October 29, 2007, 7:18 PM CT
Epilepsy-induced brain cell damage prevented
For some epilepsy patients, the side effects of epilepsy can be as troubling as the seizures. One pressing concern is the cognitive impairment seizures often inflict, which potentially includes memory loss, slowed reactions and reduced attention spans.
Now researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have directly observed seizure-induced structural changes in brain cells in laboratory animals. They report in The Journal of Neuroscience that the insights they gained allowed them to use a drug to block those changes in the brain.
"Assuming that these structural changes are associated with cognitive impairment -- and there's a lot of data to suggest that's true - then this could provide us with a path to therapies that reduce cognitive problems in epilepsy," says senior author Michael Wong, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology, of anatomy and neurobiology, and of pediatrics.
Approximately 1 to 2 percent of the general population suffers from some form of epilepsy. Severe or prolonged seizures can cause brain cell death, leading to anatomic damage visible on brain scans. But in some cases the cognitive impairments caused by seizures cannot be associated with discernible brain damage.
Previous studies have suggested that seizures may damage dendrites, treelike branches that extend from a nerve cell to receive signals. In studies of human tissue, scientists noted the loss of spines, small bumps on the exterior of the dendrite. Spines are known to be important for the formation of synapses, junctions where two nerve cells communicate across a small gap.........
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October 29, 2007, 7:16 PM CT
Breast cancer in African-American women
African American women are diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age and have larger tumors and more lymph node involvement than Caucasian women, a Yale School of Medicine researcher reported today.
Speaking at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology meeting in Los Angeles, Meena Moran, M.D., assistant professor of therapeutic radiology and Yale Cancer Center member, said her results were based on 2,164 Caucasian women and 207 African American women followed over a 30-year periodthe largest most comprehensive study of its kind to date. All underwent lumpectomies in which the tumor, not the entire breast, was removed.
The occurence rate of breast cancer is actually lower in African American women in comparison to Caucasian women, yet their mortality rates are higher, Moran said. We were surprised. Prior reports did not show higher relapse rates in African American women after surgery to conserve breast tissue. This might be because we had so a number of African American patients and a longer follow-up period.
She said there are several possible biological risk factors that need to be explored more fully. African American women have a lower level of estrogen/progesterone receptors, which means existing anti-estrogen therapies are not effective on these tumors. African American women have a higher rate of triple negative tumors, which have been linked to a worse outcome in early stage breast cancer. They also have a higher rate of mutation in the p53 gene, which normally acts to suppress tumors.........
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October 28, 2007, 4:16 PM CT
Removal of uterus increases risk of urinary incontinence
Scientists at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have shown that hysterectomy - a common operation involving the removal of the uterus - greatly increases the risk of urinary incontinence. Their results, which come from a nationwide study, are presented in The Lancet.
Hysterectomy is the most common gynaecological abdominal operation in the world. It is normally performed as a cure for non-malignant medical problems in order to improve life quality for the patients. However, the long-term effects are largely unknown, and it has long been suspected that the operation increases the risk of developing urinary incontinence, in a number of respects a very disabling condition that affects hundreds of thousands of women in Sweden.
Scientists at Karolinska Institutet have now shown that women who have had a hysterectomy are more than twice as likely to undergo surgery for urinary incontinence as women with intact uteri.
"It's important that gynaecologists take this into account ahead of a hysterectomy, and the patients should themselves be aware of the greater risk the operation entails, especially if they belong to a high-risk group," says Daniel Altman, gynaecologist and one of the scientists behind the study.
The highest likelihood of incontinence surgery was noted within five years of the removal of the uterus, but the higher risk remains throughout the patients' lives. The risk increased most for women who had a hysterectomy before their menopause or after having undergone several deliveries.........
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October 28, 2007, 3:56 PM CT
Dealing with Stress as a Treatment for Alcohol Abuse
A researcher at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) is initiating a study of "mindfulness-based stress reduction," a technique often used in behavioral medicine for stress reduction but not before as an adjunct in the therapy of alcohol use disorders.
