April 2, 2012

Researchers Say Facebook Could Be Used to Detect Friends with STDs


Photo: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
Scientists are exploring whether websites like Facebook could be harnessed to filter through friend lists and flag up which of them may be carrying a sexually transmitted infection.

By Christine Hsu | April 02, 2012

Facebook and other social network sites may soon have an app that can determine which one of its users has what sort of sexually transmitted disease, according to researchers.

Scientists are exploring whether websites like Facebook could be harnessed to filter through friend lists and flag up which of them may be carrying a sexually transmitted infection.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina’s Center for Infectious Diseases hope that social networks can be used to prevent the spread of diseases like HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia.

Professor Peter Leone, leading the research, at an international health conference last month pointed out how a patient’s social networking circle can be a vital clue in detecting who could be at risk of infections.

Leone pointed out an example of how a syphilis outbreak in North Carolina showed how STDs can spread within a social circle.

“When we looked at the networks, we could connect many of the cases to sexual encounters, and when we asked who they hung out with, who they knew, we could connect 80 percent of the cases,” Leone said at the conference.

He explained that because social networks reflect our real-life friendship circles, services like Facebook could be used to contact an entire at-risk group to warn them that they may be in danger.

In a previous study Leone found that 20 percent of the sexual partners of newly diagnosed HIV patients were HIV-positive, suggesting that people in the same social circle often sleep with the same people as well as engage in similar risk-related behaviors.

Leon said that the STD-detecting app would be more precise approach to tracking the spread of STDs, rather than just focusing on at-risk demographics or limiting the search to those with whom the patient has had sex with.

Researchers said that one method for this approach would be ask newly diagnosed HIV patients to provide a list of past sexual partners and anyone else who could have been transmitted indirectly, and then the team would contact these people, sometimes through Facebook, to let them know that the patient is HIV-positive and that they should get themselves tested.

“People think that you have to be directly connected to someone, and I think of it as a population-level effect,” he told Salon. “It would be no different from someone who goes to a picnic and gets food poisoning. We’re concerned about everyone that was at that picnic.”

Another method considered by the team is based on an existing app, made by genetics professor James Fowler of the University of California in San Diego, for tracing the spread of flu. The app works by sifting through status updates for certain patterns and keywords and notifies users if the activity of their friends indicates that they may be at a higher risk of being infected.

Researchers noted that while a similar application for STI risk is imaginable, people are far less likely to broadcast news of their herpes flare-up than about their sore throat.

Fowler told Salon that changing behavior is hard, and he believes that a real, deep and social approach can slow the spread of STDs because when people see their friends talking openly about STDs online, spreading information about getting tested and using condoms may help normalize behavior and reduce social stigmas.

“There is good evidence that [in terms of sexual behavior] we’re influenced by seeing what our friends are doing,” Fowler said. “It takes real, deep, close social contact for people to change their behavior.”

“Social marketing is used to sell products, it certainly should be used to talk about health,” Leone concluded. “It takes the locus of control away from the public health system and really makes it about the relationships that exist already between friends.”

Published by Medicaldaily.com


Health Care–Associated Hepatitis C Virus Infections Attributed to Narcotic Diversion

Original Research

Annals of Internal Medicine April 3, 2012 vol. 156 no. 7 477-482

Full Text (PDF)FREE

Walter C. Hellinger, MD; Laura P. Bacalis, RN; Robyn S. Kay, MPH; Nicola D. Thompson, PhD, MS; Guo-Liang Xia, MD, MPH; Yulin Lin, MD; Yury E. Khudyakov, PhD; and Joseph F. Perz, DrPH

+ Author Affiliations

  1. From Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida; Florida Department of Health, Tallahassee, Florida; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.


Background: Three cases of genetically related hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection that were unattributable to infection control breaches were identified at a health care facility.

Objective: To investigate HCV transmission from an HCV-infected health care worker to patients through drug diversion.

Design: Cluster and look-back investigations.

Setting: Acute care hospital and affiliated multispecialty clinic.

Patients: Inpatients and outpatients during the period of HCV transmission.

Measurements: Employee work and narcotic dispensing records, blood testing for HCV antibody and RNA, and sequencing of the NS5B gene and the hypervariable region 1 of the E2 gene.

