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News digest – Spotting bowel cancer earlier, waiting time targets missed, deodorants, tattoos and… cellbots?

by Justine Alford | Analysis

1 October 2016

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Could tattoos raise the risk of cancer?
  • For one in five bowel cancer patients diagnosed after an emergency presentation, there may have been an opportunity to spot their disease soonerOur press release has the details, and this Cancer Research UK-funded study was also covered by the BBC and the Guardian.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment is vital for giving cancer patients the best chance of survival. But in Scotland and Northern Ireland cancer waiting time targets for treatment have been missed again. This was covered by the Express and the BBC, as well as in the Herald Scotland and the Belfast Telegraph.
  • This week, the Prevention and Early Detection (PED) research initiative was launched in Manchester. The PED initiative hopes to not only save lives, but also save the NHS more than £44 million a year, as the Daily Mail and the Express reported.
  • Could our love for skin art be detrimental to our health, and raise the risk of cancer? The Guardian discusses the potential harm from tattoos. But right now there isn’t any good evidence to suggest that getting inked can cause cancer.

Number of the week


The pounds that the NHS could save each year by diagnosing cancer earlier

  • Scaremongering headlines have popped up suggesting that deodorants could cause cancer. But the study, which linked a common ingredient in deodorants to breast cancer, was carried out on cells in a dish and mice. These findings can’t be applied to humans, where the evidence so far has shown no link. The second half of this Huffington Post article goes into more detail on the limitations of the study.  
  • Work by our scientists and others has revealed a genetic switch which could underlie the ability of some cancer cells to maintain eternal youth. Reversing this switch in the lab forced cells to grow up and wear out, suggesting a possible target for cancer drugs in the future. Check out our press release and blog for the full story.
  • Cancer Research UK has joined forces with two drug companies to test out a new combination of treatments for patients with hard-to-treat cancers. Taking place in Scotland, the clinical trial will look at whether a targeted treatment can enhance the effects of an immune-boosting drug in patients with lung and pancreatic cancer.
  • Teeny tiny glowing particles, which were originally designed to light up tumour cells to help guide surgery, may have an unexpected added bonus: the ability to kill cancer cells. High concentrations of these microscopic particles destroyed cancer cells in a dish and shrank tumours in mice, according to a new US study.

And finally…

  • Step aside, robots, and make way for ‘cellbots’. Researchers in the US have tweaked human immune cells so that they hunt down cancer cells and deliver immunotherapy drugs directly to tumours, boosting the immune system against the cancer while sparing healthy cells from harm. It’s an exciting idea, but more work needs to be done before human studies are considered.