Friday Five

Contraception, genetic editing and digital prostate cancer tools – this week’s Friday Five

Smells like gene spirit…

Scientists call for a pause on gene-editing babies

Leading scientists have called for a ban on research to “re-engineer the human species” for the next five years.

This comes not long after two babies were born in China who had been controversially genetically edited to protect them against HIV.

The effects of gene editing are permanent, with any modifications passed on down through the generations, introducing a lasting change to the human race. Gene-editing has “implications for the entire species” and decisions about its use cannot be made by individuals, said the scientists.

The ban would not affect using gene-editing for research or for using gene-editing in adults when any changes could not be passed on to subsequent generations.

Read more from the BBC.

Cancer’s ‘internal wiring’ predicts relapse risk

A study published in the journal Nature has shown that breast cancer is eleven separate diseases, each with a different relapse and survival risk.

The scientists from the University of Cambridge and Stanford University at nearly 2,000 women’s breast cancers and genetic mutations inside the tumour to create new classifications.

“This is a very significant step to more precision-type medicine”, said Prof Carlos Caladas, Chair of Cancer Medicine at the University of Cambridge.

Read more on the BBC.

Genetics may reduce efficacy of hormonal contraception

Research published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that some women break down the hormones released by contraception faster, potentially reducing its efficacy.

The researchers found that 28% of women who had levels of etonogestrel below the threshold needed to prevent the release of an egg from a woman’s ovaries had a certain genetic variant that affected the concentration of etonogestrel in the women’s blood.

The team said it was too soon to suggest women are screened for the genetic variant, but they said the findings merit further scrutiny.

Read more in the Guardian 


Digital health digest

Digital tool helps men choose best prostate cancer treatment

A new digital tool available on the NHS called Predict Prostate has been developed by UK researchers to estimate a man’s chances of surviving 15 years after a prostate cancer diagnosis, based on age, cancer type and other health problems.

It is specifically for use in men with prostate cancer that’s localised and not spread outside of the prostate gland and can show the potential effects of treatments such as surgery or radiotherapy, compared with “wait and see” approaches.

Read more on NHS Online.


Quote of the week

“Behind each of these statistics is a patient waiting longer in pain and anguish.”

Our quote of the week comes from Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, in response A&E waiting times hitting a new all-time low and missing its target to treat cancer patients within two months of a doctor’s referral for the 37th month in a row. Only 84.2 per cent of A&E patients were seen within the NHS’s four-hour waiting limit in February and more than 220,000 of cancer patients have been waiting for six months or more treatment. 36,000 of them for at least nine months.

Read more from the Daily Mail.