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News digest – landmark breast cancer study, bladder cancer, plain packaging of cigarettes, and more

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

21 April 2012

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Lots in the news this week

  • A major Cancer Research UK study published this week could revolutionise the way women with breast cancer are diagnosed and treated in the future. It reclassifies the disease into 10 completely new categories based on their genetic make-up. We’ve got an extensive analysis of the paper on the blog. And watch our chief executive Harpal Kumar and study leader Carlos Caldas talk about the implications of the study.
  • Another big study funded by us – this time a bladder cancer trial – showed that patients given low doses of chemotherapy with radiotherapy are nearly 50 per cent less likely to relapse with the most lethal form of the disease compared to those given radiotherapy alone. This could mean fewer patients need their bladder removed and provides an alternative for frailer patients who are too weak for surgery.
  • The government launched a public consultation on plain packaging of cigarettes on Monday. The idea is to standardise all packaging to ensure children are protected from the ‘silent salesman’ of branded packs, and give them one less reason to start smoking. A YouGov poll found strong public support for the policy. The BBC has a nice video feature about the consultation.
  • An experimental sound-wave treatment for certain types of prostate cancer may have fewer side effects than current therapies, according to new UK research published on Tuesday. It’s fascinating and encouraging research, but we’ll have to wait for the results of much larger trials before current clinical practice is changed.
  • We launched a new partnership with the Royal Collage of GPs to improve cancer diagnosis and care in general practice. The programme aims to develop ways to help doctors confidently diagnose more cancers at an earlier stage, which should save more lives from the disease.
  • Bringing in a minimum price of 40 pence per unit of alcohol could cut deaths and hospital admissions, according to a UK economist. We know that about 12,500 cases of cancer in 2010 were down to alcohol, so welcome the introduction of minimum pricing as part of a wider strategy to reduce the consumption of alcohol and help prevent cancer.
  • A new ‘nanoparticle’-based imaging technique could improve the accuracy of brain tumour surgery, according to lab work by US scientists.
  • A team of Cancer Research UK scientists at UCL showed that increasing pressure ejects surplus healthy cells from overcrowded tissues, revealing a possible link between this process and the spread of cancer. Dr Kat Arney talked with the Huffington Post about the work.
  • And finally, congratulations to Prof Shankar Balasubramanian at our Cambridge Research Insitute, Prof Tony Kouzarides at The Gurdon Institute, and Dr Julian Lewis at our London Research Institute – who have all been elected as fellows of the Royal Society.