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Healing process after breast cancer surgery could cause cancer to spread in mice, study says

While mastectomies and lumpectomies are common treatments used to remove cancer cells, the disease could return within months. Doctors may now understand why, according to a new report

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a study, published in Science Translational Medicine on Tuesday, to explore factors that may contribute to cancer recurrence post-surgery. 

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To do so, they created a mouse model that mirrored patients with tumor cells in the breast. They found that the tumor incidence and size drastically increased, the authors wrote

For further analysis, the scientists explored the immune system’s response during the healing process. It works to cure surgical scars by triggering cells throughout the body to help with the repair. However, in doing so, it may also recognize and rouse undetected tumor cells, causing cancerous ones to roam free and multiply.

Preeti Subhedar, breast oncology surgeon at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the findings were interesting.

“The exact mechanism of why some tumors metastasize and others don't is still not well understood, but this study adds some fascinating detail to the understanding of tumor dormancy,” said Subhedar, who was not a part of the experiment.

Related: Breast cancer patients may help boost survival chances by building muscle, study says

Subhedar stressed that the implementation of the sponge or any foreign object in animals is not the same as an actual tumor in humans. 

“We don’t know if the immune response to a foreign object is the same as that to a tumor,” Subhedar said. “This study shows that there could be an association between the immune response and cancer spread, but an association is not causation.”

For the second part of the study, MIT researchers tested the effects of anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, as other studies have shown these medicines may help reduce the risk of other cancers, like colon cancer. Their method worked, and the mice developed “significantly smaller tumors than wounded, untreated mice,” they said. In fact, the tumors often completely disappeared, and the medicine did not impede the mice’s wound healing.

Although there is no definitive data on the relationship between anti-inflammatory drugs and cancer for humans, researchers are hopeful about the results. 

“We have a lot more research to determine if and how surgery can influence cancer spread,” Subhedar said. “I hope that the public understands that these kinds of studies may provide interesting findings, but surgery still remains an important curative part of breast cancer treatment.”

Study says older adults can still grow new brain cells

A new study debunks the idea that old age causes people to lose the ability to grow new brain cells, New Scientist reported. Healthy people in their 70s seem to generate just as many new neurons as teenagers, the study reveals.

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The new findings give a positive snapshot of the healthy aging brain, researchers said.

"It's good news that these cells are there in older adults' brains," lead researcher Dr. Maura Boldrini, an associate professor at Columbia University in New York City, told CBS News.

The study was published online April 5 in the journal “Cell Stem Cell.”

It's not clear if new brain cells would function the same way as younger adult brain cells do, said Dr. Ezriel Kornel, an assistant clinical professor of neurosurgery at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Kornel, who was not involved in the study, told CBS News the findings offer a "hopeful" message.

"Even as we age," he said, "we still have the capability of producing new neurons."

Boldrini’s team examined brain tissue from 28 people between the ages of 14 and 79 who had died suddenly, but had previously been healthy, CBS News reported. 

According to the study, older and younger brains had similar numbers of "intermediate" progenitor cells and "immature" neurons -- a sign that older people had the same ability to generate new cells as young people, CBS News reported.

Infants given antibiotics, antacids may have increased allergy, asthma risk

A study has found that babies administered antacids or antibiotics during their first six months are more likely to develop childhood allergies, asthma, hay fever or other allergic diseases.

The findings come from a new investigation published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, for which researchers examined health records of nearly 800,000 children born between 2001 and 2013 and covered by insurance program Tricare.

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Researchers found that over four years, children who received an antacid like Pepcid or Zantac during their first six months were twice as likely to develop a food allergy and had 50 percent higher chances of developing anaphylaxis -- a severe allergic reaction -- or hay fever.

Those who received antibiotics were twice as likely to develop asthma, and their chances of developing hay fever and anaphylaxis were at least 50 percent higher.

About 9 percent of the babies studied had received antacids during their first six months of life.

“One reason that infants are prone to reflux is the immature anatomy of the infant,” study co-author Cade Nylund told HealthDay. “Another is they have to eat so many calories per body weight. If an adult were to have to take in the same volume as an infant, it would be like drinking roughly two quarts every four hours. If I did that, I would be spitting up, too.”

Related: Is this pill the answer to severe peanut allergies?

Both antibiotics and acid-suppressive medications can disrupt the normal human microbiome, ultimately influencing the likelihood of allergy.

