31 Jul

Medical News Today: People who produce powerful HIV antibodies have specific immunological profile

People who have HIV produce special antibodies that enable them to suppress the virus. In a new study published in Science Immunology, scientists have identified and described the immunological profile of some people with HIV who are better able to resist the effects of the virus.
[HIV blood test]
People with HIV have a range of immune and antibody profiles.

HIV is a serious disease that, if not controlled, can become AIDS. It can be fatal. There is currently no vaccine to protect against HIV or AIDS.

A person with HIV will experience symptoms that feel like the flu. As the virus spreads through the body, the immune system will launch an attack by HIV antibodies to fight the virus.

In around 45 days, the immune system normally gains control, in a process called seroconversion. In some people, this can take a few months. However, the virus does not go away.

It remains in the body, and it can continue to affect cells and cause damage, because the virus is still active. The virus also mutates as the immune system pursues it.

As the body’s immune system becomes weaker, the person is more likely to develop different infections. When a person’s body can no longer fight common infections, this is known as AIDS.

Previous research has indicated that monoclonal antibodies, or mabs, can protect against HIV infection in monkeys.

How bNAbs may help to fight HIV

The bodies of some patients who live with HIV naturally produce a type of antibody known as broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs). Scientists believe that any successful vaccine against HIV must be able to induce bNAbs.

A team led by researchers from Duke University in Durham, NC, studied blood samples taken from people with HIV. They selected 51 people with high levels of bNAbs and 51 people with few or no bNAbs.

They found that many of the changes in immune cell function that stem from chronic HIV infection are linked with high bNAb levels.

The variations included:

  • Higher levels of autoantibodies – a type of antibody that attacks the patient’s own cells
  • Lower levels of T cells that regulate the immune system; these T cells were less active
  • Higher levels of memory T follicular helper immune cells.

The results suggest that bNAb production may correlate with specific differences in individual immune functions, and that these differences could occur when HIV infection is not kept under control.

Their theory is that in people with this particular immune system profile, the activity of antibody-producing immune cells, known as B cells, could be less restricted.

This could be because these B cells are supported by T follicular helper cells. They may also be hindered by regulatory T cells.

These conditions could make some people more likely to produce protective bNAbs.

A step toward a vaccine?

It is thought that bNAbs may help to suppress the virus in people who have them by neutralizing a number of HIV viral strains. Other people with HIV have different immunological profiles.

While bNAbs cannot completely clear HIV infections in people who already have HIV, scientists hope that the new insights into bNAbs could be a step toward developing a successful vaccine to prevent the virus.

The researchers hope to find a safe way to replicate these qualities in people who do not have HIV infection, through a vaccine. If the bodies of people who do not have HIV can be stimulated to produce bNAbs, this could provide protection from the virus.

This, they believe, could lead to better experimental vaccines that would protect against HIV.

The findings support existing approaches to developing an HIV vaccine. These involve changing a person’s immune system so that it can mimic these conditions. This could be achieved by adding boosters, such as adjuvants, to vaccines.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. Blood samples were collected with the help of by the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI), which is supported by NIAID.

Read how mimicking infants’ immune response could produce an HIV vaccine.

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Source: medicalnewstoday

31 Jul

Medical News Today: Antibiotic resistance: Skin infection prevention treatment helps battle 'superbugs'

Researchers from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom have discovered a pioneering method to prevent skin wounds such as bedsores and ulcers from becoming infected, thus preventing “superbugs” like MRSA taking hold.
[Elderly woman in a hospital bed]
Many of the most urgent and serious antibiotic-resistant bacteria threaten patients while they are being treated in healthcare facilities for other conditions.

“Superbug” is a term invented by the media to describe bacteria that cannot be killed using multiple antibiotics. These bacteria are “antibiotic resistant” and have proven particularly problematic in healthcare settings where they increase the risk of worse clinical outcomes and death.

A high percentage of hospital-acquired infections are caused by highly resistant bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). People with MRSA are estimated to be 64 percent more likely to die than individuals with a non-resistant form of the infection.

Although MRSA is a significant threat to patients, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that life-threatening MRSA infections in healthcare settings are declining.

MRSA is usually spread by direct contact with an infected wound or from contaminated hands. Studies show that 2 in 100 people carry MRSA in their nose without any signs of infection and can spread the bacteria to others.

The research was trialed in a human model of 3D tissue engineered skin and showed that the proteins prevented bacterial infections, and indicated that the treatment was both safe and effective for use in humans.

Tetraspanin proteins allowed harmful bacteria to be washed away

Prof. Sheila MacNeil, from the University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, who engineered the skin, created the model to mimic the tissue structure of normal adult skin, including infected wounds. The skin can be used to analyze the penetration of peptides and bacteria.

