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News digest – ‘Trojan-horse’ drugs, our largest research investment to date, magic mushrooms and… ‘white wine causes melanoma’?

by Gabriella Beer | Analysis

3 December 2016

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  • We announced a £226 million commitment to cancer research. This is our largest investment to date – see our press release for the info.
  • Australian scientists have developed a new probe that could help surgeons distinguish between cancerous and healthy tissues during surgery. As we reported, the probe can spot the difference between lab samples, so if it reaches the clinic it could help make cancer surgery more precise.
  • Thousands of postmenopausal women in England at high-risk of breast cancer should soon be offered a better drug option to reduce their risk of developing the disease, according to new draft guidelines from NICE. Read our news report to find out the difference this could make for these women.
  • A milder chemotherapy drug has shown promise for patients with a hard-to-treat type of leukaemia. We reported on this early clinical trial, which could mean a kinder and more effective treatment for certain patients.

Number of the week

226 million

The number of pounds we have committed to cancer research over the next five years through our Centres and the ECMC network.

  • The Daily Mail reported that a matchbox-size gadget implanted under the skin might be able to catch cancer cells before they spread. But the study was carried out in mice, so further research is needed before it’s known if the trap could also be set in people.
  • An intriguing study emerged from the US this week, as scientists used doses of testosterone to kill drug resistant prostate cancer in one man whose disease had spread. We’ve blogged before about this unconventional approach, which runs counter to the approach of conventional treatments that block these hormone signals. The Telegraph and Times has more on the story.
  • Results from two small clinical trials suggest that a purified chemical found in magic mushrooms could help terminal cancer patients manage depression and anxiety. This psychedelic experiment, which needs to be carried out in more patients before any potential benefits become clear, was reported widely in the Times and Daily Mail, and also captured the imagination of New Scientist and Vice News.
  • For the latest update on Vice President of the United States Joe Biden’s cancer ‘moonshot’ initiative, read this STAT News report. The 21st Century Cures Act passed the US House of Representatives this week, unlocking funds for the project ; it heads to the Senate next week.
  • A new generation of ‘Trojan-horse’ drugs are being developed that use antibodies to steer drugs into the heart of cancer cells. In the US two such drugs have now reached late-stage trials. Read about these ‘weaponised’ antibody therapies in Nature.

And finally

  • According to misleading headlines from the Daily Mail and Sun, drinking ‘even a small glass of white wine a day can increase your risk of melanoma’. But this conclusion should be viewed with caution, as most of the results actually showed that drinking alcohol had little to no effect on melanoma skin cancer risk. Find out more about alcohol and cancer here.