Melanoma patients with higher levels of a protein called S-100 in their blood may run a higher risk of having the potentially deadly skin cancer return, a new study says.
The study tested serum samples from 103 patients who were treated with high-dose interferon, a standard therapy for melanoma; the patients had been treated eight years earlier, on average. The disease recurred in 64 of the patients within an average of 30 months. When the researchers examined levels of S-100 in the serum samples, they found that the higher the level of the protein, the greater likelihood the patient's disease had returned.
"Melanoma patients who initially respond well to treatment with interferon are at high risk of their cancer recurring," said Dr. John Kirkwood, principal investigator of the study and a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the school's Melanoma Center. "We know that only 30 percent of these patients benefit from treatment long-term. The goal of our study was to identify better predictors of who will benefit most from treatment with interferon and who is most at risk of their cancer returning."
The study also found that patients who survived longer showed increased evidence of an autoimmune response to treatment with interferon.
The study findings were to be presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, in Chicago.
"With further study, we hope to learn more about the role of S-100 in melanoma survival," said Joseph Stuckert, a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who was to present the study at the meeting. "S-100 may be an important key to better stratifying patients into those more or less likely to relapse."
The next step in the research, Stuckert said, is to identify factors that may make patients more likely to develop autoimmunity and to further examine the role of S-100 as a potential biomarker for melanoma.
Malignant melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. Nearly 60,000 new cases of melanoma are expected in 2007, and 8,100 deaths are expected to occur.
The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
Assisted-Suicide Advocate Jack Kevorkian Released From Prison
Calling it "wonderful" and "one of the highlights of my life," 79-year-old Jack Kevorkian, the so-called "Dr. Death" who claims to have helped more than 130 terminally ill people commit assisted suicide, was released from a Michigan prison Friday after serving an eight-year sentence for second-degree murder.
Kervorkian, a former doctor and outspoken advocate of assisted suicide for the terminally ill, had been convicted for his role in the death of a terminally ill Waterford Township, Mich., man.
His release drew no protesters. Kevorkian declined to speak to reporters before entering a van and driving away with his lawyer, Mayer Morganroth; CBS News correspondent Mike Wallace; and three supporters, the Detroit News reported.
Kevorkian, who will be on parole for two years, is scheduled to appear on CBS'60 Minutes on Sunday night, and CNN's Larry King Live on Monday. He spoke with Wallace on Friday in a Battle Creek hotel, and reiterated his promise not to assist in any more suicides, or advise anyone how to do it, the newspaper said.
During the 1990s, Kevorkian challenged authorities to make his actions on behalf of the terminally ill legal -- or try to stop him. He burned state orders against him and showed up in court in costume, the Associated Press said.
"You think I'm going to obey the law? You're crazy," he said in 1998 shortly before he was accused -- and later convicted -- of murder after injecting lethal drugs into a 52-year-old man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. Kevorkian had videotaped the man's death and sent it to 60 Minutes.
Dutch Kidney Transplant Show Was a Hoax
A Dutch reality TV show in which a terminally ill woman would choose one of three contestants to receive one of her kidneys was a hoax, the organizers said.
Those responsible for the "Big Donor Show" on the BNN network said they were trying to draw attention to the shortage of organ donors in the Netherlands.
The show was supposed to feature a 37-year-old woman with an inoperable brain tumor. She was to interview the three contestants, along with their families and friends, then decide who would get one of her kidneys before she died, the Associated Press reported.
But shortly before the controversial program was to air, Patrick Lodiers of the "Big Donor Show" said the woman was not actually dying of a brain tumor and the entire exercise was intended to put pressure on the Dutch government and raise awareness of the need for organ donations, the AP said.
CDC Offers Severe Weather Safety Tips
Extreme summer weather can pose a threat to health and safety, warned the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an advisory issued Friday. Soaring temperatures, summer storms, and drought can lead to illness, injury and death, the agency said.
The CDC noted that June 1 marks the start of the hurricane season, and that National Hurricane Center experts predict higher-than-average hurricane activity this year in the Atlantic region.
If your area is under a hurricane watch or warning, you should:
Learn about your community's emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and emergency shelters.
Make plans to protect people with special needs, older adults, and pets.
Stock your home and vehicle with emergency supplies, including medications.
Secure or protect potential home hazards.
Stay tuned to your radio or television for the latest information.
Extreme heat is another summer health hazard. The CDC said people should take appropriate measures, including: drinking more water and other nonalcoholic fluids; staying indoors, preferably in a location with air conditioning; and wearing lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
Diet Rich in B6, B12, and Folate May Reduce Pancreatic Cancer Risk
Eating a diet that contains high levels of vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate may help reduce the risk of deadly pancreatic cancer, says a study in the June 1 issue of the journal Cancer Research.
Researchers analyzed data from four large studies and concluded that people with normal or below-normal body weight decreased their risk of pancreatic cancer by up to 81 percent if they consumed high levels of vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folate, compared to people who did not eat high levels of these nutrients or were overweight.
"All we can say is that a person who has reason to be concerned about the risk of developing this cancer, which is relatively rare but quite deadly, should maintain a normal weight and eat their fruit and vegetables," lead investigator Dr. Eva Schernhammer, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a prepared statement.
Oddly, Schernhammer and her colleagues also found that people who got these same nutrients from multivitamins (not from foods directly), and whose blood showed traces of the nutrients, were 139 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
"This is a preliminary, but intriguing, finding because it suggests that something in the vitamins may fuel pancreatic cancer growth," she said.
Outlining Delivery Options May Cut Caesarean Rates
Providing pregnant women with more information about their delivery options may reduce Caesarean section rates, says a U.K. study in the British Medical Journal.
The study included 742 women who were divided into three groups: traditional care; those who used a computer program that outlined the risks and likely outcomes of different delivery methods; and those who used a computerized decisions-analysis system.
That system asked the women to determine what value they placed to the possible outcomes of the different delivery methods and then provided them with a "preferred option" that was based on their responses. The women then discussed the recommended option with a health professional, BBC News reported.
The study found that 37 percent of the women who used the decisions-analysis system opted for vaginal birth, compared to 30 percent who received traditional care, and 29 percent of those who used the other computer information program.
Nursing Home Accelerates Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer's: Study
Moving to a nursing home speeds up cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease patients, say researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
They followed 432 Alzheimer's patients who lived in the community at the start of the four-year study. During the study, 155 of the participants were placed in nursing homes.
All participants showed a gradual cognitive decline, but many who were placed in a nursing home showed a more rapid decline. Conversely, people who had day care for three-to-four days a week at the beginning of the study did not show the same levels of decline.
"The findings suggest that the transition from the community to a nursing home is particularly difficult for people with Alzheimer's disease and that those planning for their care should consider the possibility that experience in adult day care programs may help prepare affected persons for institutional living," study author Robert S. Wilson, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, said in a statement.
The study appears in the June issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.