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News digest – the contraceptive pill, 100K genomes, polystyrene cups and more

by Sarah Wells | Analysis

2 August 2014

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  • A new study looking at the contraceptive pill and breast cancer risk garnered a lot of headlines on Friday. But the study had some shortcomings (which we discussed in this blog post), and women shouldn’t stop taking the Pill on the basis of this study.
  • In more big news, the NHS will be inviting tens of thousands of patients to give DNA samples for the 100K Genome Project, which aims to map the DNA of 100,000 people with cancer or rare diseases. Read more about the announcement in the Guardian, BBC and the Telegraph.
  • Our researchers at Barts Cancer Institute discovered a mechanism through which blood vessels might protect cancer cells from chemotherapy and radiation. Read more about how it could make these treatments more effective in the Express or in our press release.
  • While our scientists in Manchester discovered a protein that may help doctors decide which bladder cancer patients could benefit from a radiotherapy-boosting treatment. Here’s the press release for more info.
  • A group of experts called for an update to the vaccination programme against the human papillomavirus (HPV) – which causes certain types of cancer – suggesting it should be offered to boys as well as girls. The Guardian and our news story have more details.
  • A fascinating new US study found that a tumour’s growth may be driven by only a small subset of its cells. Take a look at our news story for the details.
  • German scientists discovered that rogue brain tumour cells can escape into patients’ blood, which could help diagnose and monitor the disease better. Here’s our news story on the research.
  • And Nature had this excellent article on how tumour DNA in blood samples could be used to help guide treatment.
  • New Scientist covered a US study on how a key protein that protects our cells from damage to DNA – called p53 – may have an ‘evil twin’ that may trigger cancer and help it spread.
  • A data privacy plan from the European Union could end up making cancer research very difficult, as we point out in this news story. The PharmaTimes also covered it.
  • New stats suggest that parents may be prioritising their children’s protection from skin cancer over their own. The Mail Online and the Telegraph covered our press release.
  • Following reports in the Metro that e-cigarettes ‘may cause lung cancer just like normal cigarettes’, BBC News and the Mail Online wrote that they may actually be less harmful. This uncertainty is just another example of how we need more long-term research on e-cigarettes before claiming any certainties on their safety.
  • Two early diagnosis stories made the news this week. The BBC and the Telegraph covered tentative, early steps towards a blood test that could detect cancer at an earlier stage. And the Express had this on some new research involving lasers. Early diagnosis is vital for improving the chances of survival from cancer, but it’s still very early days for both these studies.
  • Scientists studying a rare childhood muscle cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma found that the disease may be caused by a faulty protein making muscle stem cells grow out of control. MedicaXpress has more.
  • We wrote about new proposals to reform the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). For a simple animated breakdown of what the ‘NICE threshold’ is watch this video from the University of York.
  • An advert from Japan Tobacco International, suggesting that there’s ‘no solid evidence that plain packaging can help reduce smoking rates’, was judged ‘misleading’ and can no longer be used in its current form, thanks to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). See our press release for details.

And finally

  • ‘Do foam cups contain cancer-causing chemicals?’ The Mail Online asks. The answer is a very tentative ‘maybe’, but with huge helpings of caveats which mean there’s no need to worry about drinking from them. Read the article, which does a good job of avoiding the ‘cups cause cancer’ style stories we see so often.