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News digest – immunotherapy for childhood cancer, glowing brain surgery, a new health secretary and CRISPR

by Katie Roberts | Analysis

14 July 2018

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Immunotherapy drug for neuroblastoma made available on NHS

An immunotherapy drug will be made available on the NHS in England for patients with high-risk neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer that mainly affects children. Around 6 in 10 children with the cancer could be treated with the new drug, dinutuximab beta, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). We covered the approval, as did The Sun and Telegraph.

Brain tumour surgery dye available for more NHS patients

A chemical dye that lights up brain tumours during surgery should be used more widely on the NHS in England, says NICE. The dye, called 5-amino levulinic acid (5-ALA), can help surgeons to distinguish between the tumour and healthy tissue. Dame Tessa Jowell pressed the Government to make the dye available across the NHS in one her final speeches in the House of Lords, as we and the Daily Mail report.

Matt Hancock replaces Jeremy Hunt as health secretary

Matt Hancock was named the new health secretary on Monday, replacing Jeremy Hunt. The move was prompted by a cabinet reshuffle, which saw Hunt appointed as the new foreign secretary. BBC News and the Independent covered what the switch could mean for the health service.

Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.7bn damages in talc cancer case

Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $4.7bn (£3.6bn) in damages to 22 women who claim that its talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer. The evidence linking talc and ovarian cancer doesn’t give a clear picture and if there were a link, any increase in risk would be fairly small. The company plans to appeal the decision. The Guardian and BBC News have the story.

New trial to study effect of diet on cancer drugs

A group of leading oncologists will investigate if a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet could boost the effectiveness of cancer drugs, reports The Guardian. The trial will initially involve 40 patients with lymphoma and endometrial cancer in New York, but similar studies are being planned at centres across the US and Europe.

Brain tumour chemotherapy made available to more NHS patients

The chemotherapy drug temozolomide has been made available to more NHS patients with a certain type of glioma. A clinical trial we supported found the drug could improved survival in a wider group of patients than it’s currently used for. Our blog post has the details.

And finally

STAT News covered some interesting, early research attempting to turn cancer cells into cancer killers in the lab. Scientists adapted a surprising feature of spreading cancer cells, which can retrace their steps and return to the original tumour in a process called ‘rehoming’. The research used the DNA-editing technique CRISPR to engineer rehoming cancer cells so that they attacked the original tumour in mice on their return. It’s a fascinating approach, but remains a long way from being tested in people.