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News digest – ‘Ultra-processed’ foods, clinical trials boost, ovarian cancer risk and… tiny DNA robots?

by Justine Alford | Analysis

17 February 2018

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  • Ultra-processed’ foods were linked with cancer this week following a large study. Researchers defined ready meals, packaged cakes, sugary drinks, and more as ‘ultra-processed’. As we told the BBC, it’s difficult to untangle whether the increased cancer risk is caused by the foods themselves or their effects on bodyweight. Sky News and the Guardian also have more on this one.

  • Clinical trials are crucial for bringing new treatments to cancer patients. That’s why we’re investing £45 million into our network of clinical trials’ units across the UK. Check out our press release and Express coverage for details on how the cash will be spent.
  • Pancreatic cancer survival remains stubbornly low. In a bid to develop better treatments for the disease, we announced £1.5m in funding to scientists at the University of Liverpool. They’ll be studying how pancreatic cancer spreads in the hope of identifying new ways to tackle the disease. The BBC has the details.
  • New research suggests that newly discovered gene faults that may raise the risk of ovarian cancer could be passed down from a father to his daughters. The research could lead to a better understanding of ovarian cancer risk in people with a family history of the disease. The BBC, Telegraph and others picked up this story.
  • Scientists have created an anti-cancer vaccine in mice using stem cells. Human cancers are complex though, so it’s too soon to say whether it could prevent the disease in healthy people as some reports suggested.
  • Chemicals used in an array of products, including non-stick cooking utensils and food packaging, have been linked with weight gain by new research. While the chemicals have been studied for other health conditions before, it’s too soon to say that they can affect bodyweight, reports the Guardian.
  • More on obesity: could eating slowly help tackle bodyweight? New research has suggested so, at least in people with type 2 diabetes. The Guardian and Daily Mail report that scientists have discovered a link between slower eating speeds and both a lower BMI and slimmer waist. But there are other factors playing a role too, so it’s not clear how big an impact the pace people eat might have on bodyweight.
  • Two important cancer drugs have been given the green light for use in the NHS in Scotland, one for advanced bladder cancer and another for a type of skin cancer. Read our news report for why the decision has been hailed as ‘fantastic news‘.

And finally

  • Much more than folding paper cranes, scientists have used ‘DNA origami‘ to create tiny ‘robots‘ that deliver a drug directly to tumours. They’ve shown that a blood-clotting molecule can cut off a tumour’s blood supply in mice when delivered by the DNA nanorobot, causing the tumour to shrink and helping mice live longer. Drugs already exist that are designed to starve tumours of blood, but they’ve shown mixed results in cancer patients. This approach might have great potential if explored with different treatments in the future.