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Medical News & Updates
Oct 31
Ovarian cancer pill can help men
A new research has revealed that an ovarian cancer pill for women might provide a highly effective treatment for up to a third of men with advanced prostate cancer. The ovarian cancer, 'Olaparib,' is the first drug which was used to tackle inherited cancer mutations.

Researchers at Institute of Cancer Research found it could also halt tumour growth in many men with treatment-resistant prostate cancer, The Independent reports.

The study included 49 men and one third responded to the drug.

According to the results, cancers stopped growing, numbers of circulating tumour cells in the blood fell, and clinically positive results were obtained from scans.

The blood marker used to track the progress of prostate cancer also plunged by up to 96 percent.

Lead researcher Johann de Bonosaid said that their trial marked a significant step forward in the treatment of prostate cancer.

Bono said that it also proved the principle that they could detect prostate cancers with specific targetable mutations using genomic sequencing to deliver more precise cancer care by matching treatment to those men most likely to benefit.

Oct 30
Common heartburn drugs may damage your kidney
Increased use of certain medications commonly used to treat heartburn and acid reflux may have damaging effects on the kidneys, say researchers, including one of Indian-origin.

The researchers looked at the effects of the drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) on chronic kidney disease (CKD).

In one study, Pradeep Arora from State University of New York and his team found that among 24,149 patients who developed CKD between 2001 and 2008 (out of a total of 71,516 patients), 25.7 percent were treated with PPIs.

PPI use was linked with a 10 percent increased risk of CKD and a 76 percent increased risk of dying prematurely.

"As a large number of patients are being treated with PPIs, health care providers need to be better educated about the potential side effects of these drugs, such as CKD," Arora pointed out.

In another study, Benjamin Lazarus from Johns Hopkins University and his colleagues followed 10,482 adults with normal kidney function from 1996 to 2011.

They found that PPI users were between 20 percent and 50 percent more likely to develop CKD than non-PPI users, even after accounting for baseline differences between users and non-users.

This discovery was replicated in a second study, in which over 240,000 patients were followed from 1997 to 2014.

"In both studies, people who used a different class of medications to suppress stomach acid, known as H2-blockers, did not have a higher risk of developing kidney disease," Lazarus pointed out.

"If we know the potential adverse effects of PPI medications we can design better interventions to reduce overuse," Lazarus noted.

The findings will be presented at ASN (American Society of Nephrology) Kidney Week 2015 to be held at San Diego Convention Centre from November 3-8.

Oct 29
Shampoo ingredient can increase breast cancer risk
Even at low levels, a class of preservatives widely-used in consumer products like shampoos, cosmetics, body lotions, and sunscreens can contribute to development of breast cancer, suggests new research.

The estrogen-mimicking chemicals called parabens also have implications for other diseases that are influenced by estrogens, the study noted.

These chemicals are considered estrogenic because they activate the same estrogen receptor as the natural hormone estradiol.

Studies have linked exposure to estradiol and related estrogens with an increased risk of breast cancer, as well as reproductive problems.

As a result, the use of parabens in consumer products increasingly has become a public health concern.

"Although parabens are known to mimic the growth effects of estrogens on breast cancer cells, some consider their effect too weak to cause harm," said lead investigator Dale Leitman, a gynecologist and molecular biologist at University California, Berkeley in the US.

"But this might not be true when parabens are combined with other agents that regulate cell growth," Leitman noted.

However, existing chemical safety tests, which measure the effects of chemicals on human cells, look only at parabens in isolation and fail to take into account that parabens could interact with other types of signaling molecules in the cells to increase breast cancer risk.

To better reflect what goes on in real life, the researchers looked at breast cancer cells expressing two types of receptors: estrogen receptors and HER2, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.

The study demonstrated that parabens may be more potent at lower doses than previous studies have suggested, which may spur scientists and regulators to rethink the potential impacts of parabens on the development of breast cancer.

The findings were published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Oct 28
Vegetative patients show glimmers of awareness
Despite being unable to move, some patients in a vegetative state retain awareness, according to a recent study.

New insight into a vital cerebral pathway has explained how some patients in a vegetative state are aware despite appearing to be unconscious and being behaviourally unresponsive.

The findings identify structural damage between the thalamus and primary motor cortex as the obstacle between covert awareness and intentional movement.

The University of Birmingham researchers hope that their study, the first to understand the phenomenon, will pave the way for the development of restorative therapies for thousands of patients.

Researcher Davinia Fernandez-Espejo explained that a number of patients who appear to be in a vegetative state are actually aware of themselves and their surroundings, able to comprehend the world around them, create memories and imagine events as with any other person.

Fernandez-Espejo noted that before they take the crucial step of developing targeted therapies to help these patients, they needed to identify the reason for the dissociation between their retained awareness and their inability to respond with intentional movement.

