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Saturday
Apr162011

FDA Approves Device for Brain Cancer Patients

Novocure(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a first of its kind device for treating a rare type of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). GBM is an aggressive cancer that comes back after receiving radiation therapy and chemotherapy. People with GBM usually only live for a few months.

The device, called the NovoTTF-100A, fights cancerous brain tumors using electrical energy fields. Those electric fields are used to hault the dispersing of cancer cells that allow tumors to grow.

The device is portable and, like a hat, surrounds the patient's head and feeds the signals to the brain through four electrodes. The device is charged by electrical outlet or can be used with batteries.

A 237 person clinical trial showed that although those using the device were as likely to die as those receiving chemotherapy, side effects such as nausea and fatigue were not as likely.

The NovoTTF-100A is not intended to be used in combination with other cancer treatment. The device should only be used after other treatments have failed.

The NovoTTF-100A System is made by Novocure of Portsmouth, N.H.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr152011

Marines Battalion Mentally Upbeat, Despite Record Deaths 

Jupiterimages/Comstock(NEW YORK) -- The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment returned home from one of Afghanistan's deadliest war zones this week after a grueling eight-month deployment with record casualties. Remarkably, military psychiatrists say the men appear to be relatively unscathed mentally.

"So far so good," said their second-in-command, Maj. Mark Carlton, who endured the 20-hour flight back with the first wave of Marines and Navy personnel from Afghanistan's Helmand Province to California's Camp Pendleton.

The battalion witnessed 25 dead, 140 wounded and more than a dozen amputees. But overall rates of combat stress among the 250 mostly infantrymen, at least in their first medical evaluations, appeared to be no higher than other units in the southern province, experts said.

Some wonder why that battalion -- nearly 1,000 in all in the heart of the Taliban insurgency -- appears so psychologically intact, when some reports show as many 37 percent of recent war veterans are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

Carlton attributed much of the good mental health to the battalion's "proactive" small-unit leadership structure.

"They know each other and live with each other the entire deployment and are never far from someone on the team," he said. "If there's a change in behavior or signs of stress, it's immediately picked up by someone who knows the guy really well."

"You absolutely see that in a lot of places and not just the military," he said. "On high school sports teams, kids get tight over time. Common understanding can't be replicated."

The battalion faced combat almost immediately when they took control of the Sangin District from the British last September. One of the fatalities was 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, son of Lt. Gen. John Kelly, the personal military aide to Defense Secretary William Gates, the most senior officer to lose a child since American troops arrived in the country in 2001.

But as casualties mounted, visiting mental health professionals said they didn't see a comparable rise in mental health issues and were surprised by the unit's resiliency.

Now, back at Camp Pendleton, the Marines have ordered the unit to stay intact with their families for three months to allow them to decompress together. There, additional mental health professionals have been brought in to watch for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

An estimated 1 in 5 combat veterans will eventually be diagnosed with PTSD and 1 in 3 will have some emotional or neurological problems related to war, according to a New York University study of 300,000 returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan at veterans' hospitals.

"The majority of people are highly resilient," said Dr. Charles Marmar, chair of the psychology department at NYU's Langone School of Medicine and a psychiatrist who has studied PTSD among veterans since the Vietnam War.

He said unit cohesion, proper training and a healthy personal life are all protectors against PTSD.

PTSD was first known as "soldier's heart" during the Civil War. Later, in World War I, it was called "shell shock." Symptoms usually start soon after a traumatic event, but may not emerge until months or years later, according to the National Center for PTSD, run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sufferers can relive the event in nightmares and flashbacks or even when just hearing a car back fire or seeing a car accident. Emotional numbness, hyperarousal and feelings of hopelessness are also symptoms.

Rates of post-traumatic stress disorder among troops serving nearly a decade in Afghanistan and Iraq have been on the rise and has been directly related directly to combat exposure. Soldiers at greatest risk were under the age of 25, according to 2009 ABC reports. Suicides in that age group were also up.

