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News digest – cancer forecasting, citizen science, DNA ‘tags’ and more

by Nick Peel | Analysis

15 November 2013

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  • The world’s largest cancer-linked database launched this week. It will use weather forecasting technology to make huge amounts of information freely available to scientists around the world. The Independent and our news story have more info, and the scientists behind the database provided their forecast for predicting cancer targets in The Conversation.
  • We were proud to see our citizen science project Cell Slider named amongst the Nominet Trust 100 (NT100) – a list of the world’s most inspiring social innovations using digital technology. Cell Slider gives the public the opportunity to analyse real-life cancer samples to help scientists make discoveries sooner. The Independent has more info.
  • New research showed how a ‘DNA tag’ switches off an important gene that usually protects women from womb cancer. Our news story has more info.
  • Our latest research into the appeal of cigarette packaging concluded that teenagers consider slim cigarettes ‘cool’. The Independent covered this and we released a new video highlighting tobacco industry tactics.
  • Our researchers showed how blocking the site where two key cancer molecules link together could offer new opportunities for treating lung cancer. See our press release for details.
  • In breast cancer news, a new study found that a single dose of radiotherapy given alongside surgery for early breast cancer could be just as good as the current, longer term radiotherapy treatment. The Telegraph covered this and our news story has more detail about how this could benefit breast cancer patients in the future.
  • And the Guardian gave a brief account of some early lab research into a potential genetic marker that is lost in more aggressive forms of breast cancer.
  • A new study found that lower-doses of chemotherapy could help reduce side effects in adult Burkitt’s lymphoma patients without compromising their survival. Our news story has the details of why this could be particularly important for patients in parts of Africa and in those who have a weakened immune system.
  • The Scottish Medicines Consortium approved two new cancer drugs this week. The BBC has more info.
  • The Singularity Hub covered new research looking at so-called ‘junk DNA’ and how spotting changes in these once ignored regions could help us understand cancer.
  • New research suggests that predicting how much oxygen reaches a tumour could help decide if additional treatments should be offered alongside radiotherapy. Science Daily covered this and explored how checking a patient’s genetic make-up could help these predictions.
  • We liked this guide about why drug side effects happen, published by Sense About Science.

And finally

  • Reports from the Telegraph and the Mail Online focussed on the potential cancer-protective properties of nuts and broccoli. Although these reports can be interesting and are sometimes based on valid research, it’s important to remember that it’s unlikely a single food will protect you against cancer. Keeping a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise is a much better way of reducing your risk of several types of cancer.