In collaboration with AGE U.K., researchers from the University of Sheffield showed that while infection is launched by bacteria tightly attaching to skin cells by hijacking “sticky patches” – by using proteins called tetraspanins from human cells – the patches are made less sticky, allowing bacteria to be washed away.

“This development is a huge breakthrough in the fight against antibiotic-resistance,” says Dr. Pete Monk from the University’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Science, who led the study.

He notes that skin infections, including bedsores and ulcers, can be concerning for patients who may already have debilitating conditions, and have proven to be a significant problem for modern healthcare.

“We hope that this new therapy can be used to help relieve the burden of skin infections on both patients and health services while also providing a new insight into how we might defeat the threat of antimicrobial drug resistance.”

Dr. Pete Monk

Monk adds that the therapy could be administered in the form of a gel or cream, and could also work well as a dressing. “We’re hoping it can reach clinical trials stage in the next 3 to 5 years,” he concludes.

In contrast to antibiotics, tetraspanin proteins do not directly kill bacteria, and, as a result, do not encourage the evolution of antibiotic resistance.

Read about how gonorrhea is becoming resistant to one of the two antibiotics used to treat the disease.

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Source: medicalnewstoday

31 Jul

Medical News Today: Blackhead Removal: Things to Consider

Acne is a very common inflammatory skin condition, which commonly starts at the time of puberty and can continue through life. It most commonly affects the face, as well as the back, shoulders, upper arms, and chest.

The term can cover skin conditions such as blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, cysts, and nodules.

These skin changes can cause physical symptoms such as scarring. Acne can also cause psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and poor self-image.

Fast facts on acne

Here are some key points about acne.

  • According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne affects as many as 50 million Americans each year
  • Girls aged 14-17 and boys aged 16-19 are most affected by acne, though it can occur at any age
  • People should avoid popping, squeezing, or picking at blackheads

Blackhead removal

People with blackheads should avoid popping, squeezing, rubbing, touching, or picking at affected areas.

A man wiping his blackheads with a cleansing pad.
There are many gels, lotions, and cleansing pads available to treat blackheads.

Not all acne is treated the same. To treat blackheads, a healthcare provider may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications depending on a particular situation.

Topically applied therapy for those affected by mild acne and blackheads may include the use of:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Antibiotics
  • Retinoids
  • Salicylic acid
  • Sulfur

Depending on the remedy, they may be purchased in the form of gel, lotion, cream, soaps, or pads.

In some cases, a healthcare provider may recommend extraction, in which they will manually extract blackheads with special tools.

For some women, the use of oral contraceptives, low-dose corticosteroids, or spironolactone may improve hormonally driven acne, even in mild cases.

Treatment and prevention of blackheads and acne

Things to avoid:

  • Avoid vigorous cleaning and scrubbing of the skin
  • Avoid using very hot or very cold water when washing
  • Avoid the use of toners, exfoliants, astringents, strong soaps, or scrubbing pads unless told otherwise
  • Avoid popping, squeezing, rubbing, touching, or picking at affected areas
  • Avoid getting sunburn or tanning
  • Avoid the use of pore-clogging skin care products

Things to do:

  • Gently wash the face or affected area once or twice per day using a mild cleanser and lukewarm water
  • Shampoo hair often
  • Remove all make-up in the evening before going to bed
  • Consider using oil-free skin care products, including sunscreen
  • For people with dry skin, fragrance-free, water-based emollients are recommended
  • Use care when shaving

People should speak with their healthcare provider for recommendations for treating their particular skin condition.

Types of acne

Acne is classified by healthcare providers as inflammatory or non-inflammatory. Acne can also be classed as mild, moderate, or severe.

A follicle is clogged with sebum.
Acne is caused by skin oil called sebum clogging up pores.

Milder forms of acne include non-inflammatory acne. This acne includes the presence of blackheads and whiteheads. These blemishes are caused by a skin oil called sebum clogging the pores.

While sebum may seem like a problem, it is vital for moisturizing the skin. Sebum leads to various forms of acne when a layer of dead skin cells blocks the body’s release of sebum from the skin’s pores.

Sebum is made by the sebaceous glands. Areas that have lots of these glands such as the face, chest, back, and shoulders are at a higher risk of acne formation.

Inflammatory acne is characterized by moderate and severe forms of acne. This can lead to blemishes such as pimples, papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.

Mild acne is characterized by the presence blackheads or whiteheads, as well as few or small pimples.

Moderate acne is characterized by the presence of papules and pustules, which are caused by bacteria. The presence of bacteria leads to skin irritation and inflammation.

