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News digest – breast cancer blood test, eye cancer, Tasmanian Devils and more

Posted Mar 16 2013 12:00am
  • Our top story this week is a little left-field, and concerns a marsupial called the Tasmanian devil, which is threatened by from unique infectious cancer spread by biting. This week, researchers in Cambridge have made a big step forward in understanding how the cancer spreads – it cloaks itself from the immune system. The BBC has this interview with the lead researcher , and there’s more at National Geographic’s Phenomena blog . Fingers crossed they find a vaccine before the poor creature becomes extinct.

  • In other smoking-related news, new research shows that the UK’s children are shown millions of tobacco-related images on telly every week. Here’s our news story .
  • Our researchers in Oxford have shown that the risk of heart problems following radiotherapy for breast cancer are lower than previous estimates. Our press release was widely picked up – here’s the New York Times’s take
  • This is one of the most heartfelt and moving pieces  we’ve ever published – a parent’s journey through her daughter’s experience of cancer.
  • Relative risks also featured in this story, widely covered ( here’s the BBC’s version ). A “49 per cent increased risk of ovarian cancer” was found among women in a study who worked night shifts. But only a small number of women on the study actually worked nights, so we’re not convinced by the finding (although there may be a link between night shifts and breast cancer).
  • Sensors the size of an eyelash could in future be implanted into tumours to help improve the treatment of cancer patients,” said the Scotsman , reporting on a new £5.2m research project starting at Edinburgh University
  • Canadian researchers have found a new way that retinoblastoma – a rare childhood eye cancer – can develop. The results have implications for survivors, some of whom may not be at as high a risk of subsequent cancers as previously thought
  • Like a bad smell, the ‘dogs can sniff cancer’ story is back . We often get asked about the science behind these recurring stories, and it’s certainly interesting – cancers give off molecules that can be detected by highly-trained sniffer dogs. But it’s simply not practical to use dogs on a wide scale for cancer screening across the general population. Read this blog post for more information .


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