CRISPR is set to be used to target cancer cells
Last year, human embryos were successfully “edited” through the use of gene editing tool, CRISPR (Clustered, Regularly Interspaced, Short Palindromic Repeats). Led by US scientists, the genetic engineering process will enable the eradication of diseases which are currently passed down generations.
Last year, the technique was used to eradicate hypertrophic cardiomyopathy within 42 embryos, providing both advantages surrounding the elimination of hereditary diseases. Nonetheless, the success has also raised concerns with human rights groups.
Although the US has previously forbidden any form of genetic enhancement which could alter an individual’s physical and intellectual capabilities, as well as outlawing any potential cases where an edited IVF embryo is bought to full term, Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania are set to take this technology outside of China for the first time.
Upon gaining approval from the National Institutes of Health, the University of Pennsylvania is set to undertake the controversial process to modify healthy cells within a cancer patient, so that these cells then attack mutated cells and tumours.
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The clinical trial will encompass up to 18 patients who are undertaking treatment for three different types of cancer, but it is hoped that the procedure will enable deadly tumours to be wiped out with a significantly higher success rate.
The process, named ex vivo gene therapy, will therefore see scientists extract healthy blood cells, delete two genes which can sense a threat to a patients’ immune system (PD-1), and a new detector receptor will then be put in its place, which can source mutated cells. These cells will then be retransferred to the patient. The procedure is deemed low risk, in comparison with targeting cells directly in a patients’ bloodstream.
At present, cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, where 1 in 6 deaths are cancer related, the Word Health Organisation has stated. This figure is also set to rise, leading scientists and researchers to look at ways to address and tackle the disease.
The extensive clinical trial could have the potential to ultimately transform the way in which gene editing is viewed and utilised for future generations. The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy is set to financially support the trial.
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”