We were runners up
We’ve had some great news – last night this blog was recognised in the Good Thinking Society’s first ever Science Blog Prize.
Set up by authors Simon Singh and Ben Goldacre, the prize aims to reflect the enormous growth in high-quality, free, online science writing over the last few years.
The overall award was shared between the excellent Suzie Gage, a Bristol-based PhD student who blogs about addiction and epidemiology over at Sifting The Evidence, and Professor David Colquhoun, author of the quack-busting blog DC’s Improbable Science.
We were among three runners-up, along with our former colleague Ed Yong’s excellent Not Exactly Rocket Science, and Professor Dorothy Bishop’s BishopBlog, which covers a wide range of topics from neuroscience to science communication and the media.
Cancer’s a hot topic online. In 2006, ‘cancer’ was the third-most most searched-for term on Google News (behind ‘Orlano Bloom’ and ‘Paris Hilton’). A Google search today for ‘cancer’ yields roughly 416 million hits.
Finding reliable cancer information amongst the online morass is extremely important. Good quality, reliable information can reassure, explain and, for some, help make decisions about which treatment to have. As a result, we’ve always invested a good deal of time and effort in keeping our websites up to date – especially our flagship patient information site, CancerHelp UK.
But as the internet evolves – especially the so-called ‘social web’ – we need to work out where we can be of most benefit. Should our involvement in the online world begin and end with our own website? Should we also spend time engaging with other online communities? And how much relative effort should we spend on these different tasks?
Get the low-down from the Naked Scientists
This week’s Naked Scientists podcast is all about cancer, co-presented live from the NCRI Conference in Liverpool by our own Dr Kat Arney.
The show features Professor Bob Weinberg discussing the hallmarks of cancer, and Dr Stacey Efstathiou talking about the role that viruses may play in the development of the disease. There’s also an in-depth interview with Professor Doug Fearon, investigating the latest news in immunotherapy and cancer.
Plus the team explore the science of ultrasound, a technique sometimes used to detect cancer.
Listen to the podcast through the player below, or from the Naked Scientists’ website:
To find out more about the stories, download the show, subscribe to the RSS feed or read a full transcript, head over to the Naked Scientists website.
The NHS Choices blog delves into the science behind the health headlines.
The excellent NHS Choices Behind the Headlines blog has a trio of intriguing cancer stories this week.
First, they look at the science behind five tips that “could cut the risk of bowel cancer” by nearly a quarter. These tips appeared in media stories that were based on a large study involving more than 50,000 people in Denmark.
Reassuringly, these aren’t faddy foods or impossible exercise regimes, but sensible, evidence-based health messages. One in four cases of bowel cancer could be prevented if people drank less alcohol, cut down on red meat, took more exercise, watched their waist size and stopped smoking.
NHS Choices points out:
“These findings are further evidence that lifestyle factors affect the risk of cancer, including colorectal cancer. Although the greatest reduction in risk is seen when people follow the recommendations in all areas, just sticking to the guidelines in one additional area reduces a person’s risk.”
A radiotherapy room - one of several photo tours now available on our CancerHelp UK site
Our award-winning patient information website, CancerHelp UK, has just produced a series of fascinating 360° photo ‘tours’ of various hospital treatment and scanning rooms.
These help to give patients and their friends and family an idea of what to expect when they go into hospital for tests or treatment for cancer.
Have a look around:
Have you ever wondered exactly how scientists study genes?
The human genome contains tens of thousands of genes, encoded in strings of millions of DNA ‘letters’. It’s no small task to home in on one short sequence in this genetic haystack.
From cancer researchers to CSI-style forensic pathologists – and pretty much every molecular biologist in between – scientists rely on the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, to amplify specific genes from the mass of DNA in a sample of cells. It’s a bit like using a ‘molecular photocopier’, making many copies of an individual stretch of DNA, so it can be studied or manipulated in the lab.
Here’s a neat little video explaining how PCR works, created by Joe Milton from new science website Guerrilla Biology, and partly filmed at the our London Research Institute.
ASCO is the largest cancer conference in the world
The American Cancer Society’s Dr Len Lichtenfeld has written a summary of his thoughts about the recent ASCO conference, which we mentioned earlier this week, for the CNBC website.
Despite several promising results – including some from our own researchers – it sounds like the mood at the conference was tempered by the reality of the challenge posed by the disease. Researchers are realising more than ever before that there are no short cuts on the road to beating cancer, and that we have a tough journey ahead of us:
“The sad reality is that patience remains a virtue. Whereas we thought that we were on the express train, we are finding that roadblocks abound. There are those who will be successful in navigating the journey, who develop new systems and approaches to dealing with these opportunities. But it isn’t going to be the rapid slew of miracles that we were anticipating just a few short years ago.
In a sense, it is bringing many of us back to Earth in our thinking and expectations. There is no “quick fix” for cancer, no clear spot of light at the end of the tunnel. This cautious realization that this part of the fight against cancer is going to take more time than we thought is more fitting with the research results we are learning about at ASCO 2010.”
But Dr Len thinks there is hope on the horizon, in the form of stratified (‘personalised’) medicine – an area that Cancer Research UK is investing in:
“Our researchers will continue discovering more complexities in cancer cells and provide more opportunities to develop new therapies. They will continue to uncover markers in cancers that will assist doctors in understanding how a particular patient’s cancer will behave and what type of treatment, if any, is needed. These markers will help offer guidance on which drugs will work in which situations.”
You can read his full account here.