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News digest – no to prostate cancer drug, obesity, salt injections and more

by Nick Peel | Analysis

16 August 2014

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  • Following last week’s breast cancer drug controversy, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has again taken the decision not to approve a cancer drug – this time abiraterone (Zytiga) for men who haven’t yet had chemotherapy for prostate cancer (the drug is available after chemotherapy). We blogged about our disappointment, while most of the media covered the story – here’s the Telegraph and the Independent’s take.
  • In the wake of last week’s decision, which was a ‘no’ for breast cancer drug trastuzumab emtansine (also known as Kadcyla), the BBC had this article on the two sides of this pricing battle, and the Guardian had this comment piece on the challenge of tackling rising cancer drug prices.
  • And Forbes gave this eye-opening example of the pricing of two very similar lung cancer drugs – it has a bit of a US angle, but raises some important points.
  • The link between obesity and cancer hit the headlines this week as a landmark study – the most comprehensive to date – tracked how body mass index (BMI) affected the risk of 22 of the most common types of cancer. The BBC, Mail Online and the Guardian were among the many media outlets to cover the research, and we also took an in-depth look at the findings in this blog post.
  • We launched two new funding schemes for scientists that will help researchers explore emerging areas of huge importance for our understanding of cancer. Our press release has details of the first scheme and this blog post explores the potential these new approaches bring.
  • We also announced a £6m initiative to prevent more cancersmore here.
  • UK researchers found that microscopic pieces of gold carrying an anti-cancer drug could kill cancer cells in the lab. The Mail Online, BBC and the Independent picked up on this latest development in the field of ‘nanoparticles’, but the research is still in its very early stages.
  • And the Guardian took a wider look at the potential of nanoparticles for treating cancer in the future.
  • A new study confirmed the potential benefit of a bowel cancer screening tool called flexible sigmoidoscopy (or Bowel Scope). The Mail Online has more and we covered the research on our news feed.
  • UK scientists tracked how tobacco industry language has permeated throughout recent EU tobacco control legislation – something that’s very concerning to us. Read more in our news story.
  • And in an almost entirely predictable move, the tobacco industry is threatening to sue the Government over its proposed standard packs legislation, according to the BBC. They’re trying this in Australia and have already lost one case.
  • Headlines claiming that ‘Salt injections kill cancer cells’ gave a misleading take on some interesting research on how changes in salt levels inside cells can cause them to commit suicide. NHS Choices set the record straight, making it clear that there is no new treatment for cancer using salt.
  • The Telegraph covered US research presented at a scientific conference looking to harness the toxic properties of chemicals found in bee, snake or scorpion venom. But the research is currently at a very early stage and has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal so predicting that human trials are ‘three years away’ is a little misleading.
  • A study looking at breast cancer in postmenopausal teachers found that increased exercise – like walking – reduced the risk of the disease. The Mail Online, the Independent and the Telegraph covered the research, but as this NHS Choices article points out there are some important limitations to this study.
  • An e-cigarette advert carrying the slogan ‘Love Your Lungs’ was banned following a decision that the poster implied there was evidence that the product wasn’t harmful. The Mail Online has more.

And finally

  • We see a regular stream of reports on how ‘x’ product contains ‘y’ cancer-causing chemical, but two articles this week adding the popular plastic loom bands to this list had a real touch of scaremongering about them. If you’re worried about media stories on cancer-causing chemicals then you should read this page.