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News digest – abiraterone, childhood brain tumours, exercise and more

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

4 February 2012

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It's time for our weekly news digest

It was a yet another big week for cancer-related news, and not all of it good. To save you from the task of rummaging through the papers, we’ve summarised all the important stories of the week.

If you want to know more about any of the stories, click on the links for further information.

  • The biggest story of the week was a disappointing one – the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) provisionally decided not to recommend abiraterone for advanced prostate cancer, an announcement we found hugely frustrating. The decision is now open for consultation, with a final ruling expected in May. Patients and doctors value the extra months of life abiraterone can give if prostate cancer has come back after chemotherapy. You can read our official response to this preliminary decision, and our discussion on the blog about why we want to see a solution to the impasse between NICE and the manufacturer.

  • On a related note, we also spotted this great, if slightly technical, summary of some other exciting prostate cancer drugs currently in trials
  • In better news, on Monday, the Department of Health launched a potentially life-saving campaign to help people spot the warning signs of bowel cancer. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: early diagnosis is crucial in the fight against cancer, so we’re pleased to see this campaign to improve diagnosis of the UK’s third most common cancer. You can watch the TV ad and read more in our news story.
  • Staying with bowel cancer, research published on Tuesday also gave us reason to be hopeful. A US study has confirmed that a test called flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is being introduced by the NHS here, is good at at detecting bowel cancer. It also showed that repeated testing increases how many cancers are detected. But it’s too early to say if this translates to further lives saved.
  • Across the pond, Canadian and US scientists found crucial genes linked to two types of aggressive childhood brain tumour called glioblastoma and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. These are hugely significant findings that could be a big step towards new ways to treat these notoriously hard-to-treat tumours.
  • An interesting study in the BMJ confirmed that – at least for some patients – exercise can improve health and quality of life. While encouraging news, our head information nurse, Martin Ledwick, was keen to stress that this wasn’t a one-size-fits-all recommendation. “Each patient’s individual condition, state of health and needs should be taken into account before prescribing exercise”, he told our news team.
  • We couldn’t help but make a small splash about Cancer Research UK’s 10th anniversary, which happens to be today! Read our blog post for a whistle-stop tour of some of the progress made in the past 10 years, and also over preceding decades by the Cancer Research Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund which merged to form Cancer Research UK. We’re certainly not patting ourselves on the back – there’s so much more to do – but it’s encouraging to see that significant, steady progress is being made against the disease.
  • And finally, the media’s obsession with different foods and their potential effects on the risks of different cancers continued, with this story about research on ‘slowly cooked tomatoes’ and prostate cancer. As is usually the case, and as we’ve pointed out before, the underlying science was carried out in a lab, not in people – so it’s impossible to draw conclusions about what happens when we actually eat tomatoes.