Excitement at new cancer treatment

Cancer is a huge killer in the UK and the rates are rising. Half of us, at least once in our lifetimes, will hear the words: “you have cancer”. On the Cancer Research UK website, they suggest that the rise in instances of cancer is due to an ageing population;

“By far the biggest risk factor for most cancers is simply getting older. More than three-quarters of all people diagnosed with cancer in the UK are over the age of 60.

And this is because cancer is a disease of our genes – the bits of DNA code that hold the instructions for all of the microscopic machinery inside our cells. Over time, mistakes accumulate in this code – scientists can now see them stamped in our DNA. And it’s these mistakes that can kick start a cell’s journey towards becoming cancerous.”

-February 4, 2015 Greg Jones

However, on a positive note, more people are beating cancer than ever. Survival rates have doubled in the last 40 years, and half of the people diagnosed will survive for 10 years (an all time high). A major factor into this rise of cancer survival is through the raising of awareness of charities, such as Cancer Research UK and Macmillan.

I was just scanning through the BBC Health page and found this article (below). I found this interesting because the media is often a huge factor into misunderstandings of medical practice and research, such as Andrew Wakefield’s (1998) paper that found a ‘link’ between autism and the MMR vaccine (which caused hysteria and for parents to refuse the opportunity of the MMR vaccine for their children). He has since been removed from the medical register and the idea has been discredited. In this article, however, the journalist ensures that the readers realise that this is a small step.

Excitement at new cancer treatment

Leukaemia

‘A therapy that retrains the body’s immune system to fight cancer has provoked excitement after more than 90% of terminally ill patients reportedly went into remission.

White blood cells were taken from patients with leukaemia, modified in the lab and then put back.

But the data has not been published or reviewed and two patients are said to have died from an extreme immune response.

Experts said the trial was exciting, but still only “a baby step.”

The news bubbled out of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Washington DC.

The lead scientist, Prof Stanley Riddell from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, said all other treatments had failed in these patients and they had only two-to-five months to live.

He told the conference that: “The early data is unprecedented.” ‘

– By James Gallagher Health editor, BBC News website

Nick Peel (from the Cancer Research UK) suggested that the media were jumping the gun with the idea of a ‘cure’, considering that the data is from clinical trials. He described it as: “‘Extraordinary’ responses… but not cures”

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