Health Highlights: Feb. 13, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Vaccine Pellets for Mice Show Promise In Curbing Lyme Disease

An experimental vaccine to control Lyme disease in mice shows promise, according to researchers.

Controlling Lyme disease in mice would reduce its spread to people. Mice carry the bacteria that cause the condition and infect ticks who bite them. Ticks infect new mice when they feed on them, and ticks also transmit the disease to people, NBC News reported.

The vaccine created by a company called U.S. Biologic was contained in pellets eaten by mice in a wooded area of New York over five years, the researchers reported in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

"Over a few years we saw a 75 percent reduction in the number of infected ticks," Dr. Tom Monath, a member of the board of U.S. Biologic, told NBC News. "That would almost certainly result in a reduction of human infections."

The company is seeking U.S. Department of Agriculture approval for the vaccine, which would be distributed in places where people are at risk of getting infected with Lyme disease, such as hiking paths and parks.

About 300,000 people in the United States are infected with Lyme disease every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Imbruvica Approved for Treatment of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia: FDA

The drug Imbruvica (ibrutinib) has been approved to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in patients who have undergone at least one previous type of treatment, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

This is an expanded approval for Imbruvica, which was approved in 2013 to treat mantle cell lymphoma in patients who'd had at least one previous type of treatment.

"Today's approval provides an important new treatment option for CLL patients whose cancer has progressed despite having undergone previous therapy," Dr. Richard Pazdur, director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in an agency news release.

CLL is a rare blood and bone marrow disease. About 15,680 Americans were diagnosed with CLL and 4,580 died from the disease in 2013, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Approval of the drug, made by Pharmacyclics of California, was based on a clinical trial of 48 patients with CLL who'd had previous therapy. It showed that the cancer shrank in nearly 58 percent of the patients who received Imbruvica, and that the length of the response ranged from about six to 24 months.

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Posted: February 2014


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