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News digest – Chantler review on standard packs, revolutionary bowel cancer trial, laser popped ‘nanoballoons’ and more

by Nick Peel | Analysis

5 April 2014

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  • This week’s big news was the release of Sir Cyril Chantler’s independent review on the evidence for standardised cigarette packaging. Following support for the review the Government will now push on with the introduction of plain packs. The BBC were among the many media outlets to cover the announcement and we outlined the key points from the review and what comes next in this blog post.
  • We launched our revolutionary FOCUS4 clinical trial for advanced bowel cancer that offers targeted treatments to different groups of patients based on combinations of ‘biomarkers’ found in their tumour. See our press release for more details.
  • New Scientist covered a review of breast screening in the US which, like the recent UK Independent Breast Screening Review, tried to estimate how many lives are saved by breast screening, compared to the number of women who are diagnosed with a cancer that would never have harmed them. Clear and balanced information, such as the new leaflet sent out with screening invitations, can help women decide whether to take up screening or not.
  • And the Telegraph covered an editorial in the British Medical Journal questioning the value of regular breast self-examination. We advise women to be breast aware – know what’s normal for you, so it’s easier to notice changes. The same goes for men knowing their testicles. You can read more on our Spot Cancer Early pages.
  • We held our first conference to tackle the challenges of ‘big data’ in research. See our press release for more info.
  • The benefits of a healthy diet full of fruit and vegetables was reinforced by research showing that the more fruit and veg your diet contains, the lower your risk of dying from any cause, including cancer. The BBC and the Mail Online were among the many media outlets to cover the research and NHS Choices took and in depth look at the findings.
  • New research showed that poor oral health and irregular dental checks could increase the chance of developing mouth and throat cancers. The BBC covered this, but the study is too small to confirm whether excessive use of mouthwash also increases the risk as some media outlets are reporting. The best advice for reducing the risk of mouth and throat cancers is to stop smoking, cut down on alcohol and visit your dentist for regular checkups.
  • The Mail Online covered new research highlighting the potential benefits of aspirin for some bowel cancer patients. But bigger studies are needed to work out what the correct dose might be for these patients and how long to take it for. It’s important to stress that aspirin can cause serious side effects and any patients thinking of taking it should speak to their doctor first.
  • UK scientists discovered that faults in a gene called POT1 could point towards people at greater risk of developing malignant melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer – due to their family history. The BBC has more info.
  • And the Telegraph covered an interesting Swedish study suggesting men who live alone are at higher risk of dying from malignant melanoma. As this NHS Choices article points out, single men being diagnosed later may help to explain the finding – so it’s a good idea for everyone to keep an eye on their skin and tell their GP if they notice any changes to a mole or normal patch of skin. Don’t forget about the bits that are harder to see – a mirror or a friend can help.
  • New research from Wales revealed the origins of different types of breast cancer in mice and provides important clues about what drives diversity in the disease. The BBC and our news story have more details.
  • A £4.5 million injection of funding from the Government is being used to streamline the process of approving clinical trials and research in the NHS. PharmaTimes covered this and we explored what’s changing in this blog post.

And finally

  • With mentions of ‘Lasers’ and ‘nanoballoons that pop’ this fascinating early stage research that could provide new ways to deliver anti-cancer drugs to tumours caught our eye. It’s still very early stages, but finding new ways to deliver drugs directly to cancer cells – saving normal cells from potential damage – is a fascinating area of research and one to keep an eye on.