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New Leukaemia treatment offers patient 'lifeline'

The results of the trial into a new type of smart drug given to Acute Myeloid Leukaemia patients show that GO treatment could improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy without excessively increasing side effects, according to the study.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, said that this may provide a potential lifeline for older AML patients who are often too frail to tolerate more intensive chemotherapy regimes.

Smart drug improves survival in Acute Myeloid Leukaemia patients

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia patients given a new type of smart drug in addition to chemotherapy treatment are 22 percent less likely to relapse and around 13 percent less likely to die from their disease, according to a study released today.

The results from the major phase III Cancer Research UK-funded trial led by Cardiff University and trialled by 1,115 patients, found that 68 percent of people relapsed on the new treatment within three years, compared with 76 percent of those who had only had the standard treatment.

25 percent of those tested were still alive after three years, compared with 20 per cent of those who had the standard treatment.

The drug - called Gemtuzumab Ozogamicin (GO)* - is part of a new class of antibody conjugate drugs, which involve attaching chemotherapy molecules to antibodies.

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Withholding food and drink can offer a 'good death'

Dr Des Spence has said the method of withholding food and drink from terminally ill patients can offer a "good death" when used properly.

He states that 25 years ago doctors received no training in end of life care, adding: "In hospitals far from their loved ones, patients were left screaming in pain in the dark, and behind unmarked curtains were undignified and peace-less deaths."

In recent years care has improved.

The Liverpool care pathway and committed district nursing teams are transforming care. We talk about death in an open way and decide where patients die.

Used properly with senior supervision, the pathway offers structure to a peaceful, pain-free, dignified death at home - a good death.

The 'death lists' exist to tackle a taboo: they facilitate discussion about death with patients and families.

But the newspapers are right: this pathway must be used with full explanation and the consent of all involved. If it has not been used in this way, then a review is welcome if only to reassure the public.

Lastly, the media should reflect on this: there were no good old days in end of life care, and so we need the Liverpool care pathway.

– Dr Spence, writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ)

Plan 'transformed' end of life care

The controversial method of withholding food and drink from terminally ill patients so they die quicker has "transformed" end of life care, according to an article in a leading medical journal.

The Liverpool care pathway, which recommends that in some circumstances doctors withdraw treatment, food and water from sedated patients in their final days, means that they can have a "peaceful, pain-free, dignified death" at home, said Glasgow-based general practitioner Dr Des Spence.

The method has come under close scrutiny recently. Reports suggest that doctors are establishing "death lists" of patients to put on the pathway.

Articles also claim that hospitals may be employing the method to cut costs and save on bed spaces.

Health minister: 'Patients should be treated as individuals'

There should be absolutely no place in the NHS for assumptions about entitlement to treatments that are based on age or any other form of unjustified discrimination.

All patients should be treated as individuals, with dignity and respect, and receive care that meets their healthcare needs - irrespective of their age.

The Government is committed to providing dignity in elderly care, and at the beginning of October we introduced an Age Discrimination Ban, which means that all patients will receive a more personalised care service, based on their individual needs, not their age.

– Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter

Report presents 'worrying figures'

This report presents some worrying figures. We need to look at them carefully to examine whether they are the result of arbitrary decisions taken solely on the basis of age, or because some non-surgical treatments could offer greater benefit, or a patient chooses not to undergo surgery.

We know that prejudicial attitudes against older people still pervade through society but the NHS and its staff should close the door to such unacceptable behaviour.

– NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar

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Charity: 'Date of birth tells you very little'

"When it comes to peoples' health, their date of birth actually tells you very little.

A healthy living 80-year-old could run rings round someone many years younger who does not share the same good health.

Yet in the past, too many medical decisions we believe have been made on age alone with informal cut-offs imposed so that people over a certain age were denied treatment.

This report shows the large gap between the number of people living with a condition or health need and the surgery rates to treat older people.

– Michelle Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK

'Surgery rates decline' for elderly patients

Thousands of elderly patients are needlessly dying because they are being denied treatment on the grounds of their age, a report found. Credit: Reuters

The report found that surgery rates decline for people as they grow older for a number of treatments including breast cancer operations, joint replacements, prostate cancer treatments and hernias.

While the incidence of breast cancer peaks in patients aged 85 and older, surgery rates decline sharply from the age of 70, the figures indicate.

Pensioners are the main group to receive hip and knee replacements but the rates of surgery in England dropped sharply in patients over the age of 70, according to the data which examines the number of operations between 2008 and 2011.

Warning against surgery age limits

Thousands of elderly patients are needlessly dying because they are being denied treatment on the grounds of their age, a report has found.

It showed that surgical treatments, which can prolong life and improve living standards for older patients, have been shown to decline as patients get older.

But as the population ages and people are living longer lives, doctors have a "moral duty" to properly care for older patients, according to the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS).

They said that surgeons should no longer look at a patient's age to assume whether they are suitable for surgery, instead their overall health should be taken into consideration, according the report which was conducted by the RCS, Age UK and MHP Health Mandate.

Cancer charity calls for stronger NHS incentives

It is fantastic news that so many trusts have improved in the experience they provide cancer patients in one year.

However, it is essential that this is the case across all cancer types. People who have rarer cancers should not be treated any worse than those with a common cancer.

Macmillan believes that the NHS Commissioning Board now needs to ensure strong incentives are provided to the NHS so that commissioners are judged on patient experience as a measure of how they are performing.

– Macmillan Cancer Support director of services Juliet Bouverie
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