Positive news about cancer treatments and life expectancy again depends on accurate diagnosis | Fieldfisher
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Positive news about cancer treatments and life expectancy again depends on accurate diagnosis

As a counter-balance to worrying media reports about the extended wait time for cancer patients to be seen by the NHS – particularly for skin and breast cancers - the Institute for Cancer Research has released positive news about the impact of medical progress on life expectancy of patients with advanced cancers.

Oncology specialists predict in a new study that life expectancy will double within 10 years because of advances in new treatments that will target the eco-systems within the body that allow cancer cells to thrive.

Outlining its plan for the next five years, the Institute said it was confident doubling survival rates of people with advanced cancer within a decade was 'a realistic goal'. 

Institute director of cancer drug discovery Dr Olivia Rossanese described research that combines viruses with radiotherapy to boost the body's immune system as 'opening up completely new lines of attack'.

In one particular breakthrough in research into how cancer spreads, scientists say they could use the new treatments to stop cancer cells from telling other body 'slave cells' to support tumour growth.

Researchers will also focus on analysing how microscopic fragments of cancer can shed into the bloodstream, which could help to detect disease before it shows up in scans.

Around 167,000 cancer deaths are recorded annually in the UK, with about 40 per cent of cancers diagnosed early, increasing the success of treatment. The NHS aims to diagnose 75 per cent of all cancers early by 2028, which should mean an additional 55,000 every year will survive for at least five years following diagnosis.

Clearly, this powerful ambition depends on clear and accurate reporting of cancer tests in the first place including mammograms and cervical smear tests. This in turn depends on high-levels of staff training and competence and that correct hospital procedures are in place so that people – and their results – do not fall through the cracks.

In the meantime, an impending NHS review commissioned by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Health Secretary Steve Barclay is expected to focus on overhauling the layers of management of local hospitals, threatening that half of NHS England staff may be laid off in a large-scale bureaucratic cull.

The idea behind the administrative shake-up is to cut central targets to give hospitals more autonomy to decide how they will meet the needs of patients in their areas, with less emphasis on national targets.

This would mean that an additional £3 billion spent on management would go to front-line services, presumably including oncology care. However, ministers also said that major central targets such as ambulance waiting times and cancer treatment would remain.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meanwhile has pinned his hopes of saving the NHS onto the use of robots to cut staff costs and improve efficiency.

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