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News digest – ovarian cancer blood test, tackling drug resistance, a supercomputer called Watson and more

by Nick Peel | Analysis

9 May 2015

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  • Our scientists announced preliminary results from a large trial for a blood test that could help spot ovarian cancer. But despite some overexcited headlines, routine screening is still some way off – as we explain in this blog post.
  • New skin cancer drugs our scientists are involved with developing are showing promise as a very early stage clinical trial launches. HealthCanal has more on how the drugs could help target melanomas that have become resistant to other treatments.
  • A survey found that more than three-quarters of Britons are unaware of the signs of skin cancer. The BBC and the Guardian have more.
  • UK researchers found that living a healthy lifestyle before diagnosis could improve a person’s chances of surviving bowel cancer.
  • And this article from the Mail Online offered some tips for how people can make some healthy lifestyle choices. We also have information about this on our website.

Number of the week:


The CA125 protein is being studied by our scientists as a potential blood test for ovarian cancer.

  • This article on the Huffington Post blog explored the evidence around extending the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme in the UK.
  • Worrying figures from the World Health Organisation predict that just under three in four men (74 per cent) and two thirds of women (64 per cent) in the UK will be overweight by 2030. The Guardian and the Telegraph were among the many media outlets to cover the new predictions.
  • A supercomputer called Watson (made by the company IBM) could be set to help US and Canadian doctors speed up decisions around cancer care. The BBC has more.
  • This article from Quartz looks at why cancer statistics may vary between the UK and the US.
  • Cancer drugs are expensive, as highlighted by a new report showing the global spend on treatments hit $100bn (about £65bn) last year. The Wall Street Journal has more on this.
  • And with more of a focus on the US healthcare system, this article from Forbes looks at why cancer drugs have such high price tags.
  • Early stage Welsh research attracted some slightly overhyped headlines. The scientists have found a compound that could target cancer cells in the lab – so it’s still very early days.
  • The Guardian covered interesting early stage research showing that a patient’s tumour cells could be grown as microscopic ‘organoids’ that mimic how the tumour may respond to drugs. But the findings are a long way off the ‘living biobank’ reported in the media that could help drug development in the future.
  • Early stage US research found that men who took statins while receiving hormone treatment for advanced prostate cancer experienced a longer period of time before their disease progressed than men who didn’t take the cholesterol-lowering drugs. The Telegraph has more on this, but a lot more research will be needed before we can be sure if the drugs have any benefit for men.
  • Our scientists won a couple of awards this week. Professor Charles Swanton picked up the Biochemical Society’s 2016 GlaxoSmithKline award for his work on understanding how cancers evolve. And Professor Doug Altman received the 2015 lifetime achievement award from The BMJ for his huge contribution to statistics.
  • The Institute of Cancer Research paid tribute to Professor Alan Hall who sadly passed away this week. He worked at the institute for over 10 years and was part of the team responsible for discovering one of the most important cancer-causing proteins there is. We blogged about their discovery recently.

And finally

  • This moving TV adaption of Lisa Lynch’s book, The C-Word, gave a powerful inside view of the experience of cancer. It’s available for another few weeks on the BBC iPlayer and is well worth a watch.



Computer from Flickr, under CC BY 2.0