Medi watch

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 June, 2009, 12:00am

Drug offers prostate cancer hope

Experimental immunotherapy used to prolong the lives of two Mayo Clinic patients whose prostate cancer was considered inoperable may have cured them. The two were among 85 inoperable patients treated with hormones and an experimental antibody called ipilimumab. Several have shown such dramatic regression that they've left the trial to have surgery. However, immunologist Eugene Kwon admits the first was operated on only because his wife insisted, 'not because we were so brilliant'. More than 18 months later, he has no signs of cancer. Another also appears to be cancer-free now and a third was operated on this month, WebMD reports.

Painkillers reduce prostate problems

Meanwhile, a separate Mayo Clinic team says common painkillers such as aspirin may incidentally ward off prostate problems, based on a study of men with swollen glands who took daily doses of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories for other conditions. On average, their benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate, common in men aged over 40) was reduced by about 50 per cent. And they had more than one-third fewer moderate to severe urinary problems than those not on painkillers, reports.

Green tea may slow cancer growth

A green tea extract may slow the growth of prostate cancer, say Louisiana State University researchers, based on a trial of 26 patients due to have their glands removed. Each took four capsules a day of epigallocatechin gallate (equivalent to 12 cups of green tea) for a month before the operation. The result was a fall of up to 30 per cent in the levels of proteins that tumours use to grow, Reuters reports. It's not clear if the extract can shrink tumours, but team leader Jim Cardelli says it can 'keep cancer from growing very fast [and] can be a good addition to traditional therapies'.

UN health campaigns' effect unclear

Despite the UN spending more than US$196 billion over the past 20 years on health care, two studies say it's difficult to gauge the benefits and that some campaigns are counterproductive. Some diagnosis and vaccination rates have improved, but the WHO concludes that some UN programmes in Africa disrupted health-care services and led countries to slash their spending. A Washington University study says donor aid often isn't spent where it's most needed. Aids, for example, gets at least 23 US cents of every US$1 for poor countries' health, yet causes fewer than 4 per cent of deaths globally, AP reports.

Blood test to measure rate of ageing

University of North Carolina researchers have developed a blood test that measures how fast your body is really ageing by measuring levels of a protein called p16. Smoking is strongly associated with higher levels of p16, and exercise with lower levels, although team leader Norman Sharpless says it's not clear that there's a causal link. Body mass index appears to have no connection with p16 levels. The test may also help determine whether anti-ageing candidates such as green tea work, WebMD reports.

Chubby people live longer than skinny

Meanwhile, Japanese researchers say people who are very skinny are likely to die years before those who are obese, whereas slightly chubby people appear to live the longest. The 12-year Tohoku University study involved about 50,000 people aged 40 to 79, dividing them according to body mass index: less than 18.5 (very thin); 18.5 to 25 (normal); 25 to 30 (slightly overweight); and above (obese). People who are slightly overweight at the age of 40 live six to seven years longer than those who are very thin, but only a year or two more than those who are obese, AFP reports.