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News digest – Testosterone, artificial intelligence, genetic tests, the HPV vaccine and… a cuppa?

by Justine Alford | Analysis

11 November 2017

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  • Our top story: women who have had the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine could need just 3 cervical screens in their lifetime to get the same benefits as the current 12 offered to women in the UK. The BBC, Times, Guardian and many others covered this important research, and our blog post explores it in more depth.
  • New NHS data also showed a worrying trend that fewer women are attending cervical screening than in previous years. Our news report has the details.
  • This week the annual National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference was held in Liverpool, where a number of exciting science presentations made headlines. First up was widely-reported research from the University of Oxford, which found that unusually low levels of testosterone in the blood could be linked with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Our press release has more.
  • Next up from NCRI: Cambridge researchers have developed a new genetic test that could help predict if someone will go on to develop oesophageal cancer up to 8 years earlier than when symptoms start to show. But, as our press release explains, this work only looked at people who have Barrett’s oesophagus, and are at a higher risk of developing the disease. The Times and Telegraph covered this story.
  • More on the subject of genetic tests with research suggesting new criteria are needed to decide which cancer patients should have tests for faulty BRCA genes, which increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. The Telegraph covered this one.
  • Another genetic test developed by scientists could spare some breast cancer patients from chemotherapy, reports the Mail Online. By determining how aggressive the disease is, the test could indicate whether the tumour is likely to respond to chemotherapy or not.
  • Findings from an early clinical trial presented at NCRI showed an ovarian cancer drug can make its way through the protective blood brain barrier of patients and reach certain brain tumours. As our press release explains, this barrier prevents many drugs from reaching the brain, so the results are an important first step in developing the targeted drug as a potential treatment for glioblastoma. The BBC has more on the story.
  • Using artificial intelligence to crunch vast amounts of data could help make radiotherapy for prostate cancer more personal, according to more research showcased at NCRI. Picked up by The Telegraph, Times and others, the technique could help reduce side effects of treatment while boosting its effectiveness, if proven in further studies.
  • Last up from NCRI, research from Macmillan Cancer Support and Public Health England found that thousands of people in the UK are surviving for at least two years after being diagnosed with advanced cancer. Macmillan told the BBC and the Guardian that these encouraging figures are likely down to better treatments.

For a round up of the rest of the exciting science presented at NCRI, read our blog post.

  • Women who use intrauterine contraceptive devices may have a lower risk of developing cervical cancer, reports the Guardian. While the researchers behind the US study are keen to find out more about the potential link, the most effective ways to reduce the risk of cervical cancer are taking part in cervical screening and having the HPV vaccine.
  • The risk that a certain type of breast cancer will return remains unchanged for at least 15 years after women stop hormone treatment, according to new research. As we reported, and as previous research has shown, the results suggest women could benefit from continued hormone therapy beyond the recommended 5 years. Side effects can be tough with these treatments though, and more research is needed to understand how breast cancer cells can lay dormant for decades. Sky News and the Daily Mail also covered this.
  • Engineers in Canada have won an award for what they say could be a cheap and portable device to help diagnose melanoma by measuring differences in skin temperature, rather than relying on visual inspection. The inventors hope it could help diagnose the disease earlier, but at the moment it’s still experimental and will need more testing to prove it works. Tech Radar and the Guardian have the details.
  • Headlines touting a potential bowel cancer cure over-egged the findings from new US research. The team has combined radiotherapy with immunotherapy to successfully treat a small number of mice with bowel cancer. As we told the Mail Online, there’s a way to go before we know whether this could work in people too.

And finally

  • Can a cuppa help beat cancer, asks the Mail Online? The outlet reported on a company that’s selling antioxidant-rich tea, while also researching the potential anti-cancer properties of its ingredients. While foods and drinks rich in antioxidants are often marketed for their supposed health benefits, we’ve detailed on our blog before that the story isn’t so simple. If you like green tea, there’s no harm in enjoying it, but be wary of claims of its anti-cancer activities.