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News digest – E-cigarettes, gene patenting, mouse ‘avatars’ and more

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

15 June 2013

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Read our news digest

  • In one of the week’s biggest health stories, the Government announced that e-cigarettes are to be regulated as medicines. Our news story has more detail, and we wrote this blog post about why we think this is a good idea.
  • Our researchers showed that testing women for the human papillomavirus (HPV), rather than using the traditional cervical screening test (which looks for abnormal cells) could prevent an extra 600 cases of cervical cancer a year in England. The Telegraph covered the research, and here’s our press release.
  • The US Supreme Court ruled that human DNA can’t be patented. The BBC wrote about the decision and what it could mean for research and innovation, while the Guardian had this response.
  • Patients say they get better care at hospitals with more specialist nurses. Our news article has more information.

  • Our researchers discovered genes that control shape changes in melanoma skin cancer cells, which appear to allow them to wriggle free and spread around the body. Here’s our press release.
  • Millions of patient records with details about cancer treatments have been compiled into a single cancer database for the first time (here’s our news story). Its early days, but this could be a step towards understanding how to deliver better cancer care.
  • Channel 4’s Dispatches on Monday looked into claims that new diabetes drugs could increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. NHS Choices also looked at the claims.
  • Researchers in Germany found a new way to exploit the differences between cancer cells and normal cells that could lead to new clinical trials. The team focused on cancer cells that lack a crucial ‘triage’ molecule called ATM, which is normally involved in directing a cell’s response to damage. Our news story has more info.
  • This Express article about using mouse ‘avatars’ to help find new cancer treatment is really interesting.
  • Headlines in the Daily Mail and Telegraph claimed that breast cancer screening doesn’t cut cancer deaths. But the study in question only looked at trends that overemphasise the peaks and troughs of death rates in a single year, rather than concentrating on the average death rate over several years. The most robust research shows breast screening is effective at cutting deaths, though also comes with risks. NHS Choices also had this analysis.
  • This accompanying Telegraph article about the challenges doctors and patients face in making decisions about screening is well worth reading, and raises the broader issues around how to deal with uncertainty in medicine.

And finally

  • The Independent reported that “successful women may be more likely to develop breast cancer” and “stress at work could be to blame”. But women shouldn’t be alarmed by this study. The balance of scientific evidence shows that stress, including job stress, doesn’t seem to be linked to breast cancer risk, though it could lead people to have less healthy lifestyles – like smoking, or drinking more alcohol – which can raise the risk of cancer.