130,000 Patients Missing out on Critical Cancer Care Annually

Over 130,000 patients a year are being denied vital cancer care, due to struggling NHS systems.

The growing number of patients suffering from cancer is creating a deficit in treatment.

A total of 132,138 patients in England last year did not see a cancer specialist within the required 14 days, begin surgery or radiotherapy within the supposed maximum 31 after diagnosis, or 62 days after initial consultation and tests, according to figures released by Cancer Research UK.

Commenting on the issue, Prof Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, suggested that the seriousness of the statistics should not be underestimated.

“These figures are alarming. The number of people for whom these targets are being missed is a real source of concern. Delay creates additional anxiety for people. That matters for individual patients affected in a precise way because they have a prolonged period of uncertainty. Do I have cancer or do I not? And if I do have cancer, will it be curable?”

Johnson went on to outline the consequences of such delays.

“In some cases delays may even mean the chance to give curative treatment may be lost. Delays mean that there will be some people whose cancer gets worse while they wait for the result [of a test]. I’m pretty angry about that. This all reflects a system that’s failing to meet the needs of people with cancer or suspected cancer.”

Indeed, the NHS has failed to meet any of its cancer targets since 2014.

In that time, 57,112 people have had to wait longer than that for supposedly urgent care, NHS England statistics concede.

Dr Richard Roope, the Royal College of GPs’ spokesman on cancer, is in no doubt about the problems caused by the current failure to get on top of cancer treatment.

“We now have a situation where most hospitals don’t meet their targets to start treating people within 62 days of referral with radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery. That’s regrettable for patients because for an affected patient any extension of those 62 days is both psychologically challenging and damaging both for them and their loved ones. There’s always the worry that that delay might affect your outcome and that in some cases it will mean the cancer is more advanced at the time of treatment, which will then be detrimental to the outcome – it could reduce their chances of survival.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health attempted to defend the performance of the NHS and the healthcare establishment.

“Cancer survival rates have never been higher and just this week the NHS announced a new £130m investment to kickstart the upgrade of radiotherapy equipment and transform cancer treatment across England. The reality is the NHS is seeing over 90% more patients with suspected cancer within two weeks – that’s over 800,000 more people – and treating nearly 50,000 more patients following a GP referral compared to 2010.”

Perhaps the failure to meet these targets can once again be cited as evidence that targets set for the NHS are too stringent.

But it is clear that this is another area of the healthcare system struggling to cope with public demand.

 
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Over 170,000 Cancer Sufferers Alive 40 Years Later Data Shows

Macmillan Cancer Support data indicates that survival rates for cancer in the UK have improved considerably over the last few decades.

According to the authoritative charity, over 170,000 people suffering with cancer over the last 40 years are still alive.

This means that people are twice as likely to survive for at least 10 years after being diagnosed with cancer than just four decades ago.

Both the better treatment and expedient diagnoses have contributed to this phenomenon.

Nell Barrie, of Cancer Research UK, welcomed the “huge progress” in improving cancer survival but stressed it was important to continue focusing on “world-leading science to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment, especially for the harder-to-treat cancers like lung, brain and pancreatic cancer”.

However, despite the positive picture that this data suggests, Macmillan believes that cancer sufferers are still struggling with the physical, emotional and financial impact of cancer diagnosis and treatment without satisfactory assistance.

A review conducted by the charity indicates that over one-quarter of cancer sufferers will require long-term support.

Prof Jane Maher, chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, believes that serious progress is being made on the debilitating condition of cancer, and that the quality of life and survival rates for sufferers are improving as a result.

“We now see fewer of the big side-effects, such as an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, we saw after treatment in the 1970s and 80s. But some of the effects doctors consider ‘small’, such as fatigue and poor bowel control, can have a profound impact on someone’s quality of life. Sadly there is no cancer treatment available at the moment that does not carry a risk of side-effects.”

