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January 9, 2006, 10:08 PM CT

Why Blacks have lower lung cancer surgery rates?

Why Blacks have lower  lung cancer surgery rates? Christopher Lathan, MD
Even when they have equal access to specialized care, blacks with potentially curable lung cancer are about half as likely as whites to undergo surgery that could save their lives, as per a studyby Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers.

Designed to identify the causes of racial discrepancies in lung cancer therapy in the United States, the research ruled out unequal access to medical care as the sole explanation. It did show that blacks were somewhat less likely to be offered lung cancer surgery, and were slightly more likely to refuse it than were whites. Overall, the study found that blacks who had equal access to care were 45 percent less likely than whites to have lung cancer surgery.

These findings point to a subtle and complex "communications problem" underlying the inequality, said Christopher Lathan, MD, of Dana-Farber and lead author of the report that is published online by the Journal of Clinical Oncology and will be in the journal's Jan. 20 print issue. "Something's not happening. There was no specific reason that could be found, but there needs to be more attention paid to the doctor-patient interaction."

The generally poorer health of blacks and other racial minorities is often blamed on social and financial obstacles to obtaining medical care. The new study, however, documents that the lower rate of surgery for black lung cancer patients "is not just about access to care or not being physically able to undergo therapy," said Craig Earle, MD, of Dana-Farber and the paper's senior author. "There still seems to be a racial disparity."........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink

January 9, 2006, 9:48 PM CT

Optimizing Immune Response Viral Infections

Optimizing Immune Response Viral Infections Gordon Freeman, PhD
Like boxers wearied by a 15-round bout, the immune system's CD8 T cells eventually become "exhausted" in their battle against persistent viral infection, and less effective in fighting the disease.

In a study would be published Dec. 28 on the journal Nature's website, scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Emory University have traced the problem to a gene that turns off the infection-fighting drive of CD8 T cells in mice. The discovery raises the possibility that CD8 cell exhaustion can be reversed in human patients, reinvigorating the immune system's defenses against chronic viral infections ranging from hepatitis to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

"CD8 T cells that have fought viral infections retain a 'memory' of the viruses they've encountered, so they can rapidly respond to new infections from those viruses," says the study's author, Gordon Freeman, PhD, of Dana-Farber. In the case of chronic infection, however, senior author Rafi Ahmed, PhD, of Emory, has shown that memory cells become exhausted and lose the capacity to respond to the virus. Why this occurs, on a molecular level, has been unclear.

To find the cause, Freeman and colleagues conducted a "microarray" experiment measuring the activity of thousands of genes in normal memory CD8 T cells in mice and in "exhausted" versions of those cells. They found that a gene known as PD-1 was much more active in the exhausted cells.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink

January 9, 2006, 9:06 PM CT

Obese People Do Not Care About Health Risks

Obese People Do Not Care About Health Risks
MORE THAN a quarter of obese and overweight people do not want to lose weight and a number of more are unaware of the benefits brought by a healthy lifestyle, a new survey by Cancer Research UK reveals.

More than half of the 4000 men and women surveyed were overweight or obese. But 87 per cent of obese people and 32 per cent of overweight people failed to identify their correct weight category.

Being obese or overweight increases cancer risk. But 71 per cent of those at risk because of their weight did not know of the cancer connection.

Cancer Research UK has joined forces with the charity Weight Concern to develop Ten Top Tips - a set of weight management guidelines that can be incorporated into everyday routines without radical lifestyle change. The scientifically-based programme involves adopting ten simple steps and using a weekly checklist over eight weeks to monitor progress and help reinforce the new habits.

Nearly 50 per cent of obese and overweight people did not think that eating healthily could help reduce cancer risk; almost two thirds (64 per cent) were unaware that regular exercise could reduce risk; more than 80 per cent did not know the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight and almost 80 per cent failed to recognise the importance of moderation when drinking alcohol to reduce cancer risk.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink

January 7, 2006, 4:55 PM CT

Mysterious Eye Cells Adapt To Light

Mysterious Eye Cells Adapt To Light
A new retinal photoreceptor adjusts its sensitivity in different lighting conditions, according to researchers at Brown University, where the rare eye cells were discovered.

The results, published in Neuron, are a surprise. Though rods and cones, their biological cousins in the retina, clearly adjust to light levels, these new cells - intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, or ipRGCs - were assumed not to adapt this way. Still, the adaptation process in ipRGCs is weaker and slower than it is in rods and cones.

