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News digest – immunotherapy, alcohol, abiraterone and more

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

11 February 2012

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Printing press

All the cancer news that's fit to print

Once again, we’ve pulled together all the big cancer news stories for your weekend reading.  This week it’s been relatively quiet, but nevertheless several interesting studies hit the headlines.

Click on the links in the summaries below for more in-depth coverage.

  • On Sunday the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, launched the latest Change4Life campaign, which warns the public that drinking just a little bit over the alcohol guidelines can seriously harm long-term health. Alcohol can increase the risk of seven types of cancer, including two of the most common – breast and bowel cancers – so helping people cut down is important in the fight against cancer.
  • Research from Canada showed that the drug exemestane can weaken bones in women given the drug to prevent them getting breast cancer. At the moment the drug is used to treat breast cancer in some postmenopausal women – it’s not routinely used as a prevention drug. And doctors already look out for any bone weakening effects in women given the drug – this study shows that we need to carefully measure both the benefits and risks of potential cancer prevention drugs, which may need to be given long term to be effecti

  • Some really fascinating US research published in Nature showed for the first time how the body’s immune system ‘prunes’ tumours by selectively killing only certain cancer cells. The work used high-tech gene sequencing machines to uncover genes that marked out tumour cells for ‘pruning’. The work is only in the lab at the moment, but suggests that genetic information from within a patient’s tumour could one day be used to rapidly create tailored immunotherapy to treat their disease.
  • Regular readers will have spotted our thoughts last week on the disappointing decision from NICE about abiraterone for advanced prostate cancer. We’re still hopeful that the impasse on price can be resolved, and are keeping a close eye on what happens next. In the mean time, we spotted this really interesting take on the situation over at Chris Hiley’s blog.
  • The debate on the government’s proposed NHS changes has really ramped up over the past couple of days. We’re particularly interested in what any changes will mean for cancer patients – our Policy team wrote a short article outlining the current situation.
  • And finally, severalnewsoutlets latched on to a study that looked at the effects of fasting on tumour growth in laboratory rats. We think the study says interesting things about what goes on inside cancer cells, but absolutely doesn’t mean cancer patients should stop eating. In fact, as we said in a post a few months back, cancer patients are advised to try and keep their calorie intake up as far as possible to get the nutrients their bodies need to repair themselves after treatment.

See you next week,