The charity notes that an increasing number of people are surviving long-term, even those suffering from the most serious forms of cancer, but believe that finance should be invested to ensure that they receive the appropriate quality of care.

In response, the government is planning to introduce tailored recovery packages, with the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt noting the progress made by Macmillan, and the contribution that the government can make to this issue.

“The fact that more people are surviving cancer is excellent news, due in no small part to the work of NHS staff who carry out the diagnosis, treatment and care to help patients beat the disease. To help, we announced last year that by 2020 people diagnosed with cancer in England will benefit from an individually tailored recovery package. This was originally developed by Macmillan Cancer Support, and I would like to pay tribute to the charity’s enormous effort in this area over many years.”

There were around 163,000 cancer deaths in the UK in 2014.

Lung, bowel, breast and prostate cancers together accounted for almost half of all cancer deaths.

 
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New Study Questions the Value of Mastectomies

A new study suggests that thousands of women are undergoing mastectomy surgery in the United Kingdom without the need to do so, while in fact the surgery is ultimately causing more harm than good in many cases.

This is particularly serious, as 4,000 women in the UK are now opting for this form of surgery on an annual basis, in the belief that it will reduce their chances of contracting breast cancer.

But a new study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, US, shows that the majority of women would never have developed cancer in the healthy tissue anyway.

“This surgery offers no significant survival benefit to women with a first diagnosis of breast cancer,” Dr Mehra Golshan of Brigham Women’s Hospital commented.

Not only will the surgery in many cases have a limited influence over the development of breast cancer, the research asserts that it leaves women potentially open to complications and infections.

Additionally, the possibility of psychological problems such as depression are common with this form of surgery, questioning its efficacy in treating cancer and in dealing with women’s overall well-being.

The US researchers studied more than 500,000 breast cancer patients for eight and a half years to study whether the disease returned.

And they found that although many more women are now opting to engage in mastectomies, that the chances of survival were not significantly improved by the surgery.

Senior author Dr Mehra Golshan, Chair in Surgical Oncology at Brigham Women’s Hospital, commented on the results of the surgery, outlining to women the potential risks and benefits of mastectomy operations.

“Our analysis highlights the sustained, sharp rise in popularity of CPM while contributing to the mounting evidence that this more extensive surgery offers no significant survival benefit to women with a first diagnosis of breast cancer. Patients and caregivers should weigh the expected benefits with the potential risks of CPM including prolonged recovery time, increased risk of operative complications, cost, the possible need for repeat surgery, and effects on self-image.”

Breast cancer is one of the most serious conditions in the United Kingdom, with around 35,000 women being diagnosed with the condition on a yearly basis.

“Women with unilateral breast cancer undergoing CPM continue to report a desire to extend life as one of the most important factors leading to their surgical decision. Understanding why women choose to undergo CPM may create an opportunity for health care providers to optimally counsel women about surgical options, address anxieties, discuss individual preferences and ensure peace of mind related to a patient’s surgical choice,” Dr. Golshan added.

Charity surgeries in the UK have already acknowledged that making a decision about this surgery should be considered a diligent process.

Catherine Priestley, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Care, commented: “It is clear from these noteworthy findings that many women diagnosed with breast cancer worry they will develop cancer in the other breast. Some women ask about having both breasts removed for peace of mind. But for most women the risk of another cancer in the other breast is small and a double mastectomy is not usually necessary.”

The research was published in the Annals of Surgery.

 
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Nanotechnology Cures Terminal Breast Cancer in Mice

A new cancer therapy could be a major breakthrough in the fight against breast cancer, after it was proved to be particularly effective in treating nice.

The research in question has raised hopes that it will be possible to deliver drugs to vital organs by utilising the technique that bypasses cell defences that are currently resistant to treatment by conventional methods.

In tests on mice with incurable breast cancer that had spread to the lungs, half were free of the disease for at least eight months – the equivalent of 24 years in humans.