Severe acne is a more harsh form of moderate acne and additionally features the presence of nodules and cysts.

Not all acne spots are given the same name due to their characteristics and include:

  • Blackheads: Blackheads are not black due to the presence of dirt. Their black appearance is due to the skin’s pigment’s contact with oxygen. This contact occurs because the surface of the blackhead is open and exposed to the air.
  • Whiteheads: Whiteheads are closed, firm, and are characterized by a white bump. Squeezing them will not release the clogged material.
  • Papules: Papules are characterized by inflamed, pink or red, sore, and tender bumps on the skin. They are typically small in size.
  • Pustules: Pustules are small, inflamed, pink or red, and tender lesions with a center core filled with yellow or white pus.
  • Nodules: Nodules are characterized by deeply embedded, large, painful, and firm skin lumps.
  • Cysts: Similar to nodules, cysts are deeply embedded, pus-filled acne lesions that resemble a boil. These may cause permanent scars.

Risk factors for developing acne

As with many physical conditions, acne is caused by or worsened by several factors. These factors include:

A woman is squeezing a pimple.
Squeezing or picking blackheads can make the acne worse.
  • Overactive oil glands
  • Genes
  • Hormonal status
  • Menstruation
  • Psychological issues such as stress
  • Certain medications
  • Pore-clogging skin care products
  • Pressure from sports helmets, sports equipment, tight-fitted collars, and other sources of rubbing
  • Exposure to pollution or humid temperature conditions
  • Sweating
  • Squeezing or picking at skin lesions
  • Excessive or hard skin scrubbing

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30 Jul

Medical News Today: How a blood pressure hormone can cause weight gain

Uncovering new strategies to fight obesity is a key focus for researchers, given that the condition is a growing public health concern. Now, a new study sheds light on how the renin-angiotensin system – the hormone system that regulates blood pressure – may also promote excess weight gain. The discovery offers a potential target for obesity treatment.
[a man standing on a set of scales]
Researchers reveal how a hormone system that controls blood pressure may also cause weight gain.

Senior study author Justin Grobe, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology at the University of Iowa, and colleagues published their findings in the journal Cell Reports.

While the role of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) in blood pressure control is well established, previous studies have indicated the RAS is also involved in energy balance and metabolism, suggesting the hormone system influences weight.

According to Grobe and colleagues, whether RAS promotes weight gain or weight loss depends on where in the body it is active. For example, if the RAS is highly active in the brain, it increases energy expenditure by boosting resting metabolism, which leads to weight loss.

However, If peripheral RAS activity is increased – that is, if there are high levels of the RAS hormone angiotensin circulating in the rest of the body – it reduces resting metabolism, causing weight gain. Heightened peripheral RAS is often found in obese individuals.

“At a very simplistic level, you can think of the brain RAS as the gas pedal on metabolism and the peripheral (circulating) RAS as the brake, with angiotensin as the driver,” explains Grobe.

For their study, Grobe and colleagues set out to investigate the mechanisms by which the peripheral RAS dampens resting metabolism, with the aim of bringing us closer to a strategy that could halt this process.

Peripheral RAS promotes obesity through reduced thermogenesis

The team analyzed mice that had been genetically modified to have excessively heightened RAS activity in the brain.

Compared with control mice, the genetically modified mice had greater resting metabolic rate and weight loss, even though they had the same diet and physical activity levels.

On analyzing the fat tissue of both groups of mice, the researchers found that the subcutaneous fat on the hips of the genetically modified mice showed increased heat production – or thermogenesis – while visceral fat surrounding the internal organs did not.

Subcutaneous fat refers to fat that is directly under the skin, and it is considered by some health professionals as a “healthy” fat. Visceral fat, however, which is stored deep in the abdominal area, is considered an “unhealthy” fat, raising the risk of obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Next, the team activated a receptor called angiotensin II type 2 (AT2) in the subcutaneous fat cells of the mice. AT2 is normally activated when the peripheral RAS is increased.

After the AT2 receptor was activated, the researchers found the mice gained weight, despite experiencing no changes in diet or food intake.

In detail, they found that AT2 activation lowers the production of a protein called UCP1 in subcutaneous fat cells, which is key for non-shivering thermogenesis. Lower UCP1 levels impair fat cells’ ability to generate heat, the team notes.

“If the fat cell is the thermogenic tissue (generating heat by burning calories), you can either have a bigger engine or you can push the gas pedal harder to create a larger effect,” explains Grobe. “Our study shows that angiotensin is modulating the size of the engine (amount of UCP1), not how hard the gas pedal is being pushed.”

Overall, the researchers say their findings suggest that increased peripheral RAS activity – through increased angiotensin levels – promotes obesity through AT2 activation and impaired thermogenesis.

