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News digest – conference updates, radiotherapy, and the mothership of medicine

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

11 November 2011

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A man reading a newspaper

The NCRI conference created lots of headlines

It’s been an important week in the UK cancer research calendar, with thousands of scientists and doctors descending on Liverpool to discuss the latest advances at the NCRI conference. Much of the work presented at the meeting was picked up in the media, and we’ve collated some of the big stories that got covered in a separate post. As usual, we’ve also selected the other cancer stories that caught our eye this week:

• Our daily round-ups from the conference included sessions on stem cells, stratified medicine, Chernobyl and the cancer genome.

• Aside from the conference, in important work that didn’t get much UK media coverage, researchers found that adding radiotherapy to standard hormone therapy improves survival among men with high-risk prostate cancer. Our radiotherapy expert commented that treating more prostate cancer patients with radiotherapy could save hundreds of lives each year in the UK.

• Two new studies showed that Cervarix – the vaccine used in the UK to protect against human papillomavirus infection – could substantially reduce how many women develop cervical cancer. These results underline the importance of widespread uptake of the vaccine in the coming years.

• A new combination treatment extends the life of people with a hard-to-treat type of non-small cell lung cancer. Although the work is still at an early stage and only a small number of patients were treated, this work is notable because the drugs used are examples of an exciting new type of treatment called ‘epigenetic therapy’, which our scientists are also working on.

• A large study confirmed that high-fibre foods such as cereal and whole grains protect against bowel cancer. Scientists analysed the overall findings of 25 studies involving almost two million people and found that the disease is less common among people who eat plenty of fibre. If you want to read more about tips for healthy living, there’s plenty of useful information on our website.

• And finally… there was a fascinating interview with Sir Paul Nurse in the Telegraph about the Francis Crick Institute, or the “the mother ship of medicine” as the article calls it. This ambitious project is funded by four of the UK’s leading biomedical research organisations: the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London.