Results: 21 employees were recorded as being at work or as retrieving a narcotic from an automated dispensing cabinet in an area where a narcotic was administered to each of the 3 case patients; all employees provided blood samples for HCV testing. One employee was infected with HCV that had more than 95% NS5B sequence homology with the HCV strains of the 3 case patients. Quasi-species analysis showed close genetic relatedness with variants from each of the case patients and more than 97.9% nucleotide identity. The employee acknowledged parenteral opiate diversion. An investigation identified 6132 patients at risk for exposure to HCV because of the drug diversion. Of the 3929 living patients, 3444 (87.7%) were screened for infection. Two additional cases of genetically related HCV infection attributable to the employee were identified.

Limitation: Of the living patients at risk for HCV exposure, 12.3% were not tested.

Conclusion: Five cases of HCV infection occurring over 3 to 4 years were attributed to drug diversion by an HCV-infected health care worker. Studies of drug diversion and assessments of strategies to prevent narcotics tampering in all health care settings are needed.

Primary Funding Source: None.


BD Launches New Europe-wide Healthcare Worker Safety Website Designed to help healthcare workers stay safe and minimise their risk of sharps injury


BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), a leading global medical technology company, has launched a new Europe-wide safety website, designed to help healthcare organisations improve healthcare worker safety and comply with impending legislation on sharps injury prevention.

Oxford, UK (PRWEB UK) 2 April 2012

BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), a leading global medical technology company, has launched a new Europe-wide safety website, designed to help healthcare organisations improve healthcare worker safety and comply with impending legislation on sharps injury prevention. The website can be found at: http://www.bd.com/europe/safety.

Every day, healthcare workers across Europe are at risk of sharps injuries, which can result in possible infection from 30 potentially dangerous blood-borne pathogens, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV . Sharps injuries are a serious occupational hazard faced by healthcare workers, with an estimated one million occurring in the European Union each year, and more than 100,000 every year in the UK alone .

Forward-thinking healthcare organisations across Europe have already realised the benefit of introducing safer working practices before the mandatory deadline, and have acted early. The benefits of taking this approach are clear, and for organisations representing nurses and healthcare workers, introducing a culture of safety rests on affecting change at a number of levels.

Kim Sunley, Senior Employment Relations Advisor, Royal College of Nursing (RCN), says, “The RCN played a key role in calling for the EU Directive, which presents us with a great opportunity to lead the way, and there’s no reason why hospitals in the UK can’t set the standard. Working alongside BD has helped to reflect the importance of the nursing voice as we try to reduce the risk of sharps injuries. By working together with healthcare professionals and management, we can create a culture of safety for all nursing staff.”

The EU Directive on sharps injury prevention provides a much needed opportunity to establish a mandatory framework for eliminating sharps injuries, and must be incorporated into national law in all EU member states by 11 May 2013 at the latest. BD’s new safety website is designed to help healthcare workers and their organisations comply with this new legislation.

Alexandre Conroy, President, Western Europe, BD, reinforces BD’s stance on safety: “BD is committed to raising awareness of the everyday risks faced by healthcare workers, and the precautions they can adopt to improve safety. We hope that this new website will become an important portal for the provision of information, guidance and best practice in the industry.”

The new safety website also provides an overview of BD’s newly launched healthcare worker safety programme. This comprehensive package takes a holistic approach to safety, providing the tools and advice necessary to make needlestick injury a thing of the past. Health economics, risk assessment, conversion management and training are all crucial elements. The site also includes an overview of BD’s range of safety-engineered medical devices, as well as further useful resources. BD provides an extensive set of tools to support institutions as they work to achieve a straightforward, seamless and cost-effective transition to safer working practices and comply with the new EU Directive.

BD’s safety website, currently available in English, can be found at: http://www.bd.com/europe/safety. French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and other language versions of the website will be launched shortly.

About BD
BD is a leading global medical technology company that develops, manufactures and sells medical devices, instrument systems and reagents. The Company is dedicated to improving people's health throughout the world. BD is focused on improving drug delivery, enhancing the quality and speed of diagnosing infectious diseases and cancers, and advancing research, discovery and production of new drugs and vaccines. BD's capabilities are instrumental in combating many of the world's most pressing diseases. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, BD employs approximately 29,000 associates in more than 50 countries throughout the world. The Company serves healthcare institutions, life science researchers, clinical laboratories, the pharmaceutical industry and the general public. For more information, please visit http://www.bd.com


Metformin May Protect Against Liver Cancer

ScienceDaily (Mar. 31, 2012) — Metformin, a widely used, well-tolerated drug prescribed for patients with diabetes, may protect against liver cancer, according to a study published in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The study, led by Geoffrey Girnun, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is one more in an ongoing look at the effect of metformin in cancer prevention. However, it is one of the first to evaluate liver cancer.

