‘CancerSeek’: The new blood test to detect cancer

A trial has been carried out at John Hopkins University on 1005 patients whose cancer had already been diagnosed. The blood test achieved a 70% success rate in diagnosing the eight most common forms of cancer (breast, lung, ovary, liver, colon, oesophagus, stomach and pancreas).

The blood test works by detecting common genetic mutations in cancerous cells and proteins which are released by these cells. The test can also help to identify where in the body the cancer is growing because the proteins are released differently depending which part of the body they are being released from. If the test was made more sensitive to a larger range of gene mutations and proteins, the range of cancers that could be detected would increase.

This could prove to be extremely useful for early detection of these cancers as five of them don’t currently have any screening tests available. Also, pancreatic cancer shows so few symptoms in the early stages that four out of five patients who are diagnosed die within that same year. However, the blood test is still in the early stages of development and has not yet been proved to diagnose cancers in the early stages because there are much fewer symptoms and gene mutations at this point, proving detection unlikely. Further testing to see if it can diagnose early stages of cancer could take another “five to six years” said Professor Richard Marais from Cancer research UK.

Personally, I think that this is a revolutionary step in cancer treatment as it would mean that someone could have the blood test instead of having various different types of screening which should save both time and money.

Also, once further testing is conducted to determine whether it can diagnose early stages of cancer, a routine blood test could diagnose cancers before symptoms present themselves which should reduce the mortality rate of cancer massively. It would also reduce the amount of cancer treatments needed, such as chemotherapy, as the cancerous cells could be removed in surgery or killed using drugs before they spread further.

Hopefully, the blood test will prove effective in further trials so that it can be brought over to the UK and be made available to the general public.



Teddy Bear Clinic

As part of our sixth form medic society, to which I am a co-founder, we have planned a ‘Teddy Bear Clinic’ that we will run for the kindergarten class at my school.

The clinic will run once a fortnight on a Wednesday afternoon with the society splitting into two groups and alternating running the clinic.

To secure the idea of the clinic, myself and the other co-founder had to write a letter to the Head of the Prep Department. In this letter we explained what the clinic would involve and how it could benefit both us and the children. (Here you will find a copy of the letter) Teddy Bear Clinic Letter

The following day we received a letter from our correspondent, informing us that he thought our idea would be a great success and that he was impressed by our professionalism.

We then held a meeting with the medic society to finalise our ideas of what the sessions would involve and how we would go about conducting them.

All that is left to do now is to write a letter to the parents of the students explaining what the clinic is and requesting that they each bring in a teddy bear.

The clinic will start on the 24th January and I am excited for the new experiences this will give me.


Are women more likely to die from a heart attack?

A new study has been carried out by a team from the University of Leeds working with Karolinksa Institutet in Sweden that looks at the mortality rate of women compared to men during the year after having a STEMI heart attack. The study looked at data from Sweden’s online cardiac registry between 2003 and 2013.

A STEMI heart attack is caused by a blockage in the coronary artery, whereas a non-STEMI heart attack is caused by this artery being severely narrowed but not completely blocked. If a patient is having a STEMI heart attack then they have to undergo immediate treatment.

The study shows that there is a notable difference between the treatment given to patients depending on their gender. This is shown as 34% of women were less likely to undergo procedures to unblock arteries which would return the blood flow to the heart, such as stents and bypass surgery. If they received this treatment, the risk of having a STEMI heart attack would be reduced. Women were also 24% less likely to be prescribed statins after they had a heart attack, which would help to prevent them from having another. Aspirin was also 16% less likely to be prescribed to women, which helps to prevent blood clots in the arteries.

It is thought that the main reason for these gender inequalities is because of the common misconception that men are more likely to have heart attacks than women. This can be seen as previous research has also shown that women are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed, meaning that it takes longer for them to be treated correctly.

Co-author of the study, Professor Chris Gale from the University of Leeds, said that this gender imbalance in care also occurs in the UK. He said this misdiagnosis “feeds the whole pathway of care”. He stated,  “if you missed the first, earliest opportunity for care – you’re much more likely to miss the next point of contact – and it all adds up cumulatively and leads to a greater mortality.”

Personally, I think that hospitals should be made aware of this knowledge immediately and need to act upon it accordingly as this gender inequality cannot be allowed to continue. It is unacceptable that women should be treated any differently from men, especially as it is causing the unnecessary death of many women. I understand that it is easy to fall victim to the stereotypes that label us all but this is a factor that must be overlooked in order to deliver the best quality of care to the patients.


NHS Proton beam therapy machine arriving at Christie Hospital

This will be the first high energy proton beam therapy centre to be built in the UK, with another being built at University College London Hospitals by 2020. The NHS has invested £250 million for these two centres to be built. The proton beam therapy will be placed into Christie Hospital, Manchester on 11th January 2018 with patients able to receive treatment from August 2018.

Proton beam therapy is considered safer for patients than the more common radiotherapy as it uses charged particles which directly target the cancer cells rather than a beam of high energy x-rays which are aimed at the area where the cancer can be found, which leads to healthy cells also being targeted by the x-rays. These means that radiotherapy can lead to many side-effects such as; tiredness, hair loss, nausea, diarrhoea, fertility issues, lymphoedema. This form of cancer treatment will be particularly used for children whose organs, if subjected to high energy x-rays, are at risk of lasting damage.

Last year, the NHS had to send patients abroad to receive proton beam therapy as no treatment was available for them within the UK. This meant a cost of around £114,000 for each patient. Hopefully this cost can be reduced now that the treatment will be available for the patients in the UK as 750 patients are hoped to be able to have the treatment centre at Christie’s from August 2018.

Although the funding of £250 million to build the centres has already been provided, the NHS hope to raise an extra £10 million for each of the centres in order for the centres to be fully equipped with specialist CT and MRI scanners and to build age appropriate facilities.

Personally, I think that this will aid the NHS greatly as it will reduce costs of having to send patients abroad to receive the treatment and this money can be used to fund the centres now being established in the UK. Also, it will benefit cancer patients massively as the proton beam therapy will be made available to many more people which will likely increase the recovery rates of cancer which can be treated this way and may also reduce the cases of recurring cancer as healthy cells are not subjected to the damaging x-rays.


Introduction to my blog

Hi, my name’s Phoebe and I’m a 17 year old aspiring medic. I am currently in my first year of A-Levels, studying Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Maths.

In this blog I will discuss new advances in medicine and the current issues the NHS is facing as well as my own experiences with volunteering and work experience that I am taking part in to not only increase my chances of making it into medicine, but to also learn more about my community.

I hope that, by creating this blog and reading other peoples’ blogs, I will gain invaluable insight into medicine by learning what it means to be a doctor and understanding the many challenges it brings.