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In small study, parents used variety of methods to stimulate boys’ senses
WebMD News from HealthDay
By Mary Brophy Marcus
WEDNESDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) — Smelling essential oils, walking across textured surfaces, immersing hands in warm water — these are just some of the therapeutic experiences that boys with autism had while participating in a small new study.
The scientists wanted to learn how “sensory-motor” therapy compared to traditional behavioral therapy methods in boys with autism.
Twenty-eight boys aged 3 to 12 and their parents participated in the six-month-long study, published online May 20 in Behavioral Neuroscience. The boys were split into two groups. Both groups of children participated in daily behavioral therapy, but 13 of the boys also received environmental enrichment, another term for sensory-motor therapy.
The environmental enrichment therapy had a significant positive effect on these children with autism, the study authors said.
“What we’ve done here for the first time is give humans a sensory-enriched environment and found out that a neurological disorder — autism — responds favorably. We saw a 600 percent greater likelihood of having a positive clinical outcome in individuals that had enriched environments compared to those receiving the standard care that children have been receiving for autism up to this point,” said study author Michael Leon, a professor of neurobiology and behavior at Center for Autism Research and Treatment at the University of California, Irvine.
However, an autism expert who wasn’t part of the study cautioned that other sensory-based therapies showing early promise haven’t proven effective so far.
For the new study, parents of the children in the sensory enrichment group were given a kit that contained a broad range of materials aimed at stimulating their child’s senses of smell, temperature, texture, sight and movement. Vials of essential oils scented of apple, lavender, sweet orange and vanilla, were among the items. Squares of different textured materials included smooth foam, hardwood flooring, sponges, felt and sandpaper.
The children were also given the opportunity to play with objects: beads, a small piggy bank with plastic coins, pictures of famous art, a can of Play-Doh, a bowl to hold warm or cool water and more.
The researchers asked parents to conduct two therapy sessions a day with their child, and to run four to seven different exercises during each session that involved different combinations of the items in the kit. Sessions ranged from 15 to 30 minutes. The children also listened to classical music once a day.
As the six-month period progressed, parents were encouraged to offer more complex enrichment exercises. For example, a child would be given the chance to select a textured square and in addition to feeling it would be encouraged to match it to another square of the same material.
By the end of the six months, Leon said the enrichment group children had significantly improved compared to the children who received standard therapy alone. He said 42 percent of the boys in the enrichment group improved in their ability to relate to other people and in their ability to respond to sights and sounds, compared with 7 percent of the standard care group.
THURSDAY June 6, 2013 — Cancer is often lamented as a modern-day scourge, but researchers have discovered a type of bone cancer in a 120,000-year-old Neanderthal rib.
Before this discovery was made in Krapina, Croatia, the earliest evidence of this type of bone tumor, known as fibrous dysplasia, dated back 1,000 to 4,000 years.
The researchers, who reported the finding online June 5 in the journal PLoS One, said the specimen found is incomplete so they can’t determine the effects the tumor had on the Neanderthal’s overall health.
“Evidence for cancer is extremely rare in the human fossil record,” David Frayer, of the University of Kansas, said in a journal news release. “This case shows that Neanderthals, living in an unpolluted environment, were susceptible to the same kind of cancer as living humans.”
The average lifespan of Neanderthals was likely about half that of humans in developed countries today, and they were exposed to a different environment, the researchers said.
“Given these factors, cases of neoplastic disease are rare in prehistoric human populations,” the researchers said. “Against this background, the identification of a more than 120,000-year-old Neanderthal rib with a bone tumor is surprising, and provides insights into the nature and history of the association of humans to neoplastic disease.”
Fibrous dysplasia is more common today than other bone tumors, Frayer said.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons provides more information on fibrous dysplasia.
Posted: June 2013
New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken it upon himself to publically dismiss medical marijuana as a “hoax,” and referred to the efforts to legalize the recreational usage of marijuana as “wrong-headed.”
“Medical, my… come on. There’s no medical,” Bloomberg declared on a WOR radio program Friday May 31. “This is one of the great hoaxes of all time.”
The mayor’s asinine annotations appropriately arrived just one day after a news conference by New York Physicians for Compassionate Care, which announced the support of more than 600 doctors that favor a medical marijuana program in their republic.
Mayor Bloomberg argues that marijuana is dangerous and should not be legalized for any purpose.
Furthermore, the mayor says that legalizing marijuana does not mean eliminating the black market for drugs, and claimed that marijuana does, in fact, cause dependency.
“And number two, drug dealers have families to feed. If they can’t sell marijuana, they’ll sell something else, and the something else is going to be worse, and the push to legalize this is just wrong-headed. But they say: ‘Oh, well, it’s not going to hurt anybody. It doesn’t lead to dependency.’ Of course it does,” Bloomberg affirmed. “And you can argue about recreational things, but it’s a very slippery path.”
New York Physicians for Compassionate Care vice chairman Dr. Sunil Aggarwal responded to the mayor’s comments by saying that medical marijuana does indeed help people who are in pain or suffering from a serious illness.
“Mayor Bloomberg’s statement that medical marijuana is a hoax is tantamount to saying that the moon landing was faked,” Dr. Aggarwal said in a news release. “Marijuana, given in oral and inhaled forms, has been shown in large, gold-standard, double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trials conducted at major medical centers to relieve pain and muscle spasm, and stimulate appetite and weight gain in patients with wasting syndromes. The data is published for all to see and has been backed up by biochemistry.”
State Senator Diane Savino is the chief sponsor of the current legislation that would permit the use of medical marijuana under a physician’s supervision for patients suffering with cancer and other severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions in her republic.