Researchers conducting the study believe that if the effect can be transferred to humans that it would have a particularly positive influence on metastatic cancers.

“We are talking about changing the landscape of metastatic disease, so it’s no longer a death sentence,” Dr Mauro Ferrari, president of the Houston Methodist Research Institute in Texas and lead in the study, commented.

The research comes just days after another “staggering” new breast cancer therapy was found to have destroyed deadly tumours in just 11 days.

Ferrari urged caution on the subject, but also indicated his belief that the research has massive potential in treating breast cancer in the future.

“I would never want to over-promise to the thousands of patients looking for a cure but the data is astounding. If this research bears out in humans and we see even a fraction of the survival time, we are still talking about dramatically extending life for many years. That’s essentially a providing a cure in a patient population that is now being told there is none.”

However, despite the undoubtedly positive developments, British cancer experts have been more lukewarm about the research.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, of Breast Cancer Now, emphasised that implementing the technology among human beings will be extremely difficult and challenging.

“While the results look promising in mice, there is still a long way to go before we will know if this technique could be an effective treatment for women.”

Dr Ferrari and his team used a standard chemotherapy drug called doxorubicin, but absorbed it into microscopic discs made of silicon, which disguise the drug from the cancer.

Once inside the tumour cells, the discs break down and release the drug

Writing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, Ferrari explained why the research has been particularly effective.

“Lung and liver metastases are the two main reasons why we lose cancer patients. The results we have proven with this paper is that we can provide a functional cure; we can essentially cure long-term, [giving] disease-free survival for about 50 per cent of the animals that we provided this therapy to.”

 
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Cancer Cases Rising in the UK According to Charity

Research from a major cancer charity indicates that the number of people contracting the deadly condition is increasing in the UK.

Cancer Research UK suggests that more than 352,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year, which represents a 12% increase over the same figure for the mid-1990s.

The latest figures have been collated by the charity as it assesses the position of treatment of cancer in Britain.

Between 2011 and 2013, there were 603 cases diagnosed for every 100,000 Britons, compared with 540 in 1993-95 – when there were 253,000 diagnoses a year.

Although the figures may be worrying for health bosses, it must be said in mitigation that the numbers could be considered somewhat misleading.

While a variety of factors could contribute to this phenomenon, it is likely that ageing and the growing population are the major causes.

And although the chances of contracting cancer have seemingly increased, the chances of any individual surviving the deadly condition have similarly expanded as well.

More accurate tests, better treatments and earlier diagnosis all mean that the process of the treating cancer has improved considerably.

However, it is wrong to view cancer as a singular condition, and the survival rates for numerous strains of the disease remain extremely low.

More needs to be done to tackle survival rates for lung, pancreatic and oesophageal cancer as they tend to be diagnosed at a later stage when they are harder to treat, the report argues.

Commenting on the issue, Nick Ormiston-Smith, Cancer Research UK’s head of statistical information, reflected on the figures, and outlined some of the issues that help explain them.

“People are living longer so more people are getting cancer. But the good news is more people are surviving their cancer. There is still a huge variation in survival between different cancer types and there’s a lot of work to do to reach Cancer Research UK’s ambition for three in four patients to survive their disease by 2034.”

Prof Peter Johnson, also from Cancer Research UK, emphasised the importance of lifestyle factors, and encouraged the general population to lead a healthier existence in order to diminish their chances of contracting cancer.

“People often think cancer is down to their genes or just bad luck. Although genes do play a role there are still many things people can do to reduce their cancer risk. The most important is not to smoke. Most people know smoking causes lung cancer, but it is also linked to at least 13 other types. We also know that maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising and eating a healthy balanced diet is important.”

 
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10-minute Saliva Cancer Test to be Available by 2020

Technology continues to produce new innovations in the field of cancer research, prevention and treatment, and a new test is set to revolutionise the niche still further.

By the end of the decade, it is predicted that a 10-minute test which enables cancer to be detected will be available in the UK.

