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This week's Friday Five: 19/8/22

Research highlights stark variation in health outcomes across different regions of the UK

A new study by The Health Foundation has analysed the links between illness and age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity and region, and found great differences in the health of people living in poorer and wealthier areas.

Findings included that a 60 year old woman living in the poorest area of England has diagnosed illness equivalent to that of a 76 year old woman in the wealthiest area. They also found evidence of a north-south health divide, with people living in the North East and North West regions of England having the highest health care needs, particularly chronic pain, alcohol problems, COPD and cardiovascular disease.

Jo Bibby, director of Healthy Lives at the Health Foundation, said: “A healthy, thriving society must have all the right building blocks in place, including good quality jobs, housing and education. Without these, people face shorter lives, in poorer health.”

Read the full story here.

New cancer drug could prevent familial cancers

A new class of cancer drug has offered hope for patients with genetic susceptibility to cancers. Experts hope that patients who carry mutated genes associated with certain cancers could be given these drugs as a preventative to stop the cancer ever arising.

The class of drug works by inhibiting an enzyme that repairs DNA in normal cells. When the enzyme is deactivated in cancer cells it causes it to die. This research has been in the making for over 20 years and the breakthrough is finally being rolled out to patients.

Cancer expert Professor Steve Jackson of Cambridge University said: “Essentially we have found the achilles heel of tumour cells and have learned how to use that information to destroy them.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Researchers discover how to alter blood types of donor organs

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have discovered a method to change the blood type of a kidney to universal type O, which could increase the availability of organs for transplant.

This breakthrough is particularly beneficial to patients from black and other ethnic minority groups as organs with type O blood can be transplanted to anyone. Patients from BAME groups often wait longer for transplants as they are more likely to have a rarer B type blood group, which limits the organs they can receive.

Serena MacMillan, a PhD student who worked on the study, said it was “very exciting to think about how this could potentially impact so many lives.”

Read the full story in BBC News.

Blood pressure drug could slow progression of Motor Neurone Disease

Researchers are testing the potential benefits of enlarged prostate and blood pressure drug, terazosin, on models of motor neurone disease.

Their studies have found that the drug prevents motor neurone cell death in fish and mouse models of the disease, and they will soon launch a clinical trial with patients with hopes that it will slow the paralysis that occurs with the currently incurable disease.

Dr Helena Chaytow, first author of the study, said: “The benefit of working with terazosin is that it is already prescribed for a different health condition, so we know that it is safe for humans and could quickly move to the clinic.”

Read the full story in Sky News.

Quote of the week:

Health officials have raised concerns that NHS care delays and interruptions are contributing to a rise in potentially preventable deaths among older working-age people.

Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, public health doctor and epidemiologist, said: “While the picture is complex and difficult to draw definitive conclusions, it does suggest that the system pressures are likely to contribute to this and that these impacts are likely to be unequally felt across the country.”

Read the full story in HSJ.

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