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News digest – ‘Holy Grail’ vaccine, plain packs taking over the world, spare tyres and heart cancer?

by Misha Gajewski | Analysis

4 June 2016

1 comment 1 comment

  • Our researchers at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow made the fascinating discovery that an experimental drug can break down pancreatic cancer’s defences, allowing immune cells to sweep in and attack the tumour. It could lead to a way to enhance immunotherapy drugs which so far haven’t worked in pancreatic cancer. The Telegraph covered this, and for more information check out our press release and in-depth blog post.
  • The possibility of a “universal cancer vaccine” generated a lot of excitement this week, including in the Telegraph, Guardian, and Independent. But it’s still very early days for this research led by a team in Germany. The vaccine has only been given to three patients with melanoma skin cancer, and they haven’t been followed for long enough to tell whether it influenced survival. We need to see larger clinical trials to confirm it works and is safe, while more research will determine if it could be used to treat other types of cancer. NHS Choices took a detailed look.
  • Another small study generated similarly excited headlines in the Mirror, this time looking at an experimental combination of immunotherapy drugs in melanoma. The NHS Choices team explored the science in detail.
  • Early lab research from the Institute of Cancer Research in London suggested that anti-cholesterol drugs called statins might be able to help prevent breast cancer from returning. But the research was carried out in cancer cells grown in the lab so clinical trials are needed to test whether these drugs work the same way in patients. The Telegraph and Guardian among others covered this, while the ICR explained the science behind the discovery on their blog.

Number of the week


The number of countries in the process of bringing in standard tobacco packaging.

  • Having a ‘spare tyre’ – extra weight around your midriff – or having a high BMI seems to raise the risk of aggressive prostate cancer, reported The Guardian, Express and many more. The results come from a large ongoing study called EPIC, which we’re helping support. We’ve blogged before about the emerging evidence of a link between prostate cancer and obesity.
  • The BBC reported that the standardised packaging for tobacco – introduced in the UK last month – is going global. In addition to Australia, the UK and France – Ireland, Norway, Singapore, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Panama, New Zealand and Belgium are at various stages of considering plain packets.
  • Experimental research in mice models shows a potential new breast cancer drug could increase survival by stopping tumour growth. The Daily Mail has the details.
  • This brilliant piece in STAT News tells the harrowing story of a 20-year-old with brain cancer caught between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a controversial US clinic. Read it here. (we blogged about the clinic previously, here)
  • STAT News also takes a look at how, despite the big worldwide increase in cancer drug spending, access to those drugs is still a major problem in many countries (although the UK does better than most).
  • On their blog, researchers at the UCL Health Behaviour Research Centre explained their recent research into why people do and don’t take up HPV vaccination, and how that might affect the uptake of a new version – which protects against nine types of HPV.
  • BioMed Central’s ‘On Medicine’ blog had an interesting Q&A about the so-called ‘sugar tax’ on soft drinks, that the government is planning to introduce.
  • This BBC feature gives an excellent in-depth explanation of how cancers evolve, and how researchers are trying to turn this against them.

And finally…

Ever wondered why you never hear about heart cancer? Well wonder no more. Vice wrote this great piece explaining why our heart is virtually cancer-proof.



  • Ken Jones
    4 June 2016

    Why is there never any news into brain tumour research and it’s treatment


  • Ken Jones
    4 June 2016

    Why is there never any news into brain tumour research and it’s treatment