Patients who purchase the “liquid biopsy” would be required to send a small amount of saliva off to a laboratory.

Scientists can then analyse the saliva provided by the patient in order to ascertain whether or not it contains fragments of tumour DNA.

And the good news for people concerned about their health is that the test will be extremely affordable, and widely available in the relatively short-term.

According to Professor David Wong, the scientist behind the test, it would cost roughly £15 to buy and could be sold in the UK in as little as four years time.

And Wong believes that full clinical trials will be undertaken before the end of the existing calendar year.

Wong works at the University of California in Los Angeles, and recently spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Washington.

Here Wong argued that the test is extremely durable and effective and could boost cancer treatment considerably.

“If there is a circulating signature of a tumour in a person’s blood or saliva, this test will find it. We need less than one drop of saliva and we can turn the test around in 10 minutes. It can be done in a doctor’s office while you wait Early detection is crucial.”

It is already known that the amount of time taken to diagnose cancer can have a huge influence over the efficacy of treatment.

Yet is currently it takes two weeks to diagnose cancer in Britain via a blood test or tissue sample.

Already tests on the new saliva method have produced near perfect results, and it is hoped that it could be implemented in public settings by 2020.

Additionally, Professor Wong believes that it will be possible for the test to be used to detect numerous types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer which has “no effective early screening capabilities”.

Prototypes of the saliva test are being made and will be tested in China and Europe this year. They will need to be given regulatory approval before going on sale in the UK.

Dr Áine McCarthy, Cancer Research UK’s science information officer, was enthusiastic about the new technique.

“Developing new techniques to diagnose cancer earlier is an important part of global efforts to tackle the disease. Detecting tell-tale signs of cancer in blood, saliva or urine, instead of taking tissue samples, is one area that’s showing a lot of promise and could speed up diagnosis. Researchers are working to get these tests ready for routine use – it’s crucial to understand how accurate they are and how doctors can best use them alongside current scans and tests.”

 
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Damning Statistics Suggest Cancer Signs in Children Being Ignored

A disturbing survey suggests that parents’ concerns about cancer in children is not being adequately responded to by GPs.

Nearly half of parents whose children were ultimately diagnosed with cancer felt that their worries about the issue were ignored by doctors.

In addition, over one-third felt that the diagnosis of their child’s condition was significantly delayed, with 50% of these people believing that this ultimately had a significant impact on prognosis.

In response to the figures, cancer charity CLIC Sargent, which conducted the research, is calling for the government to ensure better training and guidance for professionals who care for children before diagnosis.

The figures were based on a survey of 333 people – 147 young people aged 16-24 and 186 parents.

CLIC Sargent chief executive Kate Lee commented: “It is simply not acceptable that so many of the parents and young people we spoke to felt their GP didn’t take their concerns seriously or that their knowledge of their child’s health wasn’t recognised. It is absolutely vital that medical professionals including GPs are confident and skilled in listening and talking to children, young people and parents – and responding to their concerns. That’s why we’re calling for health education bodies to make this a core element of professional training.”

And the lack of a satisfactory diagnosis can have a big impact on the way that cancer sufferers feel about their condition.

Respondents to the survey almost ubiquitously (93%) indicated that delays in diagnosis had a negative impact on their mental state.

Unfortunately, the research indicates that there is a continual pattern of not taking cancer symptoms seriously enough in young children, and that delays in diagnoses are having a massive impact on the well-being of those unfortunate enough to ultimately be diagnosed.

But GPs who were surveyed by the charity also suggested that they are unprepared to diagnose cancer adequately in children.

Nearly half in fact indicated that more training is required in this area, while exactly half indicated that additional consultation time would be beneficial for diagnosis.

The aforementioned Lee commented that GPs lack of training was unacceptable, and something that would continue to have an impact on the diagnosis of cancer in children until it is adequately addressed.

