DECEMBER 01, 2006

Study Shows PPD More Common, Less Treated

A recent poll of 1000 new parents in California showed that 52% have either experienced postpartum depression (PPD) or know someone who has. Surprisingly, 36% of these parents said they would probably do nothing about it and just wait for the symptoms to pass on their own. This is not a good idea, considering that past studies have shown that 25% of those who experience PPD will still have depression after 12 months if they go without treatment.

PPD has been classified as a serious mental health illness that is able to be both properly diagnosed and treated. Left untreated, PPD can leave mothers at a 50% risk for future episodes of PPD in subsequent pregnancies, as well as at risk of harming the newborns and their older siblings.

Mental health advocates across the state were alarmed by the findings of the poll, which was conducted by the Iris Alliance Fund, a mental health foundation. They encourage health care professionals to screen all new mothers for PPD during the first year after childbirth.

IBC: The Rare, Silent Killer

There is no lump. Nothing shows up on the mammogram. It does not even look like cancer. Yet, it is the most aggressive form of breast cancer; it grows faster in younger women than other cancers, and by the time the symptoms are recognized, it will be too late for 60% of these patients.

It is called inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), and, although it accounts for about 1% to 4% of all breast cancers in the United States, because the symptoms of IBC can often be mistaken for other more benign illnesses, many women may put off seeing their doctors until the cancer has spread, making this form of the disease even more insidious.

IBC appears in sheets of cancer, or what doctors refer to as "cancer nests" that clog breast tissue vessels. The disease is characterized by thickening and redness of the breast; the skin is often described as having the appearance of an orange peel. The breast may also be enlarged, hot to the touch, and persistently itching, and the nipple may be inverted. Cancer experts say that early detection and treatment are the keys to survival. For more information about IBC, visit the IBC Research Foundation Web site at www.ibcresearch.org.

Race a Factor in Uterine Cancer Survival

A recent study shows that black women with uterine cancer are more likely than white women to die, even though they receive similar treatment. The black women in the study lived an average of 10.6 months after treatment, compared with 12.2 months among white women. The black women were 26% more likely to die, according to researchers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. The study findings were published in the November issue of the journal Cancer.

The team analyzed demographic and clinical data from 1151 patients who were taking part in various trials of treatment for stage 3, 4, or recurrent endometrial cancer?a cancer of the lining of the uterus. "When response to treatment was analyzed, blacks appeared to have lower tumor response to each of the chemotherapy regimens employed in the trials," they reported. It was noted that black patients presented for diagnosis with more serious disease, at a point when treatment is more difficult.

The study authors looked at patients in clinical trials who received the same treatment and said the study findings "suggest that the difference in survival is biologic, and that is consistent with what's reported with multiple other cancers." There may be specific genes that mutate at different rates in tumors in blacks, compared with whites, suggesting that biology, not socioeconomic or cultural factors, may explain the difference. They also said that the study findings suggest genetic causes for the differences between the races.

Vaccine for Breast Cancer in the Works

A team working at Advaxis Inc (North Brunswick, NJ) is developing a new line of vaccines to treat women with different types of cancers, including breast cancer. A bacterium found in dairy products called Listeria monocytogenes is central to the team's discovery, based on the fact that, when the microbe is introduced into the body, it has a powerful direct stimulatory effect on the activities of immune killer T cells. The researchers believe that, by modifying Listeria to deliver cancer antigens, they can direct that response to kill cancer cells.

In earlier studies, the team used the bacterium to deliver the tumor-associated protein HER-2/Neu, which is overexpressed in 20% to 40% of all breast cancers, to immune cells. These cells enlist the killer T cells to seek out and destroy the tumor cells that over-expressed the HER-2/Neu molecule.

The cancer vaccine, called Lovaxin B, is now in preclinical testing. Advaxis hopes to manufacture sufficient quantities of the vaccine and is seeking the approval of the FDA for a clinical trial.