From asthma to cancer to infertility, the new treatments, jabs and meds making us healthier

WHEN it comes to health, the news in recent times has been sombre.

It has been another rollercoaster year battling Covid, with the UK emerging from a third lockdown in spring.

Millions of people have since had their jabs, and boosters are being rolled out as winter looms large.

But Covid is not the only big health story to come out of the past two years.

Behind the scenes, scientists around the world have been working on medical trials in the hope of finding cures for major illnesses.

And there have been dozens of major breakthroughs that could save billions of lives and change the way diseases are treated forever.

Just this month it emerged the vaccine for the human papillomavirus virus (HPV) could eradicate cervical cancer within the next few years.

From asthma to Alzheimer’s and cancer to infertility, CLARE O’REILLY looks at the new treatments, vaccines and medicines that could put an end to some of the most common and deadly conditions.


CERVICAL cancer kills more than two women every day in the UK, claiming around 850 lives every year.

Yet a new study has found the disease could soon be a thing of the past.

King’s College London scientists found the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine cut cases by 90 per cent.

The jab, which was first rolled out to teenage girls in the UK in 2008 then to boys in 2019, prevents HPV, which is responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer.

The study, in the Lancet, tracked women who received some of the first doses and found it prevented an estimated 17,200 “pre-cancers” and 450 cases in women in their twenties.

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “It’s a historic moment to see the first study showing that the HPV vaccine has and will continue to protect women from cervical cancer.”


A NEW antibody-based treatment developed by scientists in the UK and Germany could soon yield a vaccine to prevent Alzheimer’s.

The degenerative condition is thought to be caused by a type of protein that sticks to brain cells.

The scientists were able to trigger the immune system to make antibodies, which targeted the protein before it was deposited.

Professor Mark Carr, who led a team at the University of Leicester, said: “It has the real potential to provide an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s using a therapeutic antibody and highlights the potential of a simple vaccine.”

Meanwhile, a year-long study has started in Norway where Alzheimer’s patients will receive a transfusion of blood taken from runners.

It is hoped the chemicals released in the blood after running have a rejuvenating effect to slow disease progression.


THREE new drugs are being put through trials in the hope they could end the misery of hot flushes for menopausal women.

Hot flushes are thought to be caused by changes in hormone levels affecting the body’s temperature control.

But the medicines – fezolinetant, elinzanetant and pavinetant – can block the receptors which are responsible for the common symptom.

London GP Dr Zoe Watson says it could be years before the treatment is available on the NHS, though.

She says: “It looks interesting in theory, but there are question marks over its efficacy, its side-effect profile and its cost.

Certainly if it does this well then it could be extremely useful for women whose most troubling menopausal symptom is hot flushes.

“However, menopause is much more than just hot flushes and halting periods."


A BRAND new injection could reverse spinal cord injuries and allow patients to walk again – just four weeks after treatment.

Developed by a team at Northwestern University in the US, the jab encourages nerves to regrow.

It gave paralysed mice the ­ability to walk – and human trials are expected to begin next year.

For decades, this has remained a major challenge for scientists because our body’s central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, doesn’t have any significant capacity to repair itself after injury.

Professor Samuel Stupp said: “Our research aims to find a therapy that can prevent individuals from becoming paralysed after major trauma or disease.

“We are going straight to the FDA [the US Food and Drug Administration] to get this approved for use in patients.”


DEMENTIA affects around 850,000 people in the UK and costs £26.3billion a year, but scientists at Durham University have made a breakthrough.

They are working on a treatment that could boost memory and muscle control in patients with the killer disease.

Using infrared light to zap the brain improved the memory and thought processing in trials of healthy people.

And the next step is to enlist dementia patients to test the therapy.

It’s delivered by a specially equipped helmet, which beams invisible light waves into the brain and forces cells to boost levels, improving blood flow too.

Dr Paul Chazot, who led the study, said: “While more research is needed, there are promising signs that therapy involving infrared light might also be beneficial for people living with dementia and this is worth exploring.”


ANYONE with asthma knows how debilitating it can be to receive a diagnosis.

Yet more than five million people in the UK are asthmatic. But a brand new drug, already approved for use on the NHS, is set to transform the lives of many with the condition, making attacks less frequent and less severe.