"Since many of the effects of the drug take place in the liver, we were surprised when we reviewed the literature that there was no direct evidence for a protective effect of metformin in liver cancer except for a few retrospective epidemiological studies," said Girnun.

He and his colleagues chemically induced liver tumors in mice. The mice taking metformin displayed minimal tumor activity, while the control mice displayed significant tumor growth.

Girnun's team also showed that metformin prevented liver cancer in part by inhibiting lipid synthesis in the liver, a process known to promote cancer. Patients with diabetes, obese individuals, patients with hepatitis or patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease are at the greatest risk for liver cancer. All these diseases are associated with increased lipid synthesis. While diabetic patients are already prescribed metformin for their conditions, according to Girnun, the mechanism by which metformin prevents liver cancer may be transferable to these other patient populations at risk for liver cancer.

"So we are talking about a targeted population that will receive this benefit," he said.

Girnun is currently planning a clinical trial in patients at risk for liver cancer to determine if the chemopreventive qualities observed in mice are confirmed in humans.


Also See: Commonly used diabetes drug may help to prevent primary liver cancer

Tremelimumab Shows Promise in Treatment of Liver Cancer

Released:3/27/2012 1:00 PM EDT
Embargo expired: 4/2/2012 8:30 AM EDT
Source:American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)

This abstract will be presented at an AACR press conference on Monday, April 2 at 7:30 a.m. CT in room CC20 A/B/C of the Hyatt McCormick Conference Center. Reporters who cannot attend in person may participate by calling in with the following information:
U.S. & Canada: (888) 647-7462
International: (201) 604-0169

Newswise — CHICAGO — Tremelimumab treatment stabilized patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma due to chronic hepatitis C infection for more than 12 months, according to data presented at the AACR Annual Meeting 2012, held here March 31 - April 4.

Researchers evaluated 21 patients treated with tremelimumab intravenously at a dose of 15 mg/kg every 90 days for about two cycles. Tumor burden was reduced for two patients, and disease stabilized for more than a year in 11 patients.

“The unique conditions [of heptaocellular carcinoma and hepatitis C infection] permitted us to monitor the antitumor effects and immune response to well-defined viral antigens, killing two birds with one stone,” said lead researcher Ignacio Melero, M.D., Ph.D., a consultant in the department of oncology and a professor and senior investigator in El Centro de Investigación Médica Aplicada at Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.

In an intention-to-treat analysis, researchers observed a median overall survival of 7.5 months and time to progression of 6.4 months. They reported treatment-related adverse events among 80 percent of patients; grade 3 or higher adverse events included one case of pruritus, one case of purpura and five cases of elevated transaminases.

Melero and colleagues also observed a reduction of hepatitis C virus in the patients’ blood, which was also accompanied with objective enhancements of antiviral immunity.

“The short series of patients already showing clinical activity offers clear signs for the need to extend these trials,” Melero said. “It is unusual to spot clear signs of clinical activity with such a small number of patients, and the information on antiviral activity is also very promising.”

The study was supported by Pfizer, and tremelimumab has been licensed by MedImmune. Melero is a consultant for Bristol-Myers Squibb.

# # #

Press registration for the AACR Annual Meeting 2012 is free to qualified journalists and public information officers: http://www.aacr.org/PressRegistration.

Follow the AACR on Twitter: @aacr #aacr
Follow the AACR on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aacr.org

About the AACR
Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR’s membership includes 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 18,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes seven peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of individual and team science grants in cancer research that have the potential for patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policy makers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer.

For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.

Presenter: Ignacio Melero, M.D., Ph.D.

Abstract Number: 4387

Title: Antiviral and antitumoral effects of the anti-CTLA4 agent tremelimumab in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection: Results from a phase II clinical trial

Author Block: Ignacio Melero1, Bruno Sangro2, Jose I. Riezu-Boj1, Mercedes Iñarrairaegui2, Juan J. Lasarte1, Pablo Sarobe1, Esther Larrea1, Jesus Prieto2. 1CIMA, Pamplona, Spain; 2Clinica Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain

Abstract: Tremelimumab is a fully human monoclonal antibody that binds to CTLA-4 expressed on the surface of activated T lymphocytes and results in inhibition of B7-CTLA-4-mediated downregulation of T-cell activation.

