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News digest – surprise sugar tax, HIV drug’s new tricks, nanoparticle hype and… artificial sweeteners?

by Nick Peel | Analysis

19 March 2016

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An image of brown and white sugar cubes
  • The Chancellor, George Osborne, surprised many as plans for a sugary drinks tax were included in his 2016 Budget. Read our reaction in this blog post.
  • And Politico speculated that this measure could be followed by restrictions on junk food advertising (something we think would be great to see).
  • Our scientists in Manchester found signs that melanoma cells’ resistance to ‘targeted’ drugs could be overcome by combining them with an HIV drug. The Mirror covered this, and we blogged about the early stage research.
  • An overhyped press release led to headlines claiming ‘astounding results’ in treating advanced breast cancer. But the research only tested whether specialised nanoparticles could sneak drugs into breast cancer cells in the lab and in mice – it’s still a very long way off being tested in people.
  • The Scottish Government unveiled its new cancer strategy, including important commitments to make advanced radiotherapy available to more patients. We blogged about the plans, which should be good news for patients.
  • A proposed ban on e-cigarettes in certain public places in Wales was defeated in parliament.

Number of the week


The amount (in pounds) that the Scottish Government has committed over the next five years in its new cancer strategy

  • We were sad to hear of the death of TV magician and entertainer Paul Daniels, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour in February.
  • This article in The Conversation discusses how refugees from the Fukushima nuclear disaster need adequate information about remaining radiation to decide whether returning home is an ‘acceptable risk’ for them.
  • Early stage US research uncovered how cancer cells can change the environment around them to help them move and spread. The Mail Online has more on this.
  • NHS Choices looked at the headlines from a recent trial which showed people who tried to stop smoking abruptly were more likely to be successful that those who tried to do it gradually. But free Stop Smoking Services still give the best possible chance of success.
  • A UK surgeon blogged for The Hippocratic Post about how advances in drugs and surgery are making liver cancers more treatable.
  • Last week The Conversation in Australia published these 10 myths about smoking. It was so popular they’ve followed up with 10 more this week.

And finally

  • There’s no strong evidence that artificial sweeteners cause cancer in humans, despite what the headlines said, following a study in mice. Read more about food controversies on our website.