The ultimate aim is to use this information in targeted therapies that can drastically improve the quality of life of patients, Fernandez-Espejo added.

Though it may be a number of years before an effective therapy is developed, the team believes that a significant milestone has been reached with the discovery.

Oct 27
Do workouts to keep your brain young
The secret to a younger brain may lie in exercising your body, according to recent research.

INeuroimaging studies, in which the activity of different parts of the brain can be visualised, have provided some clues as to how does being physically fit affect our aging brains?

The exciting new study led by Dr Hideaki Soya from the University of Tsukuba in Japan and his colleagues show, for the first time, the direct relationship between brain activity, brain function and physical fitness in a group of older Japanese men. They found that the fitter men performed better mentally than the less fit men, by using parts of their brains in the same way as in their youth.

As we age, we use different parts of our brain compared to our younger selves. For example, when young, we mainly use the left side of our prefrontal cortex (PFC) for mental tasks involving short term memory, understanding the meaning of words and the ability to recognize previously encountered events, objects, or people. When older, we tend to use the equivalent parts of our PFC on the right side of the brain for these tasks. The PFC is located in the very front of the brain, just behind the forehead. It has roles in executive function, memory, intelligence, language and vision.

With tasks involving the temporary storage and manipulation of memory, long term memories and inhibitory control, young adults favor the right side of the PFC, while older adults engage both the right and left PFC. In fact, with aging, we tend to use both sides of the PFC during mental tasks, rather than just one. This phenomenon has been coined HAROLD (hemispheric asymmetry reduction in older adults) and reflects the reorganisation of the brain as compensation for reduced brain capacity and efficiency due to age-related structural and physiological decline.

Using clever statistical tests called mediation analyses to look at these interactions, the researchers found that aerobically fitter older men can perform better mentally than less fit older men by using the more important brain regions when needed. In fact, the fitter older men are using parts of their brains in the same way as when they were younger.

The study appears in NeuroImage.

Oct 26
Research reveals how cells repair DNA damage
Danish researchers have discovered a previously unknown function in histones -- responsible for packaging the DNA into structural units -- that will help improve understanding of how cells protect and repair DNA damage.

"I believe that there's a lot of work ahead. It's like opening a door onto a previously undiscovered territory filled with lots of exciting knowledge. The histones are incredibly important to many of the cells' processes as well as their overall wellbeing," said study author Niels Mailand from the University of Copenhagen's Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Protein Research.

This new discovery may be of great importance to the treatment of diseases caused by cellular changes such as cancer and immune deficiency syndrome.

Histones enable the tight packaging of DNA strands within cells. There are five types of histones - four of them are the so-called core histones that have been well described in earlier studies and the fifth histone, Histone H1, which has not been thoroughly examined.

In addition to enabling the packaging of the DNA strands, histones also play a central part in practically every process related to the DNA code, including repairing possibly damaged DNA.

"In international research, the primary focus has been on the core histones and their functionality, whereas little attention has been paid to the H1 histone, simply because we weren't aware that it too influenced the repair process."

"Having discovered this function in H1 constitutes an important piece of the puzzle of how cells protect their DNA, and it opens a door onto hitherto unknown and highly interesting territory," Mailand said.

He expects the discovery to lead to increased research into Histone H1 worldwide, which will lead to increased knowledge of cells' abilities to repair possible damage to their DNA and thus increase our knowledge of the basis for diseases caused by cellular changes.

The findings were published in the latest issue of scientific journal Nature.

Oct 23
Genes linked to peripheral artery disease identified
Tokyo: Japanese researchers have identified three genes associated with peripheral artery disease, a common but debilitating disease that makes walking painful and that can, in serious cases, lead to limb loss.

The work is the first to identify specific genetic factors with the condition, the researchers said.

In addition to limb pain and difficulty in walking, peripheral artery disease (PAD) can lead to major cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events, and is estimated to be the third leading cause of death associated with atherosclerosis.

"What is important is that although this study does help to identify people who might be at risk for PAD, the findings could also be used to elucidate the mechanism through which PAD arises, and hence could help to identify therapeutic targets for future treatments," said study first author Kouichi Ozaki from RIKEN Centre for Integrative Medical Sciences in Yokohama, Japan.

The researchers began by collecting genetic information on 735 people who suffered from PAD from the BioBank Japan project and compared their genomes with 3,383 people without the condition.

Looking for simple genetic variations - called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs - that were more common in the patients than in controls, the team identified three genes that were clearly associated with the disease.

"It seems that people with these three gene polymorphisms are particularly vulnerable to this disease," Ozaki noted.

"The three gene polymorphisms (natural variations) were all found to be in the region flanking two different genes," Ozaki said.

The findings were detailed in the journal PLOS ONE.

