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Health Highlights: April 13, 2010

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

Discovery May Lead to Better Ovarian Cancer Treatments

An antibody that makes ovarian cancer cells more vulnerable to the body's immune system has been identified by researchers at the University of Vienna, Austria.

They found that the AD5-10 antibody lowered tumor cells' resistance to a protein called TRAIL, which triggers cancer cells to kill themselves, Agence France Presse reported.

"We were able to show in both cell cultures and animal models that TRAIL resistant ovarian cancer tumor cells become more sensitive to TRAIL again if TRAIL and AD5-10 are both present at the same time," said study leader Michael Krainer.

He and his colleagues also found that AD5-10 boosts the effectiveness of several chemotherapy drugs, AFP reported.

The findings, published Monday, may lead to new treatments for ovarian cancer, a leading cause of cancer death among women.


Pre-Abortion Screenings Required Under New Nebraska Law

In what would be a first in the United States, Nebraska appears poised to enact a law that requires doctors to screen women for mental and physical problems before they perform an abortion.

If a woman isn't screened before an abortion, she could file a civil suit. Doctors who perform an abortion without screening the patient will not face criminal charges and won't lose their medical licenses, the Associated Press reported.

The bill received final approval from the Legislature Monday, and Republican Gov. Dave Heineman's office said he will sign the bill Tuesday, along with another bill that would ban abortions for women more than 20 weeks pregnant.

Pro-choice groups condemned both bills. They said the first bill will limit abortions by intimidating doctors who might perform them, while the second bill blocks late-term abortions in one of the few states where doctors are willing to perform them, the AP reported.

It's expected that both bills will be challenged in court.


Pediatricians Call for Reductions in Underage Drinking

Underage drinking is a major contributor to teen deaths and greatly increases the risk of other risky behaviors such as substance use and unsafe sex, says a new American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement released Monday.

The statement urges pediatricians to work hard to prevent children and teens from drinking alcohol, USA Today reported.

Underage drinking affects the developing brains and general health of young people, including hampering the ability to fight infections and harming liver function, according to the statement.

In addition, alcohol use by children and teens:

  • Is a major factor in the leading causes of teen death -- accidental injury (including car crashes), homicide and suicide.
  • Greatly increases the risk of other dangerous actions such as unsafe sex, substance abuse and violent behavior.
  • Is associated with binge drinking, which can be fatal.

The statement appears in the journal Pediatrics.


WHO Admits Swine Flu Pandemic Missteps

There were a number of problems with its response to the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, the World Health Organization acknowledged Monday.

The shortcomings included a failure to communicate uncertainties about the new virus as it spread around the world, reported.

"The reality is there is a huge amount of uncertainty (in a pandemic). I think we did not convey the uncertainty. That was interpreted by many as a non-transparent process," said Keiji Fukuda, the top influenza expert at WHO.

The agency has been accused of creating needless panic about the swine flu pandemic, prompting nations to stockpile vaccines that went unused. Some critics have said WHO's decision to declare a pandemic was influenced by vaccine makers, reported.

At a three-day meeting in Geneva, a outside panel of 29 flu experts will review WHO's handling of the swine flu pandemic.

"We want a frank, critical, transparent, credible and independent review of our performance," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.


Daycare Stayed Open Despite E. Coli Outbreak

Even after children were hospitalized with a deadly strain of E. coli, a daycare center in Vancouver, Wash., was allowed to remain open because health authorities believed the outbreak would spread farther if parents took their children to other daycare centers.

A 4-year-old boy who attended the center died after being infected, and three other children became ill, the Associated Press reported.

The first case of E. coli at the was reported March 19, but Clark County health officials didn't order closure of the facility until April 2. The decision to close the daycare was made after more children and staff with no symptoms tested positive to the deadly E. coli strain.

"This is really tragic, and we're certainly concerned about the kids who were hospitalized, but we're also concerned about keeping this from spreading to other parts of the community," Clark County health officer Dr. Alan Melnick said over the weekend, the AP reported.

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Posted: April 2010