Image for What went right this week: a big week for medical breakthroughs, plus more

What went right this week: a big week for medical breakthroughs, plus more

New tests promised to ‘turn the tide’ on cancer, a breakthrough saved a man’s sight, and the Dutch unplugged en mass, plus more good news

New tests promised to ‘turn the tide’ on cancer, a breakthrough saved a man’s sight, and the Dutch unplugged en mass, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

New test could ‘turn the tide’ on prostate cancer

A new at-home saliva test could help identify prostate cancer sooner, giving doctors a better chance of treating the disease successfully.

The test looks through DNA in saliva samples for a range of small genetic changes linked to prostate cancer. In a trial, the test outperformed the current prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, which is considered inaccurate.

Although it is the second biggest cancer killer of men in the UK, taking around 12,000 lives a year, there is no national screening programme for prostate cancer.

“With this test, it could be possible to turn the tide on prostate cancer,” said Ros Eeles, a professor at the UK’s Institute of Cancer Research and a consultant at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, which jointly led the research. “We have shown that a simple, cheap spit test to identify men at higher risk due to their genetic makeup is an effective tool to catch the cancer early.”

Further research is planned.

Image: CDC

Meanwhile, a new blood test could help women ...

A new blood test can predict the recurrence of breast cancer in high-risk patients, months or even years before they relapse.

A team from the UK’s Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) used an ultra-sensitive liquid biopsy to detect the presence of tiny amounts of cancer DNA left in the body following treatment for early breast cancer.

Researchers were able to identify all patients in a study who went on to relapse by detecting very low levels of cancer found in the blood – known as molecular residual disease.

“Breast cancer cells can remain in the body after surgery and other treatments but there can be so few of these cells that they are undetectable on follow-up scans,” said ICR’s Dr Isaac Garcia-Murillas. 

“These cells can cause breast cancer patients to relapse many years after their initial treatment. Ultra-sensitive blood tests could offer a better approach for the long-term monitoring of patients whose cancer is at high risk of returning.”

More research is planned, but the ICR said the results “lay the groundwork for better post-treatment monitoring and potentially life-extending treatment”. 

Image: Polina Tankilevitch

Dutch digital detoxers unplugged en masse

“Turn off, tune out and drop in”. That’s the premise of a digital detox cafe in Amsterdam, which nurtures moments of quiet introspection over vapid doomscrolling.

The Offline Club encourages spontaneous conversations with strangers, and has board games, a piano and books on hand. 

It’s proved such a hit among the digitally saturated Dutch that the concept is now spreading. Read the full story here.

Image: The Offline Club

Data junked the case for new fossil fuel projects

Existing fossil fuel projects will be sufficient to meet projected energy demands until 2050, casting doubt on some politicians’ claims that more permits should be granted for oil and gas. 

That’s according to a new study by researchers at University College London (UCL) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

The team analysed the projected future global demand for oil and gas under a range of scenarios that limit climate change to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – a target that countries agreed to, but many believe will be missed. 

They found that existing fossil fuel capacity is sufficient to meet energy demands while the planet transitions to renewable energy.

The research, published in the journal Science, extends work by the International Energy Agency, which found in a 2021 report that no new fossil fuel extraction projects are needed in the transition to net zero.

UCL’s Dr Steve Pye said he hoped the new research would “help focus policy on targeting the required ambitious scaling of renewable and clean energy investment, whilst managing the decline of fossil fuel infrastructure in an equitable and just way”.

Image: Grant Durr

The Positive News Podcast – out now! In our opening six-part series, Developing Mental Wealth, we uncover the fascinating ways that communities are supporting people’s mental health in parts of the world where circumstances can be the most challenging. Hosted by wellbeing expert Dr Radha Modgil and journalist Seyi Rhodes. Listen now
Climate solutions
Clean energy investment ramped up

Global investment in clean energy this year is set to be double the amount going to fossil fuels, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (EIA). 

Spending on clean energy technologies and infrastructure is on track to hit $2tn (£1.6tr) in 2024, even as higher financing costs hinder new projects. 

The report warns, however, that there are still major imbalances and shortfalls in energy investment in many parts of the world, particularly in developing nations. 

“Clean energy investment is setting new records even in challenging economic conditions, highlighting the momentum behind the new global energy economy,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol. “For every dollar going to fossil fuels today, almost two dollars are invested in clean energy.”

The IEA report came as new studies showed the rate of warming is increasing, underscoring the need to rapidly reduce emissions. 

Image: Raphael Pouget

Good news
Speaking of clean energy ...

British financial firms, including those criticised for bankrolling fossil fuel projects, made record investments in clean energy in 2023, according to a report out this week. 

The report tracked investments made by members of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), a voluntary coalition of firms that have pledged to help decarbonise the economy. 

It found that the group’s 126 UK members, which include NatWest and HSBC – both criticised for funding fossil fuel projects – tripled investment in clean energy in 2023. 

Of the five countries covered by the report, the UK led the way in private clean energy investment, beating France, Germany, Japan, and the US. Together, the five financial centres saw a 59% rise in clean energy investments by GFANZ members last year compared to 2022.