“It is striking that so many GPs feel more can be done to help them identify suspected cancer. Cancer in children and young people is thankfully rare so a GP may only have one or two cases in their whole career.”

Sean Duffy, national clinical director for cancer at NHS England, outlined the position of the health body.

“Early diagnosis must be of the highest priority for cancer patients of all ages. This report highlights the challenges of identifying cancer in children, and shows the vital need for everyone, including GPs, to be more aware of the early signs. NICE guidance has been recently updated to lower the referral threshold for GPs, and we have begun a major programme of work to test innovative ways to diagnose cancer more quickly in all patients.”

Although cancer is associated with older people, it can also be contracted by children and younger people as well.

Indeed, nearly 4,000 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer on an annual basis in UK.

 
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Cancer Drugs Fund Failing Economically According to MPs

Mismanagement of the £1.3 billion Cancer Drugs Fund has led to dying patients missing out on key medication, according to information provided by MPs.

A damning report by the Public Accounts Committee indicates that the fund has been malfunctioning significantly over the last five years.

The budgeting of the organisation has clearly got out of control, and this has led to the health service paying extremely high prices for medication.

The report concluded that “there is no assurance that the Department of Health and NHS England are using their buying power effectively to pay a fair price for cancer drugs. The companies were clearly prepared to reduce their prices to help keep their drugs on the fund’s list.”

One only needs to look at the figures related to the cancer drugs fund in order to understand the extent to which it has grown beyond its original remit.

Its initial budget had been capped at £175 million per year, but this has subsequently risen to in excess of £415 million.

The report documents this, and also explains the consequences of this vast increase in expenditure.

“To help cover this overspend, NHS England had to defer some planned spending on primary care services. NHS England did not start to take action to control costs until November 2014. Since then it has reduced the number of drugs available through the fund.”

Despite the failings of the fund, the report does nonetheless conclude that 80,000 people have received medication through it since it was launched.

But the figures are extremely damning for the fund, and suggests that its future will be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, commented that there had been fundamental economic failings within the fund during the five years that it has operated.

“Clearly they weren’t watching the money. As the costs went up they rapidly delisted, which shows a sign of lack of control. Every time they overspent and had to cut back, that affects patients. If they had managed it better there would have been more benefit for many more patients. It was chaotic.”

Hillier continued by pointing out that the fund had fundamentally failed cancer sufferers in particular.

“One of the reasons for the fund was to focus on rare cancers, but those rare cancers have lost out because more money has been spent on the bulk cancers which should have gone through [routine funding routes].”

An NHS England spokesman commented “This report comes just a day after new independent figures showing the NHS’ great success in improving cancer care and survival rates for patients across England. While we welcome the committee’s support for a redesigned cancer drugs fund, we hope their explicit call for cuts to cancer drugs prices charged to the CDF will be borne in mind as complex decisions on its future are taken in the next few months.”

Overall prescribed medication costs in the NHS total nearly £15 billion.

 
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Cancer Research UK Finds that Cancer Death Rates are Decreasing

As the battle against cancer continues, official figures have indicated that death rates from the debilitating condition are falling in the UK.

The latest figures indicate that cancer and death rates have declined by 10% in Britain over the past decade.

In 2013, 284 out of every 100,000 people died from cancer. Back in 2003, the same figure was 312.

Improvements in diagnosis and treatment are thought to central to this encouraging trend.

In addition, the gender gap related to cancer deaths also narrowed significantly.

The death rate for men fell by 12%, while the same rate for women was 8%, ensuring that the gulf of cancer deaths between the two genders became smaller.

However, although the figures are unquestionably encouraging, it is also important to emphasise that the actual total number of cancer deaths increased.

This is somewhat misleading considering the greying population of the UK, but he does nonetheless indicate that there is still a massive cancer battle to be fought.

The number of cancer deaths rose from 155,000 in 2003 to 162,000 in 2013, as more people live longer and develop the disease at an older age.