The safety and therapeutic effects of this immunostimulating agent were explored in 20 patients (pts) (median age 68, 71% males) with chronic HCV infection and advanced HCC (57% BCLC C, 43% Child B, 28% portal vein invasion, 28% AFP > 400 UI/ml). Tremelimumab was administered at a dose of 15 mg/kg IV every 90 days for a median of 2 cycles (range 1-4). Two patients are still under treatment and have received 2 cycles. Tumor response was analyzed in 20 pts that had at least one of the imaging evaluations planned at 3-monthly intervals. Two of these 20 pts had a partial response (12%) and 11 pts had stable disease (65%) as the best tumor response (disease control rate 76.4%). The duration of stable disease was > 12 months in 33% of pts (excluding the 2 pts that are still on treatment). In an intention-to-treat analysis, median overall survival and time to progression were 7.5 months (95%CI 4.6-18.0) and 6.4 months (95%CI 3.9-9.1), respectively.

Tremelimumab was globally very well tolerated. 80% of pts had treatment-related adverse events (AE), the most frequent being mild to moderate rash (40%), itching (45%), increased transaminases (30%), fatigue (20%), diarrhea (10%), constipation (10%), and anorexia (10%). Some patients showed a marked, transient increase in transaminases after the first dose that did not result in liver failure. CTCAE v.3.0 grade > 3 treatment-related AE included pruritus (1 case), purpura (1 case) and elevated transaminases (5 cases). No life-threatening AE was observed.

A significant and progressive decline in serum HCV viral load was observed (median values: basal 3.78x10e5 copies/ml vs day 120 3.02x10e4 copies/ml, p=0.02; vs day 210 1.69x10e3 copies/ml, p=0.04). This was associated with an increase in anti-HCV immune response in 76% of patients (evaluated by measuring at different time points IFN-g spot forming cells after incubation of PBMC with pools of peptides spanning the whole HCV polyprotein and recombinant core, NS3, NS4 and NS5 proteins). A significant increase in circulating CD4+Foxp3+ cells was also observed at day 30.

In conclusion, in this preliminary analysis Tremelimumab has shown a promising antitumor efficacy against HCC and an intense antiviral activity against HCV together with an excellent safety profile even among patients with advanced cirrhosis. Further clinical trials are needed to explore the potential role of Tremelimumab in the treatment of HCV infection and HCC.


Scientists uncover liver's role in preventing dissemination of lung infection


April 2, 2012 in Medical research

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have discovered the regulation and functional significance of the acute phase response during a lung infection. The findings, which will be published in the May edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, demonstrate that the liver responds in order to increase defenses in the blood that prevent localized infections from spreading throughout the body.

The study was led by Joseph P. Mizgerd, Sc.D., professor of medicine, microbiology and biochemistry at BUSM, and Lee J. Quinton, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and pathology at BUSM.

The acute-phase response is an innate immune response where dozens of blood proteins change in concentration due to physiological stresses such as infection, inflammation and injury. The change in concentrations of these proteins, such as C-reactive protein, can be measured in the blood and can indicate risk or progression of disease.

"While the acute-phase response was discovered in 1930, the mechanism and meaning behind the changes in certain blood protein concentrations are not well understood," said Mizgerd, who also is the director of the Pulmonary Center at BUSM.

In this study, the researchers mutated two transcription factor genes, STAT3 and RelA, in liver cells. These cells, called hepatocytes, generate the blood proteins that change during an acute-phase response. Prior to infection, these mutations had no measurable effects. In response to pneumonia, which normally triggers the acute phase response, these mutations completely prevented such changes in the blood proteins. Thus, the acute-phase response was specifically inhibited.

The inability of the blood protein concentration levels to change led to those bacteria escaping from the lungs into the blood, which were then attacked ineffectively by the immune cells trying to destroy them. This exacerbated the infection, allowing it to spread to the blood and other organs.

"For the first time, we have shown the acute-phase response that occurs as a result of a lung infection triggers the liver to mount bloodstream defenses, preventing the infection from spreading throughout the body," said Mizgerd.

