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News digest – Cancer Drugs Fund, oxygen and lung cancer, breast cancer gene and more

by Nick Peel | Analysis

17 January 2015

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Cancer drugs
  • The big news this week was the removal of 25 drug treatments from NHS England’s controversial Cancer Drugs Fund. This attracted a huge amount of media attention, and our chief clinician gave his thoughts in this guest blog post.
  • And the complexity and uncertainty surrounding the Fund is now such that some companies have decided not to submit their drugs, and instead wait for formal approval from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellent (NICE), as Pharma Times reports.
  • NHS England announced a new Cancer Strategy Taskforce, independently chaired by our chief executive Harpal Kumar. The group will plot how the country can best tackle the challenges that cancer will bring over the next five years. The BBC, Mail Online and the Telegraph were among the many media outlets to cover the announcement, and Harpal wrote this blog post about his new role.
  • UK scientists found that an overactive gene could be linked to an aggressive type of breast cancer. We covered the research, as did the Telegraph (with a slightly hyped twist).
  • Our scientists in Bradford have created a modified version of a brain cancer drug (that a different team of our scientists originally helped develop), which could help overcome resistance to treatment. Here’s our press release for the details, and we dug deeper in this blog post.
  • New NHS figures for England show that, despite improvements, there are still significant differences in outcomes for cancer patients when it comes to age and socio-economic backgroundMail Online also covered the report.
  • Measuring the rate at which smokers break down nicotine could help predict how well certain quitting methods would work for them, according to US scientists. Here’s the BBC’s take on the findings.
  • A Europe-wide study highlighted the importance of being physically active for overall health – it can reduce the risk of many diseases, including cancer. The findings attracted a lot of media attention – here are the reports from the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph and the Mail Online, and NHS Choices had this in-depth article on the research.
  • There needs to be more research on issues facing cancer survivors, said experts in the wake of findings that one in three US cancer survivors have unmet physical, psychological and social needs decades after their treatment finished.
  • Early-stage US research showed that cholesterol-lowering statins can stop certain lab-grown cancer cells from multiplying. The Mail Online covered the findings, but the research is still at a very early stage and researchers stress that people shouldn’t start taking statins as an anti-cancer drug.
  • New predictions published by University College London researchers outlined the goal that cancer deaths in people under 80 will be eliminated by 2050 – an ambitious goal indeed.
  • NICE announced its backing of a new set of clinical guidelines for a rare form of eye cancer.
  • Intriguing statistical analysis suggested a possible role for vitamin D in preventing bowel cancer, although the findings need confirming in larger studies.

And finally

  • “Want to avoid lung cancer? Then live up a MOUNTAIN” shouts the Mirror following a US study looking at altitude and lung cancer. Read this blog post for why conclusions that ‘oxygen causes lung cancer’ can’t be backed up by this study.