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News digest – Tessa Jowell, cancer waiting times, immunotherapy, and how should we talk about cancer?

by Michael Walsh | Analysis

19 May 2018

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Cancer nurse staff

Tributes paid to Tessa Jowell

Tributes were paid this week following the death of Tessa Jowell from an aggressive brain tumour. As an MP she oversaw the 2012 Olympics, and in the House of Lords she campaigned for more funding for brain tumour research and treatment. In response, Teresa May announced government would double its spend on research into brain tumours, along with other commitments. Take a look at our news report for more, and the Evening Standard piece for the view of our chief executive on Jowell’s legacy.

Six months of Herceptin treatment ‘could be as effective as 12’

We reported on unpublished clinical trial results showing the proportion of women that were cancer free following treatment for HER2-positive early stage breast cancer was the same if they had a 6 or 12-month course of Herceptin. Side effects were also reduced in the 6-month group. The New York Times also had the story.

Immunotherapy might be less effective for women

Immunotherapy has shown promise for treating a range of cancers, but it might be less effective in women, reports the Telegraph. A review of trials found that immunotherapy is on average half as effective for women than men. The trials still found overall that the immunotherapies were superior than standard treatment in women, and the researchers behind the study suggested hormone differences might play a role.

Vegan group’s advert wrongly linking cow’s milk to cancer is banned

A vegan group’s advert wrongly linking cow’s milk to cancer has been banned. iNews reports on the Advertising Standards Authority’s decision, which said that linking the hormones to cancer was “misleading”.

Funding bias against female cancer researchers

Female scientists receive less than a quarter of cancer research funds, reports The Times (£). A study of nearly 3,000 grants from government departments and charities found that nearly 70% of awards and nearly 80% of money went to male lead researchers. Less than 20% of high-level medical researchers are women. Cancer Research UK funding wasn’t included in the study.

Some patients facing long waits for treatment

The longest waits for cancer tests and treatment are increasing, reports The Guardian. Nearly 70% of NHS trusts in England said they had a worse longest wait than in 2010, with one patient waiting a year and a half between GP referral and treatment. The official target in England requires at least 85% of cancer patients to have their first treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral by their GP, but this hasn’t been met for over two years.

Breath test spots oesophageal and stomach cancers

We reported on a breath test that could help speed up diagnosis of oesophageal and stomach cancers. The diseases are often diagnosed late when treatment is more difficult. Researchers trialled the breath test in a group of 335 patients, and larger patient groups will be used to see if the results hold up.

And finally

The perceived need to “fight” cancer and remain positive is having a negative effect on people living with the disease, reports The Guardian. It’s based on research from a charity that found the battle language sometimes used to talk about cancer and other diseases can stop patients talking openly, preventing them getting the best end of life care. We’ve talked before about how important language is at such a delicate time.