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  • We released new figures showing that deaths from oesophageal cancer – cancer of the gullet or food pipe – have increased by almost 50 per cent in the past 40 years. As the Mail Online’s coverage pointed out, this could in part be down to preventable causes such as obesity, smoking and drinking alcohol. But we clearly need to work hard to find better ways to diagnose and treat the disease too.
  • The lower breast cancer rates in South Asian and black women are due to differences in lifestyle and reproductive factors, according to a study we helped to fund. The Guardian and The Telegraph have more detail.
  • UK women have the 10th highest rate in the world for cancers linked to a lack of physical activity. The Guardian has more info.
  • It’s worth reading this blog post about how such research on lifestyle and cancer isn’t about blaming patients, but understanding how our genes, our environment and our behaviour work to influence our chance of developing cancer.
  • The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released updated guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. Several media outlets covered the announcement and The Guardian was our pick of the bunch.
  • The BBC covered some early lab research showing that specialised nanoparticles were able to target and kill cancer cells in the bloodstream of mice. The so called ‘sticky balls’ are equipped with an adhesive molecule and a cancer killing molecule that team up with white blood cells to seek out and kill the cancer cells – NHS choices took an in depth look at the findings.
  • Breast cancer cells could switch identity and behave more like brain cells, allowing them to go undetected and spread to the brain. The New Scientist has more detail on the lab research, which marks an interesting first step in finding potential new ways to target the spread of breast cancer.
  • In more breast cancer news, UK researchers found that high levels of a particular molecule – called DACH1 – was linked to lower grade tumours, longer intervals between cancer returning and lower death rates over five years. The marker could be used to indicate which women might benefit from a particular treatment, but it’s still early days – see The Telegraph for more details.

A few reports this week were a little over enthusiastic in their interpretation of interesting but preliminary lab research:

  • The Mail Online covered work to analyse the ‘heat maps’ of blood samples to detect cervical cancer. Much more work will be needed to see if this approach could develop into a useful tool to sit alongside the established cervical screening programme in the future. The BBC provided a little more balance about the research.
  • Headlines in the Mail Online and The Scotsman claimed that scientists have developed a new test that could diagnose cancer in “hours”. The scientists use a specialised chemical imaging technique to spot differences in tissue samples that could point to cancer, but it’s a long way to go before this becomes a routine test available to patients.

And finally

  • Although it’s too soon to claim that pancreatic cancer can be “killed off” in less than a week, research from our scientists marks an important step forward in our understanding of how the immune system could be exploited to help target pancreatic cancer. To add some balance to the exaggerated headlines we caught up with one of our scientists behind the research.

Nick

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Comments

Helen S January 10, 2014

Re Oesophageal Cancer. It is worth noting that I have never smoked, do not drink spirits but like 1 glass of wine with a meal at the weekend, however I developed O.C. ten years ago due to acid reflux. Early diagnosis is essential.