Our biggest cancer news stories of 2019

Thursday, December 26th 2019. | cancer

2019 was a year jam packed with brilliant progress and new challenges for cancer research. Here are our top stories of the year, from the first trial of a new cancer breath test to understanding lung cancer evolution.

Re-writing the breast cancer rulebook

In 2012, scientists at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute discovered that they could separate breast cancer into 10 distinct categories by studying faults in their DNA, creating a new set of rules for defining breast cancer. And this year they’ve shown these rules stand the test of time – with cancers in the different categories behaving very differently 20 years after they were initially diagnosed.

Caldas and his team won’t stop there – they hope to turn what they’ve learnt into a test that could help give women diagnosed with breast cancer more certainty about their future, as well as treatment options that are right for them. Read more about their amazing research in our blog post.

We also visited the team’s breast cancer avatars, which could help to tailor treatments for hard-to-treat cancers.

A cancer breath test enters trials

This year, Cancer Research UK-funded scientists were the first to trial a non-invasive breath test that’s hoping to detect multiple cancers by picking up distinctive molecules, or ‘signatures’, in people’s breath.

The PAN trial is the first of its kind to look at whether a breath test can pick up a range of cancers: https://t.co/Ov1QRSDHfk pic.twitter.com/tg60YJpVq9

— Cancer Research UK (@CR_UK) January 3, 2019

Three new teams take on some of the biggest challenges in cancer research

Our ambitious Grand Challenge research award was set up 5 years ago to help revolutionise our understanding of cancer. This year, Grand Challenge has selected 3 international groups of determined scientists to confront some of the biggest questions in cancer research.

The latest challenges:

To embark on a virtual trip into the gut – check out the video below

Tracking cancer evolution with the TRACERx lung study

Survival of the fittest doesn’t just apply to animals in the wild – cancers are constantly evolving and adapting in order to survive. Our TRACERx study is tracking lung cancers in nearly 850 patients, scrutinising the precise evolution of the cancer, in order to develop new, more tailored treatment combinations.

The team, led by Cancer Research UK’s lead clinician Professor Charles Swanton, have analysed the tactics tumours use to respond to and hide from the immune system.

And new results published this year has found that detecting potential tumour cells in the blood after surgery could help predict the course the disease could take and the likelihood of lung cancer returning. We went to Manchester to catch up with Caroline Dive, who told us how this new information could change lung cancer treatment.

Our NHS diaries reveal the impact of staff shortages

One in 10 NHS diagnostic staff positions are currently unfilled in England. So we went behind the scenes to hear what it’s for like for the people giving and receiving a diagnosis under the pressures of an NHS in crisis.

We spoke to Dawn, a consultant radiographer who diagnoses breast cancer and Neil, who was diagnosed with penile cancer 5 years ago and was waiting to hear if his cancer had come back.

Science Surgery

As well as speaking with our brilliant researchers, we answered some of your important questions about cancer this year…

Confessions of a former junk food ad exec

Last year, the Government revealed its bold ambition to halve childhood obesity by 2030, committing to consult on introducing a 9pm watershed on junk food marketing. It’s a measure we’ve been campaigning for since 2016, but it’s not a done deal yet. We need to keep the pressure up to ensure the Government turns its proposals into action.

We spoke to Dan Parker, a former food ad exec turned campaigner, about the tricks of the trade used by marketers to influence how people make decisions about what they eat. To find out more about what Dan suggests we can do tackle this continuing problem, read our blog post.

"Advertising is not just about getting you to buy something. It's about planting the seeds over a long time, to make a product cool or to associate it with a particular emotion." Read Dan's story on our blog: https://t.co/d8bVvX3U8N pic.twitter.com/0PXRKjhUMS

— Cancer Research UK (@CR_UK) July 15, 2019

A spotlight on detecting cancer early

The earlier a cancer is picked up, the more likely a person is to survive. Finding innovative new ways to help detect the very early stages of cancer is one of our top priorities, and this year we announced a new international alliance to help accelerate research in this area.

We also spoke to some of our scientists about exciting research that is helping to pick up cancer clues in blood, poo and urine.

Putting things in perspective – 2019 headlines

We gave our perspective on some of the biggest cancer stories that hit the headlines this year…

Thanks for all your generous donations throughout 2019 that made this amazing work possible. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Cancer Research UK.


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