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Health Highlights: Feb. 25, 2016

Pancreatic Cancer Four Separate Diseases: Study New Rules Tighten Access to Coverage Outside Enrollment Periods Senate Confirms Califf to Lead FDA

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

Pancreatic Cancer Four Separate Diseases: Study

Scientists who discovered that pancreatic cancer is at least four separate diseases say their findings could lead to improved treatments for the deadly illness.

They studied pancreatic cancer in 456 patients and identified four classes of genetic error that triggered tumors. They labeled the four cancers: squamous-type; pancreatic progenitor; immunogenic; and aberrantly differentiated endocrine exocrine, BBC News reported.

The findings in the journal Nature are "incredibly exciting," according to cancer charities.

"This is the most comprehensive analysis of the blueprint of pancreatic cancer. So this knowledge reveals what makes these cancers tick and which ones may be vulnerable to particular treatments by defining the Achilles' heel of every cancer," Dr. Andrew Biankin, one of the researchers at the University of Glasgow, told BBC News.

At diagnosis, most pancreatic cancer patients are told they have less than a year to live. Only one percent are alive after 10 years, a survival rate that's remained the same for four decades.

"It's just a really tough cancer," Biankin said.


New Rules TIghten Access to Coverage Outside Enrollment Periods

New rules will make it more difficult for Americans to buy health insurance through outside designated enrollment seasons.

The changes announced Wednesday by federal health officials are in response to complaints from insurers that some consumers wait until they are sick to get coverage, the Washington Post reported.

People who apply for coverage under five main reasons for a "special enrollment period" will now be required to provide documents proving they deserve to be exempted from regular enrollment periods.

Those five reasons include having moved, having a baby, adopting a child, gotten married or lost other health insurance. Until now, people in these and a few other circumstances could sign up outside designated enrollment seasons simply by checking a box, the Post reported.

The changes apply to people in the 38 states that rely on the federal insurance exchange.


Senate Confirms Califf to Lead FDA

Robert Califf has been confirmed by the Senate to lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

President Barack Obama's nominee was confirmed in a 89-4 vote Wednesday. Califf spent more than 30 years at Duke University and had been the No. 2 official at the FDA, the Associated Press reported.

Califf's tasks include completing new tobacco regulations and food safety and labeling reforms.

He also pledged to re-evaluate how the FDA regulates prescription painkillers as the nation struggles with a painkiller abuse epidemic, the AP reported.

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