September 12, 2017

Health Roundup: Vaccines, heart disease, stroke victims, melanoma, hormone therapy, osteoarthritis, COPD, Suramin + autism

Vaccines Have Saved Nearly 20 Million Children's Lives in Poor Countries Since 2001

Researchers investigated the impact of Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance - a global organization whose explicit goal is to improve access to vaccination in world's poorest countries. By 2020, vaccines for just 10 diseases will have saved 20 million lives, prevented 500 million cases of illness, and 9 million cases of long-term disability.  The researchers even put a dollar figure on that value  - for all the countries in the study, by 2020 vaccination will have brought a benefit that can be equated to US $820 billion.

Rivaroxaban, when taken with aspirin slashes the risk of death from heart disease by 22%

The 'ground-breaking' trial, based on 27,000 patients from 33 countries, has since been halted - 12 months ahead of schedule....In clinical experiments, the tablet, which is already used for other cardiovascular problems, also reduced strokes by 42 per cent.

Stroke survivors are at DOUBLE the risk of cancer:

Doctors say patients should be closely monitored for 18 months after having a blood clot.

Immune-focused drug may be new weapon against advanced melanoma

New research suggests that Opdivo -- a drug that works with the immune system to fight melanoma -- is more effective than the current standard of care for patients who've had surgery to remove advanced tumors.  The international study was funded by Opdivo's maker, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and included more than 900 patients with stage III and stage IV melanoma.

Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City,  said any advance in the care of aggressive melanomas is welcome news for patients."It is amazing that there is now an alternative that is superior to conventional chemotherapy for advanced metastatic disease," Green said after reviewing the new study findings. "With these advanced melanomas -- that have high risks of recurrences and have poor outcomes -- it is vital to look at alternative treatments. The future in cancer treatments lies in immunotherapy and other targeted options."

Hormone therapy does NOT increase risk of cancer, heart disease or premature death in menopausal women

A study in the 90s showed women having an increase in diseases after taking hormonal therapy drugs for five to seven years.  Researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston analyzed mortality rates for more than 27,000 women aged 50 to 79 in the United States who were part of the original research in the 1990s.  That research showed that women are at equal risk to develop these disease as those who don't take the hormones -  close to 27 percent died in the group that took the dummy pills and those who took the hormones.  Experts say hormones are safe to take to relieve symptoms of menopause.

Australian scientists discover new drug to help cure osteoarthritis

The medication, called Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium, is being hailed as a breakthrough to those suffering from the degenerative disorder of osteoarthritis, an illness that causes a person pain when the cartilage in bones begins to wear thin and the leading cause of hip and knee replacement surgery.  A new study, to be published in the BioMed Central's Journal of Musculoskeletal Disorders shows a 70 per cent reduction in pain using the new medication. Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium has been prescribed by doctors for years, however it is usually used to treat blood clots and urinary tract infections.  Australian scientist Dr Jegan Krishnan helped discover the new use for the drug and said it could work by looking at the cause of osteoarthritis. "'It may have anti-inflammatory activities, it seems addressing the bone marrow lesions gives symptomatic relief."

Relief for victims of lung disease is found in a ketchup bottle

Breathlessness caused by long-term lung disease can be crippling, leaving patients housebound and unable to take even a few steps without gasping for air.  But now those blighted by the distressing condition could see their lives transformed – thanks to a tiny valve implant which works in a similar way to easy-squeeze ketchup bottle tops. The alloy and silicone device is being offered to NHS patients with emphysema and other incurable respiratory problems, collectively known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.  In these patients, deformity and loss of elasticity in lung tissue means that air enters the lung but cannot be pushed back out.

The valve, placed deep in the tiny branches within the lungs known as bronchioles, allows air to flow but in one direction only. The concept is similar to the way rubber tops of ketchup bottles work.  This effectively cuts off the diseased areas of the lungs. Despite the volume of the lungs being smaller, the valve actually improves breathing because air flows through the healthy areas of the organ only.  The new procedure allows surgeons to close off damaged sections of lung without removing or causing further harm to tissue.

The Zephyr valves consist of a collapsible nickel and titanium alloy wire outer 'basket' – not unlike a stent used in heart surgery – which surrounds the silicone inner valve.  The flexible material is constructed in such a way as to form a one-way valve. The implantation takes about 45 minutes and the procedure may be done under sedation or general anesthetic.

A 100-Year-Old Drug Shows Extremely Promising Results For Treating Autism Symptoms

Suramin has been around since 1916, and is used in the treatment of the parasitic disease African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness).  The first promising results came in pre-clinical mouse studies, when the researchers successfully reversed autism-like symptoms with a single dose of the drug. These studies paved the way to the first human trial, and the results are now in.

This pilot study was double-blinded and placebo-controlled, and involved 10 boys with diagnosed ASD aged 5-14 years, each of whom received a single dose of either suramin or a placebo.  All five boys who received the drug showed a steady improvement of symptoms within just seven days, while the placebo group showed no change at all.  "The 6- and 14-year-old who received suramin said their first sentence of their lives about one week after the single suramin infusion," says Naviaux. "This did not happen in any of the children given placebo."

"We have plans for five additional studies over the next five years to collect all the data the FDA will need to decide about the approval of suramin for autism," says Naviaux. Unfortunately, these improvements were only temporary - as the drug gradually left their systems over the course of six weeks, the severity of the symptoms returned, which the participating families had been warned about. But apart from the dramatic improvement of symptoms, what's most important to the researchers is that the positive results further bolster the hypothesis that metabolic dysfunction contributes to autism, and that this dysfunction is treatable.
Posted by Jill Fallon at September 12, 2017 2:54 PM | TrackBack | Permalink