Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Aspirin a day could halve risk of death from prostate cancer

Note that these results concern only a very narrow group of men: Those who already have cancer but in whom the cancer has not spread. Generalizing beyond that group would be incautious

Men with prostate cancer can halve their chances of dying by taking aspirin every day, researchers have found. They discovered that patients with a tumour which had not spread beyond the prostate gland, and who were also being treated with surgery or radiation, saw a drastic improvement in their life expectancy by taking the drug.

Aspirin was found to have a positive effect on all patients – but those with more aggressive forms of the disease appeared to get the most benefit. A ten-year study of 5,000 men with the early stages of disease found that aspirin reduced the risk of dying from 10 per cent to 4 per cent.

Previous trials have suggested prostate cancer may be prevented by daily doses of aspirin but there have been mixed results.

The findings come a week after a study found that healthy people can cut their risk of bowel cancer by taking 75mg of aspirin a day for five years. And earlier this year U.S. researchers said the painkiller could help women with breast cancer.

The latest findings on prostate cancer will be released next week to the American Society for Radiation Oncology in San Diego.

Of the 5,275 men taking part in the U.S. study, 1,982 were taking anticoagulant drugs such as aspirin and warfarin – usually for other conditions such as heart disease.

As a result there were varying doses of anticoagulants being taken. The anti-cancer effect was found with all such drugs but was ‘most prominent’ with aspirin.

The risk of prostate cancer spreading to the bones was also cut, along with the risk of dying from the disease.

Study leader Dr Kevin Choe, of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, said: ‘If the major effect of anticoagulants is preventing metastasis (the ability of cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body) this may be why previous clinical trials with anticoagulant medications had mixed results, since most patients in these trials already had metastasis.’

He added that while findings from this study are promising, further studies are necessary before the addition of aspirin to prostate cancer therapy becomes standard treatment.

The results coincide with a study led by Cardiff University which found a combination of hormone drugs and radiotherapy can reduce the death rate among prostate cancer patients by 43 per cent. British experts say ‘doubling up’ on drugs and radiotherapy, which is increasingly being used in the NHS, should become the new standard treatment.


New treatment for perinatal accident gives good results

It sounds a great improvement on previous practice

Research led by Australians has shown how a radical therapy could halve the number of babies who die from a birthing complication caused by inhaling their own waste.

Meconium aspiration syndrome, caused when a baby's first bowel movement occurs wrongly before birth, affects one in 2000 births in Australia and is more common in developing nations.

It can cause fatal airway blockages and inflammation, said Associate Professor Peter Dargaville, from the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, who headed a multinational trial of a new lung cleaning technique for newborns. "It involves putting a large amount of cleansing fluid into the lungs … the amount we use in a term baby is about 50 to 60ml," Dr Dargaville said yesterday.

"Many neonatologists, and people involved in neonatal intensive care, gasp when they see the video of the procedure because normally we are trying to keep the lungs dry. "It is a radical departure from what we would normally consider to be appropriate care."

The fluid, a dilution of a medicated liquid otherwise used to fortify lungs in premature babies, is syringed into the baby's airway. It is sucked out after some chest massage, collecting the waste as well, in a process that takes about a minute.

Dr Dargaville said this "lavage" treatment differed from the conventional approach in which the baby was monitored and supported in the intensive-care unit as it cleared the waste itself.

The trial involved 66 severely ill babies who were "on the knife edge" and treated across 20 neonatal intensive-care wards in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan. Mortality among the lavage-treated babies was 10 per cent, compared to 23 per cent among those babies who received the conventional treatment.

None of the lavage-treated babies needed a heart and lung bypass intervention, unlike some who failed to respond to conventional treatment.

Dr Dargaville said the trial, while small in number, showed how MAS babies who were critically ill on life support "can tolerate a lung-cleansing procedure, using a large volume of cleansing fluid". "It is not something that can be undertaken lightly … it can't really be done by people who haven't been trained in the technique," he said. "[But] for the most serious cases of MAS I do think this has something to offer."

The syndrome is thought to account for about 10 per cent of all newborns who need intensive care in China, where up to four in 10 babies born with it die.


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