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News digest – World Cancer Day, DNA ‘editing’, stress and cancer, inequalities, and more

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

9 February 2013

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The latest cancer news

The latest cancer news

  • Monday was World Cancer Day, and a chance to reflect on progress and challenges in global efforts to tackle cancer. This meant an abundance of editorials in the press, and a slew of comment pieces around the web.
  • We blogged about the international aspects of cancer research and reported from a Global Summit; The Telegraph discussed the ‘many small games’ we need to win; The Independent looked at survivorship; and the Lancet published a series of articles looking at where we go next. Perhaps the pick of the bunch was Wellcome’s blog post reflecting on a creative writing course in a hospice.
  • Back to the world of research: US scientists made what we think is a fascinating and important step forward in breast cancer research – the discovery that a DNA ‘editing’ enzyme seems to drive the genetic chaos inside breast cancer cells. As our expert comments in our news story, pinpointing these mechanisms “gives us new avenues to try to limit this chaos, or maybe even exploit it to tip cancers over the edge”.
  • Work-related stress does not increase the risk of developing cancer, according to a large study of previous research. Stress can bring out cancer-linked behaviours in people, such as smoking, overeating or heavy drinking, but it doesn’t seem to affect cancer risk directly. Our news story and the Guardian have more detail.
  • More than 80 per cent of friends and family members of people with cancer think that doctors should give lifestyle advice to patients. Here’s our press release, and one of the researchers wrote about the implications of her work on this blog.
  • Most patients who go to their GP with cancer symptoms are being promptly referred to a specialist, according to research published by our scientists. But one in five people still need to see their GP more than twice before being referred. Our press release and this BBC article have more information.
  • Poorer people with lung cancer are less likely to receive treatment for their disease than wealthier people, a new international study revealed this week. As an expert says in our news story, it’s very unlikely there’s a single and simple reason for this difference.
  • A letter in the Lancet calls on healthcare organisations to shun working with PR agencies that also work for the tobacco industry.
  • GlaxoSmithKline has become the first major pharmaceutical company to commit to publishing all its clinical trial data. The Guardian has more detail.
  • We liked this summary of research showing that cancer can re-programme immune cells to avoid being attacked. The area of immunotherapy, which aims to harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer, is very interesting. You can read about our own pioneering research in this field here.

And finally

  • One of our favourite  programmes at the moment is BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific. Presented by physicist Professor Jim Al-Khalili, it features in-depth interviews with leading scientists about their careers, motivations and discoveries. This week, epidemiologist Professor Dame Valerie Beral discussed her pioneering work on HRT and breast cancer, which we’ve funded for many years. It’s a thought-provoking half hour of radio, where Valerie answers her critics, discusses women in science, and speculates on future breast cancer research. A must-listen.