"By adapting and applying mindfulness-based stress reduction or MBSR in alcoholism therapy, we hope to develop an increased ability to cope with stress and enhanced psychological well-being among alcohol-dependent individuals," said Gerard J. Connors, Ph.D. "For people who often deal with stress in their lives by turning to alcohol, this could be a very positive alternative".
Connors is a clinical psychology expert and principal investigator on the study as well as the director of RIA. He also is a professor in the Department of Psychology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences and research professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The four-year investigation on MBSR will be conducted with support from a $1.9 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The MBSR intervention provides intensive training in mindfulness practices and their applications for daily living and coping with stress. MBSR emphasizes self-observation and self-responsibility, which is expected to facilitate the alcohol-dependent individual's management of the stressors that place the person at increased risk for drinking.........
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October 28, 2007, 3:13 PM CT
DNA buckyballs for drug delivery
DNA isn't just for storing genetic codes any more. Since DNA can polymerize -- linking a number of molecules together into larger structures -- researchers have been using it as a nanoscale building material, constructing geometric shapes and even working mechanical devices.
The term "buckyballs" has been used up to now for tiny spherical assemblies of carbon atoms known as Buckminsterfullerenes or just fullerenes. Under the right conditions, carbon atoms can link up into hexagons and pentagons, which in turn assemble into spherical shapes (technically truncated icosahedrons) resembling the geodesic domes designed by the architect-engineer Buckminster Fuller. Instead of carbon, the Cornell scientists are making buckyballs out of a specially prepared, branched DNA-polystyrene hybrid. The hybrid molecules spontaneously self-assemble into hollow balls about 400 nanometers (nm) in diameter. The DNA/polystyrene "rods" forming the structure are each about 15 nm long. (While still on the nanoscale, the DNA spheres are much larger than carbon buckyballs, which are typically around 7 nm in diameter.)
About 70 percent of the volume of the DNA buckyball is hollow, and the open spaces in the structure allow water to enter. Dan Luo, Cornell assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering in whose lab the DNA structures were made, suggests that drugs could be encapsulated in buckyballs to be carried into cells, where natural enzymes would break down the DNA, releasing the drug. They might also be used as cages to study chemical reactions on the nanoscale, he says.........
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October 28, 2007, 3:04 PM CT
A possible biomarker for colon cancer
An abnormality of chromosomes long linked to diseases of aging has, for the first time, been associated with colon cancer in people 50 years old and younger, an age group commonly considered young for this disease.
The finding may provide an early alert for younger colon cancer patients and could prompt new research into colon cancer prevention and therapy strategies, say Mayo Clinic researchers.
The study results will be presented at 10 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, during the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics in San Diego.
The Mayo Clinic team led by Lisa Boardman, M.D., a specialist in gastrointestinal malignancies, investigated the structures inside of cells known as telomeres, which are the caps on the ends of chromosomes that keep chromosomes from unraveling. Telomeres naturally shorten with aging and are linked to a number of diseases of aging, including cancer. Shortened telomeres have been found in colon cancer tumor cells, but this study links these telomeres to colon cancer.
Dr. Boardman and an interdisciplinary group of scientists examined the DNA in blood samples of 114 patients with colon cancer 50 years old and younger and 98 people with no history of cancer. They observed that the patients with colon cancer had abnormal telomeres that were uncommonly short, especially for a group of patients considered young for colon cancer: patients in the study were about 15 years younger than the average age of colon cancer patients. In addition, colon cancer in this younger group affected men more often than women.........
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October 28, 2007, 2:15 PM CT
Smoking breast cancer link
Smoking cigarettes is linked to an increased risk of cancers of the lung, head and neck, esophagus, bladder and a number of others and also affects response to anti-cancer therapys. But smoking does not result in more advanced stage diagnoses or aggressive breast cancers at the time of diagnosis. That is the result of an analysis of 35 years of data for more than 6,000 patients presented today at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncologys 49th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.
