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News digest – aspirin boost for immunotherapy, wasp venom, long babies and…what’s that smell?

by Nick Peel | Analysis

5 September 2015

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  • Fascinating research from our scientists in London revealed that aspirin might help boost the effectiveness of certain immunotherapy drugs. The Express had this excellent article, here’s the BBC and Mail Online’s take, and we blogged about the findings.
  • Research on wasp venom created a bit of a buzz this week as Brazilian scientists found more about how a purified venom toxin could kill cancer cells in the lab. Here’s what the BBC had to say, but it’s still early days.
  • Adding a diabetes drug to standard treatment for a rare type of blood cancer could help keep the disease at bay for longer, according to a small early stage trial. The BBC has more on this.
  • An experimental treatment that re-programmes leukaemia patients’ own immune cells to attack the disease showed promising early results from a small US clinical trial. The Verge covered this, but there’s a lot more work to do to understand who might benefit from the treatment and what the side effects might be.
  • A survey found that a quarter of women questioned would be uncomfortable going to their doctor about symptoms linked with gynaecological cancers. The Guardian and Mail Online covered this.

Number of the week:


The number of signatures we are aiming for as part of our Test Cancer Sooner campaign – add your name here.

  • UK scientists proposed a way that saturated fats might cause inflammation that damages cells and tissues, according to this report in the Express.
  • Reuters ran this slightly misleading story on research looking at whether mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, reflect UV light, potentially exposing them to harmful rays. But the study didn’t involve any people, and as the article itself points out, the fact that electronic devices reflect light might make people more likely to spend time in the shade when using them – so it’s a stretch to make any links with increased cancer risk.
  • A leukaemia charity launched an awareness campaign for GPs to help them spot the signs of blood cancer earlier. The Mirror has more on this.
  • The UCL Health Behaviour Research Centre team blogged about the language people use when talking about cancer.
  • The Mail Online covered research showing that babies who were ‘longer’ at birth had an increased risk of breast cancer when they were adults. It’s an interesting study, but we’ve known for some time that height may be in some way linked to cancer risk and whether it’s a factor in itself or a marker for other things isn’t clear yet.
  • A survey by the children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent found that some GPs are concerned that they might be missing the signs of cancer in children. The Mirror has more.

And finally

  • What’s that smell? This Mail Online report claiming that air fresheners and scented candles might cause cancer is misleading since the story isn’t based on evidence that these items actually cause cancer in humans.