Genes in Space, and childhood cancer survivors making a difference

Cancer Research UK
We meet comedian Dara O'Briain at the launch of our mobile phone game to speed up research, and hear from childhood cancer survivors who are giving something back.

Kat Arney: This is the Cancer Research UK podcast for February 2014. This month we hear about the mobile phone game that could help research, and hear from some childhood cancer survivors who are giving something back. Plus our heroes and zeros. 

Hello and welcome. I’m Kat Arney, and in this month’s podcast we’re going behind the scenes at the launch of the world’s first mobile phone that allows players to analyse real genetic data from cancer cells. Called Play To Cure: Genes in Space, we’ve developed the game to help our scientists get to grips with a major challenge facing researchers today – too much data, and not enough time to analyse it. 

The first person I spoke to at the launch was Hannah Keartland, our Citizen Science lead. I asked her why Cancer Research UK had decided to get involved in making the game. 

Hannah: We wanted to do something that we thought would help us to speed up our research. What we found is the analysis of data needs to be done by humans and the only way of really speeding that up is by getting more humans looking at that data. We believe that by doing a mobile phone game we can create something which enables people of all ages all around the world to look at that data. 

Kat: Where can people get the game from to play it and is it difficult?

Hannah: They can get it from the Apple App store and from Google Play by searching for Genes In Space. We think it’s something that anybody of any age should be able to play, and which they should find really enjoyable and appealing.

Kat: And also be helping our scientists to beat cancer sooner.

Hannah: Every level that you play, every couple of minutes, you will be helping to accelerate our research and help us to beat cancer sooner.

Kat: So that’s the idea, but what about the science behind it? To find out, Greg Jones spoke to Professor Carlos Caldas from our Cambridge Research Institute, whose lab have provided the data for the gamers to analyse.

Carlos: We’re generating massive amounts of data: in this particular project we profiled tumours from 2,000 different breast cancer patients, and for each of those tumours we obtain over 2,000,000 data points. To analyse that data using human input it would take thousands of hours. So instead what we did is we analysed the data using computers. And you might think that computers are absolutely precise – they’re very good but they’re not 100% precise. The human eye is very good at recognising patterns, and at recognising changes in patterns. So what we hope is that by having people play the game, what they’re doing is using the data that we used to generate the new breast cancer classifications, that they will refine the precision of the calls and therefore refine the identification of new breast cancer genes.

Greg Jones: So when they’re playing the game, what are members of the public actually going to be looking at and how are they going to be analysing the data?

Carlos: So they have the element of the game that is just playing a game. But to play the game - in order to enable the starship - they have to collect this substance alpha. And when they go and collect substance alpha, without knowing what they’re doing, what they’re really doing is analysing the data. By calling where there are gains and losses - so the peaks and the troughs in the data - they are effectively helping us find and map the faulty genes. That information is collected through the computer from each of these players. Many players will look at the same data and we will be calling data from the same tumour, so we hope that by the crowd-sourcing that we will refine the precision of the calls. 

By navigating through the data, effectively displayed to them as this cosmic dust, what they’re doing is really routing and tracing precisely where there are flat copy numbers - where there are gains, and where there are losses – and they are also identifying where the breaks occur; where from one level you have a gain and then it has a loss and those co-ordinates are registered when they put a dot in their computer. Without realising, they’re giving us the co-ordinates where they think the breaks are occurring

Greg: So in simple terms, what do we mean when we’re talking about copy numbers, breaks and gains?

Carlos: For each gene, with the exception of the ones located in the sex chromosomes, we have two copies: one inherited from mum and one inherited from dad. And so basically two copies is the normal number and anything that is above that is a gain - from three to hundreds - and anything that is a drop to 1 or 0 copies is a loss. And that’s precisely what we’re looking for. Where these gains and losses occur you can imagine a line and then you have a break, where it drops, and you have a break where the lines goes back up. If that break occurs in the middle of a gene, that is also very important information, because genes that have lots of breaks within the gene itself, those are genes that become more appealing for us to look at whether they are cancer-causing genes.

Greg: So how do you hope this data is going to help you find treatments and how can it be used to help better diagnose cancer?

Carlos: Well if the computer has missed some of these genes, and we believe it has, and if by crowd-sourcing we can identify them, then we have more genes that we can ether develop new diagnostic tests or develop new treatments.

