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News digest – the Autumn Statement and cancer, surgery in older people, broccoli and more

by Nick Peel | Analysis

6 December 2014

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  • The big news this week was the Government’s final Autumn Statement of this Parliament, and its future plans for taxes and spending. We blogged about what the announcements mean for our research and the care that cancer patients receive in the NHS.
  • New data we published shows that older people are less likely to have cancer surgery compared to younger people. The Telegraph and the Mail covered the story, and we had this guest blog post from a surgeon.
  • Our scientists discovered a new twist on the cellular origins of bowel cancer that could help explain why the disease can become resistant to treatment. Here’s the press release.
  • Research from our scientists in London found that people could be putting their lives at risk by dismissing potential warning signs of cancer as less serious symptoms. The Mail and the Guardian were among the many media outlets to cover the study.
  • UK researchers found that for a particular community of women, who are at higher risk of carrying faults in the BRCA genes linked to breast cancer, wider screening to spot these faults could save lives, and money. The BBC has more.
  • We blogged about how the UK Government is missing its own target around making genetic tests available to help doctors decide whether a patient could benefit from a particular targeted drug.
  • A new drug – crizotinib (Xalkori) – may be more beneficial than chemotherapy for some lung cancer patients. Our news report has the details.
  • And following a campaign urging people with a persistent cough to visit their doctor, there has been a surge of lung cancers diagnosed early enough for the patients to receive surgery which could cure them. Here’s the press release and a blog post we wrote about the campaign.
  • “Controversial DNA test comes to the UK” was the BBC’s take on the launch of US-company 23andme’s personal DNA testing kit on home soil. The Guardian was also among the many media outlets to cover the announcement.
  • Could an HIV drug be repurposed to treat prostate cancer? NHS Choices takes a look at some interesting early research featured in a couple of media reports.
  • A couple of reports about an experimental breast cancer vaccine popped up this week. It’s important to emphasise that this is very early stage research to test the safety of this immunotherapy, and larger studies will be needed to see if it can help patients.
  • Monday marked two years since Australia introduced plain, standardised packaging for cigarettes. We called on the UK Government to do the same, without delay.
  • And a team of international scientists discovered a link between smoking and the loss of the Y chromosome in blood cells, which could explain why smoking affects men’s risk of cancer more than women’s. New Scientist covered this.
  • The Guardian had this from a scientist on the potential impact of the Medical Innovation Bill – aka the Saatchi Bill – on how certain treatments and clinics are promoted to patients.
  • Not convinced that cancer has been around for a long time? Read this about a new discovery of an old case of cancer. And for nine other persistent cancer myths, read this blog post.

And finally

  • A “game changer” that can “fight cancer in three ways” were just two of the many misleading and hype-laden statements featured in this article in the Express. The so called “broccoli pill” being promoted is actually a highly purified version of a chemical found in broccoli that has so far been shown to damage cancer cells in the lab. So it’s far too soon to be making claims about it being the “next major step in cancer therapy.”



Broccoli image by Steven Lilley, accessed via Flickr under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 2.0 license