Skin Cancer Treatment Breakthrough

By Rowan Williams
  • – Skin cancer tumours shrink in drug trials
  • – US state surveillance law expires
  • – Free childcare extension trials to be brought forward
  • – China nuclear power firm plans major IPO


Doctors are hailing a significant breakthrough in the drive to cure melanoma. In an international trial of a new treatment on 945 people with advanced melanoma, tumours were found to shrink in 60 percent of those who took part. The new treatment uses new drugs ipilimumab and nivolumab, and was seen to stop the advancing of skin cancer for nearly a year in patients when successful. The new treatment works by encouraging the immune system to attack cancer cells when it otherwise would not. Cancer Research UK has welcomed the findings, though it is not currently known how the treatment will affect the lifespan of patients. Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, kills over 2,000 people in Britain annually. The findings have implications for the future of treatments for other cancer, with more research likely to be undertaken into similar immunotherapy drugs that encourage the immune system to attack cancer cells.

US state surveillance powers are to be reformed, after the Senate failed to reach a deal on the extension of the controversial Patriot Act. The act, established in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, granted the US National Security Agency sweeping powers to monitor phone records. The extent of such powers, when revealed by whistleblower Ed Snowden in 2013, shocked the American public. The Patriot Act is likely to be replaced by the Freedom Act, an act that will mark the first rollback of US government surveillance powers since 1978.

Trials for the extension of free childcare in the UK are to be brought forward to 2016. Under the scheme, three and four year-old children of working parents in some areas will be entitled to double the current amount of free childcare –currently 570 hours a year, or 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year. The Pre-School Learning Alliance has expressed concerns over the strain the proposed system will put on childcare providers. The government has insisted it will increase funding to accommodate the trials. The trials were originally to be introduced in September 2017, and will now be introduced in September 2016.

China National Nuclear Power Co Ltd (CNNPC) has said it aims to raise £1.4 billion in its IPO on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, in one of the largest IPOs in China in the past five years. CNNPC is a branch of China National Nuclear Corp, one of China’s two state nuclear reactor builders. China plans to raise its nuclear capacity from 21 gigawatts to 58 gigawatts by the end of 2020, a plan that will require large amounts of investment. An estimated 100 billion yuan will need to be spent annually to meet that target.

The Papers

Health and human rights stories appear on a few front pages today. The Times leads with news that doctors are hailing a “’spectacular step’ towards cancer cure”. Medical trials for new drugs have shown strong results in treating melanoma, with the treatment helping the immune system to attack tumours, the paper writes. The Independent leads with news that patients are searching for new GPs “as surgery closures accelerate”. Staff shortages have forced patients to look for new surgeries, the paper reports. Doctors have warned of a “recruitment and retention crisis in medical profession”. The Guardian, meanwhile, writes of “alarm at police data demands” in its headline, as a report by privacy campaigners shows that police officers in the UK make a request to access private phone and email records every two minutes. These requests “are granted 93% of the time”, the paper reports. The Daily Telegraph leads with news that Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Michael Gove have “split” from the Prime Minister “in human rights row”. Gove and May wish to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, arguing that the move would “re-establish the supremacy of British courts over Strasbourg judges”. The Financial Times leads with news that a group of six European oil and gas firms are seeking “UN backing for carbon pricing system”, in a bid to tackle global warming. Firms include Shell and BP, though major US oil firms have shunned a push for a “global mechanism” of pricing, the paper writes.

British Media on China

On the Beijing smoking ban: a new law banning smoking in public places in Beijing has received some coverage over recent days. The BBC writes that China has “over 300 million smokers”, and notes that previous smoking bans were “vague”, and “have largely failed to crack down on the habit”. The BBC includes a video in its online coverage. The Guardian’s agency piece reports that the fine under the previously ineffective smoking ban had been “just 10 yuan ($1.60)”. The Independent piece asks that following the ban in Beijing, “will the city respond this time?” The ban is likely to face a “steep challenge”, the paper writes. However, if successful, the ban “is likely to be rolled out nationwide”.

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