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News

  • Three ‘finalist’ nominations for Porterhouse Medical in the 2017 Women in Business Awards.

    The 2017 Women in Business Awards shortlist (http://womeninbusiness.biz/wib-awards-2017/) – released yesterday – includes an impressive three ‘finalist’ nominations for Porterhouse Medical across three award categories. Senior Medical Writers Lisa Gallacher and Gillian Hancey have been nominated for individual awards, with the company also being nominated for an employer award.

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  • Celebrating 15 years of making a positive impact on patients’ lives

    Porterhouse Medical is 15 years old next month and plans to celebrate delivering on its mission – “Developing a shared vision with our partners to deliver programmes to improve people’s lives” – for a decade and a half.

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  • Porterhouse competes in the SportsAble static wheelchair challenge #PUSHyourself

    Last week the mighty Porterhouse Power Athletes took on the new challenge of static wheelchair racing to fundraise for our local charity partners, SportsAble.

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  • Spotlight on Events

    2017 has been a busy year for Porterhouse Medical so far, with a full calendar of advisory board meetings, steering committee meetings, stand-alone meetings, international congresses and symposia.

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  • Award-winning medical communications agency Porterhouse Medical opens new office space

    Porterhouse Medical, winner of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, was delighted to welcome Rob Wilson MP to open our new office in Windsor Square this month.

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  • A not-so-blue Monday: Porterhouse Medical supports MPS Awareness Day

    At Porterhouse Medical, we are passionate about the work we do with our partners to help improve people’s lives; which includes using our medical and scientific communications expertise to help raise awareness of disease symptoms and encourage support for relevant charities.

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  • Promising news for PD patients announced in the run-up to World Parkinson’s Day

    Promising news for patients with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) was reported at the 13th International Conference on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Diseases in Vienna earlier this month. PRX002/RG7935, currently in Phase 1b clinical trials, has been identified as having an acceptable safety profile and is expected to go into phase 2 clinical trials in the next few months.

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  • #WorldHealthDay: ‘Depression: Let’s talk’ – raising awareness in the workplace

    Porterhouse Medical prides itself on being a company that works together as a family, with humour and happiness instilled in all that we do.

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  • Blossoming creative services at Porterhouse

    We are delighted to announce that Richard has been promoted to the role of Creative Services Manager.

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  • Five things you should know about rare diseases

    To help raise awareness and mark the 10th Annual Rare Disease Day, here we describe five interesting facts about rare diseases.

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  • Our changing perception of things that cause cancer

    Here, we look at the past to reveal some surprising perceptions about risk factors that are now widely known to be associated with cancer. We also consider how our awareness of risk factors has moved on, so much so that we may have gone too far in the opposite direction…

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  • What is ONCOR?

    In order to leverage the wealth of experience that Porterhouse Medical has gathered over the many years of working in a huge range of oncology disease and therapy areas, we have created a new internal department, known as ‘ONCOR’, to focus predominantly on oncology.

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  • SportsAble

    As part of our mission to help improve people’s lives, Porterhouse adopts a local charity to fundraise for each year. For 2017, we are very happy to announce that the charity we will be supporting is SportsAble.

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  • Porterhouse shares the LOVE...

    At Porterhouse, we’ve worked really hard over the past 18 months to integrate the company values into everything we do. These values – which emphasise pride, passion, ambition, family and humour in our work and daily lives – are reflected in our approach to the recruitment, training and well-being of our in-house teams of medical writers, account managers, event planners, designers and programmers.

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  • How Porterhouse took the right PATH in 2016

    2016 was an amazing year for Porterhouse. In addition to recording a record turnover and profit for our year ending September 2016, we also won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2016 (international trade) and received Investors in People accreditation at the silver level at our first attempt. We were also highly commended in two other business awards.

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  • My 10 years as part of the Porterhouse family

    It has been a pleasure working for Porterhouse over the past 10 years. In that time the company has grown at a rapid pace into the vibrant force that it is today, while still retaining the nurturing family feel that it has always had under Jon and Brian’s leadership. No mean feat in the world of med comms! I have been fortunate to work with some inspiring colleagues over the years, and it is always rewarding to see how quickly new members of the team settle in and develop their skills and confidence.

