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News digest – targeted drug approval, microbubble ‘warheads’ and prostate cancer treatment

by PA Media Group | Analysis

27 June 2020

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With news about the coronavirus pandemic developing daily, we want to make sure everyone affected by cancer gets the information they need during this time. 

We’re pulling together the latest government and NHS health updates from across the UK in a separate blog post, which we’re updating regularly. 

Targeted drug to treat multiple cancer types approved in England 

A targeted cancer drug has been approved for NHS use in England to treat multiple cancer types, reports The Times and Mail Online. Entrectinib is designed to target specific changes in a cancer cell’s DNA, rather than where the cancer is growing in the body. It’s the second drug of its kind to be approved for NHS use in England, after larotrectinib was given the green light in April this year. These innovative treatments have been hailed as ‘revolutionary, but they also post unique and complex challenges for the NHS, as our blog post explains.

Targeted drug improves survival for children with non-Hodgkin lymphoma 

New clinical trial results show that adding rituximab to standard chemotherapy could improve survival for children and young people with a fast-growing type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The results have been called “the most significant breakthrough in treating this type of cancer for 30 years”. Our news report has the story.  

New targeted cancer drug safe in early clinical trials 

BBC News reports on early trials of a new drug that could stop cancer cells repairing their DNA.  Initial trials of borzosertib, involving 40 people with advanced cancers, found the drug was well tolerated by patients. Researchers also saw early indications that the treatment was having an effect on tumour growth, but as the study was not designed to measure the effectiveness of the treatment, it’s too early to talk about the drug’s benefits. 

Prostate cancer drug rejected for NHS use in England 

A hormone therapy for some adults with newly, diagnosed, advanced prostate cancer has been rejected by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence. Clinical trial data suggests that abiraterone improves survival compared to some current treatment options, but NICE raised concerns that the drug’s effective had been overestimated. Our news report has the story.  

Lower activity levels associated with increased risk of cancer death 

A new study of over 8,000 adults has found a link between those who don’t move for long periods of time and an increased risk of dying from cancer. By monitoring participants using wearable tracking devices, researchers found that the most sedentary participants had an 82% higher risk of dying from the disease, taking into account factors such as age, gender and disease status. Read more on this at Insider. 

‘Starved’ cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy 

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have succeeded in making acute myeloid leukaemia cells more sensitive to chemotherapy in the lab by blocking sugar uptake. Scientists have tried to target cancer’s altered metabolism for many years, with mixed success. Full story at Lund University. 

And finally… 

A new ultrasound technique could be harnessed to kill cancer cells. During the experimental study, researchers used ultrasound to trigger microbubbles to explode, creating a targeted ‘warhead’. The team found that by directly injecting the microbubbles into tumours in mice, and then applying a low frequency ultrasound, they were able to wipe out a large number of the cancer cells. But to stop any remaining cancer cells from spreading, they had to combine the microbubble treatment with an immune-boosting gene therapy. New Atlas has this one.  

Scarlett Sangster is a writer for PA Media Group