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Trojan–horse’ virus cures cancer in rats and thalidomide victims get an early Christmas present

A round-up of the health news headlines on Friday 21 December

It’s a slow day for health news – obviously Christmas has come early.

But there is some cheering news - thalidomide victims will receive £80m from the Government to help with their increasing needs The Independent reports.

The cash will be distributed over 10 years to 325 thalidomide victims. £14m will be distributed in Scotland, while Wales and Northern Ireland are still waiting for an announcement.

Norman Lamb, Care Services minister, said his focus was on offering ‘practical help’. He said: ‘I think society has a responsibility to these people. One of the big problems is that many thalidomiders have made the most remarkable use of their bodies to compensate for having missing or shortened limbs. But that has an impact in terms of wear and tear on their bodies and a deterioration of their condition.’

Other companies that are paying compensation to living thalidomide victims are Diageo, the successor to Distillers which distributed the drug across Europe and Grünenthal the German manufacturers.

Diageo has paid £160m over the last six years to fund the growing needs of victims, while Grünenthal has set up a €50m (£41m) fund for the 3,000 victims on the Continent.

The Independent also says that thalidomide victims are still coming forward 50 years after the scandal.

Thalidomide Trust says that it has accepted 20 applications for support due to disfigurement over the last five years.

There are presently around 470 living thalidomide victims in the UK.

And the BBC reports how a ‘Trojan–horse’ virus has been an effective cure to prostate cancer in mice.

Cancer fighting virus cells were put into the rats’ macrophages. Once the macrophages entered the cancer cells the viruses multiplied before bursting from white blood cell to attack and kill the cancer.

At the end of the 40-day study, all the mice that were given the Trojan treatment were still alive and had no signs of tumours.

However the treatment still needs to be done on humans as many past ground breaking studies that have worked on mice have not been as effective on human test subjects.

Dr Kate Holmes, head of research at Prostate Cancer UK, was optimistic about the implications of the study. She said: ‘If this treatment goes on to be successful in human trials, it could mark substantial progress in finding better treatments for men with prostate cancer which has spread to the bone.’

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