blood test may improve psa test accuracy
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in American men, with an estimated 186,320 cases diagnosed in 2008. But every year, at least that many men undergo painful and expensive prostate biopsies after routine screening has revealed high levels of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, and yet the men turn out to not have tumors. A blood test that looks at the activity of six genes linked to prostate tumors could improve the accuracy of PSA testing greatly, said Dr. Robert W. Ross of Harvard Medical School's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The two tests administered together, he said at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Orlando last week, could spare men anxiety and save the U.S. health care system more than $2 billion per year. Ross and colleagues conducted a two-year study of several hundred men and the results were promising; a larger clinical trial is being organized.
Study to look for autism clues
A major new study announced Tuesday could help unlock the mysteries of autism. The Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation or EARLI study will follow 1,200 pregnant women who already have a child with autism to learn more about the biological and environment factors that may contribute to autism. They'll look at household dust, hair samples, even a newborn's first stool, searching for clues. The study will be conducted in Philadelphia, Baltimore and northern California; participants must live near the testing sites. The study is being funded by the National Institutes of Health and the advocacy group Autism Speaks. For more information, go to earlistudy.org.
Panel: Two psych drugs okay for kids
Advisers to the Food and Drug Administration say a psychiatric drug from AstraZeneca is safe and effective for children and adolescents, despite side effects that can increase the risk of diabetes. The FDA's panel of experts has voted overwhelmingly that Seroquel is a useful treatment for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in patients ages 13 to 17. The group also voted 8-1 that Pfizer's Geodon is safe for children and adolescents with bipolar disorder, though nine panelists abstained, complaining of incomplete data from the company. The group also is weighing expanded approval of Eli Lilly's Zyprexa. All three drugs already are approved for adults with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The FDA is not required to follow the group's advice, though it usually does.
Minorities' health risks are greater
As the health care reform debate heats up, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this week called on politicians to address the fact that minorities are more likely to get sick and less likely to get care. She released a new report showing that 48 percent of all African-Americans adults suffer from a chronic disease, compared with 39 percent of the general population. Eight percent of white Americans develop diabetes while 15 percent of African-Americans, 14 percent of Hispanics and 18 percent of American Indians do. And African-Americans are 15 percent more likely to be obese than whites. See "Health Disparities: A Case for Closing the Gap" at www.healthreform.gov.
Times wires, staff reports