“In multiple ways, activation of the AT2 receptor [by increasing the peripheral RAS] is interfering with the capacity of the cell to make heat.

It is very consistent with the clinical observation that peripheral angiotensin goes up during obesity. This is probably at least one of the mechanisms by which that excess angiotensin is perpetuating obesity. Because it is telling the body to slow down its metabolism as the body gets bigger.”

Justin Grobe, Ph.D.

The authors say this increased understanding of how the RAS affects weight gain could pave the way for new treatments for obesity and its related complications.

Learn how good hydration could prevent weight gain.

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Source: medicalnewstoday

30 Jul

Medical News Today: Everything You Need to Know About the Pap Smear

Cervical cancer is cancer that develops in the cells of the lower portion of the uterus. This region is called the cervix.

The small and narrow cervix connects the uterus to the vagina. It provides an entry for sperm to pass into the uterus. The cervix also provides an exit from the uterus for monthly menstrual blood flow or a baby during delivery.

The small cervix is divided into two sections and is home to two types of cells:

  • Endocervix: This portion of the cervix is the innermost part. It lines the “tunnel” leading from the uterus into the vagina. The endocervix is home to tall, column-like cells that are responsible for mucus secretion.
  • Ectocervix: This portion of the cervix is the outer portion, which protrudes into the vagina. The ectocervix is the home to squamous cells, which have the appearance of fish scales under the microscope.

Where these two cell types join is where most cervical cancers and precancerous cells form.

What is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear is a screening tool which will aid in the detection of abnormal cells and cancer. It works by sampling cells from the cervix.

A cotton-tipped applicator.
The Pap smear is important for preventing the spread of cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer screening is important for the prevention and early diagnosis of cervical cancer. Tools such as the Pap smear and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing are necessary to detect:

  • Precancerous cell changes
  • The presence of HPV
  • The presence of cancer

Treatment can then be offered based on the diagnosis.

An HPV test can be obtained at the same time. It is recommended that women over 30 years old undergo both a Pap smear and HPV testing.

According to the American Cancer Society, deaths from cervical cancer have decreased by more than half in the last 40 years. They say that this is mainly due to the use of the Pap smear.

What happens during a Pap smear?

Women usually have a Pap smear during a gynecological pelvic exam. A tool called a speculum is inserted into the vagina so that the cervix can be fully examined. A sample of the cervical cells is then taken with a brush or spatula and sent for testing.

The Mayo Clinic recommend avoiding undergoing a Pap smear during a period. Women should also avoid the use of douches, vaginal medications, spermicides, and having sex for 2 days before Pap testing.

When should I have a Pap smear?

Recommendations on Pap smear frequency depend on several factors. These include:

  • Age
  • Medical history
  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) when in the womb
  • HIV
  • A weakened immune system
A woman is talking to a doctor.
Doctors recommend that women start having Pap smears from the age of 21.

It is recommended that women start receiving Pap smears at the age of 21. They should have another test every 3 years until the age of 65. Testing every 5 years can be considered in women over 30 who undergo a Pap smear with HPV testing.

In some situations, it may be recommended that women stop undergoing screening with a Pap smear. Some women may no longer require screening after a total hysterectomy, surgery in which the uterus and cervix are removed.

Women who have a hysterectomy for a precancerous or cancerous condition require continued surveillance, however.

Women who are over 65 years old usually no longer require Pap smears. However, each person’s risk factors vary. Women with a history of positive cervical cancer screening and those who are sexually active with multiple partners may require continued testing.

Each person’s needs are different and should be discussed with a doctor.

Pap smear results

A Pap smear can sometimes be negative when there are abnormal cells present on the cervix; this is called a false-negative result. False-negative results can be caused by:

  • Not collecting enough cells
  • Low amounts of abnormal cells
  • The presence of blood or inflammatory cells

On the other hand, a positive Pap smear result does not always mean that cervical cancer is present. The result may simply be abnormal.

If a patient receives a negative result, their Pap smear was normal and did not reveal abnormal cells.

Abnormal results, referred to as positive findings, may signal the presence of abnormal cells or cancer. These results require following up with a colposcopy, with or without a biopsy.

During a colposcopy, the cervix, vulva, and vagina are magnified with a colposcope. If necessary, a biopsy may be taken for evaluation.

