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News digest – bowel cancer care, DNA scanning, Little Stars and more

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

3 December 2011

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If you missed the news this week, this article is for you

Another week has zoomed by, and yet more interesting news about cancer has appeared in the media. We’ve collected some of the stories that caught our eye below – follow the links for the full coverage:

  • An in-depth report about bowel cancer showed that care is improving for the disease, but that patients who receive emergency surgery continue to do less well than those whose operations are pre-planned. The report highlights the importance of people knowing the potential symptoms of bowel cancer, as when the disease is diagnosed at the earliest stage there is a better chance of survival.
  • US research showed some breast cancer cells can hijack nutrients from neighbouring cells and metabolise them through their own mitochondria – the powerhouse of most normal cells – which fuels the growth and spread of disease. Interestingly, they also suggest that cancer could be tackled by blocking this process with an off-patent generic drug currently used to treat diabetes.
  • Scientists found the first genetic link to the blood cancer multiple myeloma, which could help to identify drug targets or further information about the disease’s causes.
  • Researchers in Vienna found that the drug lapatinib boosts survival of women with a certain type of breast cancer that has spread to the brain. If it’s proven to work in a larger group of women, it could be a powerful new approach to prevent and treat the spread of breast cancer to the brain.
  • US scientists used high-tech DNA scanning machines to identify cancer patients’ individual genetic make-up to match them to clinical trials suitable for their particular cancer. Although this work is a long way from influencing how we run trials at the moment, it shows we’re moving towards a more personalised approach to treatment.
  • Cancer Research UK scientists found that one way the body protects itself from cancer is similar to the way it responds to allergies. This work could pave the way to more effective treatments that use the body’s immune system to track down and destroy cancer cells.
  • Throughout December we’re celebrating the bravery of children with cancer. Every day in the UK, around four children are diagnosed with cancer. But the good news is more children are surviving than ever before. Every child with cancer deserves a bright future. Read our interview with how Professor Josef Vormoor and Dr Olaf Heidenreich of the Northern Institute for Cancer Research in Newcastle plan to turn this dream into reality. This month, you can also help us bring a smile to the face of a child with cancer by nominating them for one of our Little Star Awards.
  • And finally, we’re delighted to hear that a book about cancer won the Guardian’s ‘First Book’ award. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “Emperor of All Maladies” is a stunning, heartfelt and extremely readable chronicle of the history of cancer – and cancer research – in our society. We warmly recommend it as a stocking-filler this Christmas to anyone who wants to know more about humanity’s emotional and intellectual battle with this dreadful disease.

On the horizon, we know that there are several major research papers coming out next week, so keep an eye out for them on our news site.