We can only hope that individuals like Mayor Bloomberg, his family, friends and likeminded colleagues never contract devastating illnesses or conditions that “one of the great hoaxes of all time” could indeed bring them reprieve from, not to mention the fact that marijuana is a wellness herb that should be consumed in a non-intoxicating ingestible method as a form of preventive medicine by all walks of life including animals such as livestock and household pets.
If Mayor Bloomberg’s unintelligent interpretations of marijuana as a medicine infuriate you as much as they should, then become actively involved and help the marijuana community bring an end to the stupidity that is the war on a benign medicinal herb and its consumers.
The enclosed media is the audio from Mayor Bloomberg’s WOR interview.
In preliminary trial, nivolumab shrank tumors in 30 percent of tough-to-treat patients
WebMD News from HealthDay
By Alan Mozes
SATURDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) — Nearly one-third of patients with advanced melanomas who received nivolumab, a new immune-based drug, experienced reductions in the size of their tumors, a preliminary study reveals.
Since these types of drugs have typically shrunk tumors in only 5 percent to 10 percent of patients in prior studies, the new results are a boost for immunotherapy generally, the researchers noted.
“I think nivolumab is a real breakthrough drug for patients with metastatic melanoma, and probably for other diseases, too,” study author Dr. Mario Sznol, a professor of medical oncology at the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Conn., said in a news release.
“The high level of activity observed with this drug opens up a number of avenues for future research to understand and challenge the ways tumors evade the immune system. We’re very excited that there is potential for even more activity in combination with other drugs,” Sznol added.
One expert not connected to the study was also optimistic about the results.
“Nivolumab shows exciting promise for patients suffering from an otherwise fatal disease — metastatic melanoma,” said Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “The fact that 30 percent of patients showed improvement from this immunotherapy drug is remarkable since these patients had some of the worse disease.”
The study was funded by drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb and is scheduled for presentation Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago. Findings presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
According to the researchers, nivolumab works by honing in on PD-1 cellular receptors located on immune system T-cells. These receptors are known to function as immune system “gatekeepers,” and by working to open such gates the patient’s immune system is triggered into cancer-fighting action.
The new study involved 107 patients, all of whom had been previously treated with multiple forms of standard therapies that failed to halt their disease.
Following treatment with one of five different doses of nivolumab, the team found that 31 percent of the patients went on to experience a minimum tumor shrinkage of 30 percent across the various doses.
Forty-three percent of the patients are estimated to have survived two years after treatment, the researchers said, and average survival for patients across all treatment doses is now projected to be nearly 17 months.
In an ASCO news release, melanoma expert Dr. Lynn Schuchter called the results “truly remarkable.”
The findings “confirm that ‘revving’ up the immune system is a powerful approach in shrinking melanoma,” said Schuchter, who is also a spokeswoman for ASCO. “Melanoma patients are living longer and better with these new treatments.”
SUNDAY June 2, 2013 — A new drug called lambrolizumab appears to improve outcomes in patients with advanced melanoma, according to the results of a phase 1 trial.
Lambrolizumab is an antibody that works by revealing the cancer to the immune system so it can mount a response and kill the cancer cells with few serious side effects, the researchers said.
“This is early, but it’s very encouraging,” said lead researcher Dr. Antoni Ribas, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“This is a new class of drugs for cancer that are giving benefits in patients with melanoma, in terms of having a high rate of tumor responses that are durable in patients with metastatic melanoma,” he said.
Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer and, until recently, there was no effective treatment, Ribas said. In metastatic melanoma, the cancer has spread.
One of the ways some cancer cells fool the immune system is with a protein called PD-L1 on their surface, which renders the cancer invisible. “PD-L1 is a way the cancer tries to conceal itself or hide from the immune system,” Ribas said.
Lambrolizumab blocks the protein and “exposes the cancer to the immune system,” he said.
Ribas said that lambrolizumab might also be effective against other cancers, and has already been tested in patients with lung cancer.
The new study was a “phase 1b” trial, which seeks to determine if a drug is safe and also looks for signs of effectiveness. More testing and randomized trials are needed before the drug could become available, Ribas said.
The report was published online June 2 in the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with the Sunday presentation of the findings at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.
For the trial, 135 patients with advanced metastatic melanoma were placed in three groups and treated with different regimens of lambrolizumab.
The researchers found that, overall, the drug improved cancer in 38 percent of the patients regardless of dose. Specifically, 25 percent of the patients who received the lowest dose showed improvement as did 52 percent of those given the highest dose.
In all, 77 percent of the patients showed some response to treatment, they noted.
How long the positive response lasts isn’t known. Five patients were taken off the drug because their cancer worsened. So far the longest response has been over one year, Ribas said.
Most side effects with lambrolizumab were mild and easily managed, he added. These included fatigue, fevers, skin rash, loss of skin color and muscle weakness.
According to Ribas, 13 percent of patients had more serious side effects, including inflammation of the lung or kidney, and thyroid problems.
The research was funded by Merck Sharp & Dohme, the maker of lambrolizumab.
In April, lambrolizumab received “breakthrough therapy” designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which means the agency will expedite reviewing the data to speed up getting the drug approved, Ribas said.
One dermatologist welcomed the news of the study results.
“I had a patient who was treated with this and it is definitely a lifesaver,” said Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City. Before being treated with lambrolizumab her patient had moved to California, but kept Day updated.
Current treatment for advanced melanoma is interferon, which has severe side effects, Day said. “You kind of wish you were dead, because you feel awful,” she explained. Lambrolizumab, however, has very mild side effects, she added.
“Life extension is one thing, but if you can’t extend life without quality then there’s really no point. My patient did well and had good quality of life,” Day said.
“Having metastatic melanoma may not be as much of a death sentence as it was,” Day noted. “There is hope. There are options now that extend life and quality of life.”
To find out more about melanoma, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
Posted: June 2013