Kat: That’s the science bit. But the journey from the lab to the game was a long one, starting with a ‘game jam’ last year where we got tech-minded people to come together and brainstorm ideas to develop a game based on Professor Caldas’ data. Next, in came software developers Guerilla Tea. CEO Mark Hastings told me more about their role in developing the game. 

Mark: We’ve done a couple of projects in the past – a medical education app and various games for other sectors – but we’ve never really had the opportunity to develop something that was so in the interest of the public good. And it’s really interesting working together – the data analysis and the still keeping the game fun. Because there’s always a few compromises you have to make in game development but this was a different kind of compromise and it was very challenging. But that just made it more interesting and more enjoyable to work on.

Kat: When you came to developing the game, what were the key things you wanted people to get out of it?

Mark: Well we wanted to make a game where simply by playing you happened to analyse data, rather than a game about analysing data. So throughout the whole development process we were trying to keep the game as enjoyable as possible, and keep the data analysis visible for those who were interested but still hidden for those who weren’t and they just wanted to play a fun game. So that was the big challenge.

Kat: So basically it feels like a game rather than a lab experiment?

Mark: Yes – it’s a game where the data analysis arises organically through the gameplay rather than a game where you’re constantly being told you’re analysing data – we very careful because the accuracy of the data is going to come from the number of people who play it and the number of playthroughs.

Kat: And how are you getting on with it – have you been playing it?

Mark: I have been playing it and I have been playing it throughout the whole development process. For me the only annoying bit was that every now and again we had to wipe the servers and reset all the accounts to make sure that whenever we put out a new build we were testing from afresh account and we weren’t dragging forward any issues. So there are people who’ve managed to reach the Galactic Legend level already and I’m not one of them.

Kat: Maybe very soon?

Mark: Well hopefully yes!

Kat: Someone who has made it almost to the top of the leaderboard is Ed Aspel, head of our Citizen Science team. He describes what it’s like to actually play the game.

Ed: It’s very, very simple. You are the captain of a spaceship and your task is to fly through space collecting Element Alpha – a sort of space dust. And as you fly through space and you’re going through the thickest parts of that dust, you’re actually following the path of genetic data, and that is fed back to our scientists showing where there are potential faults which could lead to cures. 

So to all intents and purposes, you are flying through space, you then have to shoot at asteroids, you have to dodge them, and actually collect this Element Alpha. You can trade it in, you can upgrade your spaceship in terms of defences, in terms of power, and then go up through the grades. So you could even make it to be a Galactic Hero. But all the time you’re giving real data back to our scientists.

Kat: How much fun do you find it to play the game? How have you found it so far?

Ed: I’m at level 31, and the developers have had to set me back to zero three times because I siply can’t put it down.  It’s nice because it’s also my job, and I want to see how well it works. I’m actually trying to find out if there are any bugs in it. But it is quite addictive, so at weekends I have been told “Could you put that down please and chat to us?” It’s good fun.

Kat: And how pimped out is your spaceship now? 

Ed: It’s pretty good. But it’s bright pink – maybe that’s the brand colours I’m going with. I’ve got new collectors, I’ve got top shields and guns, and I’ve just upgraded to the next spaceship – you have to be at level 20 to do that, so there’s always something extra to go for as you get to each level.

Kat: What’s the future for Cancer Research UK’s involvement in this kind of gamification, Citizen Science project?

Ed: I think this is just the start. The potential is huge. We know that there are huge bottlenecks in data, and it’s not just genetic data or the cell data from CellSlider. Actually there could be any number of games, any number of ways in which we get citizens to analyse this data. It could, for example, be where we take the data and embed it into an existing, well-known game. So it could be the way the bullets come at you are randomly based on our genetic data, so you don’t even know. That could be an approach we take.

It could be as simple as how you open your phone every day – a routine task where you’re just mapping three or four dots is helping analyse our data. So there’s a whole number of ways of doing it – we just need to explore which ones are the best, which ones work most appropriately, and above all make sure we get really good science that comes out of it from people who are prepared to play and play again. 

Kat: One person who’s been playing the game is comedian Dara O’Briain. I wanted to know why he was interested in the game. 

Dara: Kind of a nerdy interest, because I did Stargazing Live for the last few years and we’ve had one of these projects each season where we’ve taken raw data and offered it up to the public. We haven’t gamified it and we haven’t put the bells and whistles on – it’s been a case of “Here, go have a look”, because we’re finding very specific things: find a planet, map Mars, find a galaxy. But it’s amazing when the crowd get interested in something just how much information you can get out of that. 

