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News digest – £100m challenges, breakthrough blood tests, bowel cancer subtypes and… a miracle drug?

by Misha Gajewski | Analysis

17 October 2015

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  • We started off the week with a bang, announcing a massive £100 million ‘Grand Challenge’ for scientists from around the world to find new ways to beat cancer. Nature, Science and the BBC covered this. To find out more about the challenges, or how to apply, check out our blog post and press release.
  • A study we part-funded found that deaths are higher in cancer patients whose GPs do not regularly refer patients for urgent tests for suspected cancer. The Guardian and the Mail Online, among others, covered this and here’s our press release.
  • Bowel cancer is not one but four different types of cancer, each with a different prognosis, according to an international team of researchers. The BBC and Daily Mail have more on this, and NHS Choices took a detailed look too.

Number of the week:


The amount of UK pounds we’re offering researchers to come up with an innovative way to beat cancer via our Grand Challenge.

  • The BBC and the Daily Mirror reported that a group of MPs has recommended that the tax on tobacco increases from two to five per cent, in order to encourage more smokers to quit. Increasing tobacco taxes is one of the most effective tobacco control measures, leading to lower uptake of smoking and increased quit rates.
  • Although some the headlines were a bit misleading, our scientists moved a step closer to a DNA-based blood test that could help match cancer patients to the right treatment for their disease, and track how it’s responding to treatment. The Telegraph and the Mail Online covered this and here’s our press release.
  • But if we’re to have a contest for misleading headlines, this week’s winner goes to the Daily Express for “New miracle drug to cure nine in ten cancers.” The other papers that covered the story also had slight variations on this headline. But since it’s obviously not the case that there is a new miracle drug, we wrote a blog post to explain what the research was actually saying. Check it out here.
  • The Guardian looked at two new studies into the quality of research involving animals.
  • MPs highlighted that that blood clots contribute to the death of 4,000 cancer patients each year. They hope by raising awareness of this issue, more hospitals will put systems in place to protect patients whose treatment raises the risk of clots. The Guardian has more.
  • A new report highlighted the regional differences in the proportion of women who smoke during pregnancy. The BBC covered this.
  • Antioxidants – and their effect on cancer cells continued to be in the news this week. In this blog post we spoke to one of our researchers, whose recent work suggested that, at least in mice, antioxidant supplements seem to encourage melanoma cells to spread.
  • ‘How much do you know about cancer research?’ asked BioMed Central’s On Biology blog.
  • And its ‘On Medicine’ blog had an in-depth Q&A with a palliative care researcher.
  • Reuters had an interesting story about a US study using computerised training to help improve childhood cancer survivors’ memories.
  • The BBC examines the “disjointed” and “unsustainable” way the NHS approves and funds cancer drugs.

And finally…

  • In this interesting twist, tamoxifen – one of the most widely prescribed breast cancer drugs – might have extra powers. According to a new study, as well as slowing the growth of breast cancer cells, it also seems to boost the activity of a certain type of immune cell (although it’s going a bit far to say it could ‘wipe out MRSA’, as the Mirror did here).