SUNDAY, June 19 (HealthDay News) -- Preliminary research shows that an experimental vaccine may cure prostate cancer in mice.
Unlike previous cancer vaccine attempts, the new prostate cancer vaccine appears to be smart enough to outfox prostate cancer tumors, but experts caution that the research is still in its infancy and has yet to be tested in humans.
The hunt for effective cancer treatment vaccines has been going on for decades with varying degrees of success early on, but the new prostate cancer vaccine takes a markedly different approach.
Instead of aiming at a few cancer-causing proteins or antigens on the tumor, the new vaccine casts a much a wider net. The goal of a cancer vaccine is to trick the body's immune system into recognizing the tumor as an invader and attacking it. This is typically done using a virus as a host.
The researchers developed a library of genetic material (DNA) from healthy human prostate tissue cells and then inserted them into a virus. The end product was intravenously injected into the mice, which recognized the antigens and launched a potent immune response, according to a report on the findings, published online June 19 in Nature Medicine.
The study reported no side effects, and none of the mice developed autoimmune diseases, which had been reported in previous cancer vaccine trials.
"Many cancer vaccines display one, two or few antigens and, although this is successful in alerting the immune system to the cancer, the tumor eventually outsmarts the vaccine and adapts," explained the study's lead author, Richard Vile, an immunologist and professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Vile said he hopes that the new approach is smarter than the tumor. If the tumor adapts to the antigen, he explained, the vaccine launches a second wave of attacks.
The approach also makes the development easier, he said, as scientists don't have to identify specific antigens or targets. "We clone them all and let the immune system select which is most important," Vile said.
But, this may also prove to be a hurdle in getting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to study the vaccine in humans. "The FDA requires that the active proteins be well characterized, and we don't know which the active proteins are," Vile said.
Even so, he said, "we hope to try to put this vaccine into patients within the next three to five years."
Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, said that news of the study "certainly holds out hope that this may represent a true advance."
He cautioned, though, that "we have been looking to vaccines for cancer for many decades and have not yet seen a vaccine or immune therapy make the leap from interesting concept to something effective in the clinic."
That said, the approach outlined in the new paper is "very different," Lichtenfeld said, adding that he remains cautiously optimistic about the vaccine.
"We have been excited in the past by some of these reports, and the success has not panned out," he said. "There is still a ways to go before we can get excited and say it will have benefit for patients with prostate cancer."
Willem W. Overwijk, a cancer vaccine researcher at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, agreed. "We have to wait and see if it will work in people," he said. "They are inducing a broad immune response at many targets on the tumor, which makes it harder for the tumor to escape. [If it does], they make a new vaccine targeting the recurring tumor."
But the bottom line remains: "We have to see if this works the same way in people with prostate cancer," Overwijk said. "Stay tuned."
Health Canada is reviewing two new studies that show Yasmin, the country's top-selling birth control pill, may put women at a higher risk of blood clots, CBC Marketplace has learned.
The studies were published in the British Medical Journal last month and report that women taking birth control pills containing drospirenone have 2.5 to three times the risk of suffering a blood clot than women on the safest pills on the market.
Most birth control pills contain progestin and estrogen, but only a handful use the synthetic hormone drospirenone for the progestin, including Yasmin and its sister pill, Yaz, which are manufactured by German-based Bayer.
Assessing risks In an email to CBC Marketplace, a Health Canada official said the department "is evaluating the recently published studies and is looking at available information to fully assess the risk of blood clots."
The email also said Health Canada is reviewing an announcement made May 27 by the European Medicines Agency that it is updating the product information accompanying oral contraceptives containing drospirenone to inform consumers of the increased risk with Yasmin and Yaz.
For now, however, Health Canada said it "considers that the benefits outweigh the risks when drospirenone-containing contraceptives are used as directed in the Canadian Product Monograph."
Health Canada's review comes on the heels of an announcement this week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that it, too, is reviewing new research that raises concerns about birth control pills containing drospirenone.
The FDA safety review covers all oral contraceptives made with drospirenone and will look at the risk of blood clots to women using those products.
Growing concern about drospirenone All birth control pills carry a small risk of blood clots, but as CBC Marketplace reported earlier this year in Spinning a Pill, there are growing concerns about pills made with drospirenone.
Previous studies looking at blood clots for women taking pills containing drospirenone had conflicting findings. Two reported an increased risk of blood clots, while two — funded by Bayer — found no difference. Now, the FDA has commissioned an additional large study looking at all birth control pills and blood clot risk.
