Health Buzz: Drug Shows Promise Against Melanoma

Organic eggs may not help you avoid salmonella poisoning; new insight on memory care.

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New Drug Could Treat Advanced Skin Cancer

An experimental drug shows early promise in treating advanced melanoma, a disease that tends to kill within nine months. The drug, called PLX4032, targets a gene mutation that allows tumor cells to grow unchecked, according to research published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Two drugs are currently approved to treat metastatic melanoma, but they shrink tumors for only 10 to 20 percent of patients, the study says. Of the 32 patients involved in the study, 81 percent showed complete or partial tumor shrinkage. In two patients, the tumors went away completely; in 24 others, they shrank by more than 30 percent. "We can see the improvement in patients and it's happening quite rapidly, within a week or two of starting treatment," lead author Keith Flaherty told Reuters. In most cases, the drug blocked the cancer from progressing for about eight months. For two patients, the cancer stayed away for at least a year. If combined with other treatments, PLX4032 could potentially provide a longer-lasting effect, the study suggests.

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  • Buy Organic Eggs to Avoid Salmonella Poisoning? Maybe Not

    As the recall of eggs contaminated with salmonella remains in the headlines—half a billion eggs have been pulled off of shelves—many of us are looking for safer alternatives. Some are turning to local farmers' markets, while others are buying only eggs labeled "organic" or "cage-free" much to the delight of specialty egg producers who say they've seen a bump in sales, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz writes. But will such precautions actually protect us from food poisoning? U.S. News posed this question and others to food safety experts.

    Are organic eggs less likely to carry salmonella? What about those sold on farm stands?

    "I've not seen any evidence suggesting that these eggs are any safer," says Martin Wiedmann, an associate professor of food microbiology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Although many of us buy specialty eggs for ethical reasons, some new buyers may be having a "gut-level reaction" to news that the contaminated eggs came from giant industrial farms, he says; it's akin to assuming that cars are a safer mode of transport than planes whenever we hear about a jetliner crash. No doubt, hens raised on organic farms live more enjoyable lives—they aren't confined to cages and are free to wander—but studies haven't shown that well-treated hens are any less likely to carry and transmit salmonella to the eggs they lay. In fact, some studies indicate that they may be more likely to be exposed to the bacteria, often found in dust on the henhouse floor, than hens confined to battery cages, which don't touch the ground. What's more, a recent study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture found that eggs from "cage-free" hens were more likely to contain chemical contaminants, probably from the soil in fields where the hens were allowed to graze. [Read more: Buy Organic Eggs to Avoid Salmonella Poisoning? Maybe Not.]

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    • Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer's: New Insight on Memory Care

      Paul Raia, vice president for patient care and family support at the Massachusetts and New Hampshire Alzheimer's Association, says the most significant developments in memory care have been on the care side, rather than pharmaceutical approaches.

      More than 5 million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer's, according to Seniors for Living. Raia projects that 10 years from now, without a cure, 16 million people will have Alzheimer's—and caregivers, patients, and family members will have to learn how best to cope with the disease. As baby boomers advance in age, so will the number of Alzheimer's patients, Raia says

      Even with the expected increase, Raia says there's better diagnostics, more awareness and public support about the disease than ever before. With new research being completed on behavioral techniques, he compares the disease to how people think about diabetes. Given the proper tools, it can be managed and the lifespan of a person can increase. "The focus now is teaching techniques and giving support to people," Raia says. "By doing this, we can help avoid problematic symptoms that occur in the later stages of the disease." [Read more: Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer's: New Insight on Memory Care.]