Reflecting on these figures, Cancer Research UK chief executive Sir Harpal Kumar spoke about some of the demographic issues which contributed to the identifiable trends.

“The population is growing, and more of us are living longer. Our scientists are developing new tests, surgical and radiotherapy techniques, and drugs, and it’s important to celebrate how much things have improved. But also to renew our commitment to saving the lives of more cancer patients.”

Figures acquired via official research also indicated that certain types of cancer are particularly deadly.

Nearly 50% of the total cancer deaths in 2013 can be attributed solely to lung, bowel, breast or prostate cancer.

However, it is encouraging to know that the death rate for these for cancer is has equally declined by around 11% over the past 10 years.

But there is no room for complacency, as some less common cancers, such as liver and pancreatic, experienced increased death rates over the decade surveyed.

Cancer Research UK compiled the cancer death rate data, which was taken from cancer registries in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

With this in mind, Cancer Research UK is focusing its work on achieving earlier diagnosis, as the understanding is prominent within the health service that catching cancers before they develop is an essential way of treating them.

There are nearly 162,000 deaths from cancer annually in the UK, and this figure is still projected to rise in the coming years.

 
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Revolutionary Cervical and Bowel Cancer Test Mooted to Reduce Deaths

The UK National Screening Committee has updated its recommended procedures for screening programmes for bowel and cervical cancer.

This latest decision has been based on information provided by independent experts in a series of reviews.

As a result of this process, it is recommended that an updated test is carried out in order to introduce the bowel screening program.

Medical professionals are also recommended to adjust the order of cervical screening tests that are carried out on patient samples.

The switch would see human papillomavirus (HPV) testing as the initial test for cervical screening, with only samples that test positive checked for abnormal cells.

Commenting on the new procedures, Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, described the development of the screening process. “very important and positive”.

“Now I would urge all the governments of the UK to commit to rolling them out as quickly as possible, as Scotland has already pledged to do with the new bowel screening test FIT,” Kumar stated.

“The UK’s bowel and cervical cancer screening programmes are crucial in reducing cancer deaths, and research shows that the changes to these new tests will make them even more effective,” Kumar continued.

This new procedure will see the existing process be replaced completely, if indeed it is implemented.

The faecal occult blood test (FOBT) – currently used in the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme – will this be superseded by the newer faecal immunochemical test (FIT).

It is hoped that by implementing this new state-of-the-art process that there will be increased opportunities to detect and ultimately prevent more cancers.

With this new procedure being considered superior to the existing arrangements, Scotland has already pledged to adopt the test in February 2015.

Both FOBT and FIT detect traces of blood in a person’s stool, which can be a sign of cancer.

But the FIT test is considered superior, particularly as it makes it easier to assess the faeces of participants via a single sample.

And the recommendations of the approach also cite evidence that screening for HPV before conducting any other process can be more effective in identifying those women at risk of developing cervical cancer.

Several other techniques were also considered by the regulatory committee before deciding upon the new FIC process.

The Committee’s Dr Anne Mackie said the latest recommendations has been based on internationally recognised criteria, and also been subjected to a rigorous evidence review and consultation process.

There are nearly 1,000 deaths from cervical cancer every year in the UK, while bowel cancer is far more common, accounting for over 16,000 people every year.

 
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New Bank Initiative Aimed at Improving Pancreatic Cancer Survival Rates

Medical researchers believe that a new bank storage system will enable greater insight into pancreatic cancer to be acquired.

The bank in question will store tissue from patients, enabling scientists to examine the cancer which regrettably has the lowest survival rate.

At present, the majority of patients suffering with pancreatic cancer are informed that they have little chance of survival.

Generally, pancreatic cancer sufferers can expect to live less than one year once the disease is diagnosed.

Nearly 9,000 cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed every year, with almost exactly the same number of people also dying annually from the vicious condition.

But this new initiative aims to make a serious breakthrough into what is undoubtedly a debilitating form of cancer.

