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News digest – brain imaging, eye cancer, processed meat and more

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

14 January 2012

1 comment 1 comment

A pile of newspapers

It was a busy news week

Some really interesting research made the headlines this week. As ever, we’ve collected the week’s key stories below. Click on the links for the full article:

  • The week’s biggest story was on Friday. Research from Sweden, published in our journal, the British Journal of Cancer, suggests that people who regularly eat processed meat – like two rashers of bacon or a sausage every day – have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare, so the possible increase due to processed meat is pretty small, but this fits in with previous studies. Smoking is a much more important risk factor and is linked to over one quarter of cases.

  • There was a great story in the London Metro about the International Cancer Genome Consortium. This is a huge and ambitious global project to crack the DNA code of over 50 different types of cancer. Cancer Research UK is leading projects in prostate and oesophageal cancer – read our blog post (with handy graphic) for more info.
  • It was a good week for early diagnosis of cancer. We announced that Tesco has chosen Cancer Research UK as its Charity of the Year 2012 and is aiming to raise £10million, to be spent on research and cancer symptom awareness to improve early diagnosis and detection of the disease. This will help support the funding of up to 100 research projects into early diagnosis across the UK.
  • Our Drug Development Office re-launched a trial of a promising drug – called a PARP inhibitor – to treat inherited breast and ovarian cancer, but this time in the form of a tablet that can be taken at home. This could be a more convenient and comfortable way to receive the treatment, and we look forward to following the progress of patients on the trial.
  • US researchers identified the genetic (or more accurately, ‘epigenetic’) mechanism behind the rapid development of retinoblastoma, a rare type of childhood eye cancer. They also found a potential new way to treat the disease, though it could be a few years until a treatment based on this work reaches patients in clinical trials.
  • Also across the pond, US research suggests that diagnosing glioma – the most common type of brain tumour – could soon be carried out by non-invasive imaging, dispensing with the need for surgery. Larger studies are needed to confirm the work, but this imaging technique could also be used to track response to treatment.
  • And in another study from the US, scientists identified what they think is the first inherited ‘high risk’ prostate cancer gene. The gene, called HOXB13, seems to be more common in men with an inherited form of prostate cancer, and among those who develop the disease at a younger age. If confirmed, this could be the first step towards better ways to diagnose and manage the disease. We covered the story on our news feed, and there was also an interesting post about the research on the Nature website.

And finally, it’s a new year, but we’ve seen some old stories re-appear in the media this week, based on shaky evidence:

  • Despite headlines to the contrary, we think stories about red wine warding off breast cancer are misleading, as we wrote on Monday.
  • We also think the study that triggered headlines about “everyday items” in shops causing breast cancer has serious limitations, which means its conclusions don’t stand up to scrutiny. We’ve got comprehensive information about cosmetics and cancer on our website, but the take-home message is that there is no good scientific evidence to show these products cause cancer.

That’s it for this week. We’ll be back again next week with the latest and greatest research.



  • Mills
    14 January 2012

    Sausages are not “processed” meat


  • Mills
    14 January 2012

    Sausages are not “processed” meat