Common cell abnormalities include:

Image of the female reproductive organs.
Positive findings on a Pap smear are followed up with further testing.
  • Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS): This diagnosis is for mildly abnormal cells that do not meet the criteria of precancerous cells. If HPV is present, additional testing will be recommended.
  • Squamous intraepithelial lesion: This diagnosis indicates possible precancerous cellular changes that are likely to need further testing. They are divided into two categories:
    • Low grade: A low-grade lesion has a low risk of progressing to cancer in the near future.
    • High grade: A high-grade lesion has a high risk of progressing to cancer sooner rather than later.
  • Atypical glandular cells: This diagnosis is indicative of abnormal cells in the endocervix. These will require further testing.
  • Squamous cell cancer or adenocarcinoma: This diagnosis signals the likelihood of cancer and depends on the cell type that is atypical. Further testing is required.

It is important to speak with a doctor about the risk factors for developing abnormal cervical cells and cervical cancer. These will determine how often a woman will need to have Pap smear testing.

Additional testing may be recommended based on personal history and previous Pap smear and HPV results.

Cervical cancer facts

It is estimated that in 2016, there will be 12,990 newly diagnosed invasive cervical cancers in the United States.

There are many risk factors for developing cervical cancer. The biggest risk factor is an infection with HPV, a sexually transmitted skin-to-skin virus. HPV can be caught during vaginal, anal, or oral sex when there is skin-to-skin contact.

While there are over 150 types of HPV, most cervical cancers are caused by HPV types 16 and 18. Other complications from an HPV infection include the presence of noncancerous warts or papillomas.

While there is no cure for HPV, the body often resolves the infection on its own. When it becomes a long-term infection, the risk of cancer increases. Treatment does exist for HPV-related warts and cell changes.

Before developing into cancer, cervical cells undergo abnormal changes. These are known as precancerous changes or dysplasia.

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Source: medicalnewstoday

30 Jul

Medical News Today: Pharmacy on the go: Programmable device produces vaccines on demand

Transporting biopharmaceutical drugs for vaccines and treatments – produced in large fermentation plants – can be expensive, time-consuming and challenging to deliver to remote areas. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a portable device designed to manufacture a range of drugs on demand.
[pharmacist taking medication off the shelf]
Scientists have developed a device that can produce biopharmaceutical drugs on the move.

With medics on the battlefield and doctors in remote or developing parts of the world in mind, the team designed a compact portable production system that could potentially give patients in these areas rapid access to the drugs they need.

The research – published in the journal Nature Communications with funding from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – demonstrates that the device containing a small droplet of cells in a liquid can be used to produce a single dose of treatment.

According to senior author Tim Lu – an associate professor of biological engineering and electrical engineering and computer science, and head of the Synthetic Biology Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Research Laboratory of Electronics – the device could essentially be carried to isolated and inaccessible places and either used to treat patients on the spot or manufacture a vaccine to prevent disease outbreak.

“Imagine you were on Mars or in a remote desert, without access to a full formulary, you could program the yeast to produce drugs on demand locally,” says Lu.

Modified yeast express therapeutic proteins

The portable production system uses a programmable strain of yeast – Picha pastoris (P. pastoris) – that can be stimulated to express one of two therapeutic proteins when exposed to a particular chemical trigger.

P. pastoris can grow to very high densities on simple and inexpensive carbon sources and can express large amounts of protein. “We altered the yeast so it could be more easily genetically modified and could include more than one therapeutic in its repertoire,” says Lu.

Exposing the modified yeast to estrogen β-estradiol resulted in the cells expressing recombinant human growth hormone (rHGH), and upon exposing the cells to methanol, the yeast expressed the protein interferon.

Senior author Rajeev Ram, a professor of electrical engineering at MIT, and colleagues initially developed the device. They devised a compact millimeter-scale microbioreactor – containing a microfluidic chip – that could store the cells. Kevin Lee, an MIT graduate and co-author of the paper, commercialized the system.

The microbioreactor works by feeding a liquid containing the chosen chemical trigger into the reactor to mix with the cells. This mixture is surrounded on three sides by polycarbonate, and on the fourth side is a flexible and gas-permeable silicone rubber membrane.

By pressurizing the gas above the membrane and massaging the liquid, the user can ensure the cell-and-chemical mixture is thoroughly blended.

“This makes sure that the 1 milliliter (of liquid) is homogenous, and that is important because diffusion at these small scales, where there is no turbulence, takes a surprisingly long time,” says Ram.

The membrane is gas permeable, which enables oxygen to stream through the cells, while any produced carbon dioxide can be easily extracted.

Protein-producing cells retained after flushing liquid

Conditions such as oxygen levels, temperature, and pH are monitored by the device within the microfluidic chip to ensure the environment is at optimum levels for cell growth. The device also detects cell density.

The simple action of flushing liquid through a filter can allow a new chemical trigger to be added to the cells to stimulate the yeast to produce the next required protein.