The findings provide further evidence that the eye has complementary brain-signaling systems at work. Rods and cones rapidly communicate changes in brightness, signals which allow us to glimpse a baseball streaking across the sky or a deer darting into a darkened road. But ipRGCs work differently. They send signals about overall brightness, telling the brain when it is night and when it is day.

"These cells operate like a light meter on a camera," said David Berson, the Sidney A. Fox and Dorothea Doctors Fox Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. "They tell the brain to constrict the pupil based on the amount of light registered over time".

Berson discovered ipRGCs in his Brown neuroscience lab three years ago. These cells number no more than 2,000 in the eye and have a direct link to the brain, sending electrical messages to an area regulating the pupil as well as a region controlling the body clock. This circadian rhythm controls alertness, sleep, hormone production, body temperature and organ function.........

Posted by: Mike      Permalink

January 7, 2006, 4:03 PM CT

Take Folic Acid To Reduce Birth Defects

Take Folic Acid To Reduce Birth Defects
January 9-15 is Folic Acid Awareness Week and the March of Dimes is reminding women capable of having a baby to add folic acid to their diet - before starting a family.

If all women of childbearing age took 400 micrograms of folic acid daily - before and during pregnancy -- it could help prevent up to as much as 70 percent of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects, (NTDs), serious birth defects of the brain and spine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Julia Flores of Chicago knows the benefits of folic acid. Her first child, 10-year-old Gabriel was born with a brain stem malformation. Her second baby, Nicholas, was born three years later with spina bifida and lived only three hours.

Before her next pregnancy, Mrs. Flores' doctor prescribed 800 micrograms of folic acid daily. Her third baby, Jacob, who will be five in May, was born healthy.

"Thank goodness my doctor knew about folic acid and prescribed it for me. I'm not planing to have any more children, but I still take it in a multivitamin, " said Mrs. Flores. "I tell all the women I know to take folic acid. Just take it. My sister's doctor instructed her to take it because of my history - and her babies are fine".

Since 1995, the March of Dimes and the CDC have recommended that all women of childbearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, before conception and continuing into the early months of pregnancy. NTDs occur in the first few weeks after conception, often before a woman knows she's pregnant and affects about 3,000 pregnancies annually.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink

January 7, 2006, 3:55 PM CT

Gene Therapy For Muscular Dystrophy

Gene Therapy For Muscular Dystrophy Gene defects are often the cause of muscular dystrophy
A new gene treatment technique that has shown promise in skin disease and hemophilia might one day be useful for treating muscular dystrophy, according to a new study by scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine.

In the study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Jan. 2, the scientists used gene treatment to introduce a healthy copy of the gene dystrophin into mice with a condition that mimics muscular dystrophy. The dystrophin gene is mutated and as a result produces a defective protein in the roughly 20,000 people in the United States with the most common form of the disease.

Using gene treatment to treat muscular dystrophy isn't a new idea. Thomas Rando, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences, said that scientists have tried several different techniques with variable success. One hurdle is getting genes into muscle cells all over the body. Another is convincing those cells to permanently produce the therapeutic protein made by those genes.

The gene treatment technique Rando and postdoctoral fellow Carmen Bertoni, PhD, used was developed by Michele Calos, PhD, associate professor of genetics. One of the main advantages of this method is that it could potentially provide a long-term fix for a variety of genetic diseases, including muscular dystrophy.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink

January 7, 2006, 3:15 PM CT

Lifestyle Changes Improve Health Even Without Major Weight Loss

Lifestyle Changes Improve Health Even Without Major Weight Loss
Obese and overweight individuals suffering metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes showed significant health improvements after only three weeks of diet and moderate exercise even though the participants remained overweight.

"The study shows, contrary to common belief, that Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome can be reversed solely through changes in lifestyle," according to lead researcher Christian Roberts of University of California, Los Angeles.

"This regimen reversed a clinical diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome in about half the participants who had either of those conditions. However, the regimen may not have reversed damage such as plaque development in the arteries," Roberts said. "However, if Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome continue to be controlled, further damage would likely be minimized and it's plausible that continuing to follow the program long-term may result in reversal of atherosclerosis".