The bank will be collecting samples from six hospitals located in England and Wales, with the ultimate aim of producing superior treatments and earlier diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

Merely 1 per cent of sufferers are able to survive for a decade after the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, and there has been no improvement in this survival rate over the last 40 years.

But researchers believe that this initiative will make it possible to improve this depressing picture.

Commenting on the issue, Professor Hemant Kocher, from Barts Cancer Institute, stated his belief that the new bank initiative would help in diagnostic terms.

“Surgery is possible in only about 10-15 per cent of patients with pancreas cancer at the moment. We hope this tissue bank will help us develop diagnostic tests so that more patients can have surgery. If diagnosed early enough, they can have surgery. Pancreatic cancer is a complex disease, with a number of alterations in the cancer cells and the cells surrounding the cancer.”

The Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (PCRF) raised £2m to fund the bank, with the intention of positively impacting upon the pancreatic cancer situation in the United Kingdom.

And the organisation believes that the vastly increased number of samples that the initiative will make available will be particularly valuable to researchers.

The PCRF’s founder, Maggie Blanks, stated: “A nationally co-ordinated tissue bank will not only ensure that more samples become available to researchers, but that these are quality controlled to provide a much better basis for the very best research to be carried out.”

Pancreatic cancer is the twelfth most common cancer in the world (joint position with kidney cancer), with 338,000 new cases diagnosed in 2012.

The early stages of this cancer do not usually produce symptoms, so the disease is generally advanced when it is diagnosed.

 
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FDA Approves Major New Lung Cancer Medication

Health regulators in the United States have indicated that they have granted approval to an advanced lung cancer medication.

The drug in question is produced by the pharmaceutical manufacturer Roche Holding, and addresses lung cancer in patients with a specific genetic mutation.

Roche Holding will be selling the drug, alectinib, under the brand name Alecensa.

The medication has been approved with the intention of treating patients with advanced ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Alecensa will be particularly effective in treating those patients within whom this disease has worsened after, or who could not tolerate, treatment with competitor Pfizer’s Xalkori.

There are hopes that the drug will now be approved for wider marketplaces as well, as Roche Holding looks to increase its share of the lung cancer pharmaceutical marketplace.

“Today’s approval provides a new therapy for a group of patients who would have few treatment options once their disease no longer responds to treatment with Xalkori,” Richard Pazdur, head of the Food and Drug Administration’s Hematology and Oncology Products division, commented in an official statement.

Xalkori was seen as an advance in the field of personalised medicine as it was designed to treat only patients with the ALK genetic mutation.

This is a relatively tiny portion of overall cancer sufferers, with this specific group accounting for only 4% of NSCLC patients.

As competition hots up in this particular area of pharmaceuticals, it has been reported that Pfizer is also developing a drug for ALK.

The pharmaceutical heavyweight has had to acknowledge that many patients have stopped responding to its own products Xalkori, and Pfizer is attempting to develop an alternative remedy.

Pfizer has established itself as one of the 50 largest corporations in the world according to Forbes magazine, with a market capitalisation in excess of $200 billion.

The pharmaceutical lobby is famously one of the most influential groupings in the United States, and indeed the industry spends more on lobbying government than any other comparable industrial sector.

While the United States pharmaceutical industry unquestionably produces many valuable medicines, the country has also been criticised for its reliance on responding to illnesses with drugs, as opposed to addressing the cause of problems.

Indeed, the US has something of an addiction to popping pills, with the country one of only two in the world that allows the television advertising of drugs (the other being New Zealand).

The FDA’s Accelerated Approval Program allows conditional approval of a medicine that fills an unmet medical need for a serious condition based on early evidence of clinical benefit.

A confirmatory study is required to verify the benefit of Alecensa for it to gain full approval, the agency revealed.

There are an estimated 158,040 deaths from lung cancer annually in the United States (86,380 in men and 71,660 among women).

 
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