Now I’m seeing this kind of project in a few different places, and we live now in an era of Big Data where all these scientific research projects uncover so much information, and the game is how do you sift through that to find the stuff that’s relevant. So on a nerdy level I wanted to do it.

Kat: And what do you think of the game? Are you enjoying having a go at it?

Dara: I’ve had a go at it, I’m up to level 11, and I’m finding it quite more-ish. I find the asteroids and all that less interesting than going through graphing the [route], although you do hope that someone will tell you if you’re graphing them right or wrong – luckily the fail-safes are built in so that I’m not putting back cancer research!

Kat: It’s interesting when you get served with different traces – sometimes they’re straight and sometimes you can see they’re really changing.

Dara: Yes, but I think they’re right not to say what it is you’re looking at to a certain extent – is this a good one, is this a bad one? We’re happy with just finding the pattern.

Kat: You’re broadly very interested in science – how do you think these kind of approaches could actually make a difference in the future?

Dara: It’s simply a response to how much information is being processed. There are two thousand people and there are 2.3 million data points for each of them – that’s 460 million data points in total. That would take months and months of research, but if you package them like this and get people to chip in every so often – a couple of minutes here and there – you get enough people doing it, you can see why it would save Cancer Research money, pure and simple, it will save people having to do this and will move them onto the next project. So I think we’ll see a lot more of this kind of stuff.

Kat: It does seem kind of crazy that a few minutes playing on your phone can be helping to do real research.

Dara: Yeah, absolutely. It is strange. I just think that this is the breaking of a wave, and you’re going to see a lot more of these kinds of things emerging as we just have all these data sets. And it’s not just in cancer research or astronomy, but in all the sciences at the moment. But when you can use it for something good like this, it’s very exciting. 

Kat: Although the main element of the game – as far as players are concerned – is fun, it’s providing our researchers with vital information about the genetic faults in cancer cells. And if it turns out to be an accurate and fast way of analysing these kinds of data sets in future, it could hugely speed up progress. And no-one appreciates that more than people with cancer and their families, as prostate cancer survivor Tony Selman explains.  

Tony:  When my wife died I declared war on cancer, and that means any piece of weaponry that I can lay hands on to defeat it, I’ll take. And I think it’s now been demonstrated that a game that is attractive to the great citizenry of the country but which actually does a scientific job in the background, is something to be taken forward. At the moment we’re only working with breast cancer data, but prostate cancer kills as many men, very nearly, as breast cancer kills women. So hopefully once we’ve demonstrated that the method works on breast cancer, we can move on to other major cancers like prostate and lung cancers.

Kat: You can download Play to Cure: Genes in Space for free from the Apple App store and the Google Play store. Just search for Genes in Space, and get flying. And you can find out more about the science behind the game on our Science Update blog. Just follow the link in the Soundcloud player.

In December’s podcast we highlighted some of the challenges in researching and treating childhood cancer, as well as our Little Star awards, celebrating the bravery of kids with cancer. Thanks to advances in research, most of our Little Stars grow up to be healthy adults. And some of them are so touched by their experience that they want to get involved themselves. 

Our reporter Alan Worsley went along to a lab tour attended by five very special guests – childhood cancer survivors who are now students studying science and medicine – to hear their stories. To start with, Camilla is now a medical student at Bristol University, but when she was 15 – right in the middle of her GCSEs – she was undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She told Alan about her motivation to become a doctor, and her experience of being diagnosed with cancer.

Camilla:  Well I had a pain in my shoulder so I went to a physiotherapist and they spotted a lump in my neck, so I got referred to a GP and it went very quickly from there. Twelve hours later they’d said, “We think you have lymphoma”. I was on chemotherapy within about a fortnight after that, so it went very quickly. I was cured in June 2009, but it relapsed in the January of 2010, so I had another six months of treatment.

Alan: That day when that happened, how did that change?

Camilla: Everything just flips on its head completely. Particularly as a child you don’t have many decisions to make yourself, so school was obviously a big problem. I carried on going to school and I was taking my GCSEs at the time, both years, so I had radiotherapy during the day and I’d take a GCSE in the afternoon, and then go back to school. It was a bit hectic but we got through it.

