (and with potentially severe side-effects including rheumatoid arthritis) the article looks at the risks and benefits of these immune-boosting treatments. 

New evidence suggests statin’s cancer benefits  

Statins drugs that lower cholesterol and improve heart health may also have a positive impact  on cancer survival, according to new research. Researchers tracked statin use in women with newly diagnosed melanoma, breast and bowel cancer and found a link between adherence to statins and cancer mortality. While the study points to some potential benefits of statins, researchers cautioned that they cannot definitely say that statins were responsible for this effect and the results must be confirmed with clinical trials. The New York Times has the full story. 

Diet advice could be helpful for bowel cancer patients 

As many as 69% of people living with bowel, colon and rectal cancer received no advice or support on diet from their healthcare team at any stage of their care, new research from the University of Sheffield has found. With around 268,000 people in the UK living with bowel cancer, Lauren Wiggins at Bowel Cancer UK says the conversation around diet and cancer must be changed. Raconteur has more.

And finally… 

As many as 50,000 people in the UK are living with undiagnosed cancer as a result of the disruption caused by coronavirus, according to new figures from Macmillan Cancer Support. We’ve blogged before about how coronavirus has affected cancer services. 

And in more coronavirus news, the UK could be set to lose up to £7.8 billion in lifesaving investment over the next seven years as a result of the pandemic. Our news report has the story. 

Jake Richards is a writer for PA Media Group