Air pollution tied to shorter survival with lung cancer

2016-08-08 21:12:50

(Reuters Health) - Exposure to air pollution has long been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer, and a new study suggests it might also be tied to a faster death from the disease. Researchers examined cancer registry data on more than 350,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer in California and found patients who lived in communities with higher than average levels of air pollution typically died sooner than their peers who lived in places with cleaner air. Patients with lung cancer may be a new subgroup of people susceptible to the health impacts of air pollution, since exposures after diagnosis may impact how long they live, said lead study author Sandrah Eckel, a researcher at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Worldwide, lung malignancies kill about 1.6 million people a year, causing nearly one in five cancer deaths, Eckel and colleagues note in the journal Thorax. To assess how air pollution may contribute to these deaths, researchers examined concentrations of ozone, nitrogen dioxide and so-called particulate matter. Ozone is an unstable form of oxygen produced when various types of traffic and industrial pollution react with sunlight. Nitrogen dioxide is a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion that can contribute to smog. And so-called particulate matter is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets that can include dust, dirt, soot and smoke.All of these pollutants have been found to damage the lungs. Almost half the patients in the current study lived at least 1,500 meters (almost one mile) away from a major interstate highway, while fewer than 10 percent lived with 300 meters (about one-fifth of a mile) of one. Air pollution is usually worse closer to these highways. Researchers tracked health outcomes for patients diagnosed with lung cancer from 1988 to 2009 based on the level of air pollution near their homes. Patients were 69 years old on average at the time of diagnosis. More than half were diagnosed at an advanced stage when tumors had spread. Overall, the average survival time was about 3.6 years for people diagnosed with early stage disease and about four months for those with advanced tumors that had spread beyond the lungs. Air pollution appeared to have the greatest effect on survival for people diagnosed with early-stage adenocarcinoma, the most common type of lung cancer and the form that often afflicts non-smokers.In particular, patients diagnosed with early-stage disease had average survival times of about 2.4 years with high exposure to fine particulate matter, compared with 5.7 years with low exposure, the researchers report. For these early-stage patients, the risk of death from any cause during the study period was 30 percent greater with exposure to nitrogen dioxide, 26 percent higher with exposure to large particulate matter and 38 percent bigger with fine particulate matter, the study found. One limitation of the study is that researchers focused on pollution near residential addresses, which doesn’t account for how much time patients spent outdoors breathing this air, the authors note. Even so, the findings add to a small but growing body of evidence linking pollution to worse outcomes after a lung cancer diagnosis, Dr. Jaime Hart, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s and Harvard Medical School in Boston, noted in an accompanying editorial. “Studies have shown that pollution increases inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which have been linked to increased mortality,” Hart said by email. “Those studies weren't done in lung cancer patients, but it is reasonable to think that similar things may be occurring.”Taken together, this emerging research suggests that patients with lung cancer should consider reducing pollution exposure along with other lifestyle changes aimed at boosting longevity such as smoking cessation or dietary changes, Hart said. “There are a number of common-sense precautions that anyone can take to reduce their exposures to air pollution, including monitoring daily air pollution alerts and reducing outdoor activities – especially outdoor exercise – during high pollution periods, using air filtration systems while indoors, and using the recirculate setting of your car ventilation system while traveling in heavy traffic,” Eckel noted. SOURCE: Thorax, online August 4, 2016.

