An experimental vaccine aimed at preventing brain cancer has shown promising results in preliminary tests. In a report in the journal Cancer Research, investigators from the University of California, Los Angeles, Jonsson Cancer Center said the vaccine prevented the formation of brain tumors in laboratory rats. Without the vaccine, rats developed aggressive brain tumors. "The results of our study are very encouraging. The 100 percent protection is pretty dramatic," said Dr. Linda Liau, brain cancer surgeon, researcher and lead study author. "However, we don't yet have ways to determine who is at high risk of developing brain tumors. So our next step is to begin preliminary testing of this vaccine as a possible treatment strategy for brain tumors." Each year 17,000 Americans suffer brain cancer, which is nearly always fatal, so there is a critical need for effective therapies, Liau said.
TESTOSTERONE FOR THE BRAIN
There may be more to testosterone than meets the libido. A study by University of California, San Francisco, researchers indicates the male hormone may reduce the risk of cognitive decline, a precursor to Alzheimer's disease, among elderly men. As it ages, the male body decreases its production of testosterone, so some doctors have begun prescribing supplements to increase libido and treat other age-related male problems. "The men in the study with higher levels of bioavailable testosterone, the testosterone that can reach the brain, did significantly better on these cognitive tests than men with lower levels," said lead author Dr. Kristine Yaffe, UCSF assistant professor of psychiatry, neurology and epidemiology and biostatistics and chief of geriatric psychiatry at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center. Yaffe cautions that it's too soon to recommend that men take testosterone to improve their mental prowess. "Our study only looked at natural testosterone levels and so it doesn't prove that testosterone supplements can prevent cognitive decline. We will need results of large randomized clinical trials in older men before we can confidently say that testosterone supplements are beneficial and safe."
SUGAR ENZYME MAY BLOCK MUSCLE DISEASE
A sugar-adding enzyme may one day be used to treat the most common and deadly childhood form of muscular dystrophy, scientists say. Their optimism stems from a mouse study that showed the promise of the enzyme CT GalNac transferase in blocking muscle wasting in mice with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. "In terms of therapy for DMD, this [enzyme] is a new target to look at that was previously not evident to anybody," said Paul Martin of the University of California, San Diego, author of the report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "These results add to our growing understanding of the biology of this disease and add a new approach to our arsenal of potential therapies," said Sharon Hesterlee, MDA director of research development. The disease affects boys. Most lose the ability to walk in their early teens, and succumb to respiratory or cardiac failure in their 20s.
STEP TOWARD REDUCING STRESS
A new drug has been shown to cut down on stress. It may offer a way to treat emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression, researchers said in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The drug is called SSR149415. It was tested on mice and rats exposed to acute and chronic stress. Animals getting the drug showed less anxiety and depression than animals left to fend for themselves, said the scientists from Sanofi-Synthelabo in France. When the researchers compared the compound to traditional anti-anxiety drugs, they found it was less effective in reducing anxiety caused by dangerous or aversive situations but worked just as well in ameliorating stress caused by traumatic social encounters. Unlike medications aimed at the same ends, the new drug has few side effects, said study co-author Guy Griebel.
(EDITORS: For more information about BRAIN, call 310-206-3769; about TESTOSTERONE, call 415-476-8429; about ENZYME, call 520-529-5317; about STRESS, call 33-1-45-36-24-70.)