In previous experiments, other researchers have attempted to develop microbioreactors, but these have not had the ability to retain the protein-producing cells after the liquid they are mixed with is flushed out.

“You want to keep the cells because they are your factory. But you also want to rapidly change their chemical environment, in order to change the trigger for protein production.”

Rajeev Ram

Future work by the team involves using the system in combinatorial treatments, whereby multiple therapeutics – such as antibodies – are used simultaneously. Lu points out that combining multiple therapeutics can be expensive if it each requires a production line of its own.

“But if you could engineer a single strain, or maybe even a consortia of strains that grow together, to manufacture combinations of biologics or antibodies, that could be a very powerful way of producing these drugs at a reasonable cost,” he concludes.

Read about a triple-therapy patch that can destroy colorectal tumors.

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30 Jul

Alcohol, Obesity Could Raise Esophageal Cancer Risk

News Picture: Alcohol, Obesity Could Raise Esophageal Cancer Risk

Latest Prevention & Wellness News

THURSDAY, July 28, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Drinking plus being overweight may be a bad combo when it comes to risks for the two most common types of esophageal cancer, a new report warns.

The findings suggest that in the United States, a third of esophageal cancer cases — that’s about 5,600 per year — could be prevented if people maintained a healthy weight and didn’t drink.

“These findings add to the evidence that lifestyle plays a powerful role in cancer risk,” said Alice Bender, head of nutrition at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).

Obesity is now linked to 11 types of cancer and alcohol links to six,” she said in an institute news release. “We want individuals to know you can take important lifestyle steps to reduce risk for many kinds of cancer.”

In the new report, experts at the AICR and the World Cancer Research Fund reviewed 46 studies involving more than 15 million adults, including 31,000 who developed esophageal cancer.

The analysis showed that for every 5-point increase in body mass index (BMI, an estimate of body fat based on weight and height), there is a 48 percent increased risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma, which generally develops in the lower esophagus. About 60 percent of esophageal cancer cases in the United States are adenocarcinomas.

To better understand BMI, a 5-foot-9 man weighing 150 pounds has a BMI of 22, but at 210 pounds his BMI rises to 31 — over the threshold for obesity.

One cancer specialist wasn’t surprised by the new findings.

“The tremendous rise in esophageal cancer has paralleled the obesity epidemic,” said Dr. Anthony Starpoli, who helps direct esophageal endotherapy at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “This study offers support to this observation.”

The researchers also found that the risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma increases 25 percent for every 10 grams of alcohol consumed a day — about equivalent to a glass of beer or wine.

Squamous cell esophageal cancer, which develops from the cells that line the esophagus, accounts for one-third of esophageal cancers in the United States, but is the most common type of esophageal worldwide.

“Alcohol could have a direct carcinogenic effect, or it could be that reflux being worsened by alcohol leads to more damage to the lining or inner wall of the esophagus,” speculated Starpoli. Chronic acid reflux is a risk factor for esophageal cancer.

“And of course, the empty calories from alcohol contribute to obesity,” Starpoli added.

Bender said these risks can be reduced.

“Making smart choices like limiting alcoholic drinks, eating more vegetables, beans and other plant foods, and boosting your activity with walking breaks are all ways to get on a path to lower cancer risk,” Bender said.

Esophageal cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer death worldwide, and the seventh leading cause of cancer death among U.S. men, the AICR said. Survival rates for this cancer are poor, because it’s often diagnosed at a late stage.

— Robert Preidt

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Anthony A. Starpoli, M.D., associate director, Esophageal Endotherapy, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; American Institute for Cancer Research, news release, July 28, 2016

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30 Jul

Are Unemployed Husbands Fueling Divorce Rates?

News Picture: Are Unemployed Husbands Fueling Divorce Rates?By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

Latest Mens Health News

THURSDAY, July 28, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Contrary to common belief, a new U.S. study suggests that women’s growing role in the workforce is not a major factor in divorce. But a husband’s ability to keep a full-time job might be.

The study, of over 6,300 U.S. couples, found that the odds of divorce were no different whether a wife worked full-time or not. Instead, it was husbands’ full-time employment — or lack thereof — that made a significant difference.

The findings stand in stark contrast to a popular notion — that “working women” are partly responsible for fueling the U.S. divorce rate.

“Some prior work has suggested that women’s economic independence has made it easier for them to leave a marriage, and that might increase the odds of divorce,” explained study author Alexandra Killewald. She is a professor of sociology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

“I found no evidence of that,” she said.

In fact, Killewald found no evidence that either wives’ incomes or couples’ incomes were a major factor in divorce.

“It seems that the dollars don’t matter,” she said. “But our expectations of men and women might.”

