New Hope in Gene Therapy for Melanoma

Sept. 1, 2006

-- GENE THERAPY FOR MELANOMA Researchers from the National Cancer Institute have demonstrated for the first time that genetically engineered immune cells can shrink large tumors in humans. Two patients with advanced melanoma had their tumors shrink and have been cancer free for more than 18 months after receiving this gene therapy. Unfortunately, it did not work in the other 15 patients treated. Published this week in Science, the technique involves taking immune cells from the patient's blood, genetically altering the cells in the lab to make them tumor-attacking cells, and then putting these altered cells back into the patient's body. In theory, this technique could be used to treat many kinds of cancer, but this research is still in the very early stages.

C-SECTION BIRTH ASSOCIATED WITH HIGH DEATH RISK FOR MOMS Caesarean delivery is associated with a threefold increased risk of maternal death after delivery when compared to vaginal births, French researchers find. France, like the United States, has seen a sharp increase in C-section deliveries over the last few years. Overall, the number of deaths in the study was very low -- only 65 deaths over five years. None of the women included in the study had a known health condition before delivery that might had made C-section or death unlikely. But it is still possible that emergency deliveries done through C-section are deadlier because of the underlying medical emergency, not the C-section itself.

FRUIT AND VEGGIE JUICES MAY REDUCE ALZHEIMER'S RISK A new study finds that Asian people who drank fruit or vegetable juice three or more times a week had a 76 percent reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease. The results are based on almost 2,000 people followed for up to 10 years. Researchers speculate that antioxidants in the juices may help protect the aging brain. However, because frequent juice drinkers probably have other healthy behaviors in common such as exercising and eating better, the reduced risk is very likely not based on juice drinking alone. These results were published this week in the American Journal of Medicine.

AMERICANS DON'T EAT THEIR VEGGIES Based on answers from more than 8,000 Americans, researchers from the National Cancer Institute conclude only 40 percent of us eat the recommended amount of 5½ cups of fruits and vegetables per day. The study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that teenage boys were the least likely to get the recommended amount -- less than 1 percent of these boys ate their 5½ cups per day. Toddlers age 2 years to 3 years were the most likely to meet their target of two cups per day; 48 percent of toddlers ate the recommended amount of fruit and veggies.

STAT is a brief look at the latest medical research and is compiled by Joanna Schaffhausen, who holds a doctorate in behavioral neuroscience. She works in the ABC News Medical Unit, evaluating medical studies, abstracts and news releases.