In Brief

In Brief

May 12, 2006


Injected mice cells cure tumors in others

White blood cells from mice that are naturally immune to cancer cured tumors in other mice when injected and provided them with lifelong immunity to the disease, researchers reported this week.

The finding indicates the existence of a biological pathway previously unsuspected in any species, and researchers are working to understand the genetic and immunological basis of the surprising phenomenon.

Preliminary studies hint at the existence of a similar resistance in humans and researchers hope that harnessing the biological process could lead to a new approach to treating cancer.

"The idea of cells being able to kill tumor cells ... is very exciting," said biologist Howard Young of the National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research in Frederick. "But this is a mouse, and there is no guarantee that the same gene will exist in people."

The findings have not been replicated in any other laboratory, primarily because until recently, the cancer-immune mice were in short supply. But Dr. Zhen Cui of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., whose team published the findings in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, said he expected quick replication now because the findings are so clear-cut and easily observed.



Group urges purchase of `morning-after' pill

Get an advance prescription for emergency contraception so it will be on hand if you need it, the nation's largest gynecologist group advised women this week. The new campaign aims to increase access to the "morning-after" pill after the Bush administration's refusal to allow the emergency birth control to be sold over the counter nationwide.

"We want women to be prepared, well before a contraceptive failure or unprotected sex occurs. Afterward may be too late," said Dr. Michael Mennuti, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The morning-after pill is a high dose of regular birth control pills. It cuts the chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if used within 72 hours of rape, condom failure or forgetting routine contraception.

Conservatives who consider the pill tantamount to abortion have intensely lobbied the White House to reject nonprescription sales, saying they could increase teen sex. After years of debate, top-ranking Food and Drug Administration officials overruled their own scientists' decision that nonprescription sales would be safe and, pointing to concerns that young teens might use the pills, indefinitely postponed a decision.


Thyroid cancer

Detection credited for higher numbers

A doubling of the incidence of thyroid cancer in the United States during the past 30 years is due mainly to improved detection, according to a study to appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs studied data on thyroid cancer incidence, tumor size and other measures from the past 30 years. The rate of thyroid cancer rose from 3.6 per 100,000 people in 1973 to 8.7 per 100,000 in 2002, according to the study appearing in the journal tomorrow.

About 87 percent of the increase came from tumors 2 centimeters or smaller that likely wouldn't have caused symptoms, the researchers said. The death rate from thyroid cancer remained stable over the period, according to the study.

"We believe this suggests that increased diagnostic scrutiny has caused an apparent increase in the incidence of cancer rather than a real increase," the researchers concluded.

Thyroid cancer appears in the glands in the neck that make hormones affecting heart rate, body temperature and energy level. About 14,900 women and 4,600 men in the United States are diagnosed with the condition every year, federal health officials say.

Bloomberg News Service

Hip replacement

U.S. OKs technique that conserves bone

A replacement hip that conserves more of a patient's bone than traditional artificial hips has received federal approval and should be available this summer.

The Birmingham Hip Resurfacing System uses a cap to replace only the head or ball atop the thigh bone, while adding a cup to replace the damaged surface of the hip socket, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The cap moves within the cup to mimic the natural movement of the hip.

Traditional hip replacements remove more of a patient's bone. The new system allows younger and more active arthritis patients to have hip replacement surgery to relieve hip pain and improve hip function, while still leaving the option for more traditional replacement surgery later in life, according to the FDA and Smith & Nephew Orthopaedic Reconstruction, the U.S. division of the British manufacturer of the device.

The Birmingham Hip has been implanted in 60,000 patients in 26 countries, according to the company. In 2003, the most recent year for which data were available, 325,000 people in the United States had a partial or total hip replacement, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Associated Press

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