Alan: For most people, GCSEs by themselves are a big enough problem! With this on top, did it change what you wanted to study afterwards? 

Camilla: Yeah – I’d always been interested in doing a science0based degree, but actually being in hospital for two years did make me think I’d actually like to do this as a career. So I applied for medicine and got into Bristol University.

Alan: What is it after two years of being in a hospital? Is it just wanting to see the other side? How did that affect wanting to do medicine in particular?

Camilla: It was seeing different doctors and their bedside manners, and in my case this very small proportion that could actually talk to a teenager in a way that you’d understand. And I just wanted to be able to perhaps make a difference, or be involved in that and help other people who may be in the same situation as mine.

Alan: It does seem to be such a big issue, just being able to talk to and understand what’s going on. Is that the position you want to be in?

Camilla: Yes. It can change someone’s experience hugely. It can turn it from being an absolute nightmare to actually being bearable – just being able to make that difference would be incredible.

Kat: Kavil, now 22, is coming to the end of his degree in pharmacy at the University of Hertfordshire. When he was just eight he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Alan asked him whether his childhood experience had shaped his academic choice. 

Kavil: While you’re going through that sort of experience, even while you’re quite young, the amount of time you spend around other patients, in hospitals etc, you feel like as you get along you become more related or more in tune with that side of life. So it definitely influences you in the choices you make. 

Ever since then I’ve found in school, when I went back to school, I was more interested in sciences, that sort of thing. And then that encourages you even more. So then the university options were things like dentistry, medicine, pharmacy – all that side. You don’t really think about it at the time but when you look back, going through that experience does influence you in some way.

Alan:  For the treatment process, did you have a long treatment? And how did you find managing school – did you have to pull out of school and come back?

Kavil: It was three years in total of treatment. I think one year I had to take out of school. The school were really understanding, even my mum tells me now when she goes to speak to them they’re really understanding, they offered any extra help if I needed it. So there wasn’t any pressure on that side. And when I went back to school, I think that was an encouragement – to get back in there was great.  

But even in the hospital – I was at Great Ormond Street – they have a lot of support there, so I don’t really think that you miss out too much. I’m doing at the moment I think, so obviously nothing too badly was missed there. During it you just have to put up with it and keep going. Three years is a long time of treatment but it’s worth it if you’re going to come out of it the other end – three years is nothing if you look at it now.

Alan: What do you hope to do with that degree? Where do you see that progressing?

Kavil: I’ve got a couple of options. I’m thinking of going into industry, working in a pharmaceutical base. That’s what my project is at the moment so that would be something that would interest me. I think patients half of the time their worry is using the medicines. So if you can improve that in any way you’re going to massively help any treatment, any developments in treatment that are happening at the moment. That could be one side.

Another side could be working in the community with patients. A lot of the time advice on how to take their medicines and using their medicines is really important to them, especially I remember when I was on treatment my mum would speak to the pharmacist all the time, and that’s something that I would like to be able to provide.

Alan: So having been through your experience, you want to be the one to communicate to the future patients?

Kavil: Yes, the more you understand your medicines and your medical regime, the happier you are – the more you’re willing to take part in it and adhere to whatever the doctors say. So I think that’s really important in terms of having a successful treatment plan. So even me at the age of eight, I think I had some understanding, but it was more important for my parents, my family to understand.  I think that’s one of the hardest things you have to overcome at the beginning – understanding what’s going on. If you can do that, you can put up with the rest of it I think. 

Lee is now in her third year of a biochemistry degree at Manchester University. Back in 2007, when she was 14, she was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia, leading to chemotherapy, radiotherapy and eventually a bone marrow transplant. But while her treatment lasted for a gruelling year, her diagnosis was a lot quicker. 

Lee: I was in year 10, but before I started the year I said to my dad, “I really don’t know how I’m going to go into this year” because I’d been sleeping about 6 hours during the day during the summer and I was absolutely shattered. And he said “Oh, you’ll be fine, just go into it.” I ended up falling asleep in classes, walking home from school and I was falling asleep in the car park, up to the stage where I had a huge pain in my stomach between my left-hand side. My mum said if it’s not gone in the morning we’ll go to the doctors. So we went to the doctor, and I was told to go out of the room – the doctor said “Are you pregnant?” and I said “No, don’t think so!” I saw the doctor at 10 o’clock in the morning, I was rushed into Reading with a 2 o’clock appointment there, and by 10 o’clock in the evening I was in Oxford at the John Radcliffe [hospital] having treatment. So it was all pretty quick. I didn’t really know what had happened!

