Archive for May, 2023

Revolutionising cancer screening

Posted on: May 23rd, 2023 by mlpEditor

Whilst we can often successfully treat those that are diagnosed at an early stage, depending on the type of cancer, even the most effective treatments are often not effective when cancer is diagnosed at an advanced stage. For these reasons, great efforts are made to diagnose cancers as early as possible.

There is only so much that can be done to make the public and clinicians aware of the signs and symptoms. To make real progress, we need better tests and to use them in screening programs targeting seemingly healthy people.

Up until now, screening tests have been designed to look for one specific type of cancer at a time. And a significant problem is posed by the unreliability of these tests. For every early detection of cancer, several others receive a false-positive. If we were to have 20 different screening programs (one for each type of cancer), most people would receive a false-positive result once every few years. These false-positive tests cause anxiety, can lead to invasive further testing and are expensive to the NHS.

But there is hope on the horizon. Recent technological advances allow for the detection of tiny fragments of genetic material present in the blood. This, for the first time, offers the possibility of having a single blood test for many different types of cancer. One such test can detect 50 different types of cancer, with varying success, and it only very rarely gives a false positive result. If this test can find cancer early enough, it could revolutionize the way we approach cancer control.

Professor Peter Sasieni explains this ground-breaking development in cancer research.

A Tribute to Professor Tom McLeish

Posted on: May 15th, 2023 by mlpEditor

On 26 October 2021, Manchester Lit & Phil were treated to a fantastic lecture from Professor McLeish at Manchester Cathedral, as part of our 2021 Cathedral Series. The series was part of the celebration of 600 years since the granting of a licence from King Henry V and Pope Martin V to establish a collegiate church in Manchester in 1421. Tom’s lecture was titled ‘Lessons from Medieval Science, and Science-Theology Today’.

Unfortunately, Tom developed an incurable cancer in the summer of 2022, and passed away on 27 February, at the age of 60. It was a very peaceful and dignified death surrounded by his very caring family.

On 27 April I attended a service of Thanksgiving and Celebration of his life at York Minster, along with about 400 other people from the many parts of his life. It was a great privilege to be there, and hear about his very full, active, and fascinating life. Tom was a true polymath. He was not just an academic physicist, but an expert on so many things, a competent sportsman, a lay reader in the Anglican church, a very competent astrologist, and he had a deep interest in music – amongst many other talents.

His wife and all their four children took an active and dignified part in the service and the presentation of the music. Tom was quite a unique man, who will be very much missed.

Dr Susan Hilton, Immediate Past President


A recording of the service for Tom McLeish at York Minster can be watched on YouTube

Lessons from Medieval Science, and Science-Theology Today

Posted on: May 15th, 2023 by mlpEditor

Although governments claim to ‘follow the science’, the activity we call ‘science’ and the community of ‘scientists’ can still seem cut-off, strange and remote to most people. And there is also a commonly-repeated idea that science is fundamentally opposed to religious faith.

We could arguably learn better ways of thinking about science by studying scientific thinking, and its context, from a time when it was much more integrated into learning and thought, in both these senses.

In this talk – part of the Catherdal Lecture series (2021) – Tom McLeish reported on a remarkable project involving scientists, medieval scholars, and theologians. These unusual collaborators are exploring the fascinating, perceptive, and surprisingly mathematical, work on light, colour and cosmology by Oxford master Robert Grosseteste, in the 1220s.

The project has stimulated new scientific research today, and helped explore new ways of thinking about the relationship between science and Christian faith.