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News digest – obesity and cancer, Parliament Day, death carrots, and more

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

30 June 2012

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Catch up on the cancer news

Here’s our run-down of the week’s key cancer news:

  • Being overweight or obese is one of the most important avoidable cancer risks. But despite knowing it increases their cancer risk, nearly two-thirds of overweight Brits say they’re struggling to find the motivation to lose weight, according to our new report (here’s our press release). Dr Julie Sharp spoke to ITV about how obesity – especially around the tummy – can increase the risk of developing cancer.
  • Around 80 of our dedicated cancer campaigners descended on Westminster this week to talk to MPs about our campaign to put all cigarettes in plain, standardised packaging.  We want 50,000 petition signatures by 10th July to help convince the Government that plain packaging is a vital way to help protect future generations from taking up smoking. The twist of the day was that each of the campaigners ‘de-branded’ themselves by donning a paper bag over their faces – check out our Storify post for photos, a video and a report of the day.

  • You don’t often see the words ‘death’ and ‘carrot’ side by side, but that’s what happened this week in a fascinating news story about how a US company is trying to turn a toxic plant chemical into a potential new cancer drug. We covered the story of the Mediterranean plant Thapsia garganica – called the ‘death carrot’ in ancient Greek literature – on our news feed. And there’s a nice piece about this early-stage work in New Scientist.
  • Children with early-stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma who respond to initial chemotherapy may not need subsequent radiotherapy, according to US research published this week. As we said in our news story, this could mean such children could be spared from the potential side effects of radiotherapy, such as a slightly increased risk of second cancers in later life.
  • We announced a new trial to see if male cancer survivors could benefit from hormone replacement therapy with testosterone. Around 1 in 450 male cancer survivors – almost 23,800 men in the UK – are thought to have below-average testosterone levels as a result of their treatment. This study could be a first step towards an easily applied testosterone gel to combat this.
  • We’ve been hearing about a possible shortage of cancer drugs in the NHS. Our director of policy, Sarah Woolnough, talked about our concerns to the Telegraph.
  •  A vaccine against nicotine could one day be used to help smokers quit, according to widespread media reports, including this story on the BBC. The research is interesting and welcome, but it’s at an early stage. Addiction is complex, and moving from encouraging results in the lab to an effective vaccine for people has been a stumbling block for similar approaches in recent years.
  • Patients will be able to compare how well each GP performs in saving the lives of people with cancer after the government announced the release of a new wave of online data this week, according to the Guardian. Information such as survival rates within every practice in England and Wales will be published by the National Cancer Intelligence Network at the end of July. It’s hoped such public data will drive up standards in cancer care.
  •  And finally, we spotted this story in the Telegraph and the Independent, about how several MPs who signed an ‘anti-plain packs’ letter to the Department of Health, had previously been wined and dined by the tobacco industry. We’ll be looking in more detail at the tactics Big Tobacco uses to influence politicians in a future blog post – watch this space.