Health Highlights: Aug. 2, 201008/02/10
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of
U.S. Health Care Law Raises Constitutional Issues: Judge
The new U.S. health care reform law raises a number of complex
constitutional issues, according to a federal judge who denied the
Justice Department's attempt to have a Virginia lawsuit against the
health care law dismissed.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson said further hearings must take
place before he can weigh the merits of the case, the
Associated Press reported.
"Unquestionably, this regulation radically changes the landscape of health insurance coverage in America," the judge wrote in his 32-page decision.
By requiring people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty,
Congress exceeded its authority, argued Virginia's Attorney
General. The state assembly has passed legislation exempting state
residents from the federal coverage mandate, the
More than a dozen states are challenging the new health law, but
Virginia's is the first to go before a judge.
Health Care Reform Will Save Medicare Hundreds of Billions:
White House Analysis
The new health care reform law will save Medicare about $8
billion by the end of next year and $575 billion over the remainder
of the decade, according to a White House analysis to be released
Those savings will make Medicare stronger, according to the
Obama administration, the
Associated Press reported.
The new law "marks a turning point in the unsustainable rate of
cost growth in our health care system," according to an advance
copy of the analysis. The law "reforms Medicare program's payment
and delivery systems to incentivize high-quality care, appropriate
price services, modernize the health care sector and fight waste,
fraud and abuse."
The analysis predicts that savings in Medicare costs will help
reduce seniors' monthly premiums by nearly $200 a year by 2018, the
Altered Herpes Virus May Fight Head and Neck Cancer: Study
Treatment with a genetically engineered herpes virus helped
improve survival of head and neck cancer patients, say U.K.
The virus works by getting into cancer cells and killing them
from the inside, and also by strengthening a patient's immune
BBC News reported.
The virus treatment was given to 17 patients, who also received
chemotherapy and radiotherapy. After their tumor was surgically
removed, 93 percent of the patients showed no trace of cancer. More
than two years later, 82 percent of the patients were still
"Around 35 to 55 percent of patients given the standard chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment typically relapse within two years, so these results compare very favorably," said study leader Dr. Kevin Harrington, of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, BBC News reported.
The study was published in the journal
Clinical Cancer Research.
FDA Approves 1st Embryonic Stem Cell Trial Using Patients
The world's first embryonic stem cell study using patients has
been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The main objective of the phase 1 trial is to test the safety of
the therapy in patients with spinal cord injuries. It would take
years of further testing to prove the effectiveness of the therapy
before it might be approved for widespread use,
The New York Times reported.
The test cells used in the trial were developed by
California-based Geron Corporation and the University of
The FDA initially approved the study in January 2009 but put a
hold on the trial after cysts were discovered in some mice that
received the stem cells. The FDA told Geron to do another mouse
study and improve methods of checking the purity of its cells, the
Study Pinpoints Cells Linked to Prostate Cancer
Researchers who identified cells that may cause prostate cancer
say their finding could lead to improved prevention and treatment
of this common form of male cancer.
It had been believed that prostate tumors arose from prostate
gland luminal cells because tumor cells look like luminal cells.
But a team at the University of California, Los Angeles said it
found that prostate cancer originates in basal cells, a more
stem-cell like component of the prostate, the
Los Angeles Times reported.
The research was conducted in mice but the findings apply to
humans, according to the researchers.
The study appears in the journal
The researchers said their results contribute to increasing
evidence that cancers are caused when tissue-specific stem cells
found in various organs grow out of control, the
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