In May, the American Psychiatric Association will devote part of its upcoming annual meeting to promising approaches in intervention and treatment in the military.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr152011

Vodka & Red Bull Makes You Think You Have 'Wings'

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky.) -- Many states have banned those combination alcohol and caffeinated energy drinks because of their negative effects, especially after incidents involving college students last fall.

Now, a new study from Northern Kentucky University confirms those two-in-one drinks pack a powerful punch.

Before they were banned, drinks such as Four Loko were all the rage among college students, many of whom landed in the hospital after consumption.


Researchers wanted to know if people who mix alcohol with a caffeinated energy drink get more or less drunk than those who drink alcohol alone.

Some of the participants in the study drank vodka and Red Bull, while others drank vodka with decaffeinated soda.  Both groups were equally impaired when asked to perform a number of tests.

However, those who had the Red Bull cocktail felt more stimulated and their perception of being impaired was distorted.  In other works, they didn't feel as drunk as they actually were.

The study author warns that people should avoid mixing alcohol and energy drinks.  They may make you feel like you're flying, but they're a potent and potentially harmful combination.

So if you're planning to have a drink, have your alcohol straight, on the rocks or mixed in a cocktail -- one that does not include Red Bull or similar beverages.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr152011

Weight Loss Improves Memory, Research Reveals

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(KENT, Ohio) -- Losing weight may be more than just good for your heart. New research indicates it also can improve your memory.

According to a study led by John Gunstad, assistant professor of psychology at Kent State University, weight loss may improve concentration and overall cognitive ability.

"We've known for a long time that obesity is a risk factor for things like Alzheimer's disease and stroke, and more recent work really shows that obesity is a link to memory problems and concentration problems before that even begins," said Gunstad. "If excess weight causes these problems, can losing weight help reverse them? That's what we wanted to research."

Gunstad tested the memory and attention of 150 overweight people. Then, some of the participants underwent gastric bypass surgery while others did not.

"What we found is that by individuals who went through the weight loss surgery showed improvements in memory about 12 weeks after surgery," said Gunstad. "They were able to show improvements moving from the kind of mildly impaired range into the normal range, which clinically is a pretty good, is a pretty meaningful change."

Prior to surgery, 23.9 percent of all the participants showed impaired learning and 22.9 percent had poor recognition memory.

Twelve weeks after surgery, the average performance for those that went under the knife was within average range or above average on all cognitive tests, improvements that were not seen in the group of people that decided to not have gastric bypass surgery.

There still are three major questions that need to be answered, Gunstad said:

1. What from obesity is causing the brain damage?
2. What causes the brain to improve after surgery?
3. Can behavioral weight loss produce the same changes in the brain as surgery?

"If we're able to identify what causes these memory problems in the first place and then changes after surgery to make the memory better, that's the key," said Gunstad. "Once we can find that, that might be an answer to what better understands how obesity's linked to Alzheimer's disease, stroke or even just memory decline that happens in older adults."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Friday
Apr152011

Staph Found In Almost Half of U.S. Meat

(NEW YORK) -- Nearly half of the meat and poultry sold at U.S. supermarkets and grocery stores contains a type of bacteria that is potentially harmful to humans.

That's according to a new study conducted and released by Center of Food Microbiology and Environmental Health at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Researchers found that 47% of the samples were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus. Moreover, more than half of those strains were multi drug and antibiotic resistant.

The meat tested was from five different cities across the U.S.

Researches have yet to determine where the bacteria is coming from, but also add that cooking your meat to the proper temperature should kill all the germs. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr152011

A Snoozing VP and Sleeping Air Traffic Controllers: Are We Sleep Deprived?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- On the same day that Vice President Joe Biden nodded off during President Obama's debt reduction speech, a snoozing Nevada air traffic controller forced an air ambulance pilot with an emergency patient aboard to land without the controller's guidance -- the fourth in a series of similar episodes that have grown so acute that even President Obama felt pressed to respond.

"The individuals who are falling asleep on the job, that's unacceptable," Obama told ABC News exclusive interview Friday.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced it would double-staff overnight shifts at 27 airports where controllers were working -- and apparently sleeping -- solo. The chief of the FAA's Air Traffic Organization has resigned, and the catnapping controllers -- including at least one who'd been on a fourth straight overnight shift -- have been suspended.

