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News digest – NHS cancer services struggling, 3D-printed tumour, burnt toast and more

by Nick Peel | Analysis

13 September 2014

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  • NHS cancer services in England are at tipping point and will struggle to cope without further investment, according to a report we commissioned that was released this week. The Guardian and the BBC were among the many media outlets to cover the findings, and we caught up with our chief clinician, Professor Peter Johnson, who shared his thoughts in this blog post.
  • We teamed up with the journal Nature, supporting their publication of a series of articles on the big issues affecting lung cancer worldwide. Here’s a link to the articles, and we published this summary of what’s featured.
  • And the BBC covered one of the topics raised in the Nature article series – a call for lung cancer screening in the UK.
  • The Mail Online featured this interesting animated map of the US showing the fall in cigarette sales across the country over the last 40 years.
  • Following her Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science, Dr Mary-Claire King – who discovered the BRCA1 geneexplores the idea of more widespread screening for these breast cancer risk genes. The New York Times has more.
  • This amazing article from 3Dprint tells the story of a man who had two replicas of his Hodgkin’s lymphoma tumour 3D-printed (pre and post treatment), and how he used the models as a teaching aid in the University where he works.
  • This blog post from the New York Times explores how researchers are working with dogs to detect the smelly chemicals given off by cancer cells that may one day be used to develop ‘electronic noses’ to detect and diagnose different types of cancer.
  • BioMed Central’s blog looked at a promising experimental drug designed to target a tumour’s blood vessels.
  • The Guardian covered new research looking to monitor how much UV light pilots are exposed to, which is important in helping us understand more about any links to health risks including skin and eye cancers.
  • A European research team found that subtle genetic changes could be detected in vapour given off by cells mimicking the early stages of lung cancer – suggesting this could one day be used to develop a breath test for the disease. The BBC and the Mirror covered this, just ignore the overhyped headlines from both sources.
  • We published 10 things you need to know about staying safe in the sun. In GIFs. On Buzzfeed.
  • This blog post from Discover magazine explores our Citizen Science work, enrolling the power of the public to help accelerate research by playing smartphone games carrying scientific data.
  • The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published new recommendations for a drug called nab-paclitaxel (aka Abraxane), saying ‘no’ to using the drug to treat advanced pancreatic cancer. PharmaTimes and the Telegraph have more on the decision.
  • The Mail Online gives a typically bombastic slant to a genuine concern – getting enough older people onto clinical trials.
  • New Scientist delve into the fascinating world of Gibbon genetics, highlighting some interesting parallels with the scrambled DNA landscape found in cancer cells.

And finally

  • It’s highly unlikely that “EU health chiefs” are saying “toast gives you cancer”despite what the Mail Online says. The article focuses on a chemical called acrylamide – which can form in burnt toast – and has been shown to cause cancer in mice. But the important caveat that’s missing is that the doses used in these studies were in huge excess of what might be found in food, suggesting it’s unlikely burnt toast will cause cancer.