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News digest – HRT, rising mouth cancer rates, NHS targets missed and… farts?

by Nick Peel | Analysis

14 November 2015

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  • The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued new advice on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) this week. The BBC covered the story, reiterating the need for women to have clear, evidence-based information on the risks and benefits to help them decide whether to use HRT or not – something we also think is incredibly important. Our website has more on the links between HRT and cancer.
  • Late last week, you probably spotted a high-profile story about a child with leukaemia who’d responded exceptionally well to a new cutting-edge cancer treatment. The NHS Choices website took a measured look at the story here, and you should keep your eyes peeled for a feature on this blog soon, where we’ll be looking at the bigger picture of this exciting new type of cancer immunotherapy.
  • Mouth cancer rates are rising, according to statistics we released to coincide with Mouth Cancer Awareness Month. Here’s the story on, here’s our press release and we blogged about what might be behind the increase in cases.
  • Vodaphone has developed a new mobile app to help crunch big cancer data while you sleep. Wired has the story.
  • New figures from the Office for National Statistics confirmed that cancer remains the biggest killer in England and Wales. The Mirror covered the new figures.

Number of the week


The number of cancer patients in England waiting longer than 62 days for treatment, after being urgently referred by their GP (62 days is the target set by NHS England).

  • UK scientists found two molecular ‘clocks’ inside our cells that tick with genetic damage as cells age. New Scientist has the details on how this ticking process could be used to understand how cells become cancerous.
  • NHS England reported another worrying quarter of missed targets for patients waiting to start treatment. And when we analysed the data further, an even more worrying trend emerged – find out more in this blog post.
  • A new test that incorporates blood protein levels, DNA, a prostate examination and facts about a man’s background could more accurately predict which men need a prostate biopsyMail Online covered this intriguing finding.
  • Canadian scientists successfully delivered a cancer drug through a barrier that separates the bloodstream from the brain. The BBC covered this, but the approach has only been tested in one brain tumour patient, and further safety testing will be needed before this can be trialled in more patients.
  • “Have scientists finally found a cancer cure?” asks the Daily Express. Not based on this very early study, which used modified algae bubbles to kill cancer cells in the lab and in mice. The Independent had a more balanced take.
  • Fewer patients in England are being diagnosed via an emergency, according to new Public Health England figures. The Mail Online covered this, and we’ve blogged about the different ways people are diagnosed before.
  • European scientists found that gene faults detected in fluid samples from the womb could help spot ovarian cancer. But the study was very small, so a lot more research is needed to work out how reliable this analysis may be.
  • Detecting fragments of a tumour’s DNA in a patient’s bloodstream could help spot the emergence of drug resistance for some women with breast cancer, according to UK scientists. The Mail Online covered this, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before this analysis could become a routine ‘blood test’.

And finally

  • What’s that smell? It’s the misleading whiff of the Mirror shouting that “Farts can fight CANCER” of course. It’s hard to take this seriously, as the research this story is based on is using highly purified chemicals in the lab, not gases produced by people.