Breathing Device May Help Spare Tissue from Radiation Side Effects

A special breathing technology may help spare healthy lung, heart and liver tissue from the effects of radiation during treatment for early stage breast cancer. Kolby Sidhu, M.D., an instructor in radiation oncology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, leads a clinical trial examining the effectiveness of the Active Breathing Coordinator (ABC), a device that is aimed at helping patients to hold their breath in a consistent manner while receiving radiation. This inhalation in turn increases the separation between the breast tissue and the heart, reducing the heart’s exposure to radiation during treatment.

Light therapy may help treat advanced lung cancer

Surgeons in Philadelphia say they are finding success by combining light-based cancer therapy with surgery to treat patients with advanced lung cancer that has spread within the chest. While the number of patients treated to date is small, many patients are living three to four times longer than did those patients who did not receive the therapy. In photodynamic therapy (PDT), a nontoxic photosensitizing agent, photofrin, is injected into the bloodstream and absorbed by cells all over the body. These compounds tend to concentrate more in cancer cells than in normal cells. When the compound is exposed to a certain wavelength of light, it absorbs the light energy and produces a form of oxygen that kills the cells. The damage occurs only where the light is shined. In the study, each patient is given chemotherapy until the cancer stops responding, meaning the disease begins to grow again. If the cancer has not spread beyond the chest, the patient then receives photofrin 24 hours prior to surgery to remove the tumor. During surgery, he or she receives an appropriate dose of light therapy. Of the 16 patients evaluated to date, at least one-half have lived more than 23 months, which is between three and four times the usual time.

Human Neural Stem Cells Can Become Dopamine-Making Brain Cells

Biologists have shown for the first time in the laboratory that they can convert some adult human neural stem cells to brain cells that can produce dopamine, the brain chemical missing in Parkinson’s disease. If the researchers can better understand the process and harness this ability, the work may someday lead to new strategies in treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.

Teen brain more sensitive to addictive drugs

Researchers have found evidence in animals that the young, adolescent brain may be more sensitive to addictive drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines than either the adult or newborn. The work may help someday lead to a better understanding of how the adolescent human brain adapts to such drugs, and provide clues into changes in the brain that occur during drug addiction.

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