We hypothesized that tobacco use could result in more advanced stage or more aggressive breast cancer presentation, but that doesnt appear to be the case, said Matthew Abramowitz, M.D.,a resident in the radiation oncology department at Fox Chase Cancer Center. There is no good news about smoking, but since about 10 percent of our patients are smokers, this research provides us with some relief. The question that remains is will smoking affect their survival?
Abramowitz and colleagues examined the medical records of 6,162 patients with breast cancer at the time of initial diagnosis from 1970 to 2006 at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Patient characteristics were prospectively collected by doctor interview and questionnaire. Nine percent of the patients were current smokers when they were first seen for consultation.........
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October 28, 2007, 2:07 PM CT
Cancer Patients not getting live-saving flu and pneumonia shots
Eventhough flu and pneumonia can be lethal for cancer patients, more than one quarter of patients undergoing radiation treatment are not complying with national guidelines to be vaccinated against these potentially life-threatening yet preventable illnesses, as per a research studypresented October 28, 2007, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncologys 49th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.
While Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and the Joint Commission recommend an annual flu (influenza) vaccine for cancer patients aged 50 years or older, 25 percent of patients 50 years or older reported never having received the flu vaccine. Similarly, the pneumonia (pneumococcus) vaccine is recommended to all cancer patients 65 year or older; however, over one-third (36 percent) of cancer patients in this age range reported never having received the vaccine. Cancer patients are at a higher risk of acquiring and dying from these illnesses due to a weaker immune system, among other factors.
Three reasons accounted for almost 80 percent of why patients didnt receive either vaccine: Patients either believed they didnt need the vaccines, they didnt know about the recommended vaccination guidelines or their physicians didnt recommend the vaccines.........
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October 28, 2007, 2:01 PM CT
Walking prevents bone loss caused from prostate cancer treatment
Exercise may reduce, and even reverse, bone loss caused by hormone and radiation therapies used in the therapy of localized prostate cancer, thereby decreasing the potential risk of bone fractures and improving quality of life for these men, as per a research studypresented on October 28, 2007, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncologys 49th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.
Patients with prostate cancer are not routinely advised to exercise. Walking is one tool that patients with prostate cancer can use to improve their health and minimize the side effects of cancer and cancer therapys, said Paula Chiplis, PhD., RN, the lead author of the study and a clinical instructor and senior research assistant at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Walking has no harmful side effects, if done moderately, but it can dramatically improve life for men suffering from side effects from some prostate cancer therapys.
Men with localized prostate cancer frequently receive radiation treatment followed by months of hormone treatment to treat their cancer. Radiation is used to kill the cancer cells, while hormone treatment decreases testosterone and estrogen that feed the cancer cells, thereby keeping the tumor from growing. Men undergoing hormone treatment lose between 4 to 13 percent of their bone density on an annual basis, in comparison to healthy men who lose between.5 to 1 percent per year, beginning in middle age. Men are typically not believed to be at risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures; however, their rate of bone loss is greater than that of post-menopausal women.........
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October 28, 2007, 1:57 PM CT
Image Guided radiation therapy for prostate cancer
Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute scientists have observed that highly targeted radiation treatment for prostate cancer can ensure that the majority of persons with this tumor will not have any long-term rectal damage.
A group of 231 study participants received a combination of intensity-modulated radiation and seed marker-based image-guided radiation therapies (IM-IGRT) for prostate cancer then were tracked for 1.4 years. Nearly 98 percent of these participants had no rectal damage, as per Todd Scarbrough, M.D., principal investigator, associate professor, radiation medicine, OHSU School of Medicine; and an OHSU Cancer Institute member. This combination allows for millimeter targeting accuracy of the tumor.
If these outcomes hold over time and the results can be reproduced by others, then this combination of radiation therapies for prostate cancer will yield some of the lowest toxicity rates of any definitive therapys for prostate cancer. This would be the therapy for prostate cancer. A patient could cruise through therapy with no side effects, explained Scarbrough who also serves as director of the MIMA Cancer Center, Melbourne, Fla.
A poster of this study will be presented Monday, Oct. 28, at the 2007 annual American Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) meeting in Los Angeles.........
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