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News Digest – the Crick, smoking and…….dogs?

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by Cancer Research UK | Analysis

5 August 2016

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A dog's nose
  • On Monday, Macmillan released figures showing that more than 170,000 people who were diagnosed with cancer in the 70s and 80s are still alive today. It was widely covered, including by the BBC and ITV, with a focus on the legacy that cancer treatment can leave with survivors. As the number of survivors grows, it’s crucial we continue funding research into making treatments kinder, and focusing on cancers where survival is poor – like pancreatic, oesophageal and lung cancers, and brain tumours.
  • UK researchers have gone through nearly 20,000 published studies with a fine tooth comb to put together a list of more than 750 molecules – including proteins and DNA – that have been studied in patients’ blood samples as potential early indicators that cancer has developed. The ultimate goal is to investigate ways to develop a test to spot cancer early. We’re still a long way from having a cheap, accurate blood test to screen people for different types of cancer, but it’s an exciting idea and was reported in Health Canal and Drug Discovery.
  • The BBC reported figures from consumer group Which? showing that more than half of supermarket promotions were on less healthy foods and drinks, and the group are calling for more deals on healthy products to make it easier or more affordable to choose a balanced diet. It’s part of a much bigger picture in tackling obesity, which we’re part of – evidence shows that being obese increases the risk of 10 different types of cancer. We’re addressing the problem through a range of measures, including our successful campaign for the introduction of a sugar tax and our recent call for a junk food TV ban before the 9pm watershed.
  • The Guardian reported a new study which looked at the genetics of sarcomas (bone and soft tissue sarcomas), a group of cancers that are common among children and young adults. The research provides the most detailed picture to date of the genetic changes that drive development of this disease. It also offers potential new ways to treat sarcomas by identifying genetic mistakes in the tumours that can be targeted with drugs.
  • Public Health England’s Annual Population Survey showed that the number of people smoking in England has hit the lowest levels on record. In 2015, smoking levels decreased to 16.9%, down from 17.8% in 2014. While these are encouraging results, more needs to be done to help those trying to quit smoking and to continue to see a decrease in smoking levels in England. We covered this, as did Charity Today and Nursing Practice.
  • Building work on the Francis Crick Institute is nearing completion, with scientists due to move in over the next few months. The Crick will be Europe’s biggest biomedical research facility and aims to encourage collaboration between scientists from different disciplines. Sir Paul Nurse, director of the Crick, said he hopes the research discovery hub will be a ‘beacon for international science’.

The Evening Standard and the Today programme covered this story (begins at 08:33am).

  • The Guardian reported on a study carried out in the US which found that exposure to high levels of air pollution could affect survival in patients with lung cancer. While the link between air pollution and a higher risk of developing lung cancer was already known, this is the first study to suggest that dirty air could shorten the lives of those who already have the disease. But the study can’t prove it was air pollution that was causing this effect, and other important factors weren’t taken into account that could also play a key role, like smoking.
  • A number of news outlets, including the Independent and Reuters, covered a new study that linked vaginal douching – using a device to wash out the vagina – to a greater risk of developing ovarian cancer. But it’s not clear how this activity could potentially be causing this effect, and it may be that people who already have an underlying problem that raises their risk for ovarian cancer are more likely to douche. Further studies are needed to tease this apart.
  • Dogs’ super sensitive sniffers are well known to us, but could their noses also help detect cancer? A trial looking into this was launched in the UK last year, and a very sweet story on the subject appeared in the Mirror and the Sun this week. A mother and father have credited their daughter’s early diagnosis of leukaemia to their pet border collie’s protective behaviour, which prompted them to take her to the doctor. Other similar stories have floated around before, but until thorough trials are carried out we won’t know whether dogs will be of any use in the diagnosis of cancer.

    And finally…..

  • Following the tragic death of Robin Chard at last Sunday’s Prudential RideLondon, we would like to offer our sincere condolences to Robin’s family and friends. We are very grateful that Robin chose to support Cancer Research UK. We are also incredibly thankful to everyone who has donated to his fundraising page in his memory. Robin and his family had sadly been affected by cancer which is why he chose to fundraise for Cancer Research UK. These generous donations will help fund our pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, helping us to achieve our ambition of bringing forward the day when all cancers are cured.