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  • Porterhouse Medical receives ‘Highly Commended’ award at Thames Valley Business Magazine’s 2016 Awards Ceremony

    The team at Porterhouse Medical is proud to have been given the ‘Highly Commended’ award at the Thames Valley Business Magazine’s 2016 Awards Ceremony last week, in the SME (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) category.

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  • To mark World Pancreatic Cancer Day, we’re making purple reign in the Porterhouse office!

    At Porterhouse Medical, we are passionate about the work we do with our partners to help improve people’s lives; which includes using our communications expertise to help raise awareness of disease symptoms and regular donations to charity.

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  • How Porterhouse Medical raised £1,924 for Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice

    At Porterhouse Medical, we are passionate about the work we do to help improve people’s lives. We are also passionate about doing our bit for charity, so in early 2016 we launched a special fundraising initiative: to adopt a local charity for which we will fundraise throughout the year. This year, we are proud to be supporting the Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service (http://www.alexanderdevine.org/).

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  • Porterhouse Medical celebrates promotions in the editorial team

    As a proud provider of outstanding career progression and development opportunities, Porterhouse Medical is once again celebrating staff achievements with two promotions in the editorial team.

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  • A double victory for one of Porterhouse Medical’s longest-serving employees

    Rob Pilbrow, one of Porterhouse’s veteran members of staff, enjoyed a double celebration this month after being promoted to the role of Group Director, Editorial Services, and winning the accolade of ‘Role Model’ in the Champion of Change category at the Women in Business Awards 2016!

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  • Porterhouse Medical supports Jeans for Genes Day

    Always keen to do our bit for charity, today Porterhouse will be supporting Jeans for Genes Day. Rare genetic disorders are a key area of focus for the Porterhouse team, and we are glad to be able to raise money to support patients with genetic disorders and their families.

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  • Porterhouse goes racing

    As a reward for all our hard work, the team at Porterhouse enjoyed a glamorous day of horse racing in Newbury on last Friday, despite heavy rain flash flooding hitting the town on Thursday night and causing flash flooding in the town centre.

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  • Porterhouse gears up for EURetina 2016, Copenhagen

    Hot topics at the 16th EURetina Congress include age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and imaging.

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  • Champion of change – Rob Pilbrow

    We are delighted to announce that our Editorial Services Director, Rob, has been selected as a finalist in the Women in Business Awards 2016, in the category ‘Champion of Change’.

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  • New office artwork shows we excel at more than just writing!

    2016 has been a busy year for office refurbishments, which have included some major upgrades to our meeting rooms and kitchen area. We now have three super-smart meeting rooms, a cute little meeting “pod”, and loads more space to enjoy our lunches thanks to the addition of some lovely bright benches. This month it was all topped off with the unveiling of our stunning new office artwork.

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  • Jon and Brian visit Buckingham Palace (but did not ask the Queen if they could form a new government)…

    The directors of Porterhouse Medical, Jon and Brian, attended the reception for the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise at Buckingham Palace on Thursday 14 July 2016.

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  • Porterhouse Medical honoured with visit from royal representative

    On Wednesday 6 July 2016, Porterhouse staff were delighted to receive a visit from Mr James Puxley, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Berkshire, who presented proud company directors Brian Parsons and Jon Hallows with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. Porterhouse received this award on the Queen’s birthday in recognition of our international work, which earned us over £2 million in 2015.

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  • Porterhouse Medical awarded Investors in People at Silver Level

    We are delighted to announce that we have received Investors in People (IIP) accreditation at the Silver level. IIP accreditation is an internationally recognised and rigorously assessed performance framework that demonstrates a company’s commitment to staff training and development. Organisations that meet the world-recognised IIP Standard reflect the very best in people management excellence.

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  • The mysterious double life of an Editorial Services Director

    Like everyone who works in medical communications, I am passionate about medical science. But unlike a lot of people, I am also fascinated with the human skeleton and what you can learn about a deceased person just from looking at their bones.

