9.28.15:  Gene test finds which breast cancer patients can skip chemo


A new study finds that many women with early-stage breast cancer can skip chemotherapy without hurting their odds of beating the disease. The study shows the value of using a gene-activity test to gauge each patient’s risk.

The test accurately identified a group of women whose cancers are so likely to respond to hormone therapy that adding chemo would do little if any good. In the study, women who skipped chemo based on their gene test scores had less than a 1 percent chance of cancer recurring far away, such as the liver or lungs, within the next five years.

Results were published online Monday by the New England Journal of Medicine and discussed at a European cancer conference.



9.1.15:   Midlife obesity may spur risk for earlier Alzheimer’s



WASHINGTON (AP) — Here’s one more reason to watch the waistline: New research says people’s weight in middle age may influence not just whether they go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, but when.

Obesity in midlife has long been suspected of increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s later in life. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health took a closer look and reported today that being overweight or obese at age 50 may affect the age, years later, when Alzheimer’s strikes.

Among those who eventually got sick, more middle-age pounds meant an earlier onset of disease.

The study didn’t examine if losing weight lowered the risk. It will take larger studies to prove the obesity-Alzheimer’s link. Regardless, researchers say a healthy weight at every age is good for overall health.


8.25.15:  Nearly 47 million people now have dementia



LONDON (AP) — Health researchers say there are now nearly 47 million people living with dementia throughout the world.

That’s up from 35 million in 2009. Researchers warn that without a medical breakthrough, numbers will likely double every 20 years.

Researchers from Alzheimer’s Disease International say about 58 percent of all people with dementia live in developing countries and that by 2050, nearly half of all those with the disease will live in Asia.


7-20-15 Should Marijuana Be Used to Treat Autism?

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A panel is meeting to decide whether to recommend autism as a condition that qualifies for medical marijuana in Michigan.

The meeting Monday in Lansing is occurring about two months after the Medical Marijuana Review Panel heard testimony, mostly in favor of adding autism.

Supporters say oil extracted from marijuana has been effective in controlling severe physical behavior of children with an extreme form of autism. The oil is taken by mouth.

The supporters include Dr. Harry Chugani, chief of pediatric neurology at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit.

Any decision to add autism would rest with the director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. In Michigan, medical marijuana can be used to relieve the side effects of cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C and a few other conditions.


5.28.15:  Michigan law requires notification about dense breast tissue



LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan law effective Monday says women with dense breast tissue must be notified in writing and encouraged to consider additional tests, requirements supporters say could help detect cancer earlier.


Advocates say such breast density can obscure early detection of breast cancer in mammograms. Additional tests could include ultrasounds or an MRI.


Some Michigan lawmakers and health providers raised concerns about the extra time demands on doctors, about insurance coverage and about causing unnecessary worry among patients.


The Legislature approved the bill in December and it was signed in January by Gov. Rick Snyder.


More than 20 states have laws that address raising awareness among women about the limits of mammograms in dense breast tissue.


5.14.15:  USDA develops first government label for GMO-free products


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Agriculture Department has developed the first government certification and labeling for foods that are free of genetically modified ingredients.

USDA’s move comes as some consumer groups push for mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Certification would be voluntary — and companies would have to pay for it. If approved, the foods would be able to carry a “USDA Process Verified” label along with a claim that they are free of GMOs.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined the department’s plan in a May 1 letter to employees, saying the certification is being done at the request of a “leading global company,” which he did not identify. A copy of the letter has been obtained by The Associated Press.


5.11.15:  New blood tests, liquid biopsies, may transform cancer care



A new type of blood test is starting to transform cancer treatment, sparing some patients the surgical and needle biopsies long needed to guide their care.


The tests, called liquid biopsies, capture cancer cells or DNA that tumors shed into the blood, instead of taking tissue from the tumor itself.


A lot is still unknown about the value of these tests, but many doctors think they are a big advance that could make personalized medicine possible for far more people.


They give the first noninvasive way to repeatedly sample a cancer so doctors can profile its genes, target drugs to mutations, tell quickly whether treatment is working, and adjust it as the cancer evolves.

4.14.15:  US prescription drug spending jumped 13 pct. in 2014


TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — U.S. spending on prescription drugs soared by 13 percent last year to $374 billion.

The increase was driven primarily by costly breakthrough medicines, price hikes and a surge from millions of people newly insured under the Affordable Care Act.

A new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics found a record 4.3 billion prescriptions were filled in 2014. Many were inexpensive generics going to patients now insured through Medicaid in states that expanded eligibility.

The higher spending was mostly due to the many recent drugs costing tens of thousands of dollars for a year or course of treatment.

Last year saw an unusually high 42 novel medicines launched, 18 for rare diseases. Ten new drugs were designated breakthrough therapies, for conditions including multiple sclerosis, various cancers and hepatitis C.

4.1.15:  April is Autism Awareness Month


Later today the City of Grand Rapids will join Hope Network in hosting the Bridge Autism Walk.

The purpose is to raise awareness and honor those individuals and families affected by autism.

Lt. Governor Brian Calley and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell will join others on the Blue Bridge on Front Avenue, for a walk that will begin at 5 p.m.


Autism Disorders affect 1 in 68 children.

To help, you can show your support by getting involved in the Bridge Walk, or donate by going to

2-24-15  A New Approach to Peanut Allergy Prevention?

Early exposure to peanuts helps prevent allergies in kids

For years, parents of babies who seem likely to develop a peanut allergy have gone to extremes to keep them away from peanut-based foods. Now a major study suggests that is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Doctors found that exposing infants like these to peanuts before their first birthday actually helped prevent a peanut allergy. The early exposure seemed to help build tolerance.

The research involving more than 600 babies is the largest and most rigorous test of this concept. They were checked first to make sure they didn’t already have a peanut allergy. So parents of babies should not try this on their own.

Study results were released Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine and discussed at a medical meeting in Houston.