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News digest – glioblastoma, pancreatic cancer clues, citizen science, plasma beams and more…

by Emma Smith | Analysis

27 October 2012

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It’s been a busy week in the world of cancer research, so let’s get on with our roundup of the top stories.

  • As the saying goes, many hands make light work, so we launched the first ever interactive website to allow members of the public to help analyse scientific samples of cancer cells and speed up life-saving research. If you want to get stuck in, simply Click to Cure.
  • Scientists at our Beatson Institute in Glasgow discovered that breast cancer cells use a protein called N-WASP to punch their way out of a tumour and spread around the body. Check out our amazing video showing what happens in microscopic detail:


  • We reported an update from the landmark METABRIC study, describing how combining two key bits of information about breast cancer cells – their physical characteristics and their genetic fingerprint – can give a more accurate prediction of how the breast cancer will behave. It’s exciting to see so much information coming from this project, which we first wrote about back in April.
  • On Wednesday we covered a key item of news from a group of scientists in Australia. Writing in the journal Nature, they have uncovered some important clues about the genes involved in the development of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer remains stubbornly hard to treat, so we welcome any research that may help drive progress towards better treatments.
  • On Tuesday we revealed that our scientists have developed a way of measuring protein levels that can help predict which people with bowel cancer would benefit from the drug Avastin (also covered by Science Daily). In future, this could help doctors distinguish patients that should get Avastin from those who would be more effectively treated with other drugs.
  • We spotted an interesting story about a promising early immunotherapy study from scientists in Manchester, reported by Medical News Today. In mice, a drug boosted the immune system helping make radiotherapy treatment for lymphoma more effective.
  • On Monday we came across another story linking statins to reducing cancer risk, in this case oesophageal cancer. The potential cancer risk-lowering effects of statins are a complex issue and at the moment there’s no clear answer, but scientists around the world (including our own) are working hard to untangle the facts.    
  • The Daily Express wrote a nice article highlighting the causes and symptoms of a rarely spoken about disease – mouth cancer. Mouth cancer cases are on the rise and, worryingly, affecting more young people, making raising awareness a positive step. You can read more about mouth cancer on our CancerHelp UK website.
  • A group of scientists studying men in Sweden, Norway and Austria have shed light on risk factors for prostate cancer. As reported by the Independent, factors such as high blood pressure, and – to a lesser extent – obesity, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, were all found to be risk factors for developing prostate cancer.
  • And finally…Pew! Pew! Pew! The Daily Telegraph covered a story about a futuristic ‘plasma pen’ which delivers a blast of low-temperature plasma that makes leukaemia cells commit suicide. Although it sounds like something from a sci-fi movie it may one day be put to use in the clinic. But it’s still early days as the scientists need to find out whether the plasma harms normal cells in the same way.

 Emma Smith, Senior Science Information Officer