Women interviewed by CBC Marketplace said they wished they had known there was a small but significant increase in the risk of blood clots for those taking Yasmin and Yaz.
Class action lawsuits in Canada and the United States allege that drospirenone birth control pills lead to an increased risk of blood clots. Thousands of women have reported serious health issues, including pulmonary embolisms, after going on those pills. In some cases, deaths have been reported.
Bayer says its drospirenon-containing birth control pills Yasmin and Yaz carry no greater risk of blood clots.
The Associated Press- Taking it easy is not the best treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome. A better option: exercise and behaviour therapy, according to a large new study.
For years, patient groups warned such treatments could be dangerous, instead promoting a strategy known as adaptive pacing — which advises patients to adjust to their illness by simply doing less. But the biggest study of chronic fatigue found that approach didn't help.
The research, published Friday in the medical journal, Lancet, concluded that behaviour and exercise seemed to moderately reduce fatigue and improve activity levels, while pacing and medical care wasn't much help.
The findings also suggests the crippling condition can sometimes be reversed.
"I hope more people will be convinced you can treat chronic fatigue syndrome and that this isn't necessarily something people will have forever," said Hans Knoop, a clinical psychologist at the Expert Centre for Chronic Fatigue in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, who co-authored an editorial on the research, which was funded by the U.K. Medical Research Council and others.
Chronic fatigue syndrome affects up to two per cent of people worldwide. It is characterized by persistent tiredness, muscle pain, insomnia and memory problems. The cause is unknown, though the syndrome can be triggered by certain viral infections and there is no cure.
In the study conducted across the U.K., British researchers analyzed common treatment approaches:
Cognitive behaviour therapy, which uses psychology to address fears of activity.
Exercise such as walking to boost energy.
Medical care, including self-help advice and drugs for insomnia or pain.
More than 600 British patients were divided into four groups, and each given a strategy for around six months. The first group received just medical care while the remainder received medical care and one of the strategies. Patients were then monitored for up to one year to see if the strategy had any permanent effect.
Since pacing is championed by many patient groups, scientists wanted to test whether it works. Previous patient surveys have suggested behavioural and exercise therapy make people worse, though the study found all treatments tested were safe.
Knoop said the behavioural and exercise therapies may have worked by convincing patients they can recover, leading to an actual improvement.
Still, the treatments only helped about 60 per cent of patients and researchers were unsure how long the results lasted.
"Even with the best therapies we have, four out of 10 people don't improve," said Peter White, a professor of psychological medicine at the Queen Mary University of London, who led the study.
"This is a genuinely disabling condition and we need to do more to determine how to enhance current therapies."
A section of the brain involved in memory grew in size in older people who regularly took brisk walks for a year, U.S. researchers reported Monday.
The new study reinforces previous findings that aerobic exercise seems to reduce brain atrophy in early-stage Alzheimer's patients, and that walking leads to slight improvement on mental tests among older people with memory problems.
The new analysis, led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, appears in Tuesday's edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study involved 120 sedentary people, ages 55 to 80. They were divided into two groups: Half began a program of walking for 40 minutes a day, three days a week to increase their heart rate; the others only did stretching and toning exercises.
The hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in memory, tends to shrink slightly with age and that's what happened in the group that only did stretching. But among people who took part in the walking program, the hippocampus region of the brain grew in size by roughly 2 per cent.
Researchers found that there was some memory improvement in both groups, but "in the aerobic exercise group, increased hippocampal volume was directly related to improvements in memory performance."
"We think of the atrophy of the hippocampus in later life as almost inevitable," Kirk Erickson, professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and the paper's lead author, said in a statement.
Added Art Kramer, director of the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois and the senior author: "The results of our study are particularly interesting in that they suggest that even modest amounts of exercise by sedentary older adults can lead to substantial improvements in memory and brain health."
Dr. Jeffrey Burns of the neurology department at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, said he was "enthusiastic" about the paper. Burns, who wasn't involved in the new research, said that while previous studies have pointed to the relationship between exercise and memory, this rigorous, yearlong study advances what's known about the brain and exercise. -Canadian Associated Press
VANCOUVER — Coffee drinkers who prefer a dark roast may be getting more than just a buzz from their beverage of choice. University of B.C. food scientists say their study shows that roasting coffee beans a dark brown produces antioxidant benefits linked to slowed aging.
Science student Yazheng (Ya-Jang) Liu and co-author Prof. David Kitts analyzed the complex mixture of chemical compounds created during the browning process.