Oct 21
Heart patients worldwide losing out on key meds
A new study has highlighted the poor levels of use, availability and affordability of vital heart medicines.

The research shows that the use of vital life-saving generic (and supposedly inexpensive) medicines for prevention in people with existing heart disease is poor worldwide. In low-income and middle-income countries these medicines are not widely available and, when available, can often be unaffordable.

In rich countries, although such medicines are both available and affordable, 35 percent to 50 percent of patients who have heart disease or a previous stroke still do not receive them.

The authors say that a radical shift in how such medicines are provided, and how preventive care is organised in health care systems, is required. For example, provision of generic versions free of charge in developing countries and provision of medicines by non-physician health workers in all countries are needed to improve rates of use of these medicines, even in the richest countries.

The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study analysed data from 18 countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has proposed that medicines to prevent recurrent cardiovascular disease, including aspirin, Beta blockers, angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and statins--be available in 80 percent of communities and used by 50 percent of eligible individuals by 2025. The team of researchers assesd how such low use relates to lack of medicine availability and/or affordability.

They analysed information about availability and costs of cardiovascular disease medicines in pharmacies gathered from 596 communities in 18 countries participating in the PURE study, covering the period 2003-13. Medicines were considered available if present at the pharmacy when surveyed, and affordable if their combined cost was less than 20% of household capacity to pay.

The authors said that given the very large effects of the availability and affordability of medicines on use that they noted, availability and affordability are likely to be essential factors influencing medicine use, unless both availability and affordability of these medicines are improved, their use is likely to remain low in most of the world.

They concluded that further research is needed into the development of national regulatory mechanisms for drug pricing, to achieve prices that are closer to drug production costs. So far, mass antiretroviral treatment for HIV is the one success story. Universal access to medicines will be accelerated through increased health financing and greater availability of low cost medicines targeting major diseases among people with low incomes.

The study is published in The Lancet.

Oct 20
Moles on arm can predict skin cancer risk
Do you have more than 11 moles on your right arm? You may be at a higher risk of skin cancer.

A new study has found that having more than 11 moles on the right arm indicates a higher-than-average risk of skin cancer or melanoma.

Counting moles on the right arm was found to be a good indicator of total moles on the body. More than 100 indicates five times the normal risk, according to the study which used data from 3,000 twins in the UK.

Researchers from King's College London studied a large group of female twins over a period of eight years, collecting information on skin type, freckles and moles on their bodies.

After repeating the exercise on a smaller group of around 400 men and women with melanoma, they came up with a quick and easy way to assess the risk of skin cancer, 'the BBC' reported.

Females with more than seven moles on their right arm had nine times the risk of having more than 50 on their whole body.

Those with more than 11 on their right arm were more likely to have more than 100 on their body in total, meaning they were at a higher risk of developing melanoma.

"The findings could have a significant impact for primary care, allowing general practitioners to more accurately estimate the total number of moles in a patient extremely quickly via an easily accessible body part," said lead author Simone Ribero, of the department of twin research and genetic epidemiology at King's.

The study was published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Oct 19
Blood cancer develops from prior blood disorder
Researchers have discovered how an incurable type of blood cancer develops from an often symptomless prior blood disorder.

The findings could lead to more effective treatments and ways to identify those most at risk of developing the cancer.

All patients diagnosed with myeloma, a cancer of the blood-producing bone marrow, first develop a relatively benign condition called 'monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance' or MGUS.

"Our findings show that very few changes are required for a MGUS patient to progress to myeloma as we now know virtually all patients with myeloma evolve from MGUS," said lead researcher Daniel Tennant from University of Birmingham in England.

"A drug that interferes with these initial metabolic changes could make very effective treatment for myeloma, so this is a very exciting discovery," Tennant explained.

MGUS is fairly common in the older population and only progresses to cancer in approximately one in 100 cases.

However, currently there is no way of accurately predicting which patients with MGUS are likely to go on to get myeloma.

It specifically affects antibody-producing white blood cells found in the bone marrow, called plasma cells.

For the study, the researchers compared the cellular chemistry of bone marrow and blood samples taken from patients with myeloma, patients with MGUS and healthy volunteers.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the metabolic activity of the bone marrow of patients with MGUS was significantly different to plasma from healthy volunteers, but there were very few differences at all between the MGUS and myeloma samples.

The research team found over 200 products of metabolism differed between the healthy volunteers and patients with MGUS or myeloma, compared to just 26 differences between MGUS patients and myeloma patients.

The findings suggest that the biggest metabolic changes occur with the development of the symptomless condition MGUS and not with the later progression to myeloma.

The researchers believe that these small changes could drive the key shifts in the bone marrow required to support myeloma growth.

The study was published in Blood Cancer Journal.