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  • MedComms Day 2016

    Wednesday 8 June was the fifth annual MedComms Day, an opportunity for med comms professionals across the globe to share their experiences of life in our fantastic industry.

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  • Work starts on the new company video

    Something was different at the office yesterday – everyone looked smart and all the desks were tidy! Work has begun on the production of our new video.

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  • Porterhouse Medical wins the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade

    We are delighted and proud to announce that Porterhouse Medical has been recognized with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2016 – the UK’s highest accolade for outstanding achievement in business.

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  • We have a globally recognised manager at the helm!

    We are delighted to announce that Alison Washer, our Operations Director, has been shortlisted for the Investors in People’s People’s Manager of the Year award.

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  • Musings of an ex-cancer researcher!

    Late last year I finally achieved a fantastic goal: my very first first-author paper. This wasn’t exactly as it sounds, as although I am a senior medical writer at Porterhouse, the article was largely written by my PhD supervisor from 13 years ago, Dr Tracey Bradshaw.

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  • Porterhouse Medical proudly supports local charity

    As part of a number of exciting changes taking place at Porterhouse Medical, we have decided, for the first time ever, to adopt a company charity and fundraise for it over the course of the year!

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Our changing perception of things that cause cancer

February 2017

 World Cancer Day

A risk factor is anything that increases an individual’s chance of developing a disease [1], but identifying and validating risk factors can take time. Here, we look at the past to reveal some surprising perceptions about risk factors that are now widely known to be associated with cancer. We also consider how our awareness of risk factors has moved on, so much so that we may have gone too far in the opposite direction, and look at why the medical and scientific communications industry has a vital role in addressing this imbalance.

 

Historical perceptions of some risk factors for cancer

 

1.     Tobacco

Tobacco use is associated with approximately 20% of global cancer deaths and its risks are now well known [2]. However, historically, tobacco was known as a ‘holy herb’ or ‘God’s remedy’ and was thought to have many therapeutic uses – in the late 18th century, tobacco smoke enemas became widely used all over Europe for various diseases, and tobacco was even used as an antiseptic as late as the early 20th century (Figure 1) [3]. Around the 1950s, research began to prove a link between smoking and lung cancer, and smoking in Britain slowly began to decline [4].

2.     Radiation

Radiation is another well-known risk factor because exposure to certain wavelengths of radiation can cause damage to DNA and cause cancer [5]. However, in the 20th century, high volumes of products such as Radithor (distilled water containing radium-226 and radium-228) were sold due to claims that they could cure many ailments. This industry collapsed when wealthy industrialist Eben Byers lost the majority of his jaw following consumption of large quantities of Radithor and died from radium poisoning soon afterwards – the case highlighted to the general public the dangers of internal radium [5,6].

Another form of radiation is ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the main source of which is the sun [7]. Although UV exposure has been linked with skin cancer since the late 19th century, the idea of a ‘healthy tan’ came about in the 20th century when it was decided that sunlight could be used as a treatment for many different diseases (Figure 1). Between the 1960s and 1990s, incidence of melanoma increased by 244% in men and 167% in women and, even with an increased awareness of the risks of UV exposure and better protection available, these figures are continuing to rise [8].

3.     Arsenic

Arsenic, in addition to being a potent toxin, is a known risk factor for lung, bladder and skin cancers [9]. However, in the 19th century, arsenic was widely used for different applications (Figure 1). This was fuelled by the perceived benefits gained by people in the mountainous region of Styria in Austria, who ate arsenical compounds – women would use them to help their complexion and put on weight to appear more desirable to men, and men would eat them in order to improve their breathing on mountain climbs [9]. The safety of arsenic was put into doubt following cases of poisoning from use of the green pigment in everyday materials and although it was still used in pesticides in the late 1800s and early 1900s, these were gradually phased out due to health concerns [10].