Provided by Boston University Medical Center


ApoCell's Circulating Tumor Cell (CTC) Capture Technology First to Reliably Detect and Recover Deadly Liver Cancer Cells



April 2, 2012, 2:00 p.m. EDT

Latest research data demonstrates CTC capture in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients using revolutionary technology ApoStream(TM) that detects all types of circulating tumor cells (CTCs); accelerates potential for personalized therapy of liver cancer

HOUSTON, April 2, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Scientists at ApoCell, Inc., in partnership with researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Massey Cancer Center, have used the company's revolutionary ApoStream(TM) technology for a new first ---the reliable isolation and recovery of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), one of the most common forms of liver cancer. Globally, liver cancer is the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths.

The research results were presented April 2 at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2012 in Chicago. This promising development could lead to detection of liver cancer at an early stage, currently not possible with available commercial detection methods. In addition, the ability to monitor CTC levels in a liver cancer patient's blood can improve the clinician's ability to gauge the effectiveness of drug therapies and support a more personalized approach to treatment.

In the ApoCell study, blood samples from HCC patients at VCU Massey Cancer Center were analyzed using ApoStream(TM) with compelling results. ApoStream(TM) recovered CTCs in all cancer patients, capturing hundreds of CTCs in some cases. This is the first time that this quantity of CTCs has been isolated from liver cancer patients.

Based on these findings, researchers believe that the highly sensitive ApoStream(TM) technology could detect liver cancer in patients earlier. Early detection is significant because HCC diagnosis is typically made at an advanced stage of the disease, when the cancer is especially aggressive and survival probability is low. If the disease is detected at an early stage, when patients are still candidates for targeted therapies, organ transplantation or other surgery, then the survival rate could increase substantially.

ApoStream(TM) is also being used for pharmacodynamic analysis in conjunction with an ongoing phase I trial conducted by VCU Massey Cancer Center to study the combination of the drugs sorafenib and vorinostat in patients with advanced HCC.

"These studies are significant because by analyzing the collected cells, we can monitor the patient's response to treatment, view genetic changes within the cancer and obtain new insight into the diagnosis and evaluation of each patient's unique disease," said Dr. Andrew Poklepovic, an oncologist and researcher at VCU Massey Cancer Center and an assistant professor in the Division of Hematology, Oncology and Palliative Care at the VCU School of Medicine. "This technology opens the door to a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of liver cancer."

ApoStream(TM) recovers higher numbers and more types of CTCs because it relies on the unique properties of cancer cells, which are different in form and structure from healthy cells. ApoStream(TM) technology uses a low-level electrical field of varying frequencies to separate cancer cells from healthy ones based on their irregularities. The process is called dielectrophoresis field flow fractionation (DEP-FFF) and separation occurs as all cells from the patient's blood sample flow through a special fluid chamber. ApoStream(TM) collects the cancer cells in a vial while non-cancerous cells are collected in a waste chamber.

ApoStream(TM) technology was invented by scientists at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center's Laboratory of Diagnostic Microsystems and licensed exclusively to ApoCell.

"ApoStream(TM) is truly revolutionary in the detection of circulating tumor cells for several reasons," says Darren Davis, Ph.D, president and CEO of ApoCell. "First, it permits the isolation of cancer cells from all cancer types including lung, prostate, melanoma, breast, pancreatic, liver, glioblastoma and other rare forms. Secondly, the higher CTC isolation and capture capability provides greater opportunities for downstream analysis of the cancer cells, which has significant implications for treatment selection and assessing effectiveness."

Davis added that ApoStream(TM) captures the cancer cells in a live and viable state for additional analytical testing.

ApoCell expects to deliver ApoStream(TM) alpha prototype units to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) later this year.

About ApoCell, Inc.

Based in Houston, Texas, ApoCell, Inc. is a privately-held specialty clinical research company. Founded in 2004, the firm is a leader in molecular biomarker detection and analysis and leverages its expertise in the areas of oncology, diabetes, molecular diagnostics and drug development to measure biomarker signatures in clinical trial subjects. The company's proprietary methods provide early proof of mechanism of action and monitor the effectiveness of various types of drugs by measuring biomarker expression patterns in biopsies, blood and rare cell types. The company's facilities are CLIA-certified and compliant with applicable FDA regulations. Since inception, the company has participated in over 120 Phase I, II, and III clinical cancer drug trials for more than 80 sponsor clients worldwide. In 2011, the firm was named to the Inc. 5000 List of America's Fastest Growing Companies. More information is available at apocell.com.

SOURCE ApoCell, Inc.