"The results are all the more interesting because the changes occurred in the absence of major weight loss, challenging the usually held belief that individuals must normalize their weight before achieving health benefits," Roberts said. Participants did lose two to three pounds per week, but they were still obese after the 3-week study.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink

January 7, 2006, 3:06 PM CT

Lack Of Sleep May Impair Learning

Lack Of Sleep May Impair Learning
As the pace of life quickens and it becomes harder to balance home and work, a number of people meet their obligations by getting less sleep.

But sleep deprivation impairs spatial learning -- including remembering how to get to a new destination. And now researchers are beginning to understand how that happens: Learning spatial tasks increases the production of new cells in an area of the brain involved with spatial memory called the hippocampus. Sleep plays a part in helping those new brain cells survive.

A team of scientists from the University of California and Stanford University found that sleep-restricted rats had a harder time remembering a path through a maze compared to their rested counterparts. And unlike the rats that got enough sleep, the sleep-restricted rats showed reduced survival rate of new hippocampus cells.

The scientists used sleep-restricted rats rather than sleep-deprived rats to more closely mimic the common human experience of inadequate sleep during the work week, said lead investigator Ilana Hairston of both the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University. The paper, "Sleep restriction suppresses neurogenesis induced by hippocampus-dependent learning," appears in the Journal of Neurophysiology published by the American Physiological Society. Stanford scientists Milton T.M. Little, Michael D. Scanlon, Monique T. Barakat, Theo D. Palmer, Robert M. Sapolsky, and H. Craig Heller co-authored the paper.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink

January 7, 2006, 2:19 PM CT

Tomato Juice Keeps Emphysema away!

Tomato Juice Keeps Emphysema away!
Feeding tomato juice to mice kept them from developing emphysema after cigarette smoke exposure that was long enough to induce emphysema in a control group, Japanese scientists report in recent issue of the American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.

Scientists at Juntendo University School of Medicine first compared the reaction of two mostly similar mouse strains to inhaled cigarette smoke. Since the lungs of one of the mouse strains "naturally" age very quickly, the scientists believed that exposure to inhaled cigarette smoke would induce emphysema in that strain much more quickly than in the other strain. And indeed, they found that after eight weeks of breathing 1.5% tobacco smoke through the nose for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, the test strain, called SAMP1, did develop emphysema, while the control strain, called SAMR1, did not.

50% tomato juice drink "completely prevented" smoke-induced emphysema.

Then, using the same experimental method, but substituting a 50% tomato juice mixture for their regular water supply, the scientists again compared the effect of smoking on the mice. They found that "smoke-induced emphysema was completely prevented by concomitant ingestion of lycopene (a potent antioxidant) given as tomato juice" in SAMP1 mice. They added: "Smoke exposure increased apoptosis and active caspase-3 of airway and alveolar septal cells and reduced VEGF in lung tissues, but tomato juice ingestion significantly reduced apoptosis and increased tissue VEGF level".........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink

January 4, 2006

Telephone counseling for smokers

Telephone counseling for smokers
People seeking help to quit smoking have a number of options, from support groups to nicotine replacement to prescription drugs designed to lessen the urge to light up. Now Washington University scientists and BJC HealthCare are testing another one: telephone counseling.

The Call-2-Quit project, funded by a three-year, $1.35 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will compare two approaches to smoking cessation telephone counseling. Both interventions include discussion of key tasks for quitting smoking, but they differ in counseling style and in the range of topics that are covered.

Over the course of several weeks, those who call for phone counseling will participate in seven sessions with trained smoking cessation counselors to learn about methods that may help them stay away from cigarettes.

"We want to provide state-of-the-art counseling," says psychology expert Mark S. Walker, Ph.D., instructor of medicine in Washington University's Division of Health Behavior Research and the study's principal investigator. "The program will vary from person to person, but all callers will receive information about key topics, including avoiding temptation, use of nicotine replacement treatment and overcoming barriers to quitting."

The study will involve employees of BJC HealthCare who are participating in an initiative called Help for Your Health, which was launched two years ago to improve the health of BJC's 26,000 employees.

"BJC HealthCare is committed to helping our employees take charge of their health. Decreasing the incidence of smoking is one of the fastest ways to improving health," according to Steven Lipstein, President and CEO of BJC HealthCare. "Participation in the Call-2-Quit study is one of several initiatives where BJC is taking an active role to address the deadly habit of tobacco use."........

JoAnn      Permalink

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Did you know?
Studies in monkeys and women suggest that unlike traditional estrogen therapy, a diet high in the natural plant estrogens found in soy does not increase the risk of uterine cancer in postmenopausal women, according to Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Archives of health news blog

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