 

Figure 1. Some surprising historical uses of substances now known to cause cancer [3,4,8,9,11,12].

 a vital role in addressing this imbalance. Historical perceptions of some risk factors for cancer

 

Our awareness of cancer risk today

 

It is clear that we were once oblivious to our exposure to risk factors for cancer, but the public perception of cancer risk now appears to have gone the other way. The media now seem to be, slowly but surely, throwing every substance into the spotlight as a potential risk factor – baby rice, lipstick, Nutella, processed meats and, most recently, browned toast, potatoes and chips are just some of the items that have featured in the headlines as cancer-causing agents
[13–17]. 

For a claim that a substance is a risk factor for a disease to be valid, it should be supported by reliable data demonstrating a significant association between exposure to this substance and the development of a disease. While this is not the place to explore the validity of each of the aforementioned claims, suffice to say that there is scepticism about how much we should act on such reports from the media [18,19].

 

Moving forward

 

The changes in our awareness of cancer risk over time highlight the importance of education and scientific accuracy. The public need to be made aware of the things that may be harmful to their health, and the recommendations they receive should always be based on clear, substantiated data. The healthcare professionals that provide guidance to the public are expected to keep up to date about new developments and changes in recommendations so that they can always provide appropriate advice. 

For this to be possible, key messages must be clearly defined, claims must be rigorously reviewed and fact-checked to ensure that they are supported by credible data, and appropriate channels to communicate this information must be defined. The medical and scientific communications industry  therefore has a paramount role in shaping public knowledge and awareness of disease.

These actions, we hope, will ensure that future generations do not look back and find our perception of cancer risk quite so ‘surprising’.

 

References

1. National Cancer Institute. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms. Accessed February 2017.

2. World Health Organization. Cancer (fact sheet N°297); 2015.

3. Charlton A. Medicinal uses of tobacco in history. J R Soc Med 2004; 97 (6): 292–296.

4. Science Museum. Stubbed out: The rise and fall(?) of smoking in Britain. Available at: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/themes/publichealth/smoking. Accessed February 2017.

5. Vaiserman AM. Radiation hormesis: Historical perspective and implications for low-dose cancer risk assessment. Dose Response 2010; 8 (2): 172–191.

6. Vanchieri C. Radiation therapy pursuit leads to unearthing of “hot bones”. J Natl Cancer Inst 1990; 82 (21): 1667.

7. Skin Cancer Foundation. UVA & UVB. Available at: http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb. Accessed February 2017.

8. Chang C, Murzaku EC, Penn L et al. More skin, more sun, more tan, more melanoma. Am J Public Health 2014; 104 (11): e92–e99.

9. Frith J. Arsenic – the “poison of kings” and the “saviour of syphilis”. J Mil Veterans Health 2013; 21 (4): 11–17.

10. Hughes MF, Beck BD, Chen Y et al. Arsenic exposure and toxicology: A historical perspective. Toxicol Sci 2011; 123 (2): 305–332.

11. Doyle D. Notoriety to respectability: A short history of arsenic prior to its present day use in haematology. Br J Haematol 2009; 145 (3): 309–317.

12. Haynes S. Special feature: Tobacco smoke enemas. B C Med J 2012; 54 (10): 496–497.

13. BBC News. Browned toast and potatoes are ‘potential cancer risk’, say food scientists. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38680622. Accessed February 2017.

14. BBC News. Processed meats do cause cancer – WHO. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34615621. Accessed February 2017.

15. Bristol Post. Could Nutella be taken off supermarket shelves? European retailers fear it could cause cancer. Available at: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/nutella-could-be-taken-off-supermarket-shelves-over-fears-it-could-cause-cancer/story-30052836-detail/story.html. Accessed February 2017.

16. The Guardian. Arsenic in baby rice is a cancer risk, say scientists. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2008/apr/30/medicalresearch.cancer. Accessed February 2017.

17. Mail Online. Is your lipstick giving you cancer? Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-499967/Is-lipstick-giving-cancer.html. Accessed February 2017.

18. Novella S. Everything causes cancer. Available at: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/everything-causes-cancer/. Accessed February 2017.

19. Goldacre B. A rather long build up to one punchline. Available at: http://www.badscience.net/2007/12/a-rather-long-build-up-to-one-punchline/. Accessed February 2017.