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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Researchers Develop Blood Test to Diagnose Alzheimer’s

Scientists have described a new blood test that could eventually lead to definitive and earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of degenerative disorders. At present, the only way to accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s is through an autopsy.

German researchers joined colleagues from The Scripps Research Institute in California to study microRNAs (miRNAs), according to Medical News Today. These are small RNA molecules that influence the manner in which genes are expressed. Scientists can locate them fairly easily in fluids like blood.

In an initial study, the researchers tested a panel of 12 miRNAs among 22 control subjects and 48 Alzheimer’s patients. Subjects with dementia presented with different levels of miRNAs from those in the control group.

In a second test, the 202 subjects included healthy controls, Alzheimer’s patients, and people with other neurological and neurodegenerative disorders. The new blood test was able to differentiate patients with Alzheimer’s from those with normal health. It also identified other disorders.

The test scored 93 percent for accuracy, 95 percent for sensitivity (correctly finding subjects with the disease), and 92 percent for specificity (identifying those without the illness). The researchers published their findings in the journal Genome Biology.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that more than 5 million Americans are living with the disorder, the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Estimates suggest that in 2013, the disease will cost the country $203 billion, a figure expected to soar to […]

By |July 31st, 2013|blogs|0 Comments

Actelion buys U.S.-based firm with cancer drug in development

ZURICH (Reuters) – Actelion said it will acquire Ceptaris, a privately held U.S.-based specialty pharmaceutical company developing a topical drug, Valchlor, to treat a form of cancer.

Allschwil-based Actelion said it already paid Ceptaris $25 million and will pay another $225 million when the deal closes. The deal is contingent on Valchlor clinching approval from the U.S. health regulator.

“We expect the transaction to become cash-accretive before the end of 2014,” Actelion executive Nicholas Franco said in a statement on Wednesday.

(Reporting By Katharina Bart)

By |July 31st, 2013|blogs|0 Comments

HPV tied to higher esophageal cancer risk

By Kerry Grens

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A new review of previous research links infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) to a three-fold greater chance of esophageal cancer.

“This doesn’t mean it is present in all (esophageal cancers), but it may be a factor in a certain proportion of cases,” said Dr. Surabhi Liyanage, the study’s lead author.

HPV is a very common sexually transmitted virus that is known to cause cervical cancer, anal cancer and some cancers of the reproductive organs and the upper throat.

Liyanage, a graduate student at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, said there’s been a lot of debate among researchers about the role of HPV in cancer of the esophagus because most of the studies to date have been small and used disparate methods that make them hard to compare.

According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 18,000 people – roughly four out of every 100,000 – are diagnosed with esophageal cancer each year in the U.S. and 15,000 Americans die from it annually.

Worldwide, esophageal cancer is the eighth most common cancer and responsible for some 400,000 deaths a year, according to World Health Organization data.

To get a better handle on the relationship between HPV and esophageal cancer, Liyanage and her colleagues gathered results from all of the studies that have compared patients with the cancer to people without it.

The studies focused on esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, one type of esophageal cancer that affects the lining of the esophagus.

In […]

By |July 31st, 2013|blogs|0 Comments

Print, web aids help men decide on cancer screening

By Genevra Pittman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Both print and online tools outlining the possible benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening can help men understand the disease and feel more confident in their screening-related decisions, a new study suggests.

Researchers found, however, that men who had access to those decision aids weren’t any more or less likely to be screened in the following year than those who didn’t receive extra information.

“We really wanted to develop something that clearly presented both sides of the issue so that men could make an informed decision with regards to whether they wanted to undergo screening,” said Kathryn Taylor, who led the new study at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a government-backed panel, recommended against prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests for average-risk men.

Other groups, including the American Urological Association, say men of certain ages should weigh the risks and benefits with their doctors and come to an individual decision about screening.

Data conflict about whether screening saves any lives. It’s clearer that treatment after a positive test and biopsy can cause side effects, such as impotence and incontinence, and that some cancers picked up on screening would never have caused symptoms because they are so slow-growing.

Taylor and her colleagues randomly assigned close to 1,900 middle-aged men to receive print or Internet-based prostate cancer decision aids or no extra information.

Both tools contained information on the prostate gland, prostate cancer screening tests and treatment […]

By |July 30th, 2013|blogs|0 Comments

Court-ordered mental health treatment may save money

By Andrew M. Seaman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – State-run programs that compel people with serious mental illness to get treatment may reduce costs, according to a new analysis of New York State’s system known as Kendra’s Law.

Addressing the concerns of some lawmakers, researchers found that treatment costs dropped by about half among those covered under the program in New York City and even more for those in other counties throughout the state, largely as a result of fewer hospital admissions.

“What we’re hoping is that people will look at these types of analyses and say, ‘yes there are costs up front but it appears that you realize cost savings over time,'” said Dr. Marvin S. Swartz, one of the study’s authors from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

The assisted outpatient commitment (AOC) programs apply to people with serious mental disorders and a history of hospitalizations that stem from not sticking with treatments.

Patients in these programs are compelled by court order to show up for their prescribed care, though provisions for enforcement of the court’s order are sometimes unclear.

The New York State law, passed in 1999 and named for a young woman pushed to her death onto subway tracks by a mentally ill person that year, authorizes AOC “to prevent a relapse which or deterioration which would likely result in serious harm to the patient or others.”

While 45 U.S. states have enacted laws to create AOC programs, the laws remain controversial and often are not used because […]

By |July 30th, 2013|blogs|0 Comments