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News digest – multi-target therapies, breast cancer recurrence, a day in parliament, and more

by Henry Scowcroft | Analysis

13 July 2012

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Tabloids on a news stand

Its time for our weekly news digest

Here’s our run-down of the week’s developments in cancer research and policy:

  • We’ve written a lot about so-called ‘targeted therapies’ over the last few years – drugs that target the individual faulty proteins inside cancer cells. But this week, the award-winning Cancer Research UK-funded drug discovery team at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) unveiled a new experimental drug, designed to target several key proteins at once (here’s our press release).This could help stop cancer cells becoming resistant. The molecule, known as AT13148, will be tested in clinical trials – our fingers are crossed for its success. The story was covered in the Express, the Daily Mail, and the Evening Standard
  • Another team at The ICR  are working on  similar idea – this time an experimental drug for acute myeloid leukaemia that targets two proteins at once – here’s our press release.
  • And in a third announcement from The ICR’s scientists this week, researchers studying neuroblastoma have found evidence from lab tests showing that a new cancer drug called crizotinib – licensed in the US for certain lung cancer patients – could be used to treat the disease in combination with a second type of drug called an mTor inhibitor. Here’s The ICR’s press release.
  • Our researchers at Imperial College London have discovered that testing the DNA from breast cancer cells – specifically, whether a certain genes bear a chemical modification called ‘methylation’ – could help predict whether a woman’s cancer is likely to come back. Here’s our press release.
  • We covered an intriguing study from a team in Australia on our news feed. They’ve discovered that inhibiting an enzyme called Pol1 inside cancer cells can cause them to reactivate an anti-cancer protein called p53. This latter protein is a crucial part of the body’s defence against cancer (and our scientists discovered it). Trying to switch it on has been a long sought-after goal for cancer researchers. We’ll be keeping a keen eye on how this progresses.
  • Another interesting story, this time from a lab in the US, confirmed the potential of targeting a protein called Rac1 as a strategy to treat several types of cancer. We’ve written previously about this protein’s involvement in skin cancer – this time the researchers were working on lung cancer.
  • Our Policy team headed down to parliament for a discussion with MPs and Peers about how to regulate access to patient data, as well as to celebrate what this type of research can achieve. Our chief scientist, Prof Nic Jones, spoke at the event, and the team wrote this blog post reflecting on the day.
  • Judith Potts wrote an excellent blog post for the Telegraph, about a recent conference on ovarian cancer. “Ovarian cancer may be the “silent killer” but there is a good deal of work being undertaken to enable a much earlier diagnosis and, with the advent of personalised medicine (no longer one size fits all) a much better outcome for the patient,” she writes.
  • Subscribers to The Times can read this excellent article about so-called ‘rare’ cancers, and how together they make up nearly half of cancer cases in the UK. Kate Law, our director of clinical trials, comments on how we’re working with the pharmaceutical industry to try to speed up research in this field.
  •  We’ve been keeping an eagle eye on the worrying issue of cancer drug shortages. The Telegraph carried this piece about how shortages of a bladder cancer drug could lead to more people having their bladder removed.
  • There were stories in the press about a ‘natural molecule’ that could help fight skin cancer. It’s promising research that tells us more about how the immune system is involved in fighting melanoma – particularly a molecule called Interleukin-9. Here’s the comprehensive summary from the NHS’s ever-excellent Behind The Headlines team.
  • And finally, an excellent piece of population research regrettably led to some unfortunate headlines. As we covered on our newsfeed, one in five breast cancer patients who opt for breast-conserving surgery (as opposed to a mastectomy) will end up having another operation to remove remaining traces of cancer. This is a useful finding that helps women and doctors understand the pros and cons of different treatments. And of course, it means the four out of five women WON’T need more surgery. But we thought the tone of certain news reports was overly alarmist, and could be taken to imply that women choosing the less-severe surgery are in some way making the ‘wrong’ decision. They’re not.

See you next week,