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News digest – drug approval, flexible pressure sensor, pen-sized microscope, engineered molecules and… olive oil?

by Nick Peel | Analysis

30 January 2016

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A flexible pressure sensor that wraps around and conforms to the shape of the fingers while still accurately measuring pressure distribution.
  • We launched a new “Cough-up” campaign asking the Government to make tobacco companies pay for the damage they cause with a levy to help fund Stop Smoking Services. Here’s our press release, you can sign the petition here and we blogged about the campaign too.
  • The World Health Organisation released new figures on the global burden of childhood obesity. Here’s the Guardian’s report.
  • Japanese scientists have developed a flexible pressure sensor that could be used in health examinations. But it’s some way off being used to detect breast cancer, as claimed by the Mail Online.
  • A pen-sized microscope developed by US scientists could give doctors a quick way to spot the difference between healthy and cancerous tissue. It needs testing in clinical trials first though, but Wired and Gizmodo have the details.
  • The ovarian cancer drug olaparib (Lynparza) – which our scientists played a key role in developing – will be made available on the NHS for women with faulty BRCA1 or 2 genes and who have responded to chemotherapy. The Guardian has more on this.
  • Alongside this the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence also published three other recommendations for cancer treatments.
  • US scientists believe they can engineer new molecules, allowing cells to ‘sense’ and respond to changes in the body, including cancer. STAT News covered this, but it’s still at the stages of tinkering in lab-grown cells for now.

Number of the week


The profit (in pounds) made by the tobacco industry for each death caused by smoking.

  • Men with advanced prostate cancer can now be treated with the chemotherapy drug docetaxel before waiting to see if hormone-based treatments have failed, according to new NHS guidelines. The Guardian has more on this.
  • US research in fish is uncovering the earliest origins of melanoma, reports the New York Times.
  • A small study of women treated for breast cancer found that chemotherapy can have long-lasting effects on the levels of immune cells in the body. The Mail Online covered this, but larger studies are needed to fully pin down how this might affect patients.
  • While death rates from lung cancer are falling, more women are dying of the disease in the UK than in other EU countries, according to new stats. The Mail Online has the details.
  • The bacteria that cause anthrax are being modified by scientists as a possible way of getting drugs inside cancer cells. But this is very early research on cells grown in the lab, so the Express and Mirror got a little carried away in their reports.
  • Infection with certain forms of the human papillomavirus (HPV) may be linked to a very small number of breast cancers, according to Australian researchers. But this study alone can’t prove a link, so further research is needed, reports the Guardian.
  • A US focused study examined the number of people diagnosed with bowel cancer at different ages. STAT News has the details.
  • STAT News also covered the first step towards US President Barack Obama’s cancer ‘moonshot’.
  • Vice interviewed our chief clinician, Professor Peter Johnson, about the big challenges in tackling cancer.

And finally

  • Don’t buy olive oil from this fake ‘archbishop’.