These recent involuntary siestas among holders of high-profile and high-stakes jobs suggest the nation might have a problem: At least a third of the U.S. population is sleep deprived, said Dr. David M. Rapoport, director of the New York University Sleep Disorders Center.

As a society, we remain largely in denial about the biological need for sleep, believing we're "supermen and superwomen, and that we can cheat on sleep and there's no price," Rapoport said.

But history has repeatedly proved us wrong.

The consequences of cutting sleep can be devastating. Expert reviews of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Challenger space shuttle disaster have suggested that fatigue, possibly from sleep deprivation, were contributing circumstances. In those three events, people "were sleep-deprived and made the wrong decision," Rapoport said.

It's not that sleeping on the job is new. Throughout history, people have drifted off at inopportune times. But only since still cameras and video cameras became omnipresent recorders of private moments in public lives have we captured lapses of alertness that might have previously passed unnoticed.

Biden's lid-lowering turn during Obama's speech at George Washington University Wednesday afternoon wasn't the first instance of an Obama administration official getting caught catching zzzs. On Feb. 24, 2009, Larry Summers, head of the National Economic Council, fell asleep sitting a few feet from Obama at a White House meeting.

Rapoport said 80 percent of people who claim not to need much sleep "really require eight hours of sleep -- they either snatch it in other ways or they power through it." The inventor Thomas Edison claimed to sleep only three or four hours a night but napped frequently. Sleep needs may be genetically preprogrammed, but in the meantime "you have to play with what you're dealt."

Rapoport offers the following recommendations:

Know how much sleep you need. "The right amount is the amount that makes you feel good," he said.

Recognize the warning signs of sleep impairment. By the time you notice you've nodded off while driving "you've already done it between five and seven times," said Rapoport. "You've already escaped some pretty awful things." If you're impaired, "either don't drive that day, or think about what it is in your lifestyle that you can change."

Try to establish a regular routine.

Become aware of the warning signs of sleep-disrupting disorders. "The most common marker of those disorders is that you sleep what seems like a reasonable amount of time, and yet you're still sleepy," said Rapoport. Doctors only recently have begun recognizing the impact of sleep apnea, now thought to affect about 20 percent of the population, with similar consequences to sleep deprivation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr152011

Bipolar Awareness Walk, Organized by Charlie Sheen?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(TORONTO) -- Charlie Sheen has a new cause (no, it's not getting his Two and a Half Men job back, though he's waging that war too) -- bipolar awareness.

On Friday, Sheen, who's currently on his My Violent Torpedo of Truth tour, posted a series of tweets about a bipolar awareness walk he's organizing in Toronto later in the evening. The actor wants fans to meet him at his hotel and walk with him to Toronto's Massey Hall, where he performed Thursday and is set to perform Friday.

Sheen tweeted: "Stop the Stigma!! Bipolar Awareness Walk!! Please join me at 6pm at the Ritz tonight! Raise Money! Raise Awareness! #BIPOLAR #BIWINNING." In separate tweets, he said he's taking donations for the Canadian group OBAD, the Organization for Bipolar Affective Disorders, and he's "matching all donations $ for $"

What got Sheen interested in bipolar disorder, a condition he claims he doesn't have despite multiple medical experts saying that he exhibits the behavior of someone prone to manic highs and depressive lows?

"Apparently someone at [a] show brought to his attention," a person close to Sheen said. The source added that Sheen's walk doesn't have "anything to do" with the actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, who revealed this week that she recently sought treatment for bipolar disorder.

Sheen's publicist told ABC News that "Charlie decided to do this on his own" in an "effort to create awareness of bipolar disorder."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr152011

Vicarious Embarrassment a Pain in the Brain

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Ever wonder why some people can't stand the over-the-top awkwardness of characters on The Office while others love it? It may have to do with the ability to feel empathy, according to new research from the Philipps-University Marburg in Germany.

Researchers analyzed how people experience vicarious embarrassment -- that cringe we feel when the host of a party makes a toast with a piece of spinach in his teeth -- and found that it was closely tied to feelings of empathy and empathy centers in the brain.

