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News digest – prostate cancer test, nanofibre tracks, “pill to stop cancer spread” and more

by Nick Peel | Analysis

22 February 2014

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  • UK researchers identified a panel of 14 genetic changes that could be used to identify men at high-risk of developing more aggressive forms of prostate cancer. The Guardian and The Telegraph were among the many media outlets to cover the findings.
  • Early stage research from the US showed that specialised ‘nanofibres’ can form tiny tracks that draw brain cancer cells away from tumours in rats, making them easier to target. The BBC has more info.
  • Researchers published results from a new clinical trial testing whether patients’ own genetically reprogrammed immune cells can treat an advanced form of leukaemia. It’s a small study, but builds on promising previous work. See our news story for more info.
  • NHS choices took an in-depth look at new figures showing that the number of men being diagnosed with penile cancer in England has increased by 20 per cent between 1979 and 2009.
  • A new type of scan has been developed that could cut the amount of potentially harmful radiation young cancer patients are exposed to. Radiation can lead to secondary tumours later in life, so finding new ways to avoid unnecessary exposure is really important. Our news story has more.
  • This interesting article from The Telegraph explores an area of research called epigenetics, which focuses on the chemical modification of genes that control how and when they work. Epigenetics could be used to monitor how cells and tissues age, potentially providing key insights into how cancer develops.
  • Claims that more needs to be done to monitor exposure to chemicals found in food and drink packaging were dubbed “alarmist” by scientists. As these balanced pieces from the BBC and The Guardian point out, the potential cancer risk linked to these types of low level exposures does not have sufficient scientific evidence to back them up. We’ve got more info about plastics and cancer risk on our website.

And finally

  • Premature claims of a ‘pill’ that can stop cancer from spreading appeared in several media reports this week. The coverage focussed on some fascinating early research looking to turn the power of the immune system on cancer, but it’s far too soon to be claiming that a ‘pill’ is on the horizon. We took an in-depth look at the research in this blog post.