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Press Releases

Take a look at a selection of our recent media coverage:

Study shows that colorectal cancer diagnoses dropped over 40% during pandemic

4th October 2021

The number of colorectal cancer (CRC) cases diagnosed fell dramatically by 40% in a year during the COVID-19 pandemic, research presented at UEG Week Virtual 2021 has shown.

The research, which was conducted across multiple hospitals in Spain, compared data from the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic with data from the previous year. Of 1385 cases of CRC diagnosed over the two-year period, almost two thirds (868 cases, 62.7%) were diagnosed in the pre-pandemic year from 24,860 colonoscopies. By contrast, only 517 cases (37.3%) were diagnosed during the pandemic, which also saw a 27% drop in the number of colonoscopies performed, to 17,337
 
Those who were diagnosed with CRC between 15 March 2020 and 28 February 2021 were also older than in the pre-pandemic year, had more frequent symptoms, a greater number of complications and presented at a more advanced disease stage.
 
Experts say the fall is a consequence of the suspension of screening programmes and the postponement of non-urgent colonoscopy investigations during the pandemic. Fewer cancers were identified by CRC screening in the pandemic period, with just 22 (4.3%) cases found in comparison to 182 (21%) in the pre-pandemic year. During the pandemic, more patients were diagnosed through symptoms (81.2% of diagnoses) compared with the pre-pandemic year (69%).
 
Dr María José Domper Arnal, from the Service of Digestive Diseases, University Clinic Hospital and the Aragón Health Research Institute (IIS Aragón) in Zaragoza, Spain, and lead author of the study, commented “These are very worrying findings indeedcases of colorectal cancer undoubtedly went undiagnosed during the pandemic. Not only were there fewer diagnoses, but those diagnosed tended to be at a later stage and suffering from more serious symptoms.”
 
There was a significant increase in the number of patients being diagnosed with serious complications – a sign of late-stage disease – with an increase in symptoms such as bowel perforation, abscesses, bowel obstruction and bleeding requiring hospital admission. These cases made up 10.6% pre-pandemic and 14.7% during the pandemic. The number of stage IV cancers being diagnosed rose during the pandemic year, with stage IV cases making up 19.9% of cases, in comparison to 15.9% in the previous year.
 
Although these figures are across a population of 1.3 million in Spain, it’s highly likely that the same drop in diagnoses would have happened elsewhere across the globe where screening was stopped and surgeries postponed, especially in countries that were heavily impacted by COVID-19”, explained Dr Arnal.
 
Colorectal cancer is often curable if it’s caught at an early stage. Our concern is that we’re losing the opportunity to diagnose patients at this early stage, and this will have a knock-on effect on patient outcomes and survival. We are likely to see this fall out for years to come.”

Source

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the diagnosis and characteristics of colorectal cancer patients, presented at UEG Week Virtual 2021

MicroRNAs can distinguish between myocarditis and myocardial infarction

11th June 2021

Myocarditis can mimic myocardial infarction but a unique biomarker provides clinicians an opportunity to distinguish the two conditions.

Acute myocarditis (aMC) has many different causes but the prevalence is unclear because the condition has similar clinical symptoms to an acute myocardial infarction (aMI). Although the diagnosis of myocarditis can be confirmed with cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, this technique is not always available. However, one approach to resolve the diagnosis involves the use of microRNAs (miRNAs), which are small, non-coding RNAs that play an important role in gene expression. Several miRNAs have been identified in the infarcted heart and this led a team from the Vascular Pathophysiology Area, Madrid, to try and identify a unique miRNA which could be used to distinguish between myocarditis and myocardial infarction. The team focused on circulating T cells, in particular T helper 17 (Th17) cells, which were confirmed as being a characteristic of myocardial injury in the acute phase of myocarditis. They performed a miRNA microarray analysis and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assays in Th17 cells after experimentally inducing myocarditis and myocardial infarction in mice to identify unique biomarkers.

Findings
The researchers identified the miRNA, mmu-miR-721, produced by Th17 cells in mice which was only produced in response to either autoimmune or viral myocarditis and which was absent from those with aMI. Using four patient cohorts with myocarditis, they subsequently identified a human homologue to mmu-miR-721, termed has-miR-Chr8:96. The researchers found that plasma levels of has-miR-Chr8:96 were considerably higher among myocarditis patients compared to both those with a myocardial infarction and in healthy controls. The area under the receiver-operating characteristics curve for has-miR-Chr8:96 was 0.927 (i.e., 92.7%) for distinguishing between aMC and aMI and this diagnostic value was retained even after adjusting for age, ejection fraction, and serum troponin levels.

Although the authors accepted that more work is needed to validate this biomarker in other cardiac disorders such as dilated cardiomyopathy, their preliminary findings suggest that raised plasma levels of has-miR-Chr8:96 are unique to those with myocarditis and have sufficient discriminatory power from myocardial infarction.

Citation
Blanco-Dominguez R et al. A Novel Circulating MicroRNA for the Detection of Acute Myocarditis. N Engl J Med 2021;384:2014-27