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News digest – Rising womb cancer rates, gene editing immune cells, missed waiting time targets and… ‘good’ bacteria?

by Nick Peel | Analysis

16 April 2016

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A key cancer waiting time target has been missed again.
  • Our latest figures revealed a worrying rise in womb cancer rates over the last 20 years. The likely culprit? Rising obesity levels. The BBC and Guardian were among those who covered the story, and we had this guest blog post from Kath, who had womb cancer, on how she’s made changes to live a healthier life.
  • A cancer patient in Cambridge became the first in Europe to be scanned with a new bit of tech that could help show whether cancer drugs are working or not. A team of our scientists, also funded by the Wellcome Trust, helped develop the approach, which was picked up by the BBC.
  • Our scientists in London showed how gene editing technology could be used to engineer better cancer-targeting immune cells. The BBC and Telegraph covered this, and we blogged about the research.
  • As our graphic below shows, new monthly figures revealed that the 62 day cancer waiting time target in England has been missed again, continuing a worrying trend that now spans over two years.
  • We announced the nine teams that have been shortlisted as part of our Grand Challenge. And with virtual reality and precision diagnosis in the mix, they make for exciting reading.
  • The BBC took a closer look at the goals of US President Barack Obama’s cancer ‘moonshot’.
  • The way that plants make certain molecules came under the spotlight, with some making a bit of a leap in connecting this to developing new cancer drugs.

Number of the week


The latest monthly percentage of people in England who started their cancer treatment within 62 days of being diagnosed – the target is 85 per cent.

  • US scientists are investigating how survival varies among cancer patients who are married. The Guardian has more on this one.
  • A new US report raised the issue of taking aspirin regularly to prevent bowel cancer, among other conditions. STAT News has the story, but it’s important to remember that aspirin has risks as well as benefits – so speak to your GP if you’re thinking of taking it regularly. Here’s a blog post we wrote on what the evidence shows so far.
  • Cancer cells can corrupt nearby healthy neighbours in order to grow and spread, according to a new study we part-funded. The Mail Online covered this, and here’s an animation explaining the findings.
  • A new report highlighted that smoking is the biggest contributing factor to why people with mental health issues have an average lifespan between 10 and 20 years shorter than the general population. Read our news report for the details.
  • The first ever live stream of cancer surgery hit virtual reality headsets this week from a London hospital. The Mirror has the details.
  • The tech billionaire behind Napster, Sean Parker, gave $250 million to research into cancer immunotherapy. Wired and the Washington Post have the details, and STAT News posed some important questions.
  • The world’s largest medical imaging study launched this week, with plans to scan 100,000 Britons in a drive to better understand many different health conditions including cancer. The Guardian has the details.
  • This article in The Conversation looks at the challenges of long term side effects among children treated for cancer.

And finally

  • US research showed that different types of bacteria in the gut slowed the development of cancer in mice predisposed to certain tumours. But it’s still very early days, so it doesn’t mean you should neck loads of yoghurt drinks, despite what certain news outlets reported by linking ‘good’ bacteria to preventing cancer.