Alan: What a day!

Lee: Yeah, it was a bit mental. It was a bit of a rush day. The pain was my spleen – it was so big that the doctor came in to me and again said “Are you pregnant?” and I said “No, pretty sure!”

Alan: “No, it’s a spleen”... It must have been one heck of a day. What happened after that? What changed everything you were doing?

Lee: I was in the John Radcliffe for two weeks and then just living with the fact that this is what I’ve got, and it’s a bit like “Well, I don’t really know what to do now.” So I started going into school, one lesson a day. I got a bit molly-coddled – people would start weirdly making friends with me and I was like, “Go away, you’re not my friend!” 

But the school was absolutely amazing, they brought a whole general awareness of cancer, started having quite a few group things together about cancer and saying “This is what Lee’s got. If you see her say “Hi”, but don’t go running up to her and asking about it.”

Alan: Once you were through the treatment, how did that impact what you wanted to do afterwards?

Lee: When I was in hospital I didn’t really have anything else to do, so I just studied for my GCSEs. And when I got home after my bone marrow transplant I wasn’t really allowed to go out and see friends because of the infection awareness. So, again, I just studied. And that ended up with me getting quite decent GCSEs, so then I thought, “Wow, I probably could go on to do something>” So then I took my A levels, which was chemistry, biology, maths and psychology – general ones I was interested in – and I started looking round the university courses I could go into. 

I was interested in medicine but then realised actually I probably couldn’t get the grades to do medicine. And then I realised I could do biochemistry, and I really like it. So I applied to universities and I’m really enjoying it.

Alan: So what is it you’re doing now?

Lee: I’m doing a placement at the Institute of Child Health with John Anderson, who’s working on neuroblastoma.

Alan: Do you know what you want to do after you finish?

Lee: Hopefully do a PhD, and then go into research after that – that’s my master plan.

Kat: Lucy has just started her biology degree at Bristol, focusing in particular on cancer. So how’s the course going so far?

Lucy:  It’s really good – I’m really loving the cancer side, I find it so interesting with my own personal experience of cancer it’s just so interesting learning about it all with the personal context, and the extra meaning it has for me.

Alan: Tell us about that – what happened in your case?

Lucy:  In December 2009 I had chronic pain in my back, which was then diagnosed as alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. Then I had just over a year of treatment, which ended in January 2011 – quite intensive treatment for that year but I’m not in remission and looking to go into cancer research. 

Alan: Has your experience been a big part of what you’ve chosen to study?

Lucy: Yeah – the experience took up two years of my life, when I was studying for my GCSEs, so it was a very big part of my life, but it’s just part of who I am now.

Alan: For most people just taking their GCSEs themselves are pretty traumatic. Did you have to study at the hospital?

Lucy: I really wanted to keep up with my schoolwork so I didn’t have to then reintegrate into a different school year when I returned to school, so I didn’t have that much time as an inpatient in hospital. I had tutors come to the house to tutor me through most of my GCSEs. I did a drop a couple but I did most of them.

Alan: What do you hope to do with this study?

Lucy: Hopefully improve the treatments so other people don’t have to have it quite as bad as I did! I was quite sick when I was on the chemotherapy, so anything I can do to improve that will be time well spent I think.

Kat: Max, now 21, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia back in 2003. He’s now studying psychology at Bournemouth University. Alan asked him to explain how his experience of cancer had shaped his decision to study that particular subject.

Max: Fundamentally, psychology played a massive role in my treatment and obviously post-treatment. Psychology is understanding the human mind, the human body, how it all interacts, and I think this definitely formed the basis of myself and my family – I just wanted to understand it more, and I believe psychology has enabled me to do that.

Alan: During your treatment, it wasn’t just the chemotherapy, the radiotherapy, but also how you thought about what you were going through and making those decisions. Was that where it was really impacting your family?

Max:  Almost certainly, yeah. We’re a family of fighters and I think 100 per cent it laid in the cognition, how we think, how we’re able to fight it, how we’re able to put up a front and not let the illness beat us, but rather we beat the illness.

Kat: Many of the children in the UK with cancer take part in clinical trials, aimed at finding the most effective and kindest way to treat them. Also on the tour was clinical research nurse at University College London Hospital, Emma Hainsworth. She explained to Alan about her role in working with kids on trials. 

