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News digest – pancreatic cancer stats, ‘nanoparticles’, chips and more

by Nick Peel | Analysis

5 July 2014

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  • To highlight that we’re doubling the amount we spend on pancreatic cancer research, we released new statistics explaining that almost 40 per cent of cases could be avoided through maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking (here’s our press release). The story was covered on ITV and elsewhere (although see our ‘and finally’ for more on this).
  • More than a hundred of our Ambassadors travelled to Westminster for our annual Parliament Day, to meet politicians and keep cancer on their agenda. We live-blogged the event.
  • We launched a new lung cancer ‘Centre of Excellence’ that will bring together world leaders in lung cancer to accelerate UK research in this area.
  • And we also announced a new funding scheme to help support scientists in the middle of their careers, plugging a vital gap. Take a look at our press release for the details.
  • US research showed that tiny ‘nanoparticles’ carrying anti-cancer drugs can be targeted to bone tissue to kill cancer cells. Our news story has more.
  • Researchers identified a molecule – called alpha v beta 6 – that could be targeted in ‘HER2 positive’ breast cancer. But the findings have only been shown in mice and cells grown in the lab, so it’s too soon to be talking of “breakthroughs,” and “wonder drugs” as some did.
  • In more breast cancer news, this article in The Conversation explores the links between faults in the BRCA1 gene, oestrogen and breast cancer.
  • A new report from the National Cancer Research Institute outlined how age limits on clinical trials need to be more flexible to allow more teenage cancer patients to access new treatments. Read more in OnMedica and PharmaTimes, or take a look at the press release.
  • The Daily Mail reported on apparent delays in licensing the drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene for preventing breast cancer, something that was approved by NICE a year ago
  • New figures we released show that although nine in 10 Brits are aware of the dangers of too much UV exposure, more than one in three admit to experiencing sunburn on home soil last year (here’s the Express’s take). If you want help predicting today’s sunburn risk for your skin type then our new, free online app can help – read more about the app on our blog.
  • A study looked at breast density – a risk factor for breast cancer – and sugary drink consumption. But the women enrolled in the study had to remember how many sugary drinks they normally had a week, which could affect the reliability of the results – perhaps unsurprising then that the Mail Online and Express couldn’t settle on the number of sugary drinks they suggest women avoid.
  • The discussion around the possible benefits of low doses of aspirin to prevent cancer continued this week with a new study on breast cancer. The Mail Online covered this, but more work needs to be done to confirm these early results, especially as aspirin can have serious side effects (see this blog post for the background on aspirin).
  • Statins were also back in the news this week, again in reference to breast cancer. The Telegraph covered the story, but once again this research is a long way from showing that statins could be used to prevent breast cancer – and has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • The Mirror published ’21 surprising ways’ to reduce cancer risk – many of which were a surprise to us too, as they weren’t based on sound science. For the real deal, check out our website.
  • The Institute of Cancer Research’s blog covered an event about gene patenting and breast cancer, and published a post about their research on understanding drug resistance.
  • The chief executive of Understanding Animal Research wrote a great blog post about how the pharmaceutical industry is working to ‘reduce, refine and replace’ the use of animals in its research.
  • Possible plans to publicly identify GPs with a poor record of spotting cancer symptoms emerged this week. The BBC was among the many media outlets to cover the announcement, and here’s a junior doctor’s take on the controversial plans.
  • The Mail Online covered a new European report on a chemical found in some foods – like well-cooked chips. The report confirms that although the chemical, called acrylamide, has been shown to cause cancer in mice, the evidence still isn’t there for people.

And finally

  • We started this week’s news digest with our pancreatic cancer lifestyle statistics story – something that was generally well covered – with one exception. The Mail Online reported that people living with pancreatic cancer could ‘save themselves’ by making these same lifestyle changes – something very different, misleading and potentially very distressing for patients. We explained why in this blog post.