GSK and Google parent forge $715 million bioelectronic medicines firm

2016-08-01 17:58:02

LONDON GlaxoSmithKline and Google parent Alphabet's life sciences unit are creating a new company focused on fighting diseases by targeting electrical signals in the body, jump-starting a novel field of medicine called bioelectronics.Verily Life Sciences - known as Google's life sciences unit until last year - and Britain's biggest drugmaker will together contribute 540 million pounds ($715 million) over seven years to Galvani Bioelectronics, they said on Monday.The new company, owned 55 percent by GSK and 45 percent by Verily, will be based at GSK's Stevenage research center north of London, with a second research hub in South San Francisco.It is GSK's second notable investment in Britain since the country voted to leave the European Union in June. Last week it announced plans to spend 275 million pounds on drug manufacturing.Galvani will develop miniaturized, implantable devices that can modify electrical nerve signals. The aim is to modulate irregular or altered impulses that occur in many illnesses.GSK believes chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and asthma could be treated using these tiny devices, which consist of a electronic collar that wraps around nerves.Kris Famm, GSK's head of bioelectronics research and president of Galvani, said the first bioelectronic medicines using these implants to stimulate nerves could be submitted for regulatory approval by around 2023."We have had really promising results in animal tests, where we've shown we can address some chronic diseases with this mechanism, and now we are bringing that work into the clinic," he told Reuters. "Our goal is to have our first medicines ready for regulatory approval in seven years."GSK first unveiled its ambitions in bioelectronics in a paper in the journal Nature three years ago and believes it is ahead of Big Pharma rivals in developing medicines that use electrical impulses rather than traditional chemicals or proteins.The tie-up shows the growing convergence of healthcare and technology. Verily already has several other medical projects in the works, including the development of a smart contact lens in partnership with the Swiss drugmaker Novartis that has an embedded glucose sensor to help monitor diabetes. GRAIN OF RICEFamm said the first generation of implants coming to market would be around the size of a medical pill but the aim eventually was to make them as small or smaller than a grain of rice, using the latest advances in nanotechnology.Patients will be treated with keyhole surgery and the hope is that bioelectronic medicine could provide a one-off treatment, potentially lasting decades.Major challenges including making the devices ultra low-power so that they function reliably deep inside the body. The idea of treating serious disease with electrical impulses is not completely new.Large-scale electrical devices have been used for years as heart pacemakers and, more recently, deep brain stimulation has been applied to treat Parkinson's disease and severe depression, while EnteroMedics last year won U.S. approval for a device to help obese people control their appetite.Galvani, however, is taking electrical interventions to the micro level, using tiny implants to coax insulin from cells to treat diabetes, for example, or correct muscle imbalances in lung diseases.Galvani will initially employ around 30 scientists, engineers and clinicians.The company will be chaired by Moncef Slaoui, GSK's vaccines head, who pioneered the drugmaker's drive into the bioelectronics field. Slaoui is retiring from GSK next March but will continue to steer Galvani after that date, a spokesman said.Galvani will be fully consolidated in GSK's financial statements, following the model of the group's majority-owned ViiV Healthcare business, which sells HIV medicines. (Editing by Susan Thomas and Pravin Char)

BRIEF-Amazon, UK government partner on using small drones

2016-07-26 02:23:33

July 25 Amazon.Com Inc : * Amazon and UK government aim for sky with partnership on drones Source text for Eikon: Further company coverage: (Bengaluru Newsroom: +1 646 223 8780)

Zika mystery widens as Utah caregiver contracts virus

2016-07-19 14:39:10

CHICAGO U.S. health officials are investigating the mysterious case of a person in Utah who contracted Zika while caring for an elderly man infected with the virus who died last month.Federal and state health officials said on Monday it is not clear how the individual contracted Zika, a virus that is most typically transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito and occasionally through sex with an infected person.The person had not traveled to an area with active Zika transmission nor had sex with a person who had recently returned from such a place. Health officials say they are not aware of any mosquitoes in Utah that are capable of transmitting the virus.“The new case in Utah is a surprise, showing that we still have more to learn about Zika,” said Dr. Erin Staples, CDC's medical epidemiologist who is in Utah leading an investigation into how the infection occurred.“Fortunately, the patient recovered quickly, and from what we have seen with more than 1,300 travel-associated cases of Zika in the continental United States and Hawaii, non-sexual spread from one person to another does not appear to be common.”Experts outside the CDC say the most likely possibility is that the person came into contact with blood or urine or other bodily fluids while caring for the infected person."We are still doing a lot of investigation to understand whether Zika can be spread person-to-person through contact with a sick person," said Dr. Satish Pillai of the CDC, who is investigating the case. Gary Edwards, director of the Salt Lake County Health Department, said the infected individual is a family contact of the man who died.The cause of the deceased person's death is still under investigation, but the man was infected with Zika at the time of death and officials believe the virus was a contributing factor. He contracted Zika on a trip to a country with active transmission."We know that the patient had contact with the deceased patient while the deceased patient was very ill. The exact nature of that contact, we are still investigating," Edwards said.CDC tests showed extremely high levels of virus in the deceased man's blood, which were more than 100,000 times higher than seen in other samples of infected people. "This is a very unique situation with these elevated viral loads that we haven't previously seen," Pillai told reporters in a telephone briefing.Dr. Michael Bell, a CDC medical epidemiologist, said it was not clear whether the man's underlying condition had diminished his immune system, allowing the virus to replicate unchecked, or if the virus simply overpowered his immune system.Bell said CDC is taking the high viral load issue very seriously, but said it is "too early to make a clear statement about what we think could have happened."Dr. Amesh Adalja, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said it will be important to know whether the family contact of the deceased man had any skin lacerations or skin disease that might have allowed the virus access to the patient's blood. "We know bodily fluids like saliva and urine can harbor the virus, he said.Health officials are also investigating whether mosquitoes might have played a role. Tom Hudachko, director of communications for the Utah Department of Health, said state officials are not aware of any mosquitoes known to carry the Zika virus within Utah. He said there were a few Aedes aegypti mosquitoes - the kind that carry Zika - discovered in traps in the southwestern parts of the state several years ago, but there have not been any since.Utah does not have any Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, the other type that has been found capable of transmitting Zika. Health officials are doing mosquito trapping and testing near the deceased patient's home "to make sure this is not a potential route of transmission," Hudachko said.As of July 13, 2016, 1,306 cases of Zika have been reported in the continental United States and Hawaii; none of these have been the result of local spread by mosquitoes. Of these, 14 are believed to be the result of sexual transmission and one was the result of laboratory exposure. (Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Bernard Orr and Cynthia Osterman)