Emma: A research nurse is responsible for acting as the patient advocate. The cancer clinical trials are often discussed along with the principal investigator of the study, the clinician, so the nurse’s role is to really act as the patient advocate, explain the information perhaps when there’s a bit more time, make sure that they’re making fully informed choices about taking part in the study. Then once they’re enrolled in the trial, supporting them through the process, making sure that all the protocol measurements are being taken, but also that they’re being looked after and the whole thing is co-ordinated as smoothly as possible.

Alan: So is that a big part of the role then? Not so much just making sure that the trial runs smoothly in terms of the protocol, but also explaining and making sure that the patients are aware of what the trial is doing. Do you find that’s almost the bigger role?

Emma: Yes. I think that a really important role is to give information so that the patient understands what to expect. Sometimes things change within the course of a clinical trial – new information becomes available about the drugs under investigation – and the research nurse role is really to keep the patient as fully informed as possible, support them and let them ask questions. And of course encourage them to say how they feel about taking part in the trial, and if it came to it and it wasn’t an experience they enjoyed, support them and make sure they know they can withdraw at any time.

Alan:  Today we’ve taken five childhood cancer survivors on a trip of a lab tour – they’ve all had various childhood cancer illnesses but yet they’re here and they’re all studying now to become cancer researchers themselves. Today we’ve found that they’ve explored what it takes to be one. What have you observed?

Emma: I was really impressed by the young people I’ve met in that they were so keen to get involved in cancer research, when they’ve had personal experience, but not surprised because a lot of the patients I encounter are really motivated by wanting to make a difference for others in the future and you often find people are very altruistic. I’ve been really impressed by the people today who ahve expressed this interest in helping others.

Alan: Ina the same way, not just being on a clinical trial, but taking the life choice to take that career path – it’s more than just treating yourself, is that common to want to help others?

Emma: Yes. We see people who’ve taken part in trials who then are very keen to help other people. So we have patients who have maybe gone through a course of treatment on a trial who are very happy to speak to people who are just embarking on that treatment. You do see it a lot, and I think both people get benefit from that – the person who’s been through the experience and is able to help gets a lot out of that themselves. 

Alan: I think one of the things we’ve seen today, and from talking to all of them, is that they find the bit where they received the information and talked about treatments – maybe not so much for them, but sometimes them and their families – they consider that to be a really big part of the cancer journey. Has that been your experience?

Emma: Yes, definitely. I think it’s important that we realise the different roles of all the various people in the team in giving information. One of the young people today who’s gone into pharmacy, his personal experience was that he identified the pharmacist as playing a key role in following up on information that the doctor had perhaps given but it was under some stressful circumstances. So I think that the wider team of pharmacists, nurses, as well as clinicians, they all play their part and are very important for giving information.

Kat: That was Alan Worsley talking to research nurse Emma Hainsworth.  We also heard from Camilla, Kavil, Lee, Lucy and Max. And you can find out more about how our research is helping to beat childhood cancer on our blog, and watch a video of their visit.

And finally, it’s time for our heroes and zeros.   Our heroes this month are the wonderful women involved in our Women of Influence Initiative. It’s a scheme bringing together a unique network of top business women to mentor our most promising young female scientists and clinicians as they move up the career ladder into senior positions. And they’re also fundraising to support the scientists’ life-saving research.

And our zeroes this month are the headline writers at the newspapers who heralded lab research on mole rats as a “cure for all cancers”. The headlines refer to research that was made public in August last year by scientists in Israel, showing that the rodents are unusually resistant to cancer. It also shows human cancer cells grown in the lab alongside mole rat cells – or treated with extracts from the cells – are killed off. But while it’s fascinating early research, it’s a long way from being anything close to a cure. Such overblown headlines give cancer patients false hope of a wonder treatment that’s just around the corner – or, worse, being hidden by nefarious corporate interests. Equally damaging, headlines like this can undermine the public’s confidence in research, when over-hyped breakthroughs don’t quickly materialise into cures. 

That’s all for February’s podcast, we’ll see you again next month for a look at all the latest cancer news.

We’d also like to answer your questions in our podcast, so please email them to podcast@cancer.org.uk, post on our Facebook page, or tweet us – that’s @CR_UK. And if you’re listening to this on Soundcloud, please leave us a comment with your feedback. Thanks very much and bye for now.