Actress Angelina Jolie has had surgery to prevent breast cancer
The news today is full of reaction to US actress Angelina Jolie’s decision to have surgery to reduce her chances of breast cancer.
She made this difficult decision because, having lost her mother to ovarian cancer, she discovered she carries a faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene – which put her at very high risk of getting both forms of the disease.
If you haven’t read her brave and thoughtful piece in the New York Times, it’s worth doing so.
But in the light of the considerable interest, and the fact that many people will undoubtedly have questions, we wanted to pull together a few quick thoughts and facts on the topic of inherited breast cancer generally, and the BRCA1 gene specifically.
This year has been as busy as ever and we’ve made great progress made in all aspects of our work, from lab research to clinical trials and policy to prevention. Here are some of our key successes. Click here to view in an interactive timeline.
That’s all folks!
Before the final day of the conference started, we once again awoke to news stories based on research presented over the last few days.
The BBC led with figures released at the conference showing that the economic cost of cancer tops £15bn a year in the UK. Drawing on the same figures, the Daily Mail highlighted the staggering toll of lung cancer in the UK – £2.4 billion per year – which is more than other common cancers such as breast and bowel.
We agree with their headline that there’s an urgent need to stop younger people from taking up smoking – the major cause of lung cancer.
It's time for a roundup of the week's top cancer news
There’s a crop of stories about bowel cancer in the news this week, a couple of which have come from the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) conference, which took place on Thursday and Friday.
HPV and cervical cancer:
Also in the news this week:
- Our researchers at the University of Sussex have solved a 30-year-old genetic puzzle, unravelling the three-dimensional structure of the enzyme PARP. Many researchers around the world are investigating drugs that block PARP – known as PARP inhibitors – and some are currently being tested in clinical trials. Understanding more about the exact size and shape of the enzyme will help researchers develop the next generation of PARP inhibitors.
- The International Association for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organisation, classified diesel fumes as a “Group 1 carcinogen”. Our bloggers discussed what this actually means, with a little expert help from Professor David Philips and some bananas. The NHS Choices blog also covered the issue in depth, pointing out that sunlight and Chinese salted fish are also Group 1 carcinogens.
- NICE has said “no” to new melanoma drug vemurafenib (Zelboraf) on grounds of cost. The drug targets a faulty version of the protein BRAF, discovered by our scientists. Our Chief Clinician Professor Peter Johnson described the decision as frustrating, saying “We want to see Roche offer a price that the NHS can afford.”
- There was some good news from the Treasury this week as Chancellor George Osborne decided to exclude charitable donations from the proposed income tax cap. We were concerned that the proposed cap would lead to reduced contributions from major donors, so this decision is warmly welcomed by charities and their supporters.
- Should you brush up on your teeth-cleaning technique? Although Swedish researchers have suggested there may be a link between increased levels of dental plaque and cancer, the NHS Choices blog highlights holes in the study – namely that it doesn’t actually prove that the plaque causes cancer, as it could be an indicator of other factors.
Professor Mike Stratton led the team that tracked down BRCA2
In part one, we told the story of Cancer Research UK’s involvement in the race to identify BRCA1 – the first known breast cancer gene.
Although this was a very important discovery, it wasn’t the end of the story. Along the way, researchers had discovered evidence suggesting that there had to be at least one more gene out there.
Here we look at how our scientists revealed the identity of the second breast cancer gene, BRCA2, and what the discovery of both these genes means for cancer patients and their families.
It was a busy news week
Some really interesting research made the headlines this week. As ever, we’ve collected the week’s key stories below. Click on the links for the full article:
- The week’s biggest story was on Friday. Research from Sweden, published in our journal, the British Journal of Cancer, suggests that people who regularly eat processed meat – like two rashers of bacon or a sausage every day – have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare, so the possible increase due to processed meat is pretty small, but this fits in with previous studies. Smoking is a much more important risk factor and is linked to over one quarter of cases.