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New cancer drug promising for wide range of tumors

Boston, MA — An experimental new drug called ulixertinib has shown potential against many tumor types in a small Phase I trial of 135 cancer patients who had not responded to earlier treatments.


Ulixertinib works by targeting a genetic flaw common to most cancer cells.  It blocks the last link in a chain of “on/off” protein signals inside each cancer cell, effectively “turning off” the cell’s ability to replicate.


According to researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, ulixertinib did seem to spur at least a partial response to the therapy, regardless of cancer type.


The trial was funded by drugmaker Biomed Valley Discoveries and published Dec. 15 in Cancer Discovery.


Flu shot safe even for those with egg allergy

Arlington Heights, IL — According to the newest guidelines from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, it’s now safe for people with an egg allergy to get the flu shot.


Doctors no longer need to question patients about egg allergy before giving the vaccine, the group now says.  The guidelines are consistent with recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).


According to the group, the flu vaccine does not contain enough egg protein to cause an allergic reaction, even in people with severe egg allergy—meaning that such patients don’t need to see an allergist to get the flu shot, or require a longer-than-usual observation period after the injection.


Study: Married people have lower death risk

Atlanta, GA — An Emory University study suggests that married heart patients have lower risk of death than unmarried ones. 


The study, which reviewed four years of data on over 6,000 heart patients, also determined that being married seems to lower the risk of death due to any reason, not just cardiovascular illness.


Increased social support among married patients, as well as decreased stress and depression, and better adherence to medication regimens and healthy lifestyle choices, may explain the findings, researchers say.


The study was published Dec. 20 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.


Kids who eat fish live longer smarter

Philadelphia, PA —Regular fish consumption has long been associated with longer life—at least if the “eat fish, live longer” slogan is right.  But a new study now indicates that regular fish consumption is associated with higher intelligence, too.


A study of the diet habits of 500 kids in China found that those who ate fish at least once weekly scored 4.8 points higher on a common IQ test than those who didn’t.


The University of Pennsylvania study was published Dec. 21 in Scientific Reports.


People living closer to gym in better shape: study

London, England — In a new British study, middle-aged adults and seniors who had homes close to gyms and other exercise facilities tended to be trimmer than those who didn’t.


“The results of our study suggest that increasing access to local physical activity facilities and, possibly, reducing access to fast-food close to residential areas could reduce overweight and obesity at the population level,” said study author Dr. Kate Mason of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.


The study analyzed weight-related data on roughly 400,000 British men and women between the ages of 40 and 70 from the years 2006 to 2010.


Researchers measured how closely participants lived to sports facilities like gyms, swimming pools and playing fields—finding that, on average, most people lived about a half-mile from a single exercise facility.


Researchers determined that those with the best access to nearby exercise facilities were less overweight than those with poor access.  Specifically, living near a minimum of six such facilities translated into having about a half-inch smaller waist, about a half-point lower BMI reading and less body fat.


The report was published Dec. 12 in The Lancet Public Health.


Women may be better than men at battling the flu

S. John’s, Newfoundland — Fellows, if you feel your wife’s better at getting over the flu than you, science now suggests you’re onto something real.  According to researcher Dr. Kyle Sue at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, men have a weaker immune response to common viral respiratory infections and the flu.  Dr. Sue bases that on the statistical fact that men have worse and longer-lasting flu symptoms, and are likelier to be hospitalized for flu.


Gene replacement therapy could cure hemophilia

Atlanta, GA — Results from a small clinical trial on 13 patients found that hemophilia, or uncontrolled bleeding, was almost entirely eliminated in 11 of them thanks to a new gene replacement therapy.


Early results of the therapy for people with hemophilia A, created by BioMarin Pharmaceuticals, were unveiled this December at the annual American Society of Hematology convention.