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News digest – pensioners’ risk of melanoma, mimicking blood vessels, clam cancer and more

by Nick Peel | Analysis

11 April 2015

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  • Our latest statistics show that people over the age of 65 are around seven times more likely to develop malignant melanoma than in the 1970s. The figures were widely reported in the media, highlighting the importance of staying safe in the sun – especially as it might be sunny this weekend.
  • UK researchers – including some of our own – have taken a step towards identifying women at increased risk of breast cancer by analysing their DNA. Here’s the BBC’s take.
  • Important early research from the US showed the potential for creating personalised cancer vaccines for people with melanoma in the future. The Guardian and BBC have more on this, but it’s still early days.
  • US scientists discovered how tumour cells that mimic blood vessels could help breast cancer to spread around the body.
  • A ban on cigarette displays in small shops came into force this week. The BBC, Guardian and Mail Online were among the many media outlets to cover the ban, and we blogged about these laws recently too.
  • Early stage US research with fruit flies found that cancer cells may trigger a process similar to diabetes that causes a wasting condition called cachexia. The Telegraph has more on this.

Number of the week:


The number of pensioners diagnosed with malignant melanoma every year.

  • US scientists are testing an experimental device that uses sound to separate cancer cells from other blood cells to understand more about the disease. The Telegraph and the Mirror covered this, but it’s still very early days, and certainly not a ‘simple blood test’ for cancer.
  • Immunotherapy is attracting so much interest that it has even received its own stock index. Forbes explores the financial side of this promising new type of treatment.
  • US scientists found that the type of fault present in the well-known BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes has an impact on a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancers. If you have a subscription, the Times has more on this, or here’s an article from Fox News.
  • An ovarian cancer drug we helped develop received ‘breakthrough’ status in the US, which could help speed up its development. PharmaTimes covered the announcement.
  • A couple of articles appeared after a US Government-funded research group updated information about lab research on cannabis and cancer. For an up-to-date view on all the research around cannabis, cannabinoids and cancer, read this blog post.

And finally

  • Fascinating research from the US found that a type of cancer that affects clams can spread from one clam to another – something that doesn’t happen with human forms of the cancer. This excellent blog post from science writer Ed Yong lifts the lid on these ‘selfish shellfish’.



Clam image from Flickr, under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0