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Say 'Aaah' | Capsules

Vaccine Triggers Attack on Brain Tumors

February 19, 2001|THOMAS H. MAUGH II | TIMES MEDICAL WRITER

A cancer vaccine developed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is showing promise for the treatment of aggressive brain tumors in patients who have failed all other forms of therapy.

The vaccine is produced by removing tumor cells from the patient and combining them in a test tube with specialized immune cells from the patient's blood. When injected back into the patient, the cells, called dendritic cells, in effect teach the immune system how to recognize tumor tissue--which normally evades the immune system.

Dr. Keith Black and his colleagues at Cedars report in the February issue of Cancer Research (http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/current.shtml) that 10 patients with glioma--the most deadly form of brain cancer--who received the vaccine lived an average of 455 days, compared with 257 days for 59 comparable patients who did not receive it. The study was primarily a safety trial, but the researchers did demonstrate that the immune system attacked the tumors, either stabilizing tumor size or reducing it.

Black's group is treating an additional 20 patients and is now seeking 100 more for the next phase of testing. Researchers at other institutions are developing similar approaches for other types of tumors.

State Issues Warning Against Anso Comfort

If you have been taking the herbal product Anso Comfort capsules, you should stop immediately, according to the California Department of Health Services.

The product has been found to contain an undeclared prescription drug called chlordiazepoxide, and the supplement's manufacturer is recalling it nationwide. Chlordiazepoxide, used to treat anxiety and as a sedative, can be dangerous if taken without medical supervision because of its potential for interaction with other drugs. Anso Comfort is sold in health food stores; its advertising says it contains Chinese herbal ingredients.

Sweating the Big Stuff? Toxin May Bring Relief

Botulinus toxin, which causes food poisoning when eaten but is widely used as a muscle relaxant to control wrinkles and other problems, may also be a good therapy for treating excessive sweating.

The condition, called hyperhidrosis, affects between 1 million and 2 million Americans, causing them to perspire as much as 17.5 ounces of underarm sweat per day.

Dr. Marc Heckmann and his colleagues at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich treated 145 volunteers with injections of the toxin. By two weeks after the injections, the team reported in the Feb. 15 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (http://www.nejm.com) that average daily perspiration had dropped from 17.5 ounces to 2.4 ounces. By the end of the 26th week, the volume had crept back up to about a third of the original level, but it could be reduced with additional treatments.

Too Much Soda May Lead to Fat Children

From the "duh" file: Harvard researchers have found that the more cola and other soft drinks children consume, the more likely they are to grow obese.

Dr. David Ludwig and his colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health reported in the Feb. 17 issue of Lancet (http://www.thelancet.com) that each daily serving of a sugar-sweetened soft drink increases the risk of obesity by 60%. Ludwig noted that it is not uncommon for teenagers to receive 500 to 1,000 calories per day from such beverages. Daily caloric need is about 2,500.

Study Links Rheumatoid Arthritis and Smoking

Rheumatoid arthritis is one more danger that has now been associated with smoking.

The autoimmune disease causes a person's immune system to attack tissues in his or her joints. Although a genetic predisposition has been well documented, environmental factors are also thought to play a role in its onset.

Dr. David Hutchinson and his colleagues at University Hospital in Aintree, England, analyzed the smoking habits of 239 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and an equal number who didn't have the disease. They reported in the February issue of Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (http://ard.bmjjournals.com) that people who smoked 20 cigarettes per day for 40 years or more were 13 times as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis as those who did not smoke. Moreover, smokers with the disease were much less likely to have a family history of arthritis.

Geography, Race Affect Stroke Patients' Care

If you are going to have a stroke, you'd best not do it in the South. And no matter where you are, you're more likely to receive the best treatment if you are white, according to Stanford University researchers. They found strong geographical and racial differences in the way strokes were treated in the United States, particularly in the administration of the clot-busting drug tPA, which is generally considered the best treatment.

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