Dupilumab is prescribed to treat eczema and rhinosinusitis – a type of sinusitis where the nasal cavity as well as sinuses become inflamed.

It’s from a family of drugs used to treat Covid.

Currently only patients with very serious asthma who have had at least four severe asthma attacks in the last year and are ineligible for other biological treatments will be considered for a prescription.

But the drug is set to change the lives of many asthma sufferers across the country.


HALF of us will get cancer at some point in our lives. But new jab Survivin could change the landscape dramatically, scientists say.

The first clinical trials are already under way, and the injection works to boost the body’s immune system. It supercharges the immune cells, helping them seek out and destroy cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

Currently there are 36 terminally ill patients taking part in the trials, which are focused on ovarian, prostate and lung cancers.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Just this month we heard the HPV vaccine has likely prevented hundreds of women from developing cervical cancer.

“This is a new and ­exciting frontier in cancer medicine and if this trial and ­others are successful, we could see thousands more lives saved.”


AROUND seven per cent of all men are affected by infertility.

And while treatments currently focus on solutions rather than cures, scientists at the University of Georgia, in the US, are looking to reverse male infertility altogether.

The researchers have used primate embryonic stem cells – the building blocks of all cells in the body – to grow sperm cells in the earlier stages of development in a petri dish.

These spermatids, which lack a head and tail for swimming, were capable of fertilising a rhesus macaque egg in vitro.

Lead researcher and associate professor Dr Charles Easley says: “This is a major breakthrough towards producing stem cell-based therapies to treat male infertility in cases where the men do not produce any viable sperm cells.

“It is the first step that shows this technology is potentially translatable.”


GETTING through the blood/brain barrier to target treatments for brain cancer is complex.

But now a team of scientists in Toronto, Canada, have found a way to use ultrasound beams.

They help open the barrier and can help facilitate drug delivery, which could change the way the disease is treated.

A trial this year saw four women with breast cancer that had spread to their brains treated with magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS).

It allowed the antibody therapy herceptin to pass into their brain tissue, and caused the tumours to shrink without damaging any healthy tissue.

Dr Nir Lipsman, who led the study, said: “It has long been theorised that focused ultrasound can be used to enhance drug delivery, but this is the first time we have shown we can get drugs into the brain.”


A DRUG taken in pill form is to be trialled to combat the deadliest form of cancer.
Auceliciclib is already used to treat brain tumours.

But now scientists hope it can help fight pancreatic cancer, which is often first diagnosed when it is at a late stage.

Professor Shudong Wang and her team at the University of South Australia are also working on new ways to detect the disease.

She said: “Pancreatic cancer is extremely difficult to diagnose at an early stage because there are very few symptoms.

“If it is caught early the malignant tumour can be surgically removed, but once it spreads into other organs it is lethal.

“Chemotherapy and radiotherapy only buy patients a little extra time.”

The team hopes the drug will be more effective and with fewer side-effects than current treatment options.


THE heroic scientists who developed the Covid vaccine did not stop there.

The team at the University of Oxford has also developed a malaria jab that will save billions of lives.

A trial showed 77 per cent of volunteers who were vaccinated stayed malaria-free over the following 12 months.

More than 100 malaria vaccines have been developed in recent decades, but the Oxford jab is the first to have such a high success rate.

Halidou Tinto, professor of parasitology and the principal investigator on the trial, said: “These are very exciting results showing unprecedented efficacy levels from a vaccine that has been well-tolerated in our trial programme.

“We look forward to the upcoming phase III trial to demonstrate large-scale safety and efficacy data for a vaccine that is greatly needed.”


A DRUG that repairs cancerous cells could revolutionise the way breast cancer is treated.

Patients given olaparib as part of a two-and-a-half year trial were 42 per cent less likely to see their cancer return.

There was also a 43 per cent dEcrease in the risk of the disease spreading.

Until the breakthrough earlier this year, the drug was mainly used for late-stage cancers, but the new findings suggest it is effective as an early treatment.

Professor Andrew Tutt, professor of oncology at the Institute of Cancer Research who led the study, said: “Women with early-stage breast cancer who have inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations are typically diagnosed at a younger age.

“Up to now, there has been no treatment that specifically targets the unique biology of these cancers to reduce the rate of recurrence, beyond initial treatment such as surgery.”

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