Health Highlights: March 14, 2018

Fluorescent Dyes Might Improve Cancer Surgery Success Stephen Hawking Dies at Age 76 Right to Try Bill Defeated in U.S. House Trump Administration Broke Federal Air Pollution Law: Judge

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

Fluorescent Dyes Might Improve Cancer Surgery Success

Fluorescent dyes may help improve the success of cancer surgery, researchers say.

Surgery is widely used to treat cancer, but there is a risk of recurrence if cancer cells are left behind. However, it can be difficult for surgeons to tell the difference between cancer cells and healthy tissue, according to the Associated Press.

In an effort to solve this problem, researchers are testing if fluorescent dyes can make cancer cells glow so that doctors can spot them and cut them out.

With the dyes, "it's almost like we have bionic vision," Dr. Sunil Singhal, University of Pennsylvania, told the AP. "We can be sure we're not taking too much or too little."

Two experimental dyes are being tested in late-stage studies with the goal of getting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

"We think this is so important. Patients' lives will be improved by this," Paula Jacobs, an imaging expert at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, told the AP. She predicted that in about five years, "there will be a palette of these," dyes.


Stephen Hawking Dies at Age 76

World-famous physicist and best-selling author Stephen Hawking died early Wednesday at age 76.

The scientist's death at his home in Cambridge, England, was confirmed by a Cambridge University spokesman, The New York Times reported.

Hawking, who studied black holes, gravity and other mysteries of the universe, had long been confined to a wheelchair. He was diagnosed in 1963 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and was given only a few years to live.

While the neuromuscular wasting disease left him only with voluntary eye movements and the ability to flex a finger, Hawking's intellect was not affected.

"Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world," Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, told The Times.


Right to Try Bill Defeated in U.S. House

A bill to loosen rules on providing experimental drugs to people with terminal illnesses was voted down Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Democrats said the bill would have had little impact since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration already approves 99 percent of the 1,000 requests it receives each year under a program that gives patients access to unproven treatments, the Associated Press reported.

Democrats, who had the support of many patients and research groups, said the bill would put patients at risk by reducing the FDA's oversight of the process and also pointed out that most experimental drugs don't work.

The vote for the bill was 259-140, which was short of the two-thirds majority Republicans needed to pass it under special procedures. All but two voting Republicans supported the measure, the AP reported.

"The House will not let this be the end," said Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

The Senate approved similar legislation last summer, so House Republicans could make some changes and reintroduce the proposed legislation under rules in which a simple majority would achieve passage, according to the AP.


Trump Administration Broke Federal Air Pollution Law: Judge

The Trump administration broke federal law by not meeting a deadline on new smog regulations, a federal judge has ruled.

Specifically, the Trump administration missed the Oct. 1, 2017, deadline to designate which parts of the United States were complying with tighter air quality standards for smog, the Associated Press reported. The tougher standards were issued by the Obama administration.

The ruling, made Monday by U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam, involved two lawsuits, including one filed by 14 states and the District of Columbia.

Gilliam ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to complete the compliance/non-compliance air quality designations by the end of April. Under the law, polluted regions can be forced to take action to improve air quality, AP reported.

Smog is linked with health problems such as heart disease, bronchitis and emphysema, and the new standards would save hundreds of lives each year, according to the states' lawsuit.

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