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News digest – cancer Taskforce, bone drugs for breast cancer, Tasmanian Devils and…coffee pot rice?

by Nick Peel | Analysis

25 July 2015

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Tasmanian devil sits on grass
Tasmanian Devil.
  • For the last six months, a team of cancer experts has been working out where NHS cancer services should be heading over the next five years – and this week they released their findings. The BBC, Mail Online and the Independent covered the news, and our chief executive – who chaired the Independent Cancer Taskforce – blogged about the report.
  • We part-funded a large data analysis study that found that drugs used to treat a bone condition called osteoporosis could prevent 1000 breast cancer deaths a year. Here’s the BBC’s take on the findings.
  • Our scientists are developing a ‘sponge-on-a-string’ test that could help spot oesophageal cancer earlier. New findings from this project appeared in the Daily Telegraph and Mail Online this week. We’ve blogged about the team’s research before, and you can watch them explaining how the test works in this video.
  • Our researchers at the UCL Health Behaviour Research Centre blogged about their latest findings on why women from ethnic minority backgrounds appear less likely to attend cervical cancer screening.
  • This moving article from The New York Times explores how a cancer diagnosis can affect the whole family.
  • New Scientist looked at the latest developments in a campaign to ensure all clinical trial data is published.
  • The BBC reported that: “Irregular sleeping patterns have been ‘unequivocally’ shown to lead to cancer”…in mice. So there’s still some work to be done to see if these lab-based findings also happen in people – as articles from NHS Choices and Wired point out.
  • US scientists have compiled a database of genetic faults and linked these with data on patient survival. The Mail Online covered the study, which could help researchers understand how gene faults shared across different cancers may impact on survival figures.
  • Newsweek published a series of interesting articles on cancer this week – read them here.

Number of the week:


The number of breast cancer deaths among postmenopausal patients that could be prevented if women were offered a type of bone-strengthening treatment.

  • A short course of antibiotic treatment has the potential to reduce the risk of stomach cancer linked to infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria, according to a new analysis. Forbes covered this.
  • “Are chemicals in cosmetics and plastics putting us at risk?” asks the Express. Not based on the findings of the research the article focuses on, which involved cells grown in a lab. The study does, however, raise some important questions about how everyday chemicals in the environment might affect our health, but unfortunately doesn’t give us the answers.
  • For the first time, fewer than one in five secondary school pupils in England have ever tried smoking. And more 11-15 year olds tried e-cigarettes than tobacco cigarettes last year in England, according to official figures. The BBC and Mail Online have more on this.
  • A group of medical professionals wrote to the government to ask about future plans for the Be Clear on Cancer campaign on lung cancer awareness. The Independent had the story.
  • The New York Times explored new research on the pros and cons of offering chemotherapy to patients with incurable cancer.
  • The Daily Telegraph and Mail Online questioned the safety of rice this week. So do you really need to steam it in a coffee pot? We doubt it.
  • Rowena Kincaid, who has incurable breast cancer, has shared her experiences in a BBC Wales documentary that aired this week. She also wrote this guest blog post for us about what it was like making the film, and about the importance of research.
  • Health News Review had this article covering the backlash to a recent US cancer awareness campaign following the use of ‘war’ metaphors – something we’ve seen in the UK before.
  • We also spotted this fascinating article in Nature, about the latest research on molecules called RNAs, and how they’re involved in how our cells behave.

And finally

  • It’s a sad tale, but the Tasmanian Devil is under threat from a type of facial tumour that can spread from one Devil to another when they nip at each other during sex. The Daily Express takes a look at how UK scientists are trying to tackle the problem.