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New liver cancer treatment is studied

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, February 14, 2008 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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        Urine proteins: coronary disease markers

GLASGOW, Scotland, -- A Scottish research team has determ-
ined a set of 15 proteins found in urine can be used as bio-
markers for coronary artery disease. The University of 
Glasgow scientists said that since urine samples are easily 
obtained, urinary protein analysis is emerging as a powerful
tool to detect and monitor disease. Anna Dominiczak and col-
leagues tested whether urine could provide useful biomarkers
for coronary disease, one of the leading worldwide killers. 
They analyzed samples from 88 CAD patients and 282 controls 
and found a 15 protein "signature" indicative of disease. 
Several of the protein fragments were collagens, which are 
components of arterial walls. The researchers next examined 
how predictive their protein panel was and found it could 
identify the presence of CAD 83 percent of the time. The 
panel had a sensitivity of more than 98 percent. The medical
scientists also observed the protein signatures of CAD ind-
ividuals became more normal after exercise, suggesting the 
biomarkers can be used to both help diagnose CAD and monitor
the progress of treatment. The study is published in the 
February issue of the journal Molecular and Cellular 
Proteomics.           

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         Potent anti-cancer drug found in algae

SAN DIEGO,  -- U.S. scientists have identified a potent,
 anti-cancer drug isolated from an algae found in the 
 South Pacific. A University of California-San Diego 
team of researchers led by Dr. Dennis Carson, a professor 
of medicine and director of the university's Moores Cancer 
Center, said the drug somocystinamide A, or ScA, was iso-
lated from a toxic blue-green algae. "We are excited because
we have discovered a structurally unique and highly potent 
cancer-fighting compound," said Associate Professor Dwayne 
Stupack. "We envision it will be perfect for emerging tech-
nology, particularly nanotechnology, which is being devel-
oped to target cancerous tumors without toxic side effects."
The ScA compound was found in the cyanobacteria L. Majus-
cula, also known as "mermaid's hair," gathered off the coast
of Fiji in the South Pacific by researchers at the Scripps 
Institution of Oceanography. The scientists found ScA in-
hibits neovascularization, the formation of blood vessels 
that feed tumors, and also had a direct impact on tumor cell
proliferation. The research is reported in the online early 
edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sci-
ence.
 
 
         New liver cancer treatment is studied

PHILADELPHIA,  -- U.S. medical scientists have started an 
18-month study of a new liver cancer treatment that in-
volves the use of millions of tiny, radioactive beads. 
The Thomas Jefferson University Hospital researchers 
said the technique, called radioembolization, is being used 
for the first time in patients with hepatocellular carci-
noma, or primary liver cancer. Dr. Brian Carr, an oncology 
professor at the university's medical college, said the 
trial also includes patients from the University of Texas' 
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of
Pittsburgh. Carr said the tiny beads, or "microspheres," 
containing the radioactive isotope Yttrium-90 are injected 
into the liver's hepatic artery. The microspheres, in add-
ition to blocking blood flow to the tumor, emit radiation 
directly to the cancer, sparing healthy tissue. Although the
treatment doesn't cure the cancer, it can shrink tumors and 
help patients live longer. "Ideally, if the radioemboli-
zation trial is successful, many of these patients would 
have their liver tumors shrunken to the point where surgery 
is possible," said Carr. "It would be a significant contri-
bution to the field if we could downstage the tumors so we 
could do more transplants, which is the only cure."

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        Gene chips ID ventilator-linked pneumonia

ST. LOUIS,  -- U.S. scientists have used gene chip tech-
nology to identify hard-to-diagnose ventilator-linked cases 
of pneumonia. Critically ill patients sometimes require the
use of mechanical ventilators, but then face a high risk of 
pneumonia. Such lung infections, said the researchers, are 
difficult to diagnose because a patient's underlying cond-
ition often skews laboratory test results. In the new res-
earch, scientists at Washington University in St. Louis 
used gene chip technology to demonstrate for the first 
time they can distinguish ventilator-linked pneumonia from 
other serious illnesses. The team analyzed patterns of ex-
pression in more than 8,000 genes as patients on mechanical 
ventilators developed and recovered from pneumonia. They 
found changes in 85 genes could be used to pinpoint early 
activation of the immune system in response to pneumonia.
"This is an important step toward the development of a spec-
ific molecular test for diagnosing infection … and predic-
ting patients' recovery," said Dr. J. Perren Cobb. "If we 
could determine which patients are destined to develop 
pneumonia based on early changes in the activity of genes …
we could give them antibiotics sooner, with the hope we 
might be able to prevent or curtail the infection." The 
research appears in the online journal PLoS One.
  
  
       Measles spread on Hawaiian Airlines flight

SAN DIEGO, -- Health officials are trying to find about 250 
people who may have been exposed to measles on a flight from
California to Hawaii. The San Diego Union-Tribune said Haw-
aiian Airlines flight 15 from San Diego to Hawaii last Sat-
urday included a infant who contracted the illness in a San 
Diego medical clinic. The child is being treated on a mil-
itary base in Hawaii. Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County's 
public health officer, said officials are most concerned 
about children who have not been immunized. The outbreak 
began when a 7-year-old returned to San Diego from a family 
vacation in Switzerland Jan. 15 infected with measles, the 
newspaper said. The 7-year-old set off a chain reaction that
has infected two siblings and at least one classmate. San 
Diego County health officials said they've confirmed measles
in five patients and investigating five suspected cases.

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        Scientists learn how iron harms the brain

COVENTRY, England, -- British and Indian scientists have 
found how iron accumulates in the brain, resulting in some 
forms of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases.
Although essential to human health, iron can be toxic. The 
body employs a protein called transferrin to transport iron 
safely through the bloodstream to tissues in which it can be
used. The protein combines molecules of iron with another 
substance and then curls around the iron to seal it, prev-
enting any interactions until the iron reaches tissues in 
which it can be used. The researchers discovered that when 
this mechanism did not work properly, molecules of transfer-
rin arranged themselves into filaments. Instead of being 
safely enclosed by the transferrin, iron was deposited along
the length of the filaments in a series of spots or bands.
When transported in that manner, iron was dangerously exp-
osed, and could interact in ways that damage cells. The 
researchers said they believe their findings will help in 
understanding how forms of Parkinson's, Huntington's and 
Alzheimer's occur, and how they can be treated. The study, 
which involved scientists from the University of Warwick 
and the Indian Institute of Technology, appears in the on-
line edition of the journal Angewandte Chemie.      
    
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