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July 26, 2011 | By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog
Women with early-stage breast cancer have plenty of procedures and treatments to deal with. So it may come as welcome news that a large clinical trial has found no reason for doctors to perform two tests that were thought to help predict patient survival. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., the researchers say that the test results are meaningless. The tests in question involve looking for micrometastasis - microscopic evidence of a breast tumor's spread - in sentinel lymph nodes and in bone marrow.
June 10, 2011 | By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog
The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it will require changes in the labeling of a family of drugs used to treat benign prostate hyperplasia to indicate that the drugs increase the risk of developing a more aggressive form of prostate cancer. FOR THE RECORD: A sentence in this post which said, "For use in treating prostate cancer, the FDA said, the benefits of the drugs far outweigh the risks," has been corrected to read, "For use in treating benign prostate hyperplasia, the FDA said, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
June 5, 2011 | By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times
A drug already used to treat breast cancer can reduce the risk of tumors in high- and moderate-risk post-menopausal women by 65% over a three-year period, researchers reported Saturday. Two other drugs are already approved for reducing the risk of breast tumors in healthy women: Generic tamoxifen reduces the risk by 50% over a five-year period and raloxifene (Evista) reduces the risk by 38% over a similar period. But both drugs are associated with an increased risk of potentially fatal uterine cancer and blood clots.
June 5, 2011 | By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog
Screening for ovarian cancer does not reduce the risk of dying from the disease but does increase the likelihood of unnecessary invasive procedures, researchers said Saturday. "We were unable to detect ovarian cancers any earlier than in the women who did not get the screening," and nearly 6% of the women tested had false positives, Dr. Christine D. Berg, chief of the early-detection branch at the National Cancer Institute told a Chicago meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
June 1, 2011 | By Shari Roan and Ellen Gabler, Los Angeles Times
Cellphone users may be at increased risk for two types of rare tumors and should try to reduce their exposure to the energy emitted by the phones, according to a panel of 31 international scientists convened by an agency within the World Health Organization. Studies so far do not show definitively that cellphone use increases that risk, said the authors of the consensus statement issued Tuesday by the WHO. But "limited" scientific evidence exists, they said, to suggest that the radiofrequency energy released by cellphones may increase the risk of glioma, a type of brain cancer, and acoustic neuroma, a noncancerous tumor of the nerve that runs from the ear to the brain.
May 13, 2011 | By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog
Mary Tyler Moore, the actress best remembered for her roles on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "Mary Tyler Moore," will have surgery to remove a benign brain tumor called a meningioma, her publicist said Thursday. Moore's physicians have been monitoring the tumor for several years; it is not life-threatening and the iconic actress is expected to make a full recovery after the surgery at an undisclosed hospital. Here's everything you might ever want to know about menigiomas. Meningiomas, which account for a little over a quarter of all brain tumors, grow out of the meninges, the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.
April 18, 2011 | By Amber Dance, Special to the Los Angeles Times
Cancer cells are riddled with genetic errors, and each tumor has its own unique set of mistakes. Reading those errors, scientists believe, will help them not only understand how a tumor came to be, but also how best to poison it. "Every tumor is telling its own story, its own history," says Kevin White, director of the Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology at the University of Chicago. One by one, he's reading and analyzing those stories as part of the university's $5-million Chicago Cancer Genome Project.
April 12, 2011 | By Andrew Zajac, Washington Bureau
Two drugs used against kidney cancer won the endorsement of a federal advisory panel Tuesday to treat a form of pancreatic cancer that strikes several hundred Americans each year. The panel found that the benefits of Novartis Pharmaceuticals' Afinitor and Pfizer's Sutent outweighed their toxic side effects, increasing the likelihood that the Food and Drug Administration would approve their use for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. The drugs provide significant new treatment options with the potential to extend the lives of patients diagnosed with the tumors.
March 21, 2011 | By Amber Dance, Special to the Los Angeles Times
Cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, are more shotgun-scattered than precision-targeted. They damage bystanding healthy cells as they attack the tumor tissue, causing nasty side effects. Scientists would like to focus these therapies more narrowly on the cancer cells alone, and researchers in Toronto have come up with a new strategy. With a flick of a genetic switch, they've made cancer cells ultra-sensitive to radiation, thus killing tumors that normally withstand the treatment.
February 9, 2011 | By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times
Boston researchers have sequenced the genomes of prostate tumors from seven men, a "landmark event" that promises eventually to help clinicians learn how to differentiate between those tumors that will be highly aggressive and require immediate treatment and those that are essentially benign  and that can be simply observed. "This is a transforming moment in understanding the underlying biology of prostate cancer," said geneticist Michael F. Berger of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, lead author of the paper appearing online Wednesday in the journal Nature . Geneticists have been sequencing a variety of tumors of different types, but the effort on prostate tumors introduces a new level of complexity.
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