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Hormone therapy raises cancer risk

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, January 17, 2008 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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        New genetic breast cancer test is approved

WASHINGTON, -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has 
approved a test that helps assess the risk of tumor recur-
rence in high-risk breast cancer patients. The FDA said the 
TOP2A FISH pharmDx is the first approved device to test for 
the TOP2A (topoisomerase 2 alpha) gene in cancer patients.
Since it's known that changes in the TOP2A gene in breast 
cancer cells mean there's an increased likelihood the tumor 
will recur or that long-term survival will be decreased, the
new test uses fluorescently labeled DNA probes to detect or 
confirm gene or chromosome abnormalities "When used with 
other clinical information and laboratory tests, this test 
can provide healthcare professionals with additional insight 
on the likely clinical course for breast cancer patients," 
said Dr. Daniel Schultz, director of the FDA's Center for 
Devices and Radiological Health. The FDA said the new test 
is suitable for breast cancer patients who are premenopausal
or for whom tumor characteristics, such as tumor size or 
lymph node involvement, suggest a higher likelihood of tumor
recurrence or decreased survival. The test is manufactured 
by Dako Denmark A/S of Glostrup, Denmark.           

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          Study: Celecoxib can cause arrhythmias

BUFFALO, N.Y., -- U.S. medical researchers have determined 
the anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib (Celebrex) can adver-
sely affect heart rhythm in fruit fly and rat models. COX-2
inhibitors such as celecoxib have come under scrutiny due 
to adverse cardiovascular side-effects stemming from COX-2 
reduction. But the new study found the drug-induced arrhyth-
mia is independent of the COX-2 enzyme. Satpal Singh and 
colleagues at the State University of New York at Buffalo 
tested various celecoxib doses on the heart rate of the 
fruit fly Drosophila. They found celecoxib reduced heart 
rate and increased beating irregularities. The finding was a
surprise, the researchers said, since Drosophila do not have
COX-2 enzymes. Rather, the scientists said, celecoxib might 
directly inhibit the potassium channels that help generate 
the electric current that drives heartbeat. Singh and col-
leagues note that since the arrhythmia effects bypass COX-2,
it is unclear if other COX-2 inhibitors would yield similar 
results. They also stress it is too early to speculate on 
human effects.
  
  
            Drug combo prevents HIV spread in mice

DALLAS,-- U.S. researchers said it appears that existing 
AIDS drugs can prevent vaginal transmission of HIV in lab-
oratory mice. A research team at the University of Texas 
Southwestern Medical Center used a "humanized mouse" model
to test the anti-retroviral drugs, the medical center said 
Tuesday in a release. The study, published online in PLoS 
Medicine, used human/mouse chimeras that have fully devel-
oped human immune systems and produce the infection-fighting
cells that are specifically targeted by HIV in humans. while
almost 90 percent of the humanized mice inoculated vaginally
with HIV became infected with the virus, none of the human-
ized mice given the anti-retroviral drugs emtricitabine 
(FTC) and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) displayed any 
evidence of infection. Women are more susceptible than men 
to HIV infection and vaginal exposures result in a majority 
of the estimated 6,800 transmission events a day, the report
said. Lead author Dr. J. Victor Garcia-Martinez cautioned 
that the experiments were conducted on humanized mice and 
not humans. "It will take additional work to translate these
observations to humans," he said.
  
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          Humane Society criticizes FDA decision

WASHINGTON, -- The Humane Society of the United States crit-
icized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for allowing 
the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals. The FDA ann-
ounced Tuesday it has found meat and milk from clones of 
cattle, swine and goats -- and the offspring of clones from 
any species traditionally consumed as food -- are as safe to
eat as food from conventionally bred animals. "Despite the 
fact that cloned animals suffer high mortality rates and 
those who survive are often plagued with birth defects and 
diseases, the FDA did not give adequate consideration to the
welfare of these animals or their surrogate mothers in its 
deliberations," society President Wayne Pacelle said. "Fur-
thermore, no regulations exist in the United States that 
protect farm animals during cloning research." The organiz-
ation's director of public health and animal agriculture, 
Dr. Michael Greger, added: "The Humane Society of the United
States supports scientific advancement, but cloning lacks 
any legitimate social value and decreases animal welfare. 
The FDA's reckless action is completely unwarranted and un-
acceptable."


          Hormone therapy raises cancer risk

SEATTLE, -- Menopausal women who take hormone combinations 
for their symptoms are more likely to get an uncommon type 
of breast cancer much earlier than experts believed. The new
findings, released Monday by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Re-
search Center, link lobular breast cancer to combination 
hormonal therapy used to combat hot flashes, night sweats 
and other symptoms of menopause, The Seattle Times reported 
Tuesday. Lobular breast cancer is uncommon but particularly 
elusive because the cancer doesn't form lumps in the breast.
Most researchers have assumed it takes five years of com-
bined-hormone therapy before the overall risk of developing 
breast cancer is elevated significantly. But the new study 
found women who took estrogen and progestin every day for 
as few as three years were about three times more likely 
to develop lobular breast cancer than those who had never 
taken hormones. Dr. Nancy Tipton, a gynecologist with Virg-
inia Mason Medical Center, said the study shouldn't change 
anything for patients who take the lowest possible doses 
for the shortest possible time. "Nothing is risk-free. A lot
of women really need combination hormones for a while bec-
ause they're miserable," said Tipton, who estimated that a 
quarter of her menopausal patients need estrogen-progestin 
to control their symptoms. 

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         New sickle cell pain findings presented

RICHMOND, Va., -- U.S. medical scientists have discovered 
daily pain associated with sickle cell disease is signific-
antly more prevalent and severe than previously indicated.
Virginia Commonwealth University researchers gave diaries 
to 232 sickle cell disease patients to record daily pain and
indicate whether they used hospital emergency or unscheduled
ambulatory care for their pain. "The major finding of our 
study," said Dr. Wally Smith, a VCU professor who directed 
the research, "was that pain in sickle cell disease is a 
daily phenomenon and that patients are at home mostly strug-
gling with their pain, rather than coming into the hospital 
or emergency department." The researchers found more than 
half of the patients reported having pain on a majority of 
days. Nearly one-third suffered daily pain. "I believe that 
this study could change the way people view the pain of the 
disease," said Smith. "And the study results have implicat-
ions for medical care, and research. We need more drugs to 
prevent the underlying processes that cause pain in this 
disease. And we need better treatments to reduce the chronic
pain and suffering that these patients go through."      
    
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