Health Highlights: April 21, 2010

Scientists Claim Cancer Gene Therapy 'Breakthrough' Vitamin K May Protect Against Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: Study Patient's Genes May Help Predict Adverse Drug Reactions FDA Warns Pfizer About 'Significant Violations' in Drug Trial Singer Urged to Refuse Tobacco Company Sponsorship of Concert

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Scientists Claim Cancer Gene Therapy 'Breakthrough'

A "seek and destroy" method of delivering genes to hard-to-reach tumors without harming healthy tissue may be a "breakthrough" in gene therapy for cancer, say scientists in Scotland.

Lab tests showed that this technique eliminated 90 percent of skin cancer tumors, said the researchers, who are now conducting tests with other types of cancer, BBC News reported.

The study appears in the Journal of Controlled Release.

"This therapeutic system gave very promising results on cancer treatment in the initial tests we have done," said research leader Dr. Christine Dufes, a lecturer at the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, BBC News reported. "To be able to make tumors not just shrink but vanish is a great breakthrough for us, particularly as there's currently no gene therapy of this kind on the market for intravenous administration."

Most current gene therapies for tumors cause damage to surrounding healthy tissue.


Vitamin K May Protect Against Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: Study

Consuming high amounts of vitamin K may reduce the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to a new study.

It included 603 newly diagnosed patients and 1,007 cancer-free people. The researchers found that the risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was about 45 percent lower for people whose vitamin K consumption was in the top quarter, compared to those in the bottom quarter, United Press International reported.

Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system.

"These results are provocative, since they are the first work we have done on the connection between vitamin K and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and this is a fairly strong protective effect," lead investigator Dr. James Cerhan, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said in a news release, UPI reported. "However, as with all new findings, this will need to be replicated in other studies."

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.


Patient's Genes May Help Predict Adverse Drug Reactions

It may be possible to use a patient's genetic, cellular and clinical information to predict adverse drug reactions such as heart arrhythmia, say U.S. researchers.

It is known that slight variations in people's genetic makeup alter individual responses to medications. The Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers said they found a way to use that genetic information in order to predict a drug's adverse effect in a patient, United Press International reported.

"Arrhythmias are side effects in so many different classes of drugs, for diseases ranging from insomnia to epilepsy," said study leader Professor Ravi Iyengar. "By identifying the mechanism causing these adverse events, we can hopefully predict them in other drugs, and help physicians tailor treatment for patients."

The researchers also said their findings, which appear in the journal Science Signaling, may help improve drug design and development, UPI reported.


FDA Warns Pfizer About 'Significant Violations' in Drug Trial

"Significant violations" occurred in a Pfizer Inc.-sponsored clinical trial studying the use of the antipsychotic drug Geodon in children and teens, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In a warning letter posted on its Web site Tuesday, the agency said inspections conducted in 2005 and 2006 found "widespread overdosing" of participants at a number of study locations, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

The issue "was neither detected nor corrected in a timely manner," the FDA said in the letter dated April 9.

In a news release, Pfizer said it has implemented several new measures to improve the conduct and monitoring of clinical trials, Dow Jones reported.

Geodon is approved to treat adults with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Pfizer has applied to the FDA to approve the drug as a treatment for bipolar disorder in patients ages 10 to 17. Last fall, the FDA turned down the request and asked for additional information.


Singer Urged to Refuse Tobacco Company Sponsorship of Concert

"American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson is being urged to reject a tobacco company's sponsorship of her concert in Indonesia.

"If Kelly Clarkson goes ahead with the concert, she is by choice being a spokesman for the tobacco industry and helping them to market to children," Matt Myers, president of the U.S.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told the Associated Press.

The group has asked Clarkson to drop the sponsorship from Djarum, which is Indonesia's third-largest tobacco company.

"She has the power now to turn this situation around and to send a clear message to Indonesian young people and, frankly, to the young people of the world," Myers said.

A growing number of anti-smoking advocates are lobbying the Grammy-winning pop star on her Facebook page, the AP reported.

Two years ago, Alicia Keys rejected a tobacco company's sponsorship of her concert in Jakarta, Indonesia, and apologized to her fans.

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