Health Buzz: Avastin Is No Good for Breast Cancer, FDA Panel Says

Hot flash relief; how to help children cope with a dangerous world.

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FDA Panel Says Avastin Is No Good for Breast Cancer

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel said yesterday that Avastin, a popular cancer drug, should not be marketed as a breast cancer treatment. The drug was approved for breast cancer in 2008, after research showed that when used together with the chemotherapy agent paclitaxel, Avastin delayed progression of the disease by about five months, the Los Angeles Times reports. Yesterday's near unanimous vote against approval of Avastin for this purpose came after the panel reviewed later findings in which Avastin only kept the disease at bay for about a month, and in neither trial did researchers find the drug could significantly extend patients' lives. Avastin is approved for other cancers including those of the lung, colon, kidney, and brain cancer. If the FDA chooses to follow the panel's recommendation, their decision would not affect the drug's other uses.

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  • Hot Flash Relief: Weight Loss Works, What Doesn't?

    It's a sudden surge of heat that shoots up the torso into the cheeks, a blush without the embarrassment, or a sweat-drenched shirt without the workout. Most menopausal women experience hot flashes, sometimes on a daily basis for years, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz writes. Yet medicine still offers no proven remedies for treating them beyond hormone therapy, which carries the risk of breast cancer, stroke, and heart disease. But here's a bit of good news: Losing excess pounds through diet and exercise appears to significantly alleviate hot flashes or even eliminate them, according to a study published last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

    Researchers have known for some time that overweight women tend to have more frequent or severe hot flashes, though it's unclear why. Perhaps excess fat traps heat leading to more sweating and flushing to cool the body. Or perhaps obese women have "abnormalities in the way their blood vessels react to heat or stress," says study author Alison Huang. In the study, 338 hot flash sufferers with an average body mass index of 37 (215 pounds for someone who stands 5 feet, 4 inches tall) were randomly assigned to weekly weight loss counseling—including exercise instruction, a diet plan, and meal replacements like a Slimfast shake—or a control group that attended monthly nutrition seminars.

    The women who underwent intensive counseling lost an average of 17 pounds over six months compared to about 4 pounds for the control group, and they were more than twice as likely as the control group to report relief from their hot flashes. "In general, each 5-kilogram [11-pound] decrease in weight was associated with a 33 percent greater odds of improvement in hot flashes," says Huang, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. "This study provides good evidence that losing excess weight through diet and exercise can improve those hot flashes." [Read more: Hot Flash Relief: Weight Loss Works, What Doesn't?]

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    • How to Help Children Cope With a Dangerous World

      We live in dangerous times, and children often see and hear more than we parents would like, U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute writes.

      Children are resilient, but experiencing traumas like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, or the Gulf of Mexico oil spill can threaten their physical and mental health. Even watching frightening or traumatic images on TV can spark PTSD-like responses. Given that we can't always protect our children from disaster, what can parents do to minimize harm? Quite a bit, it turns out. In a new issue of Child Development, researchers who have studied children affected by disasters including the 2004 tsunami, 9/11, and Katrina found that how parents respond has a great deal to do with how well children survive adversity. Their findings include:

      Boys and girls respond differently to trauma. Teenage boys who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina were less aggressive and more confident than boys who were not displaced, while girls were more depressed. Researchers at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center also found that boys who had higher levels of stress hormones were more confident, while the girls with higher levels of stress hormones were more depressed. Teenagers may have very different responses to distressing events based on their gender, and parents should be aware that these responses may suggest a child is struggling. [Read more: How to Help Children Cope With a Dangerous World.]