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News digest – Coffee, combination immunotherapy, CRISPR and… porridge?

by Misha Gajewski | Analysis

18 June 2016

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  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that there’s no strong evidence that coffee increases the risk of cancer (despite saying it ‘possibly’ did before). But very hot drinks (above 65 degrees) may increase the risk of oesophageal cancer – although that’s hotter than we tend to take our tea in the UK. The BBC covered this, as did many others. And we took an in depth look at the evidence behind the headlines.  
  • The BBC and the Guardian reported that a combination of immunotherapy drugs will be made available on the NHS for advanced melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer. We also covered this.
  • Our scientists found a new way to slow the growth of a hard-to-treat type of breast cancer in mice. The Telegraph and Daily Mail both covered this early stage research, and here’s our press release.
  • The BBC reported that one in three women over 50 are delaying, or not going, to their cervical screening test. Regularly attending cervical screening up to age 64 gives a lasting reduction in the risk of cervical cancer. For more information on the benefits and harms of cervical screening check out our website.
  • Our researchers found that women with fewer educational qualifications were less likely to recognise potential breast cancer symptoms, highlighting the need for awareness campaigns and materials that reach as many people as possible. Find out more in our press release.
  • Middle-aged patients – aged 50 to 64 – are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer than older patients, according to data presented at the Cancer Outcomes and Data Conference in Manchester. Our press release has the details.
  • We reported on a new imaging technique that could help spot ovarian tumours during surgery that are not visible to the naked eye.
  • New guidelines set out by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will hopefully cut down on the time it takes to diagnose breast cancer. The new guidelines state that patients with suspected breast cancer will be given a consultation, scan and biopsy all on the same day, according to the Daily Mail and the Telegraph.
  • STAT News reported on the approval of the first ever human trial involving a gene-editing technique called CRISPR, which we wrote about previously. The US-based trial aims to use the technique to modify the DNA of patients’ immune cells, encouraging them to target their cancer.
  • A clinical trial using the immunotherapy drug nivolumab has shown promising results in patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The Independent has this story. And for more information on how this drug works check out our blog post.

Number of the week


The temperature, in degrees celsius, above which a hot drink becomes carcinogenic (possibly).

  • Women with advanced ovarian cancer may benefit more from immunotherapy drug treatments if they’re given straight after chemotherapy, according to new research conducted by our scientists. The Express covered this and here’s our press release.
  • The Guardian looked at the drugs in our bathroom cabinets – from ibuprofen to beta blockers – that are being re-investigated for anti-cancer potential.
  • In the US, a boat-load (2 petabytes) of genomic and clinical data was made public, Quartz reported. This ‘big data’ will play a big role in the fight against cancer allowing researchers and doctors to profile tumours and get clues about how to stop them.
  • And what better than a bunch of supercomputers to process all that data. STAT News reported that the US Department of Energy has contributed 17 supercomputers to help American Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer ‘moonshoot’.  
  • Health News Review took a sceptical look at claims that search engines ‘could diagnose cancer’.
  • In this interesting article, the Guardian takes stock of where nanotechnology research is heading and its potential to treat diseases such as cancer.  We’ve also blogged about nanotechnology before.
  • The Financial Times wrote this piece on how scientists are trying to use ultrasound to get past the blood-brain barrier, the brain’s gatekeeper, to deliver cancer drugs.
  • If you have a subscription to the New Scientist, you can read their piece on proton beam therapy and whether it really will be a revolutionary new cancer treatment. If you don’t have a subscription, you can read what we had to say about proton beam therapy on our blog.

And finally…

  • It would be wonderful if there was a type of food that would actually protect against death from cancer, but despite headlines this week claiming a bowl of porridge a day, or eating nuts, will slash your risk, it’s not that simple. In these types of studies it’s difficult to tease apart other lifestyle factors that could be playing a role in the results. That being said eating porridge or a handful of nuts won’t do any harm and we do know that eating fibre, including whole grains, can reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer. For more information on diet and cancer risk you can check out this page.