Skip to main content

Together we are beating cancer

Donate now
  • Science & Technology
  • Health & Medicine

News digest – ovarian cancer smear tests, trial data, drug holidays, raccoons, TV and more

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

12 January 2013

0 comments 0 comments

man reading newspaper

It’s time for our round-up of the week’s headlines

  • US researchers have found tantalising evidence that DNA from cervical screening samples could also be used to detect ovarian and womb cancers. Nearly 80 per cent of eligible women in the UK go for smear tests, so the idea of using this as an opportunity to detect other cancers is very appealing. Here’s our news story, while this New York Times article includes some interesting expert comments.
  • ‘Drug holidays’, in which patients intermittently stop treatment, could be key to making the new skin cancer drug vemurafenib more effective, according to lab research published this week. Read our news story for more detail.
  • The NHS has been accused of slowing the development of lifesaving new drugs by denying many patients the chance to take part in clinical trials. The Guardian has more info.
  • The Guardian also reported that the British Medical Association has criticised health screening “scare tactics” by private companies and said they are “a waste of money”. Screening programmes in the NHS are offered only when research has shown the screening offers significant benefits, but this may not always be the case with private tests.
  • A campaign launched this week to encourage greater access to data from clinical trials of drugs. This comes after the Government announced that a Select Committee would also be looking at this important issue. The Association of Medical Research Charities – to which we belong – took a closer look at the topic on their Policy blog. We’ll be responding to the Select Committee inquiry, so you can expect more from us over the coming weeks and months.
  • On a related note, the Telegraph reported that results of breast cancer drug trials are routinely ‘spun’ to make the treatments appear more beneficial than they actually are. As this NHS Choices analysis points out, this doesn’t mean current breast cancer treatments are unsafe or ineffective, but it does highlight the issues surrounding access to clinical trial data.
  • Want to know what our Chief Executive Dr Harpal Kumar is working on at the moment? Then read this article, and also this interview from the business section of the New York Times.
  • For those interested in public health, this summary of a recent US anti-smoking campaign is well worth reading. Helping people to stop smoking and encouraging people not to start the deadly habit is a huge priority for Cancer Research UK, as smoking is responsible for thousands of cancer deaths each year.
  • On the subject of habits, we liked this Wellcome Trust article about how habits form and why they’re not all unhealthy. Keep an eye out over the coming weeks for our blog post about ‘the science of healthy habits’.
  • This Wired article about a previously unknown virus that’s causing fatal brain cancer in raccoons in America is fascinating.
  • Misshapen red blood cells could be used as a tool to kill cancer cells, according to the BBC. It’s early days and there’s lots of work ahead, but this could be an interesting approach to tackling cancer.
  • Huge swathes of the public remain convinced that “antioxidant” is a byword for “healthy”. But as we say in this Guardian piece, such supplements have negligible effect on healthy people – and could even cause harm.
  • A new cancer centre in Belfast is being tipped to improve outcomes for thousands of people with the disease. Here’s our news story.
  • We liked this article about the media’s never-ending appetite for things that cause cancer. It might be tongue-in-cheek, but there’s also some serious discussion about why such stories continue to appear in the media.

And finally

  • Talking of ‘causes of cancer’ stories: no, TV is not “giving kids cancer”, despite what the tabloids said this week. Here’s our blog post about the story, and the science of sedentary behaviour and cancer risk. The Counterbalanced blog (written by researcher Dr Pete Etchells) also had this nice deconstruction of it, and is also worth a look.