Why? Killewald pointed to some other patterns the study turned up: In more recent years, wives’ willingness to do the lion’s share of housework has become less important in marriage stability. But men’s work outside the home still matters.

Killewald found that among couples married before 1975, the odds of divorce were lower when wives were doing most or all of the housework.

But that pattern no longer existed among couples married between 1975 and 2011, the findings showed.

In contrast, men’s work outside of the home remained critical. Among couples married in more recent years, the odds of divorce were 25 percent higher when husbands lacked a full-time job.

But the trend was not explained by lost income.

According to Killewald, the findings may instead reflect societal attitudes.

These days, it’s accepted that women can break free of the traditional homemaker role and still be a “good wife.” But the definition of what makes a “good husband” hasn’t changed all that much, Killewald said.

Pamela Smock, a sociologist who was not involved in the study, agreed.

“While women’s roles have changed markedly over the past several decades, men’s have not kept pace,” said Smock, a professor of sociology at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.

“In our culture,” she added, “to be a ‘husband’ still means being the breadwinner.”

When husbands don’t meet those expectations, Smock said, it may strain a marriage. “There has been other research linking men’s ability to play the provider role with both getting married and staying married,” she noted.

The findings, published in the August issue of American Sociological Review, are based on over 6,300 married couples who took part in different “waves” of an ongoing national survey that started in 1968.

Killewald found that for couples married after 1974, the average odds of getting a divorce in the next year were 2.6 percent if the wife worked full-time. If she didn’t, those odds were nearly the same, at 2.5 percent.

On the other hand, if a husband lacked a full-time job, there was a 3.3 percent likelihood of divorce in the next year. That compared with 2.5 percent if he had full-time work.

As for housework, women married after 1974 no longer had to bear the load of the work to keep their marriage happy — at least if they worked full-time. And there was “suggestive evidence,” Killewald said, that the odds of divorce were a bit lower if husbands pitched in at home.

“I think having things feel fair is important,” Killewald added.

Smock called the study “rigorous” and “compelling.” And she agreed that the findings “undermine the notion that women’s growing economic independence [has been] the main driver of trends in divorce.”

The findings do not mean that work and finances are never a factor in divorce, according to Killewald. Even though couples’ incomes did not seem important, for instance, arguments over money could be, she said.

And of course, she added, the study is describing averages across groups — and not what’s true for every couple.

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Alexandra Killewald, Ph.D., professor, sociology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; Pamela Smock, Ph.D., professor, sociology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; August 2016, American Sociological Review

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Source: MediciNet

30 Jul

Is It Flu, or Is It Valley Fever?

News Picture: Is It Flu, or Is It Valley Fever?

Latest Infectious Disease News

THURSDAY, July 28, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Early diagnosis of a potentially fatal fungal infection called valley fever can help patients, but too many are misdiagnosed, experts say.

Doctors should suspect valley fever in patients with pneumonia or ongoing flu-like symptoms who live in or have visited the west or southwest United States, especially Arizona and central California, according to updated guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Each year, about 150,000 people get the often-overlooked infection, and about 160 die from it, the society says.

“Valley fever is underdiagnosed in part because past guidelines were directed to the specialists, whereas most of these patients initially see their primary care physicians, many of whom aren’t aware just how common this infection is,” guidelines lead author Dr. John Galgiani said in a society news release.

The fungi that cause valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis, live in desert soil. The fungal spores become airborne when wind blows the dust around. The spores are easily inhaled and settle deep in the lungs, causing pneumonia, according to the society.

The fungi occur in desert regions ranging from western Texas, Arizona and northern Mexico to the central San Joaquin Valley in California. They’re also in an area in south central Washington state, and some areas in Central and South America.

“It’s an equal opportunity bug, and everyone who is exposed has the same chance of getting infected,” said Galgiani. He’s a professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence in Tucson.

Most people don’t require treatment. But “in many patients it’s more debilitating than mononucleosis. These patients feel horrible, they can’t get out of bed or go to work and often they are sick for weeks or months. Many worry they have cancer or another disease, so getting correctly diagnosed puts a name to the illness and dispels that fear,” he explained.

The updated guidelines were published July 28 in the journal Clinical Infectious Disease.

Primary care providers can handle mild and moderate cases of valley fever once diagnosed, but patients with severe infection should be referred to infectious diseases specialists, Galgiani said.

The updated guidelines might help curb unneeded tests and treatments, including antibiotics, he said.

About one-third of cases of pneumonia in Arizona are caused by valley fever, Galgiani noted. “Doctors need to ask patients with pneumonia about their travel history and if they’ve recently traveled to endemic areas, and need to consider valley fever,” he said.