They say their tests show that browning coffee beans under high temperatures creates the antioxidants.
The scientists say previous studies suggest antioxidants in coffee could be traced to caffeine or chlorogenic acid found in green coffee beans.
But their study, to be published in the journal "Food Research International," found that coffee beans lose 90 per cent of their chlorogenic acid during the roasting process.
CBC- Children's vitamins with Disney and Marvel brands were marketed using false and misleading claims, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission says — ordering three companies to pay more than $2 million in restitution.
The companies are NBTY Inc., a global manufacturer of vitamins and nutritional supplements, and two of its marketing arms, Rexall Sundown and NatureSmart. They were charged with making deceptive claims in the packaging and marketing of various children's vitamins branded with Disney and Marvel action heroes.
Rexall Sundown is a wholly owned subsidiary of NBTY and is not associated with the Rexall drugstore chain in Canada, which is owned by Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, which investigated the misleading claims, the drug manufacturer and marketers overstated the quantity and efficacy of docosahexaenoic acid — an omega-3 fatty acid — in the children's vitamins.
The vitamins’ packaging said they contained 100 milligrams of DHA, when in fact they contained about one-thousandth of that amount.
The vitamins also overstated the health benefits of DHA by claiming the supplements promoted healthy brain and eye development in children.
Among the lines of vitamins found to contain misleading claims were multivitamins and gummies branded Disney Princess, Winnie the Pooh, Finding Nemo and Spiderman.
The vitamins were sold at major retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kmart and Walgreens in the U.S., and at Canadian drug stores such as Shoppers Drug Mart, as well as online through drugstore.com and other websites.
Under a settlement agreement with the FTC, the companies are barred from making unsubstantiated claims. Any claims made in the future will have to be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
The American consumer protection agency will also administer a refund program, available only to U.S. purchasers of the products, valued at about $2.1 million.
CBC- There is growing concern among health experts about the level of influence the drug industry has on doctors' medical decisions.
Adam Hofmann, a Montreal physician and pharmaceutical industry watchdog, says most doctors are oblivious to the extent to which their decisions on patient health care are influenced by drug companies.
Hofmann, a recent graduate now working as an internal medicine specialist at Montreal’s Sacre Coeur hospital, founded the McGill University chapter of the U.S. not-for-profit group No Free Lunch while still a medical student.
The group’s aim is to try to end the practice of accepting "freebies" from drug firms in the name of continuing medical education.
Hofmann figures it’s possible to eat free nearly every day of the week in a teaching hospital like the McGill University Health Centre — and some medical residents, saddled with debt, take full advantage of that.
But he brown-bagged it on principle, from the moment he realized how hard it was to stay at arm’s-length from people with something to sell him.
Hofmann estimates as much as 70 per cent of continuing medical education activities in Canada — from hospital rounds to conferences — are sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, which he says has a vested interest in promoting its products.
"When the only thing you have going through your head is the purple pill, the purple pill, the purple pill, when there are half a dozen other reasonable, less expensive choices that can be used for treating your patients — are you actually making the right choice?" Hofmann asks.
Few would deny that pharmaceutical firms have a role to play, to share research findings and help doctors keep abreast of the latest developments in treatments and drug therapies.
"We’re entering into new areas of personalized medicine, areas involving genetic treatments, areas involving biologics," says Declan Hamill, the vice-president of legal affairs for RX&D, the association representing Canada’s research-based pharmaceutical companies.
"Companies (that) manufacture and create these medicines know an awful lot about them."
Hamill acknowledges the financial role played by the industry in subsidizing continuing education activities leaves a potential for conflict of interest.
"That being said … it is the doctor who controls the content, not the industry," Hamill stresses.
RX&D members must adhere to a strict code of ethical practices that covers everything from dispensing samples to when doctors can be paid honorariums to speak at industry-sponsored events.
Professional orders and medical faculties have adopted codes of ethics governing continuing medical education, too. But none bar the "free lunch" that is standard fare at hospital rounds and other educational activities.
"It’s a matter of judgment," says Dr. Yves Robert, the secretary of Quebec’s Collège des Médecins, or College of Physicians.
"If you think that a sandwich can have an effect on your professional independence — it’s probably not true. Even if it’s the best sandwich, it’s still just a sandwich."
Robert says doctors are trained from the moment they enter medical school to be critical and to evaluate everything they’re told based on evidence, not influence.
But a growing number of studies show doctors may not even be conscious of their biases and where they originate.
