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Health Highlights: March 14, 2013

FDA Probing Reports of Pancreas Problems Caused by Diabetes Drugs Single Lung Not a Problem for New Pope: Doctors Cancer Drugs May be Effective Against Tapeworms: Study

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

FDA Probing Reports of Pancreas Problems Caused by Diabetes Drugs

Reports that a group of new diabetes drugs may increase the risk of pancreas problems are being investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA says unpublished results from a group of researchers show that samples of pancreas tissue taken from a small number of patients taking the drugs showed signs of inflammation and of cellular changes that often precede cancer, the Associated Press reported.

The agency said it is seeking more information and has not reached any conclusions. Patients should continue taking the medications until they consult with their doctor, officials advised.

The medicines under review mimic a natural hormone that the body produces to break down sugar after a meal. The drugs include Amylin's Byetta, Merck's Januvia, Novo Nordisk's Victoza, among others, the AP reported.

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Single Lung Not a Problem for New Pope: Doctors

The fact that the new pope has just one lung shouldn't affect his ability to carry out his duties, experts say.

Pope Francis lost most of one lung to an infection when he was a teenager. Having only one lung does not compromise his health or reduce his life span, according to doctors.

"Having one lung should be enough as long as there is no other disease in that lung," Dr. Peter Openshaw, director of the Center for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College London in the U.K., told the Associated Press.

The fact that the pope is so fit and healthy at 76 bodes well for his future, according to Dr. Jennifer Quint, a respiratory expert at London's School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

She said his main challenge will be to keep his remaining lung health. "I would recommend a yearly flu vaccination and an occasional pneumonia vaccine to avoid infection," she told the AP.

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Cancer Drugs May be Effective Against Tapeworms: Study

Some cancer drugs may provide an effective treatment for tapeworm infection, a new study says.

Researchers worked out and analyzed the genetic codes of four species of tapeworm and then looked for similarities between the parasites and humans. The investigators discovered that some existing drugs could work on tapeworms, BBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

"We mined the (tapeworm) genome for targets," Dr. Matthew Berriman, from the Sanger Institute in the U.K., told BBC News. "At the top of the list are the tapeworm equivalent of the targets for cancer drugs."

Tapeworm infections can be fatal or cause complications such as epilepsy and blindness. Current drugs used to treat the infections are often ineffective.

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