The Olympics have, quite understandably, dominated the news this week, but there were several important cancer stories as well:
- Three big studies published this week add significant weight to the controversial idea that so-called cancer stem cells are crucial in driving the growth of tumours. Whilst headlines of ‘paradigms shifts’ in cancer research may be a little premature, there’s no doubt that this is the strongest evidence yet that stem cells have a big role in feeding tumour growth. Our bloggers looked at the field of cancer stem cell research and explained what these new studies add.
- Testing women’s smear test samples for the human papillomavirus (HPV) can predict who will develop early signs of cervical cancer up to 18 years later, US researchers have found (here’s our news story). The results show the long-term benefits of first-line testing for HPV, compared with the current cytology test, which looks for abnormal cells. Cancer Research UK screening expert Professor Peter Sasieni explained why this is an extremely important study on the blog.
- Some GPs are referring three times fewer patients with cancer symptoms to specialists than others, according to new data published this week (press release). Although it’s hard to interpret the new statistics, as we do not know what the ‘optimum’ level is, we urgently need to learn more about what’s behind this difference. Delays in diagnosis of cancer could prove crucial for a patient’s chance of survival, so we need to tackle any inefficiencies. The BBC and The Telegraph both covered the story.
- Prostate cancer drug abiraterone has now been approved in Northern Ireland, according to the BBC. Of the countries of the UK, only Scotland has said ‘no’, and this decision is provisional – we’re expecting their final decision over the next few weeks, and have our fingers crossed.
- Cancer research in the UK got a boost this week, with news of a £19 million investment into four ‘e-Health research’ Centres of Excellence in London, Manchester, Dundee and Swansea. The centres will be made up of researchers who will become experts at analysing UK health data and finding ways to use the data to improve patient care and public health.
- Pretty much every year, a story appears in the media about dogs (or occasionally, other animals) detecting cancer in their owners. This year has been no exception. We frequently get letters and enquiries on the subject: here’s our blog post from 2009 – our stance hasn’t changed since.
- Sticking with the theme of animals, we also learned this week that fish can develop melanoma. The LA Times has this write-up.
- Although we’ll be sad when the Olympics finish in just over a week, we’ll console ourselves in the knowledge that we have another huge event to look forward to in just a few years – the opening of the Francis Crick Institute. As our bloggers explained this week, this is sure to become one of the leading biomedical research institutes of the world and will leave a legacy equal to that of the Olympics – that of improved health for generations to come.