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News digest – five types of prostate cancer, red wine and resveratrol, GP referrals, and… microscopic lasers?

by Arya Mehta | Analysis

1 August 2015

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  • Our researchers in Cambridge found that prostate cancer can be split into five distinct ‘types’ based on a unique genetic signature. The Independent, Mail Online and BBC covered this, and we blogged about what the findings could mean for patients.
  • If it takes more than three trips to the GP to be referred for cancer tests, patients are more likely to be dissatisfied with their overall care, according to our researchers. The Daily Telegraph, Mail Online and Mirror covered this one (here’s our press release).
  • “Single injection could improve womens’ chances of SURVIVING recurrent ovarian cancer” claims the Express. Not quite – this work was done with mice and cells grow in a lab, so there’s a long way to go before this could become something to be tested in a clinical trial.
  • Scientists say they have made a ‘breakthrough’ development using a gene-editing technology called CRISPR, which could help precisely modify genes inside cells – something that could open up new avenues for cancer research. The Independent has more on this.
  • The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) updated its guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of melanoma. The BBC has the details.
  • And NICE also released new draft guidance on how all patients, not just those affected by cancer, are cared for at the end of their lives. The BBC also covered this.
  • Should scientists be required to explain their research to the public? The Daily Telegraph explores.
  • US scientists have developed a sci-fi-sounding technique to create microscopic lasers inside cells. It’s still very early days for this, but they believe it may help improve how scientists take pictures of cancer cells. Popular Science and Discover Magazine have more on this.
  • The Mail Online ran a misleading report on new research looking at how healthy behaviour when we’re younger might impact on our risk of cancer in later life. The study wasn’t strong enough to back up the headline: “Teenagers who exercise for just 15 minutes a day slash their risk of cancer later in life by 20%”.

Number of the week:


The number of distinct types of prostate cancer our scientists uncovered this week.

  • UK scientists will test out a new radiotherapy machine with a built-in MRI scanner, to see if it can make treatment more precise. The Daily Express has the details on the studies being proposed, and the Institute of Cancer Research also blogged about the announcement.
  • Black men in England have double the risk of being both diagnosed with, and dying from, prostate cancer at some point in their lives, compared with white men. Here’s the Guardian and Mail Online’s take on the study.
  • A purified chemical from seaweed “stood up well to heat and light”, according to a study featured in this Mail Online article implying this could make sunscreen better. But the key question is how well it could work at preventing sunburn and reducing harmful exposure to sunlight in people. (But no sunscreen can provide 100 per cent protection, so it’s best to enjoy the sun safely). More tips and advice here.
  • This interesting article from The New York Times looks at how rogue cells that in many cases would be defined as ‘cancer’ can affect organisms across the natural world.
  • Traces of DNA from the human papillomavirus found in oral rinses could lead to a way to track how throat cancer responds to treatment. Our news report has the details.
  • Researchers in Southampton have developed an experimental molecule that can affect the way cells use energy. The Mail Online has more on this early research, which could one day lead to new drugs.
  • ‘Breaking Bad’ came to life this week, as a group mirroring the plotline for the popular TV series were jailed. The BBC has the story.
  • Early research showed that an arthritis drug could be repurposed as a potential treatment for some blood cancers. Oncology Nurse Advisor has more on this.
  • The American Cancer Society’s Dr Len took a fascinating look at how, despite huge advances in genetics, it’s still really important to know your family history.
  • The Medical Research Council blogged about its new £16m joint funding for ‘molecular pathology nodes’ (centres of expertise across different sectors and disciplines) – accelerating new types of test into the NHS.
  • Health News Review took a critical look at promises by eminent scientists to ‘cure cancer within a decade’ – something also discussed in a blog post on Forbes.

And finally

  • “Could one glass of red wine a day keep bowel cancer at bay?” ask the Mail Online. ‘No’ is the answer. This headline came from a new study by our scientists in Leicester who found that a chemical found in red grapes – called resveratrol – may be good in small doses to prevent bowel cancer in mice. Our blog post has all the information you need (with a large glass of caveats).