— Robert Preidt

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Infectious Diseases Society of America, news release, July 28, 2016

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Source: MediciNet

29 Jul

Medical News Today: Antioxidant suppression eradicates pancreatic cancer cells

A novel drug therapy – that mimics the suppression of an antioxidant-promoting protein – kills pancreatic cancer cells, new research reveals.
[Pancreas in the male body]
A reduction of antioxidants in pancreatic cancer cells can help kill them.

According to the American Cancer Society, around 53,070 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the Unites States in 2016, and around 41,780 people will die of the disease. Pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3 percent of all cancers in the U.S. and about 7% of cancer deaths.

Pancreatic cancer is caused by the abnormal, uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas.

A research team at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York finds that reducing levels of antioxidants in pancreatic cells can help to kill them. This new strategy for eradicating pancreatic cancer cells may open new doors for treating this serious illness, in which less than 5 percent of patients survive 5 years.

“Antioxidant” has become a popular buzzword that is viewed as a cure-all notion for health ailments; it is widely believed that raising levels of antioxidants stops cancer cells from developing.

In reality, although antioxidants interact with and neutralize free radicals and prevent them from causing damage, there is little available evidence that antioxidants prevent cancer.

Furthermore, trials have found that people taking antioxidant supplements during cancer therapy have worse outcomes, especially if they were smokers.

Does increasing antioxidant levels do more harm than good?

In a series of complex experiments, the CSHL researchers demonstrate that in pancreatic cells that are abnormal or in a malignant state, raising antioxidant levels can do more harm than good.

In healthy cells, the amounts of oxidizing and anti-oxidizing agents are kept precisely balanced in every cell.

However, in proliferating cancer cells – that are increasing rapidly in number through growth and cell division – the amounts of oxidants in malignant cells increase, but anti-oxidants also increase to counter the impact of rising oxidation.

CSHL’s Prof. David Tuveson – M.D., Ph.D., director of research for the Lustgarten Foundation – and colleagues note that without the amounts of antioxidants going up in scale with the oxidants, malignant cells will die from excessive oxidation.

“Of course, that’s exactly what we want cancer cells to do – to burn themselves out,” says Iok In Christine Chio, a postdoctoral investigator in the Tuveson lab who led the experiments.

“The therapeutic principle our lab is testing is whether, by increasing the level of oxidation in cancer cells, we can cause pre-malignant and malignant cells to die,” she adds.

Excessive oxidation causes cells to commit suicide

Treatments for cancer such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy destroy cancer cells by promoting oxidation. Although antioxidants protect cellular DNA from damage by oxidative stress, they likely protect cancer cells, too.

Exposing cells to excessive oxidation causes them to experience programmed cell death called apoptosis. A method of increasing oxidation in cancer cells is to decrease levels of antioxidants within the same cells.

Tuveson and team aimed to find a technique whereby they could increase oxidation without harming healthy cells. They concentrated on NRF2, a protein that can be tweaked to disrupt the balance between oxidation and decreased cancer cells.

When NRF2 is active, cells synthesize a chemical called glutathione, an important antioxidant. However, it is not possible to reduce NRF2 activity or make it inactive, as it has a role in regulating several hundred different genes. “One can’t delete it from a cell without impacting many other processes,” says Chio.

The team used samples of pancreas cells from people with pancreatic cancer (malignant and pre-malignant) and individuals with a healthy pancreas to conduct an experiment where NRF2 was eliminated.

Normal pancreas cells not harmed by two-drug treatment

They found that when NRF2 was missing, the process of translating messages from the genes into proteins was highly affected by the oxidant and antioxidant balance, but only in the cancerous cells. The healthy cells were still able to produce the proteins.

“We were very excited when we saw this. This meant that if we could find a way of reducing antioxidants, protein synthesis would only be impacted in precancerous and malignant cells, a potentially powerful therapeutic strategy.”

Iok In Christine Chio, postdoctoral investigator, Tuveson Lab

The crux of the experiment was to use two drugs in combination: an AKT (protein kinase B) inhibitor, and a BSO (buthionine sulfoximine), which reduces levels of glutathione.

AKT inhibitors have been used in trials on cancer patients before but with limited success. The team wanted to combine this with the BSO to mimic what would happen if they could reduce levels of NRF2.

“We were able to test this idea and see that this approach was synthetically lethal – it did increase the killing power of the AKT inhibitor, but the synergy was not present in the setting of normal pancreas cells,” Chio says. Fundamentally, healthy pancreas cells were not damaged by the treatment.

The team hopes their findings can enable them to propose new treatments and approaches for cancer patients, and they hope to start clinical trials in the near future.

Read about a treatment combo that could boost the treatment respose of pancreatic cancer tumors.

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Source: medicalnewstoday