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News digest – TV junk food, prostate genetics, HPV testing, and… robotic bottoms?

by Misha Gajewski | Analysis

9 July 2016

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  • To mark the launch of our new campaign to curb junk food advertising on TV, we published a report looking at how these ads boost kids’ ‘pester power’ and make them hungry. It’s important stuff – childhood obesity is linked to obesity in adulthood which, in turn, is linked to at least 10 forms of cancer. The story made headlines in several newspapers (eg. the Guardian and The Mail), while we blogged about it here.
  • Men with more aggressive prostate cancers are more likely to carry inherited gene faults than previously thought, according to an international team led by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research. The finding opens the door to a new way of treating these cancers using drugs that target the faults themselves. We covered the story here, as did the BBC and the Telegraph.
  • The cervical screening programme in England will be getting an upgrade, and in the future women’s screening samples will first be tested for HPV with only samples found to be positive going on to be checked for abnormal cells. The switch stands to make cervical screening even more effective, and prevent about an extra 600 cases of cervical cancer a year. We’re delighted England have pledged to introduce this change, recommended by the National Screening Committee in January, and hope to see plans for how the change will happen soon. We covered the story.

Number of the week


The percentage of the public who back restrictions on junk food advertising

  • Our scientists developed a new smartphone app that explains how cancer treatments work. Here’s our press release, and we also blogged about the amazing science behind the app – an ambitious attempt to build a tumour from its basic biological parts. The Guardian also covered the story.
  • In a tour de force of gene data crunching, researchers at Wellcome Trust’s Sanger Institute looked at how hundreds of different types of lab-grown cancer cells respond to different cancer drugs, and compared the results to clinical and genetic data from thousands of cancer patients. The results throw up entirely new clues in the hunt for new ways to treat the disease. The Guardian reports.
  • Writing in Quartz, a breast cancer survivor explores recent research on whether cancer can be ascribed to lifestyle or ‘bad luck’. (Clue: it’s more complicated than that).
  • This Wired podcast focuses on the use of artificial intelligence in the battle against cancer. Have a listen here.
  • National Geographic took an in-depth look at cancer in the animal world, and how it could help us understand cancer in humans.
  • Giving mice a chemical compound called nitrobenzaldehyde, before exposing them to ultraviolet light could stop the growth of their tumours. But there’s a long way to go before we know whether this will be an effective treatment in humans. Sky News had a balanced take on this US discovery.
  • Patients treated for bowel cancer could be monitored to see if their disease is coming back by looking for cancer’s DNA in their bloodstream, according to US and Australian researchers.
  • Both the Telegraph and Gizmodo covered news of an American cancer patient who lost the use of his jaw after radiotherapy, but has since been fitted with a 3D-printed artificial jaw
  • Writing in the Guardian, cancer researcher and leukaemia survivor Dr Vicky Forster looked at how ‘Brexit’ might affect UK cancer research – something we’re keeping a keen eye on.
  • Researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in the US are turning their cancer research into beautiful images using jellyfish proteins, according to Business Insider.
  • The New Scientist had this intriguing piece on a 3D virtual representation of a breast cancer cell created in CGI from high-resolution microscope data.
  • One of our Pioneer Award winners made headlines this week with his fascinating work using an altered form of Salmonella bacteria to shrink cancer cells in the lab. The story appeared on BBC, and for more background on his research, check out this blog post.
  • The Evening Standard reported that childhood cancer experts are calling on regulatory bodies to ensure that drugs already approved to treat adults can be tested in childhood cancers more easily.
  • Using sophisticated molecular imaging techniques, our researchers have discovered a previously unknown subtype of breast cancer that might be susceptible to treatments like Herceptin. Our press release has the details, and we blogged about the discovery here.

And finally…

  • A robot with some junk in the trunk to improve cancer diagnosis is a robot we can get behind. Scientist at Imperial College London are developing a robotic rectum to help train doctors practise finding the tell-tale signs of prostate cancer. The Telegraph and Gizmag covered the story.