Dallas police chief expresses worry about armed civilians in Texas

2016-07-12 06:44:14

DALLAS The Dallas police chief said on Monday that Texas state laws allowing civilians to carry firearms openly, as some did during the protest where five officers were fatally shot, presented a rising challenge to law enforcement, as he stepped into America's fierce debate over gun rights.Dallas Police Chief David Brown, during a news conference, also gave new details about his department's use of a bomb-carrying robot to kill Micah Johnson, the 25-year-old former U.S. Army reservist who carried out the sniper attack that also wounded nine other officers last Thursday.A shooting incident in Michigan on Monday underscored the prevalence of gun violence in America and the danger faced by law enforcement, even as activists protest fatal police shootings of two black men last week in Louisiana and Minnesota.Two sheriff's bailiffs were shot to death at a courthouse in St. Joseph in southwestern Michigan, and the shooter was also killed, Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey told reporters.By Monday evening, protesters were marching again in several American cities, including Chicago, Sacramento, California, and Atlanta, where local news footage showed a number of protesters being arrested after street demonstrations north of downtown. President Barack Obama and others reiterated their calls for stricter guns laws after last month's massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, but many conservatives responded that such measures could infringe on the U.S. Constitution's protection of the right to bear arms. Texas is known for its gun culture, and state laws allow gun owners to carry their weapons in public. Some gun rights activists bring firearms to rallies as a political statement. Some did that at Thursday's march in Dallas."It is increasingly challenging when people have AR-15's (a type of rifle) slung over, and shootings occur in a crowd. And they begin running, and we don’t know if they are a shooter or not," Brown said. "We don’t know who the 'good guy' versus who the 'bad guy' is, if everybody starts shooting." Seeing multiple people carrying rifles led police initially to believe they were under attack by multiple shooters.Brown did not explicitly call for gun control laws, but said: "I was asked, well, what's your opinion about guns? Well, ask the policymakers to do something and I'll give you an opinion." "Do your job. We're doing ours. We're putting our lives on the line. Other aspects of government need to step up and help us," he added.'SIMPLY MISTAKEN'Rick Briscoe, legislative director of gun rights group Open Carry Texas, said Brown was "simply mistaken" in viewing armed civilians as a problem."It is really simple to tell a good guy from a bad guy," Briscoe said. "If the police officer comes on the situation and he says: 'Police, put the gun down,' the good guy does. The bad guy probably continues doing what he was doing, or turns on the police officer." Police used a Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) Mark5A-1 robot, typically deployed to inspect potential bombs, to kill Johnson, 25, after concluding during an hours-long standoff there was no safe way of taking him into custody, Brown said."They improvised this whole idea in about 15, 20 minutes," Brown said."I asked the question of how much (explosives) we were using, and I said ... 'Don't bring the building down.' But that was the extent of my guidance."The incident is believed to have been the first time U.S. police had killed a suspect that way, and some civil liberties activists said it created a troubling precedent. But Brown said that in the context of Thursday's events, "this wasn't an ethical dilemma for me."The attack came at the end of a demonstration decrying police shootings of two black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and near St. Paul, Minnesota. Those were the latest in a series of high-profile killings of black men by police in various U.S. cities that have triggered protests. In Dallas, a vigil was held for the slain officers on Monday evening. In Chicago, images and footage on social media and local news stations showed about 500 protesters marching through downtown after holding a quiet sit-in in Millennium Park that spilled into the streets and a rally near City Hall.In Atlanta, local media footage showed a number of handcuffed protesters being loaded onto a police bus surrounded by armed officers and emergency vehicles with lights flashing. Television station WSB-TV reported that police started arresting demonstrators marching on Peachtree Road at about 8:30 p.m.In Sacramento, about 300 people were marching peacefully on Monday evening. Earlier in the day, in an incident not linked to protests, Sacramento police said officers fatally shot a man carrying a knife after he charged at police.Johnson served with the U.S. Army Reserve from 2009 to 2015 and served for a time in Afghanistan. He had been disappointed in his experience in the military, his mother told in an interview shown online on Monday."The military was not what Micah thought it would be," Delphine Johnson said. "He was very disappointed. Very disappointed."The Dallas police chief, who is black, urged people upset about the conduct of police to consider joining his police force."Get off that protest line and put an application in, and we'll put you in your neighborhood, and we will help you resolve some of the problems you're protesting about," he added. (Additonal reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, Fiona Ortiz and Justin Madden in Chicago, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, and David Beasley in Atlanta; Writing by Daniel Wallis, Scott Malone and Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)

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