UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

May 11, 2007 at 5:57 PM
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FDA panel warns of anemia drug risks

WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) -- A U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel is warning that the popular anemia drug erythropoietin may shorten the lives of some cancer patients.

The panel says the FDA should consider prescribing it less often, for shorter periods and not at all for certain cancers, The Washington Post said Friday.

The newspaper said the panel is concerned about data from studies of breast, lung, lymphoid, and throat cancers that suggest erythropoietin caused "tumor promotion" and shorter survival in patients.

Erythropoietin was approved in 1988 for use in patients with kidney failure and in 1993 for use in cancer patients who become anemic from chemotherapy.

The New York Times said the drugs, known generically as darbepoetin and epoetin, are used by about a half-million U.S. cancer patients a year.

The brand name Aransep is from Amgen and Procit is from Johnson & Johnson.

One panel member said some doctors may be overprescribing the drugs because they sometimes receive more from insurers than they pay for the drugs and receive rebates from the manufacturers, The Times said.

Purdue to reinvestigate fusion research

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., May 11 (UPI) -- A U.S. House subcommittee says Purdue University needs to reinvestigate a professor who claims to have achieved desktop or bubble fusion.

Rusi P. Taleyarkhan, a professor of nuclear engineering, has said the force of sound waves could collapse bubbles in a liquid and generate temperatures hot enough for hydrogen atoms to fuse and release energy, similar to how the sun makes heat and light. Other scientists, however, have not been able to reproduce the process, called bubble fusion or sonofusion.

The House subcommittee criticized Purdue's first inquiry, which cleared Taleyarkhan of research misconduct allegations for allegedly failing to name himself as an author on two scientific papers. The new inquiry will examine whether the underlying research might have been fraudulent, The New York Times said Friday.

The subcommittee report said the earlier inquiry described a "severe lack of judgment" and said Taleyarkhan "abused his privilege as senior scientist."

Taleyarkhan told The Times via e-mail that the subcommittee's report represents "a gross travesty of justice."

The plague tracked in Denver

DENVER, May 11 (UPI) -- Denver officials warned people to stay away from squirrels as they monitored what could be an outbreak of the plague.

Fifteen squirrels and one rabbit have tested positive for the plague, which is typically transmitted by flea bites, The Denver Post reported. Most of the animals were from the Denver City Park area.

Denver has not had an outbreak of the plague since 1968.

The state Health Department set up a hotline for people to call about dead squirrels, and the officials in Boulder closed a park to test a prairie dog town, the Post reported.

"We're still trying to determine how widespread it is," state epidemiologist John Pape told the Post.

"I wouldn't apply the term 'outbreak' to this," he told the newspaper. "We normally see this kind of rodent die-off where plague is occurring, and it just happens to be occurring in Denver this year."

The Post said Colorado is one of a handful of states where the plague bacterium, which killed 25 million Europeans in the Middle Ages, occurs.

The plague kills 1,000 to 2,000 people every year worldwide, including about 18 in the United States.

Laser inventor Theodore Maiman dies

VANCOUVER, B.C., May 11 (UPI) -- Theodore H. Maiman, the scientist who developed the first working laser, died May 5 in Vancouver after a long illness. He was 79.

Born in Los Angeles and raised in Denver, Mainman was employed at Hughes Research Laboratories in 1960 when he invented the first laser --an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, The New York Times said.

He was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize and won numerous other awards, including the Japan Prize and the Wolf Prize in Physics. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1984.

The story of his discovery of the laser "The Laser Odyssey" was published in 2000.

After leaving Hughes, Maiman founded Korad Corp. to develop increasingly powerful laser devices, the Los Angeles Times said. He co-founded Laser Video Corp. in 1972 to develop large-screen, laser-driven video displays.

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