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Targeted anti-inflammatory drug cuts heart-attack risk: study

Boston, MA — A trial of over 10,000 participants shows that a targeted anti-inflammatory drug called canakinumab protects heart attack patients from stroke or second heart attacks.


The Canakinumab Anti-inflammatory Thrombosis Outcomes Study (CANTOS) is the first clinical trial to prove a heart attack-inflammation link.  Inflammation refers to the complex cascade of immune signals and various white blood cells in response to wounds and infections.  


Other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are known to actually spur inflammation throughout the body.  As such, CANTOS researchers focused on canakinumab, which targets a specific step in the complex process of inflammation.


A link between inflammation and heart disease was first suspected in the 1980s.  Researchers now believe that atherosclerosis, or buildup of plaque in arteries, begins with inflammation.


However, researchers say that canakinumab is currently only for heart-attack patients also at high risk of another one.  What’s more, canakinumab costs about $16,000 per infusion and comes with a risk of infection.


The CANTOS study was conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and published Aug. 27 in The New England Journal of Medicine.


Not a bright idea: eclipse watchers put sunscreen on eyeballs

Redding, CA — According to local news outlets in California and Virginia, doctors reported several cases of people seeking medical attention for eye pain after putting sunscreen on their eyeballs to watch last month’s historic solar eclipse.


Eclipse or not, looking directly at the sun without specialized UV “blackout” glasses for even a few seconds can damage the eye’s retina, resulting in permanent blurry vision or even blindness.


More data linking longer lives with coffee drinkers

Pamplona, Spain — There’s no end to correlations between longer/healthier lives and all sorts of factors.  For example, one data review of a huge and long-running public health survey found longer and healthier lives among people who regularly eat hot peppers.


That study didn’t prove that eating hot peppers causes longer and healthier life.  But it did find a correlation worth further research—especially since the natural ingredients of specific hot peppers are known to have specific health benefits.


Similarly, Spanish researchers have now found that people drinking at least four cups of coffee a day have a 64-percent lower risk of death than those who infrequently or never drink coffee.


The new study adds to previous research correlating coffee consumption and improved health.  Scientists are unsure of any direct coffee health benefits, but coffee’s antioxidants may exert a protective, anti-inflammatory effect in the body and brain.


Cancer blood-test tech progressing

Baltimore, MD — Work is progressing on what researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center hope will allow cancer to be caught earlier than ever with a simple blood test.


The experimental test currently tests blood samples for pieces of DNA that are known to be part of specific cancer tumors—including ovarian cancer, which too often is caught too late. 


Researchers specifically hope that the test will allow ovarian diagnoses early, when five-year survival rates are over 90 percent.  Most are detected after spreading, when five-year survival rates are 40 percent or less.


By testing 200 previous cancer patients for 58 known “cancer driver” mutations, the Center’s technology detected certain cancers 59 to 71 percent of the time, and without false positives.


The long-term goal is to eventually develop a cancer blood test with 100-percent accuracy. 


But the biggest challenge to that is two-fold: One, almost everyone carries natural and harmless genetic mutations which could confuse test results, and two, some tumors aren’t life-threatening.


Majority of peanut study kids okay four years out

Melbourne, Australia — A study several years ago had apparently gradually trained the immune systems of participating kids with peanut allergy to tolerate small but increasing dosages of peanuts.  And four years later, in a follow-up study published this August in Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, Australian researchers found that 67 percent of participating kids had been safely eating peanuts over those four years with no reactions.