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News digest – breast cancer conference, political announcements, heavy metal ‘blood test’ and more

by Henry Scowcroft | Analysis

13 December 2014

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There’s a big breast cancer conference happening in the US – the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium – and several stories this week stem from announcements there:

  • A large Cancer Research UK-funded trial looking at the protective effects of tamoxifen for women at high risk of breast cancer showed that taking the drug for five years protects against the disease for at least twenty. Our news story has more, and the story made the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph among others
  • Conventional x-ray mammography may miss tumours in women with denser breasts, US researchers found. They say ultrasound might be the answer; the Daily Mail has the story.
  • There was widespread coverage of research on the protective effects of breastfeeding on breast cancer. The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and the Daily Mail all had the story, as did ITV.  Here’s our page about reducing breast cancer risk.
  • And Forbes took a critical look at data from a trial of a new type of immunotherapy for ‘triple negative’ breast cancer

Away from the conference, there were several other notable stories – here’s the pick of the bunch:

  • At the Britain Against Cancer conference, the political parties started to set out their stall in advance of the next General Election. The BBC looked at Labour’s announcement of a ‘cancer therapy fund’ and we blogged from the conference too.
  • We also discussed a report – released at the conference – looking at issues facing older people with cancer.
  • The Mail on Sunday looked at how researchers at University College London are trying to improve prostate surgery with a ‘3D tracker’
  • Researchers at our London Research Institute took a step forward in understanding how cancer cells manage to multiply even when their DNA gets tangled – something that normal cells can’t do. Here’s our blog post, and check out the accompanying video too.
  • US researchers studying a ‘molecular Sherpa’ that helps cells survive extreme conditions have suggested that drugs that target this process might prevent tamoxifen resistance from developing in breast cancer.
  • Our researchers in Manchester and London are developing a new generation of targeted melanoma drugs.
  • And our researchers in Southampton have discovered that antibodies’ three-dimensional shape affects their properties as effective immunotherapies. Again, we had the story, and the Daily Express covered it too.
  • A new analysis in the BMJ argued that GPs aren’t to blame for rates of late diagnosis – we covered the story on our news feed, as did HealthCanal.
  • A new-generation cervical cancer vaccine – which targets more cancer-causing strains of the  HPV virus than the current vaccine – was approved for use in the US, according to ScienceWorldReport.
  • One of our researchers wrote this guest post on the BioMed Central blog network, about his team’s research on how cancer cells use energy to grow.
  • There’s an app for that! A new BlackBerry app was launched that allows researchers to browse cancer genome data on the go, Reuters reported.

And finally….

Research published in the BMJ this week suggested that overhyped science reporting isn’t always journalists’ fault: sometimes the underlying press release- and even the researchers themselves – are to blame for over-the-top headlines. This was shown the same day, with a press release from Oxford University that described a ‘simple blood test’ to detect breast cancer. Inevitably, certain sections of the media (e.g. this one) repeated the claim. Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s blog team unpicked the story (spoiler: it’s NOT a ‘simple blood test’).