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News digest – vitamin supplements, cancer ‘avatars’, immunotherapy targets, and… Wi-Fi worries?

by Michael Walsh | Analysis

26 August 2017

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  • Men who take high doses of some vitamin B supplements might be at higher risk of lung cancer, particularly if they smoke, according to a US study. Taking daily supplements that far exceed the recommended intake for 10 years increased the risk of lung cancer in male smokers by 3-4 times. The Independent and Mail Online covered this one.
  • We reported on three new studies that might open new avenues for research into immunotherapy. Two of the studies looked at molecules that could help cancer cells evade the immune system, which may turn out to be potential drug targets. The third suggested that some of the effects of an experimental breast cancer drug might be down to how it interacts with the immune system.
  • The Mail Online had a broad look at how immunotherapy is being used to treat cancer.
  • And STAT News ran this piece on how an experimental immunotherapy, which experts are predicting will soon be approved in the US for certain blood cancers, is likely to come at a high price.

Number of the week


Percentage of 40-60 year olds who don’t get a brisk 10 minute walk each month.

  • Scientists in Portugal are developing ‘avatars’ for patients’ cancers using zebrafish larvae. They believe this will speed up drug testing, potentially leading to more personalised care. The Independent and Science Magazine had this story.
  • Middle-aged people aren’t physically active enough, according to Public Health England. BBC News report that 4 in 10 people aged 40-60 don’t get a brisk 10 minute walk each month, which is putting them at an increased risk of health problems including cancer. The Telegraph and Express also had this story.
  • Early stage research has found a genetic weakness in oesophageal cancer cells that could make them particularly sensitive to the drug ibrutinib (Imbruvica). The researchers looked at cells in the lab and found that the drug, used to treat blood cancer, killed cells that had become ‘addicted’ to its target molecule. The Express covered this story.
  • A group of molecules that usually help the body fight off viruses might go rogue and cause cancers, reports the Huffington Post. The molecules, called APOBECs, destroy viral DNA but scientists think they might sometimes malfunction and destroy human DNA instead, leading to cancer.
  • A US study found that more than 8 in 10 women who might have a faulty BRCA gene haven’t taken a test for it or talked about it with their doctor. Errors in the gene are relatively rare but can increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and can be passed on through families. The Mail Online reported this.
  • Almost £3 million is being invested in research at our experimental cancer medicine centres in Edinburgh and Glasgow over the next 5 years. We’re putting the money in alongside the Scottish chief scientist’s office to help the progress of promising new treatments and get them into clinical trials. The Scotsman and The National reported this news.

And finally

  • ‘Cancer risk: Should YOU be worried about Wi-Fi radiation?’ asks the Express. The short answer is ‘no’. While rumours about the risks of mobile phones, power lines and now Wi-Fi recur regularly, we’ve covered them in depth before, and the evidence to date suggests exposure to the radio waves produced by Wi-Fi doesn’t pose a health risk.