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News digest – Lung cancer blood test, surges in kidney cancer, plain cigarette pack evidence and… chemo-loaded sperm?

by Gabriella Beer | Analysis

29 April 2017

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  • Our scientists at the Francis Crick Institute and UCL, partnered with centres all across the country, have been tracking DNA changes in lung cancer samples. And in 2 important papers they outline possible ways to predict survival and whether or not the disease may return after treatment using an experimental blood test. Both studies were widely reported, and we blogged about the studies.
  • Our latest figures show that the rapid rise in kidney cancer rates in recent decades looks set to continue. The Guardian and Independent covered the story, and we blogged about what’s behind the surge.
  • Glitzy cigarette packages will soon be a thing of the past in the UK, and their replacements could help cut smoking rates, says a new review released this week. Standardised cigarette packaging is becoming compulsory in May and according to The Guardian this could put up to 300,000 people off the habit. We also ran the story.

Number of the week


The estimated cases of kidney cancer caused by obesity in the last decade.

  • Several media outlets unfairly placed the blame for emergency cancer diagnoses on GPs, after we released stats showing over a third of people diagnosed in an emergency haven’t previously visited their GP. There was similar news in Scotland, and our blog post explains why understanding emergency diagnosis is complicated.
  • The old Cancer Drugs Fund wasn’t fit for purpose, reports the BBC, Telegraph and New Scientist. An analysis of the Fund highlighted the lack of good data to evaluate patient benefit despite it costing the taxpayer more than £1 billion between 2010 and 2016. But recent changes to the fund could help patients have access to innovative treatments, as we’ve blogged about before.
  • Follow up tests after a first colonoscopy may reduce the number of people diagnosed with bowel cancer. Our news report has the details.
  • In a step towards reducing childhood obesity, parliament confirmed the introduction of a sugary drink tax, to come into effect next spring. The Sun states that companies who reduce the levels of sugar in their drinks will minimise or avoid the amount of tax they pay, providing an incentive to offer low sugar options.

And finally…

  • The Mail Online reports that German researchers have proposed loading sperm samples with chemotherapy to potentially target cancers of the female reproductive system. But studies have only been carried out in the lab under controlled conditions, using bull sperm, not human. So more research is needed to test the potential of these little swimmers.