Dharshan Wignarajah, UK director of the Climate Policy Initiative, said the findings were “welcome”. However, he added: “Significant gaps remain, especially considering many financial institutions in the UK and elsewhere remain outside the leading financial alliances for net zero.”

Image: Alev Takil

Good news
‘Groundbreaking’ cornea transplant saves man’s sight

A pioneering procedure that could become standard practice has saved the sight of a 91-year-old patient in England. 

Cecil Farley from Surry is the first person in England to benefit from an artificial cornea implant. Doctors at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust removed the abnormal inner lining of Farley’s cornea and replaced it with an artificial one.

There’s a worldwide shortage of donated human corneas and a two-year waiting list for human transplants in the UK. Artificial corneas give hope to patients who are currently on the waiting list.

“I’d previously had a human graft that failed so I was very happy to be the first patient to receive an artificial cornea,” said Farley. “My vision in that eye is slowly improving. I’ve been married for 63 years and can still see my wife.”

Image: Joel Staveley

Melanoma vaccine results ‘extremely impressive’

The first vaccine for melanoma – a skin cancer usually caused by sun damage – halved the risk of patients dying or the disease returning in a trial. 

Researchers combined a vaccine using the same mRNA technology as many Covid jabs with an established immunotherapy called pembrolizumab. It was given to patients after they had surgery to remove stage 3 or stage 4 melanoma.

After three years, 75% of those who had the vaccine and pembrolizumab were still cancer-free, compared to 56% of people who only received pembrolizumab.

The research was led a team at New York University, US. Prof Charles Swanton, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said the results were “extremely impressive”, but that more research is needed.  

The news comes as the UK’s National Health Service announced that it had treated its first patient with a personalised vaccine against their bowel cancer in a trial. The pilot is part of the Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad initiative aimed at speeding up cancer jabs.  

Image: CDC

Scientists had a bowel disease breakthrough

Scientists have discovered a major cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – and found that existing drugs appear to reverse the condition. 

About 5% of the population are affected by an autoimmune disease, such as IBD, the umbrella term for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

In research published in Nature this week, scientists at the UK’s Francis Crick Institute revealed that they had found a weak spot in our DNA that is present in 95% of people with the disease.

The team discovered that existing drugs appear to reverse the disease in laboratory experiments and are now seeking to launch human trials.

“This research is a really exciting step towards the possibility of a world free from Crohn’s and Colitis one day,” said Ruth Wakeman of the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK. 

Image: Alicia Harper

Coldplay’s low-carbon tour ‘set a new standard’

Kinetic dancefloors that turn dance moves into green energy helped Coldplay reduce emissions by 59% on their latest tour. 

That’s according to data verified by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US, which said the band had set a “new standard for the music industry”.

Eighteen shows were powered by a battery system made from recycled BMW batteries. The band arrived at some shows by train, cutting plane emissions. And for every ticket sold – 7m so far – a tree was planted via the global reforestation nonprofit One Tree Planted.

Live touring is a vital source of income for bands in the streaming age. However, it’s intensive work. Bands like Coldplay and Massive Attack, which will play a renewables-powered gig in Bristol, England, this summer, are among those trying to clean up the industry. 

Prof John Fernández, who reviewed Coldplay’s data, said the band were “modelling a trajectory toward a low carbon, biodiverse and equitable future” that set a benchmark for the industry. 

Image: Stevie Rae Gibbs

Mexico elected its first female president

Claudia Sheinbaum has been elected as Mexico’s first female president – a milestone described as a “watershed” moment for the country. 

Sheinbaum’s landslide victory at the weekend saw her smash through a glass ceiling for women in Mexico, which has a long history of patriarchal politics. 

Ms Sheinbaum, a former energy scientist, said it was an achievement not just for her but for all women. “This is not just about me getting [to the top office], it’s about all of us getting here,” she said. 

Image: Secretaría de Cultura Ciudad de México

The Positive News podcast launched

Heard the good news? Positive News is publishing its first ever podcast. 

We’re launching with a six-part series called Developing Mental Wealth, which uncovers the ways that communities are dealing with mental health issues in parts of the world where circumstances are often the most challenging.

Hosted by medical doctor Radha Modgil and journalist Seyi Rhodes, we travel from Guatemala to Nigeria, Peru to Zimbabwe and beyond, to meet those on the ground who are coming up with practical solutions to support people’s wellbeing.

Listen to the trailer here.

Image: Positive News
Main image: Annie Spratt

Get your weekly fix of good news delivered to your inbox every Saturday, by signing up to the Positive News email newsletter.

Be part of the solution

Positive News is helping more people than ever to get a balanced and uplifting view of the world. While doom and gloom dominates other news outlets, our solutions journalism exists to support your wellbeing and empower you to make a difference towards a better future.

But our reporting has a cost and, as an independent, not-for-profit media organisation, we rely on the financial backing of our readers. If you value what we do and can afford to, please get behind our team with a regular or one-off contribution.

Give once from just £1, or join 1,400+ others who contribute an average of £3 or more per month. You’ll be directly funding the production and sharing of our stories – helping our solutions journalism to benefit many more people.

Join our community today, and together, we’ll change the news for good.

Support Positive News

Related articles