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CHECKUP COLORECTAL CANCER DRUG SHOWS PROMISE.

Byline: - Staff and Wire Reports

An experimental drug shows promising results when paired with chemotherapy in patients with advanced colorectal cancer, according to an early phase study from the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center. The drug, called Avastin, is designed to cut off a tumor's blood supply and could prove to be a less toxic and more effective tool in fighting cancer.

A tumor grows no larger than the size of a pinhead unless it establishes an independent blood supply to provide oxygen and nutrients. Researchers theorize that cutting off the new blood supply will starve and even kill the cancer.

Patients who received the drug with chemotherapy had better response rates and median survival times than did patients who received chemotherapy alone. With Avastin, the cancer also progressed more slowly and resulted in lower levels of the colon cancer marker in the blood.

The study was published in the Jan. 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

RISK FACTOR?: A new study suggests that postmenopausal women who took combination estrogen-progestin hormone replacement therapy experienced a modest increase in breast density - a known risk factor for breast cancer.

Researchers from UCLA, USC and Wake Forest University examined digitized mammograms for 571 participants, comparing mammograms taken as a baseline to those taken a year after therapy. The estrogen-progestin therapy was associated with a 3 to 5 percent increase in breast density. The use of estrogen alone did not show a significant increase.

However, researchers caution that the link between the change in breast density as a result of hormone replacement therapy and the change in a woman's risk of developing breast cancer remains uncertain.

EARLY MAMMOGRAMS HELP: Middle-age women who have regular mammograms are 56 percent more likely to have a breast cancer detected at earlier stages than women who don't undergo screening.

While there is controversy about the efficacy of mammograms for women in their 40s, a University of Colorado study has found that among more than 200 women diagnosed with breast cancer, those who had regular screening prior to their diagnosis were more likely to have the cancers found earlier, says study author Dr. Sandra Buseman, now a preventive medicine doctor for the Albany, N.Y., County Health Department.

There is debate about whether women with no family history of breast cancer should have regular mammograms in their 40s, Buseman says, because the breast tissue is denser, making detection trickier.

``It has been controversial. There is the risk of overdiagnosing, finding false-positives that lead to unnecessary biopsies and anxiety,'' Buseman adds. Conversely, a misreading of the dense tissue could mean missing a cancer.

``But this study supports the idea that screening is beneficial,'' she adds. ``Those who had undergone regular mammography screening prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer showed the better outcome of being diagnosed at an early stage.''

Earlier detection of breast cancer is associated with a better long-term prognosis and more treatment options.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 6, 2003
Words:487
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