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Cancer in Germany: Implementing innovation

When it comes to bringing the best new treatments and techniques to cancer patients, it can sometime..

When it comes to bringing the best new treatments and techniques to cancer patients, it can sometimes take a year or two between when a therapy is approved and when it actually comes into regular use.

Thats actually not bad by the standards of European medicine. But then doctors and health systems face a host of other challenges: finding the money, determining if the treatment is actually worth it and translating lab findings into the real world, where unlike in clinical trials, patients may have other illnesses in addition to cancer.

At the same time, doctors increasingly find themselves explaining to patients why the latest new treatment they saw on TV might not be right for them.

Four cancer experts from various stages of the care spectrum joined me in Berlin for a discussion about these and other issues for the first Global Policy Lab: Decoding Cancer conference call. The discussion kicked off with a reflection about what the most realistic goals should be when we talk about “solving” cancer, before moving on to what works and doesnt in the German system.

Participants:

  • Johannes Bruns, secretary-general of the German Cancer Society (DKG)
  • Petra Feyer, chairwoman of the Berlin Cancer Society
  • Hanno Riess, head of the medical department, Division of Oncology and Hematology at Charité — University Medicine Berlin
  • Carl Janssen, head of oncology for Germany, Pfizer

The POLITICO Global Policy Lab is a collaborative journalism project seeking solutions to pressing policy problems. Join the community.

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‘Exhilarating’ implant turns thoughts to speech

Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people's minds and turn their thoughts ..

Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people's minds and turn their thoughts to speech.

The team at the University of California, San Francisco says the technology is "exhilarating".

They add that their findings, published in the journal Nature, could help people when disease robs them of their ability to talk.

Experts said the findings were compelling and offered hope of restoring speech.

How does it work?

The mind-reading technology works in two stages.

First an electrode is implanted in the brain to pick up the electrical signals that manoeuvre the lips, tongue, voice box and jaw.

Then powerful computing is used to simulate how the movements in the mouth and throat would form different sounds.

This results in synthesised speech coming out of a "virtual vocal tract".

Why do it like that?

You might think it would be easier to scour the brain for the pattern of electrical signals that code for each word.

However, attempts to do so have only had limited success. (more…)

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Measles: Half a million UK children missed jab

More than half a million children in the UK were not given a crucial measles jab between 2010 and 20..

More than half a million children in the UK were not given a crucial measles jab between 2010 and 2017, an analysis by children's charity Unicef reveals.

It comes as NHS chief Simon Stevens warned measles cases had almost quadrupled in England in just one year and urged families to get the vaccine.

He said people rejecting vaccines was a "growing public health time bomb".

Globally, the report shows, 169 million children were not given a first dose of measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017.

'Alarming'

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can lead to serious health complications – including infections of the lungs and brain – and is sometimes fatal.

Health experts say children should have two doses of the vaccine to fully protect against the disease.

But, according to Unicef, a mixture of complacency, misinformation, scepticism about immunisations, and a lack of access to jabs has led to inadequate vaccination rates globally.

The report shows that between 2010 and 2017:

  • The US topped the list for the number of unvaccinated children in high-income countries, with 2,593,000 missing the first dose of the vaccine
  • The comparable figure for France was 600,000
  • The UK came third, with 527,000 children not getting their first dose of the vaccine over the seven-year period
  • In Nigeria, four million children under one did not get the first dose of the vaccine

Figures for the second dose of the measles vaccine "were even more alarming", Unicef said.

It found 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa had not introduced a second dose, putting more than 17 million infants a year at a greater risk of getting measles as a child. (more…)

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No sedentary screen time for babies, WHO says

Babies and toddlers should not be left to passively watch TV or other screens, according to new Worl..

Babies and toddlers should not be left to passively watch TV or other screens, according to new World Health Organization guidelines.

Sedentary screen time, including computer games, should not happen before a child is two, the WHO says.

The limit for two- to four-year-olds is an hour a day and less is better.

The UK has no plans to update its own advice on screen use, which sets no time limits, although it says children should avoid screens before bedtime.

The UK's Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health insists there is little evidence screen use for children is harmful in itself.

The new WHO advice focuses on passive viewing – youngsters being placed in front of a TV or computer screen or handed a tablet or mobile phone for entertainment – and is aimed at tackling child inactivity, a leading risk factor for global mortality and obesity-related ill health.

It is the first time the WHO has made recommendations on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under five.

As well as warning against passive screen time, it says babies should not spend longer than an hour at a time strapped into a buggy, car seat or sling.

The guidelines will be presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow on Sunday.

The advice

For babies: (more…)

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