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News digest – Nobel Prize winners, personalised immunotherapy on NHS, Australian cervical cancer rates and Theresa May’s cancer plans

by Katie Roberts | Analysis

6 October 2018

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Immune cells
Immune cells (white). Image courtesy of LRI EM Unit.

Cancer scientists awarded Nobel Prize for medicine

Two scientists who discovered how the immune system sees cancer have won the 2018 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine. This research, led by Dr James Allison and Professor Tasuku Honjo, paved the way for new immunotherapies for some skin cancers, Hodgkin lymphomas and lung cancers. Our blog post and BBC News have more.

NHS England to fund personalised immunotherapy for adults with aggressive lymphoma

An engineered cell therapy will be offered on the NHS in England to some adults with aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma, after NHS England reached a discount deal with the treatment’s manufacturer, Gilead Sciences. The therapy will be offered to patients if standard treatment fails or has stopped working, and could benefit up to 200 people a year. Our news report and the Independent have more on the announcement.

This brings the tally of these complex, personalised immunotherapies approved on the NHS in England to two. So we asked: is the NHS is ready? Read our blog post for the story.

Theresa May announces details of new cancer strategy

The Prime Minister laid out an ambition to improve cancer survival as part of the Government’s 10-year plans for the NHS, reports the Telegraph. The focus of the plan was improving early detection of the disease, with an ambition to increase early diagnosis rates from 1 in 2 to 3 in 4 in the next decade. As our blog post explains, these ambitious plans must start with fixing staff shortages.

Paving the way for a new generation of cancer treatments

In an opinion piece for The Guardian, our executive director of research and innovation, Dr Iain Foulkes, reflects on Theresa May’s commitments and the potential issues surrounding the approval of personalised immunotherapies and our work to pioneer new approaches.

Australia could become first country to eliminate cervical cancer

New projections suggest Australia could effectively eliminate cervical cancer within 20 years, reports BBC News. Researchers say that HPV vaccination and screening, which were introduced in 2007 and 1991 respectively, would be responsible. In response to the news, Huffington Post looked at how close the UK is to doing the same.

Nobel Prize for Chemistry goes to protein research

Three scientists were awarded the Chemistry Nobel Prize for their work adapting lessons from evolution to design new proteins. One of the techniques recognised by the award was phage display, developed by Professor George Smith and Sir Gregory Winter. The technique has helped to develop antibody therapies for a range of diseases, including cancer. The Guardian and BBC News have more on this year’s winners.

Scottish Government reveals plans to crack down on junk food

Plans to restrict junk food promotions and checkout displays have been announced by the Scottish Government, reports BBC Scotland. The public and the food industry are being invited to give their views on the new plans, which are part of what has been called a “comprehensive suite of actions” to cut excessive calorie consumption.

Scottish scientists use metal to enhance chemo for prostate cancer in the lab

Scientists are testing if palladium can provide a more targeted way to treat prostate cancer, reducing side effects. The Scotsman covered the early research, where researchers combined the metal with a modified type of chemotherapy that becomes active when it meets palladium fragments. The combination killed prostate cancer cells in the lab, but they’re a way off testing the approach in people. The combination is also being tested for other cancers, including brain tumours.

And finally

This week the science journal Nature published a fascinating series on brain cancer research. The articles tackle the big topics in the field, including how lab-grown ‘mini brains’ are fuelling progress, getting drugs into the brain and searching for the roots of brain cancer. If you’ve got a spare ten minutes, they’re well worth a read.