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40% of problem drinkers unidentified, the discovery of a cancer stem cell and how exercise is good for ME

Today's daily digest shuns Olympic glory and kicks off with a damning report on GPs failing to spot drinking problems unless their patients are drunk during appointments.

The study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, and reported in the Telegraph today, said that when patients are not already intoxicated, GPs on average are only able to identify 40% of problem drinkers.

The Leicester University researchers reviewed 39 previous studies, covering 20,000 patients.

Worryingly, the study authors also said that the patients were not refusing to admit alcohol problems.

Dr Alex Mitchell, who led the study, said: ‘When clinicians try and spot alcohol problems they often miss patients who have serious alcohol problems but who are not currently intoxicated. Further they can misidentify about 5 per cent of normal drinkers as problem drinkers.'

On to more positive news, and a group of international researchers have discovered the cells in tumours that seem to be responsible for the regrowth of tumours in what they call a ‘paradigm shift'.

The three separate studies, published in the Nature and Science journals, found direct evidence of cancer stem cells driving tumour growth in brain, gut and skin cancers.

Prof Hugo Snippert of the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, said: ‘Many argued that these cells did not exist. But we have shown for the first time there is such a thing as a cancer stem cell and that tumours are maintained by them,' the BBC reports.

Finally, in news that will hearten NHS management, a study in the PLoS ONE journal has found that ME is best treated through exercise and behavioural therapies.

A study of 640 patients showed these treatments would save millions of pounds if they were widely adopted, the BBC reports.

It concluded that only cognitive behavioural therapy and graded exercise therapy could be considered cost-effective.

When the wider cost to society was considered, such as lost work or the cost of carers, those two therapies provided an overall saving.