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News digest – ‘Weak spots’ in breast cancer, altering diets, cycling to work and… pints of strawberries?

by Gabriella Beer | Analysis

22 April 2017

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A breast cancer cell.
  • 100,000 people wait longer than they should to see a cancer specialist, according to figures in the Guardian. It’s the NHS target that 93% of patients should wait no longer than 2 weeks for a referral.
  • Our scientists discovered a potential ‘weak spot’ in breast cancers that affects the disease’s ability to grow and spread. An experimental drug that targeted this weakness slowed the growth of tumours in mice. The research was widely reported, and we blogged about the findings.

Number of the week

2.5 million

Our investment in Ras research announced this week.

  • Technology used by NASA to explore space is being repurposed to study bacteria in breast tissue, which US scientists are keen to study in relation to breast cancer. STAT News has the details.
  • The key to living longer is cycling to work, according to reports from The BBC, Mail Online and Sun. A short study of more than 250,000 people suggested that those who regularly cycled all or part-way to work could reduce their risk of cancer by up to 45%.
  • Our scientists found that mice with two types of cancer survived longer if they were fed a diet lacking two non-essential amino acids. The BBC and Mail online were among those who covered this, and we also blogged about the results.

  • We committed £2.5 million, in collaboration with the US National Cancer Institute, to boost research against a molecule that many have said is ‘undruggable’. By joining forces, scientists will develop new ways to target Ras, which is faulty in many cancers, including almost all pancreatic tumours. Pharma Times ran the story.
  • NHS England’s move to limit sugar intake from hospital shops was picked up by The BBC, Independent and Sun. It was announced the sale of sugary drinks will be limited, and could be banned from hospital premises completely if decisive action is not taken.
  • The Times said lives were being put at risk after a fake ‘cancer cure’ was found selling on eBay. There’s no evidence black salve can treat cancer, and it’s actually a very corrosive and dangerous product.

And finally…

  • The Mail Online said eating a pint of strawberries a day could ‘stave off breast cancer’. But the research used concentrated extracts of chemicals from the fruit on cancer cells in the lab and mice with breast cancer. This isn’t the same as eating loads at home, which the headline suggests. Any potential benefits of the extract would need to be tested in clinical trials before saying they can be used to treat people.