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News digest – bowel cancer, kidney cancer, booze, boost for drug development, and more

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

31 March 2012

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All the news in one place

Another week has flown by, and yet more interesting cancer research was in the news, both from our own scientists and from research groups around the world.

We’ve summarised the big stories of the week below.

Click on the links for full coverage.

There were a few big stats stories out this week:

  • On Monday, new analysis showed that nearly 10 per cent of bowel cancer patients die within a month of diagnosis. And of these, over half are over 80 years old, and six in 10 are diagnosed following an emergency admission to hospital. This suggests that the public, especially the elderly, may not be aware of bowel cancer’s warning signs.
  • Then yesterday, we released new figures showing that the number of kidney cancers diagnosed each year in Great Britain has risen over 9,000 for the first time. Experts think that obesity is one of the key factors behind this staggering 135 per cent rise over the past 35 years.

  • Macmillan Cancer Support released a report showing that cancer mortality rates among older people are failing to match the improvements seen in younger patients. This is worrying, and implies that there’s ageism at work in the health service.
  • Rare side-effects of new cancer drugs, particularly heart damage, are being under-reported in medical literature, according to academics in the US. They’ve called for ‘urgent reform‘ and standardisation of the measurements of possible side effects during clinical trials.
  • Our scientists have developed a technique that could be used to detect tiny secondary tumours in the brain, a process that is currently impossible. The next step will be clinical trials of this imaging technique.
  • Two new ‘drug sensitivity encyclopaedias’ released this week could be invaluable research tools to help scientists search for new cancer drugs.
  • And on the subject of valuable research tools, we were very interested to read about the UK Biobank, an enormous online database of medical and lifestyle records from half a million middle-aged Britons, which was published yesterday. This could be a powerful resource to study diseases like cancer.
  • Our commercial arm – Cancer Research Technology – unveiled an innovative £50 million investment fund to bridge the funding gap in the UK between cancer drug discovery and early development. As we say on the blog, this joint venture with the European Investment Fund should result in drugs getting to cancer patients faster.
  • Our scientists at the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research in Manchester discovered a promising new approach to treat a type of myeloid leukaemia with relatively poor survival. The work is still only in the lab, where the researchers have designed a molecule to block a key enzyme involved in an aggressive form of leukaemia called mixed lineage leukaemia.
  • To tie in with brain tumour awareness month, we looked at two recent bits of European research into brain and central nervous system tumours.
  • German scientists came one step closer to solving one of cancer research’s biggest problems – they found a potential way to target cancer cells containing a faulty cancer gene called Myc.
  • And finally, hot on the heels of the Government’s high-profile announcement over minimum alcohol pricing (see our analysis here), a new study about alcohol and breast cancer hit the headlines. We looked at why this is news, and what the stats actually mean.