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This week's Friday five: 04/11/22

Compound from hallucinogenic mushrooms found to treat depression

Psilocybin, a compound derived from hallucinogenic mushrooms has been found to improve the symptoms of severe depression for up to 12 weeks. Patients were given the drug to induce a dreamlike state intended to make psychological therapy more likely to succeed. In the trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a 25mg dose of Comp360 psilocybin alongside psychotherapy saw one in three no longer diagnosed as depressed at 3 weeks and one in five showing significant improvement at 12 weeks.

However, some study participants experienced short term side effects, including headaches, tiredness, nausea and suicidal thoughts. Another trial will begin soon to investigate the number of doses needed to prevent depression returning.

Prof Andrew McIntosh, Head of Psychiatry at University of Edinburgh said the trial provided "the strongest evidence so far to suggest that further, larger and longer randomised trials of psychedelics are justified" and that "Psilocybin may [one day] provide a potential alternative to antidepressants that have been prescribed for decades."

Read more in BBC News.

The NHS is urged to increase access to genetic testing

A new report from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has warned that the UK is falling behind other countries in terms of its genetic testing offering, with slower turnaround time for tests and less genetic screening for babies. The report suggests that more patients must be able to benefit from genetic services for the UK to keep its position as a world leader in genomic medicine.

Richard Torbett, Chief Executive at ABPI said: “The UK has consistently demonstrated its proficiency in genomics and has solidified its position as a leader in the field for many years. Though industry is already working with the NHS to increase access to genomic medicine, more needs to be done to ensure the very best patient outcomes.”

He added, “Our recommendations are intended to help the Government, the NHS and the science community work more effectively to help patients feel the benefits of the UK’s world-leading genomics capability.”

Read more in The Independent.

A blood test which spots ‘nearly every case of cancer’ before it spreads, will improve early treatment

Scientists say a simple blood test could give mankind ‘mastery over cancer’ by spotting nearly every case of cancer before it spreads. The technology can identify 70 types of cancer and research carried out on 30,000 people found that the checks could identify 91.8 per cent of non-metastatic cases.

The test could be introduced as standard screening within the next five to ten years, meaning medics could eradicate the cancer before symptoms are even present. The NHS is currently running a trial involving 140,000 people, the largest ever trial of blood tests to screen for cancer.

Joe Coles, chairman of the Cancer Screening Trust, said: “I genuinely think this is game-changing. It’s going to change the way cancer is thought about and treated; mankind is striving to gain mastery over cancer, and the developments in screening technology will finally put us in control. Before cancer has spread it’s much easier to treat, it can be cut out, using surgery, radiotherapy or newer interventional oncology procedures,” he added.

NHS hopes this test could prevent one in ten cancer deaths.

Read more in The Telegraph.

Mouth cancer causes grow as cases skyrocket in UK

Mouth cancer cases have increased by more than one third across the UK in the last decade, causing the number to more than double within the last generation. Emerging risk factors such as the human papillomavirus (HPV), in addition to the common causes such as smoking and drinking are increasing cases in younger people. The Oral Health Foundation have confirmed that 8864 people in the UK were diagnosed with the disease last year, a 36% increase to 10 years ago. Of those, 3034 people lost their life to the disease, a 40% increase to the previous decade.

Mouth cancer symptoms are often missed during the early stages due to being subtle and painless. Symptoms include a mouth ulcer that doesn’t heal within three weeks, white or red patches in the mouth, unusual lumps or swelling in the mouth, head or neck, or a persistent hoarseness in the voice.

Dr Nigel Carter, the chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “While most cancers are on the decrease, cases of mouth cancer continue to rise at an alarming rate. The stigma around mouth cancer has changed dramatically. It’s now a cancer that really can affect anybody.”

Read the full article in The Independent.

Quote of the week:

Reports have stated the NHS faces tougher challenges than the Covid pandemic in years to come due to inflation. NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, warns of greater obstacles ahead as talks continue for it to secure extra funding.

“When I started this job, I think I said at the time, the pandemic would be the hardest thing I ever had to do. Over the last year, I’ve become really clear and I’ve said a number of times – it’s where we are now. It’s the months and years ahead that will bring the most complex challenges. There is no doubt that is a job of work to do to work through the implications of inflation."

Read the full story in The Independent.

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