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News digest – moon-shots, Bowie, Rickman, screening updates and… life on Mars?

by Nick Peel | Analysis

16 January 2016

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The week we lost Rickman and Bowie, while Obama challenged the US to cure cancer.
  • When Barack Obama promises to cure cancer, you know the media will take notice. In his final State of the Union address, the US President said he wanted to “make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.” This led to a flurry of opinion pieces looking at whether this ‘moon-shot’ was feasible, and how to go about it. Of note, The Guardian, Wired, New York Times and US health news website STAT ran these pieces. All of them make excellent points.
  • On a less optimistic note this week, the sad and untimely deaths from cancer of David Bowie and Alan Rickman also kept the disease in the spotlight.
  • Higher-dose radiotherapy delivered over fewer sessions is safe and effective for men with prostate cancer that hasn’t spread, according to a trial we helped fund. And it could save the NHS millions, according to the Mail Online.
  • A study we helped support found that a pair of genes inside cells could play a major role in how a serious form of leukaemia develops. Our news report has the details.
  • Scientists in France found that fat cell signals may play a key role in how prostate cancer cells move. We covered this, as did the BBC and Mail Online.
  • The UK National Screening Committee proposed changes to existing screening programmes for bowel and cervical cancer. Read our news report for more info.

Number of the week


David Bowie’s UK top 40 hits (you can buy them here)

  • A food preservative that kills bacteria can also kill cancer cells in mice, according to early US research. Gizmodo has more on this.
  • US biotech giant Illumina launched a new company, called GRAIL, that will pump huge amounts of cash into developing a blood test to help diagnose cancers earlier. Nature News has this excellent report on the announcement, including some key challenges the company will face, while HealthNewsReview looked at some of the overblown reporting surrounding the announcement.
  • And US scientists uncovered a potential way of upgrading this type of DNA analysis to help predict where cancer cell DNA that’s found in the blood has originated from. Medical News Today has the details.
  • The Guardian reported on a new game – developed by the parents of a young boy who died of cancer – that explores their, and their son’s, cancer journey.
  • A pancreatic cancer tissue bank, storing samples from six hospitals in England and Wales, could help scientists and doctors understand the disease better. The BBC and Telegraph have more on this.
  • Gizmag covered US claims that sticking a cancer drug inside microscopic bubbles could cloak the drug, stopping the body removing it. But they’ve only tested this in cells grown in the lab, so there’s some way to go on their idea.
  • STAT News investigates the emerging field of personalised cancer vaccines.
  • NHS Choices took a look at headlines claiming an arthritis drug ‘could combat ovarian cancer’.
  • A US study claimed that smokers who don’t use e-cigarettes are more likely to quit smoking than those who use them. But experts were quick to point out the numerous limitations of the study, as we reported on our newsfeed.

And finally

  • We’ll just leave this here:–IqqusnNQ