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News digest – cervical cancer progress, new immune cell, breast cancer scans and repurposed drugs

Lilly Matson
by Lilly Matson | Analysis

25 January 2020

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Image of a woman going for cervical screening

NHS England says cervical cancer could be ‘eliminated’ 

NHS England used cervical cancer prevention week to predict the potential impact of HPV vaccination and screening to bring down cervical cancer incidence to minimal levels. The story, which was widely reported, followed a similar announcement by researchers in Australia back in 2018 .  

But while this is a great ambition to work towards, the prediction relies on high numbers of people being vaccinated and attending screening. And new figures released this week suggest that progress has stalled in the last decade, as screening uptake remains stubbornly low. The story was widely reported and you can read the full details in our press release.

Targeting healthy cells around tumours could boost the effects of treatment 

Targeting normal cells that support cancer cells to grow and divide could help boost the effects of blood cancer treatments in mice, writes Dr Ingo Ringshausen in The Conversation. Patients with lymphoma and leukaemia are usually treated with chemotherapy, which has improved dramatically in the last decade, but resistance is a common problem that researchers are keen to tackle  

New way for immune system to kill cancer discovered 

Scientists in Cardiff have identified a new type of immune cell that can recognise and kill a broad range of cancer cells in the lab, while leaving healthy cells alone. The latest findings triggered some bold headlines about a ‘universal cancer treatment’, but experts were quick to caution that this exciting and important discovery was just the first step. “So far, the power of these immune cells to kill cancer cells has been tested in a lab dish and in mice,” said immunology expert Professor Daniel Davis, who added that scientists still need to understand exactly how this immune cell kills tumour cells but doesn’t affect healthy cells.  

New type of scan can track breast cancer activity in real time  

A new scan that involves magnetising molecules has been able to track breast cancer metabolism in incredible detail. Using the new technique, our scientists can follow the speed at which breast cancer cells are processing nutrients, a good indication of how quickly a cancer is growing. Find out more at the Mail Online or in our press release 

Existing medicines could be used to target cancer 

Drugs originally developed to treat a host of different diseases, from diabetes to alcoholism, could harbour cancer-killing abilities. Researchers in the US examined over 4,500 existing drugs, revealing a number of new compounds that could target cancer cells grown in the lab. It’s still early days, but the findings reveal the potential of drug repurposing to develop new cancer treatments. The Scientific American has the story. 

Leukaemia and head and neck cancer rejected for NHS use in England 

People with leukaemia and head and neck cancer living in England will not have access to 2 new drugs, due to uncertainties surrounding the clinical trial data. Both decisions will be reviewed later in the year, as our news report explains.  

And finally…. 

Campaigners continue to call for a ban on junk food ads before 9pm to help reduce childhood obesity, reports the Mail Online. The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has criticised the Government for neglecting children’s ‘basic human rights’, after our research revealed that almost half of food adverts between 6pm and 9pm in May 2018 were explicitly advertising foods high in fat, salt and sugar. We’ve blogged before about the tactics used to promote junk food to children.