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News digest – falling US cancer deaths, neuroblastoma, tobacco updates, and more

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

7 January 2012

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Tabloids on a news stand

Our first news digest of 2012 is here

Happy 2012 everyone. For the year’s first news digest, we look back on stories that you may have missed over Christmas period, and the interesting announcements we’ve seen over the past week.

We hope 2012 will continue last year’s excellent progress. You can keep up to date with the latest advances by subscribing to our news feed and blog – find out how here  – or by following us on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

So, without further ado, here’s what’s been happening – click on the links to get the full story:

  • We were pleased to read about the American Cancer Society’s latest US cancer statistics, which show how more than 1 million cancer deaths have been avoided over the past 20 years in the US, thanks to advances in detection and treatment. Broadly speaking, the UK situation is similar – whilst cases are continuing to rise (mostly because people are getting older), the good news is that UK survival rates are on the increase too.
  • Just before we all disappeared for Christmas, we heard the fantastic news that tobacco firms have withdrawn their legal challenge against the Coalition Government’s planned ban on tobacco displays in shops. Tobacco is a deadly and addictive drug, and it’s vital that everything is done to put it out of sight and out of mind to protect future generations of children.
  • Korean scientists discovered a gene fault that may be behind thousands of cases of lung cancer worldwide, particularly in non-smokers. Although smoking is responsible for the large majority of lung cancers, nearly a quarter of all lung cancer patients have never smoked, and this work could be the first step towards a new treatment targeted at this genetic fault.
  • Our researchers in Cambridge showed for the first time how the most common type of ovarian cancer evolves quickly and acquires genetic changes, which could explain why women’s tumours often become resistant to chemotherapy. The next stage will be to find ways to target these genetic changes as a new way to treat ovarian cancer.
  • It’s been a busy month in Cambridge – as well as the ovarian cancer discovery above, researchers at our Cambridge Research Institute also discovered how receptors for the female sex hormone oestrogen attach to a different part of the DNA in breast cancer patients who are more likely to relapse. About one-third of breast cancer patients don’t respond to hormone treatment or relapse at a later date – this work helps us understand why, and could lead to ways to prevent this happening.
  • An experimental drug has shown promise in the treatment of aggressive neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer for which we urgently need better treatments. The work is at an early stage, and not yet suitable for patients, but shows that we are moving towards more targeted therapy in this cancer.
  • And finally, you may have missed this fascinating story in the Sun, which graphically shows how clocking up hours on sunbeds can seriously damage your skin.

That’s all for this week. We’re keen for this round-up to be as helpful as possible to those looking for the important cancer news, so let us know if there’s anything else we need to do to improve things in 2012.