Health Highlights: Jan. 24, 201101/24/11
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Gene Promotes Spread of Cancer: Study
Scientists who discovered a gene that helps promote the spread
of cancer within the body say blocking the gene would keep cancer
confined to the original site.
The WWP2 gene is linked to the breakdown of an inhibitor (Smad7)
that normally keeps cells in check. Experiments with tissue
cultures showed that cancer progresses quickly and spreads when
Smad7 is not present, said the team at the University of East
Anglia in the U.K. They also found that blocking WWP2 prevented the
spread of cancer,
BBC News reported.
The study appears in in the journal
"I think we're really onto something important if we can put a wall around a cancer and lock it in place," said study leader Dr. Andrew Chantry, BBC News reported. "This discovery could lead to the
development of a new generation of drugs within the decade that
could be used to stop the aggressive spread of most forms of the
While the study does improve understanding of cancer, the
research is still in the laboratory stage, noted Cancer Research
U.S. Government Recovers $2.5 Billion in Health Fraud Cases
Thanks to whistle-blowers and a renewed U.S. government effort,
a record-breaking $2.5 billion from health care fraud cases was
recovered in the budget year that ended in September.
The amount of money won in cases under the False Claims Act was
announced Monday by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen
Sebelius. It's expected that the increased efforts will save an
additional $4.9 billion in fraud and abuse over the next 10 years.
The money will be put back into Medicare,
USA Today reported.
More than half of the money recovered last year came from drug
companies, including settlements for illegal marketing of drugs.
The government also said that whistle-blowers received about $300
million in 2010 for alerting officials about fraud they witnessed
in the workplace.
"Our aggressive pursuit of health care fraud has resulted in the largest recovery of taxpayer dollars in the history of the Justice Department," Thomas Perrelli, associated attorney general, said in a statement to USA Today.
Fitness Guru Jack LaLanne Dies
American health and fitness advocate Jack LaLanne died Sunday in
his California home. The cause was respiratory failure due to
pneumonia. He was 96.
After developing an interest in fitness in his teens, LaLanne
spent the next eight decades encouraging Americans to exercise and
eat a healthy diet, the
Associated Press reported.
"I have not only lost my husband and a great American icon, but the best friend and most loving partner anyone could ever hope for," Elaine LaLanne, Jack's wife of 51 years, said in a written statement.
"He was amazing," former "Price is Right" host Bob Barker told the AP. He said LaLanne's encouragement helped him start a regular exercise regimen.
"He never lost enthusiasm for life and physical fitness," Barker said. "I saw him in about 2007 and he still looked remarkably good. He still looked like the same enthusiastic guy he always was."
Heart Doctor Group Assists Federal Investigation Into
The Heart Rhythm Society is providing expertise to Justice
Department officials investigating the use of implanted
A spokeswoman for the group, the leading professional
organization for doctors who implant defibrillators, declined to
provide any further details, the
Associated Press reported.
Defibrillators deliver electrical shocks to correct dangerous
heart rhythm problems.
An article published two weeks ago in the
Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that
one in five heart defibrillators may be implanted for questionable
The devices are not recommended for patients with short life
expectancies or for those who have recently suffered a heart attack
or undergone bypass surgery. However, these patients and others
outside the recommended guidelines account for one-fifth of people
who receive defibrillators, according to the journal article.
FDA Considering Reclassifying Electroshock Devices
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to
lower the risk classification of electroshock devices.
Experts say electroshock therapy can help people with major
depression and other mental illnesses, and the American Psychiatric
Association and other leading specialists want the FDA to downgrade
electroshock devices from a high-risk category to medium risk,
The New York Times reported.
An FDA advisory panel is scheduled to meet this week to discuss
the issue. The agency will make a formal decision later this
The two U.S. manufacturers of electroshock devices have been
asked to submit all safety and effectiveness data as part of an FDA
review to be released before the advisory committee meeting begins
The Times reported.
Electroshock can cause brain damage and memory loss that
outweigh its short-term benefits, say opponents.
"It's all trial and error -- it's all experimental," Vera Hassner Sharay, president of the New York-based advocacy group Alliance for Human Research Protection, told The Times. "All the years it's been controversial and there have not been clinical trials. Why not?"
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