The Association of American Medical Colleges devoted a symposium to the Scientific Basis of Influence and Reciprocity in Washington, D.C., in 2007. It drew on a wealth of research, including studies using magnetic resonance imaging to show the "level of covert subtlety" at which the brain is working when a person is offered favours.
But studies don’t have to be that sophisticated.
"There was a study in 2001 that asked med students, residents and doctors, ‘Raise your hand if you think you are influenced by pharmaceutical funding?’" recalls Hofmann.
"Sixteen per cent raised their hand. The next question was, ‘Raise your hand if you think the guy sitting next to you is influenced' — and 61 per cent raised their hand!
"None of us are immune from the thought that we are critical thinkers — or better, smarter, faster, or whatever it is," concludes Hofmann. "The guy sitting next to you actually knows the truth."
The Yukon government says it will team up with Saskatchewan to carry out clinical trials of a controversial vein therapy for multiple sclerosis.
Saskatchewan announced earlier this year it will fund trials into so-called "liberation therapy," a form of angioplasty in which neck veins are opened up with small balloons to improve the flow of blood from the brain to the heart.
Yukon Health Minister Glenn Hart said details of its agreement with Saskatchewan are in development, but he said Yukoners should be selected for the clinical trials.
"We've chosen to move with Saskatchewan because they have a high number of MS patients in the province," Hart told CBC News. "We're hoping that with the greater number that we can kind of get in on the research and be included in a greater number of results."
Vein therapy is based on an unproven theory of chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) — put forward by Italian doctor Paolo Zamboni — that blocked veins in the neck or spine are to blame for MS.
The therapy is not approved by Health Canada, and much of the medical community has been skeptical of the procedure.
Treatment helped Whitehorse man But some Canadians with MS, including Tim Cant of Whitehorse, have traveled overseas to receive the treatment and have reported some benefits from it.
Those who do go overseas for vein therapy have to pay for the procedure themselves, as well as pay for any followup health-care costs.
But Cant said he has a new lease on life, thanks to the treatment he received in India in June.
"Oh, it's great! I walk up and I'm proud, I'm so happy. It's something that I never thought I'd do again," the 51-year-old said Friday at a local fitness centre, where he has been working out.
"I would climb up the stairs before, but I'd be hanging on. I'd take the elevator as much as I could to watch my grandson play hockey and so on. This [the gym] was off-limits for me. I didn't have the energy."
It's estimated that about 100 Yukoners have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease that can destroy a person's nervous system and lead to loss of vision, severely impaired mobility and death.
Hart said he will meet with the territory's MS group early in the new year.
"It's a step in the right direction," Hart said. "We want to be responsible, we want to ensure that the actual therapy is going to be safe for those applicants who plan to take it in the future."
Source: CBC Comment from Living Well Chiropractic: Have MS? Try NUCCA care to potentially relieve symptoms.
Researchers don't know what causes dementia, but factors such as heart disease, a history of depression, diet and education level are known to play a role.
In Friday's issue of BMJ, researchers from France and the U.K. estimated which public health interventions might work best for warding off future dementia, assuming no effective treatment is found.
The first analysis looked at 1,433 healthy people over the age of 65 living in the south of France, who were recruited for the study between 1999 and 2001.
Participants gave information about their medical history and measures such as height, weight, education level, monthly income, mobility, dietary habits, alcohol consumption, and tobacco use, and did a reading test as measure of intelligence. Study participants were tested for signs of dementia after two, four and seven years.
'Effective prevention of diabetes, depression and heart disease could potentially improve the lives of millions of people affected by this cruel condition.'— UK Alzheimer's Society Eliminating depression and diabetes and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption would lead to an overall 21 per cent reduction in new cases of dementia, the researchers estimated.
Increasing education would lead to an estimated 18 per cent reduction in new cases of dementia across the general population over the next seven years, the French team said.
In comparison, eliminating the main genetic risk factor known to be associated with dementia would lead to a seven per cent reduction.
Earlier detection "Diabetes, and perhaps also depression, should be the principal targets of future population based health prevention programs," the study concluded. It called for more research on younger adults to test the idea.
The U.K. Alzheimer's Society agreed. "Effective prevention of diabetes, depression and heart disease could potentially improve the lives of millions of people affected by this cruel condition and reduce the billions spent on dementia care each year," the group said in a statement on its website commenting on the research.
Source: CBC In some cases, the figures are stark and indicate growing numbers are joining the flabby ranks. But in other areas, we continue to make steady gains in life expectancy and access to a regular doctor. Here, we offer a general snapshot of Canadians' health.