A group of 619 German 20-somethings were shown a series of vignettes depicting a stranger getting into embarrassing situations, and then asked to rate how much embarrassment they felt for him. Sometimes the stranger was oblivious to their faux-pas, like the spinach-in-the-teeth example. Sometimes they were painfully aware -- one showed a person bending over and splitting his pants.

Though empathy is usually thought of as pain we experience with someone -- they suffer and we suffer with them -- researchers found that the subjects felt vicarious embarrassment even when the strangers in question were blissfully unaware of their pratfalls.

"We are wired for empathy," says Dr. Marco Iacoboni, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA. "Human instinct is to be empathic. We can't help it."

For centuries, he says, scientists thought of empathy upside-down: that we were animals fighting for survival and it was only our higher brain functions that allowed us to feel cooperative emotions such as empathy. Neuroscientists are now finding that our brains are wired on a very basic level to feel empathy for others, though obviously the capacity for empathy varies from person to person.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr152011

Marines Battalion Mentally Upbeat, Despite Record Deaths

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte, 300th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment(CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.) -- The Marine 3-5 battalion returned home from one of Afghanistan's deadliest war zones this week after a grueling eight-month deployment with record casualties.

Remarkably, military psychiatrists say the men appear, for the most part, to be relatively unscathed mentally.

"So far so good," said their second-in-command, Maj. Mark Carlton, who endured the 20-hour flight back with the first wave of Marines and Navy personnel from Afghanistan's Helmand Province to California's Camp Pendleton.

The battalion witnessed 25 dead, 140 wounded and more than a dozen amputees.  But overall rates of combat stress among the 250 mostly infantrymen, at least in their first medical evaluations, appeared to be no higher than other units in the southern province, experts said.

Some wonder why that battalion -- nearly 1,000 in all in the heart of the Taliban insurgency -- appears so psychologically intact, when some reports show as many as 37 percent of recent war veterans are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

Carlton attributed much of the good mental health to the battalion's "proactive" small-unit leadership structure.

"They know each other and live with each other the entire deployment and are never far from someone on the team," he said.  "If there's a change in behavior or signs of stress, it's immediately picked up by someone who knows the guy really well."

The 3-5 battalion faced combat almost immediately when they took control of the Sangin District from the British last September.  One of the fatalities was 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, son of Lt. Gen. John Kelly, the personal military aide to Defense Secretary William Gates, the most senior officer to lose a child since American troops arrived in the country in 2001.

But as casualties mounted, visiting mental health professionals said they didn't see a comparable rise in mental health issues and were surprised by the unit's resiliency.

Now, back at Camp Pendleton, the Marines have ordered the unit to stay intact with their families for three months to allow them to decompress together.  There, additional mental health professionals have been brought in to watch for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr152011

World Health Organization: Stillbirths Affect Millions Globally

Comstock/Thinkstock(TORONTO) -- Over 2.6 million women worldwide deliver a stillborn baby each year, according to a special series published in The Lancet Wednesday.

According to the series, which offers the first comprehensive look at the heavy global burden of stillbirths around the world, more than 7,300 stillbirths occur every day.

The World Health Organization defines "stillbirth" as fetal death after 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Ninety-eight percent of stillbirths happen in low- and middle-income countries, and nearly half of them occur during childbirth, particularly among women who do not have access to basic medical services.  But even in wealthy countries, one in 200 pregnancies results in a stillbirth.

Stillbirth rates vary dramatically, both among and within nations.  Collectively, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, China and Bangladesh account for half of stillbirths worldwide.  In India, rates vary by state, from 20 to 66 per 1,000 births.

Within the United States, which has a national rate of three stillbirths per 1,000 births and ranks 17th out of 193 countries, non-Hispanic blacks experience double the stillbirth rate of white women.

Ways to prevent these deaths are relatively simple and well-known, and the series' authors conclude that global use of 10 interventions could prevent 45 percent of stillbirths.  The availability of comprehensive emergency obstetric services alone, which can prevent complications at the moment of childbirth, could prevent nearly 700,000 stillbirths, according to the series.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio