It feels as if we have cracked the code with this disease

Almost every day the Daily Mail reports a new cancer cure.

And the days when it isn’t reporting cancer cures, it’s reporting new cancer causes.

The website Kill or Cure has categorised all these articles alphabetically. If you go on it, you’ll see hundreds and hundreds of claims about objects or activities that either cause or cure cancer. Although, usually, they do both.

So, it’s fair to say the Daily Mail isn’t the most trusted publication when it comes to reporting medical breakthroughs.

Which is maybe why this latest one doesn’t seem to have gotten the attention it deserves, yet.

It covers a new immunotherapy treatment that has proven to destroy tumours in people with “the most deadly form of skin cancer”.

The way it works it surprisingly simple.

Doctors remove a patient’s tumour, harvest cancer-fighting immune system cells from it, multiply those cells and select the strongest ones.

Those cancer-fighting cells are then infused back into the patient and they go on to fight any remaining cancer cells.

As the Daily Mail reports (emphasis mine)

Studies have shown the treatment is effective in at least half of patients who have not responded to any other approaches, including surgery, standard chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and other newer immunotherapy drugs.

And a third of these patients, who faced a particularly bleak prognosis, are alive and well – simply requiring monitoring – a year after being treated.

‘Many of these patients will be cured,’ said specialist Dr Hendrik-Tobias Arkenau, of the Sarah Cannon Cancer Centre in London, where British TIL therapy trials are being spearheaded. ‘You can see it working. The tumours on the skin visibly fall apart and shrink. It feels as if we have cracked the code with this disease – and there may be further success with other hard-to-treat tumours, including cervical cancer.’

And what’s more, this is a UK breakthrough, funded by the NHS.

Need an NHS doctor’s appointment? Come September, there’ll be an app for that

While we’re on the subject of the NHS. Last week, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, unveiled plans for a new NHS app, which will “revolutionise the way we access health services.”

He wants to make getting a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment “as easy as online shopping.”

Speaking in The Times, he said:

“I want this innovation to mark the death knell of the 8am scramble for GP appointments that infuriates so many patients,” […]

“Technology has transformed everyday life when it comes to banking, travel and shopping. Health matters much more to all of us, and the prize of that same digital revolution in healthcare isn’t just convenience but lives improved, extended and saved.”

And this isn’t something that they aim to have in place at some point in the future. It’s already been built. And it’s launching in September.

From the article:

The app will become available in September and from December every patient will be able to book GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions and find out whether they are seriously ill using an automated symptom checker based on the 111 helpline, Mr Hunt said.

It was built by Kainos, a UK software company started in 1986 with a market cap of just under £500 million.

Given how popular smartphones have become, it seems crazy something like this hasn’t happened sooner. But, then again, the NHS doesn’t have the best relationship with IT.

The failed £10 billion project to digitise patients’ records, which was called “the biggest IT failure ever seen” in 2013, is still fresh in many people’s minds. Let’s hope this app goes better than that.

3D printing to “end” arthritis

A few years ago 3D printing was everywhere.

Well, it wasn’t. It wasn’t really being used much at all. But the phrase “3D printing” that really was everywhere.

Fast forward five years and what has changed, where are all our 3D-printed houses, foods and body parts?

Well, they are all happening. Last week, the BBC reported on the world’s first 3D-printed house to be lived in.

With curved walls designed to reduce the effects of humidity and digital controls for disabled people, this house could be an expensive realisation of an architect’s vision.

But having taken 54 hours to print – with four more months for contractors to add in things such as windows, doors and the roof – its cost of around £176,000 to build makes it 20% cheaper than an identical construction using more traditional solutions.

The team now believe they could print the same house again in only 33 hours.

If you follow this link to the article, you can see a video on it.

But the main 3D printing story that caught my eye recently is this one about “ending” arthritis with 3D-printed body parts.

As the article says:

3D printing technology could enable new cartilage to be printed on demand using patients’ own cells as the building blocks – a technique known as bioprinting.

Professor Daniel Kelly at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, is working as part of a project called JointPrinting to develop such a system – quite a challenge given that the field is still emerging.

‘There are relatively few examples in the literature demonstrating the capacity of bioprinted tissues to actually regenerate damaged tissues in appropriate pre-clinical (animal) models,’ Prof. Kelly said.

He is working to develop bioinks that are not only printable but which also spur stem cells to make new cartilage by altering the molecules that support and surround the printed cells, instructing them to generate the correct type of tissue.

The idea is that these newly printed stem cells can help repair damaged tissue after they are implanted in the body. 

It’s more of a “this is what people are trying article”, than a “this is what people have done”. But it does show there has been advancement in this area. Maybe not as much as in 3D printing houses. But it’s certainly something that looks to be developing well.

Until next time,

Harry Hamburg
Editor, Exponential Investor

Category: Genetics and Biotechnology

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