Acid suppression in animal studies, researchers said, has also been shown to increase immunoglobulin E production, which is associated with allergic and inflammatory diseases. So some of these reactions in the immune system resulting from altered microbiomes may show up as an allergy, lead researcher Edward Mitre, of the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland, told The Associated Press.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergic diseases are on the rise. In fact, allergies are the sixth-leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. 

Related: Common allergy meds linked to infertility in men, study finds

The authors of the latest research acknowledged that it’s possible that antacids or antibiotics were given to infants who already had allergies and were misdiagnosed. And while their findings don’t prove the medications cause allergy, Mitre said the links are significant.

“These medicines are considered generally harmless and something to try with fussy babies who spit up a lot,” he said. “We should be a little more cautious prescribing these medicines.”

The full study can be read at the JAMA Network website.

Rise of medical marijuana eases abuse of opioids, study says

The rise of medical marijuana usage apparently has helped ease the abuse of opioids, according to two studies published Monday.

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The research suggests that some people choose marijuana to treat their pain when available, thus avoiding more dangerous and addictive drugs, National Public Radio reported.

The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported that there is good evidence that marijuana can be effective for treating pain in some instances. 

"We do know that cannabis is much less risky than opiates, as far as likelihood of dependency," W. David Bradford, a professor of public policy at the University of Georgia, told NPR. "And certainly there's no mortality risk" from the drug itself.

Bradford and three colleagues — including his daughter, who is a scientist — conducted a study to see whether people who have easy access to medical marijuana are less likely to get prescription opioids. The answer, they reported in JAMA Internal Medicine, is yes.

"There are substantial reductions in opiate use" in states that have initiated dispensaries for medical marijuana, Bradford said.

Heifi Wen at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health was lead author on another study in the same JAMA journal and reached similar conclusions, NPR reported. Wen, with Jason Hockenberry at Emory University, used Medicaid data in the study. 

The authors found that laws that permit both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana for adults "have the potential to reduce opioid prescribing for Medicaid enrollees, a segment of population with disproportionately high risk for chronic pain, opioid use disorder and opioid overdose. Nevertheless, marijuana liberalization alone cannot solve the opioid epidemic.”

Police: Mom says she fed kids PCP after mistaking it for vanilla extract

Police in Kansas are investigating a woman who says she accidentally fed her children PCP after mistaking it for vanilla extract.

Fox4 in Kansas City reported that the woman told police investigators she made French toast Tuesday morning for the children. The kids became ill after eating breakfast, detectives said. 

The mother and all three children -- a 16-year-old and two children under a year old -- had to be hospitalized, but are in stable condition, the news station reported. The woman told investigators that a family member’s ex-boyfriend used to live at the home and that the PCP may have come from him.

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Investigators told Fox4 that PCP users often put the drug in vanilla extract bottles because of the dark color of the bottles. 

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, PCP, or phencyclidine, was developed in the 1950s as an IV painkiller, but its use was halted when it was determined that it could make patients agitated, irrational and delusional. Those who abuse the drug today do so for its mind-altering properties, including hallucinations.

A bitter, white powder, PCP is easily dissolved in water or alcohol, the agency’s website said. The powder can be snorted or ingested and in liquid form, some users dip tobacco or marijuana cigarettes in it. 

Dr. Tama Sawyer, managing director of the University of Kansas Medical Center’s Poison Control Center, told Fox4 that the family in Kansas City is lucky. Not only can PCP make a person very violent, but overdoses can be deadly.

Sawyer said she has never seen a report of a child under the age of 1 having ingested the drug.

“In severe overdoses, it can actually lead to coma and death, and it tends to shut down body organs,” Sawyer told the news station

Detectives continue to investigate the case to determine if the poisoning was accidental. 

Groundbreaking 'cancer vaccine' set for human trials by the end of the year

Human trials of a “cancer vaccine” found to have eliminated tumors in nearly all treated mice are expected to start before the end of the year, according to a report.

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Researchers at Stanford University’s School of Medicine published a study earlier this year in the academic journal Science Translational Medicine that claimed to have developed a strategy to treat cancer through immunotherapy, a treatment that uses the body’s immune system to fight a disease. Researchers injected small amounts of two immune-stimulating agents directly into solid tumors in about 90 mice. The technique obliterated cancerous cells in 87 of the mice.

>> Related: New cancer 'vaccine' completely wipes out tumors in mice -- human trials are on way

Stanford University oncology professor Dr. Ronald Levy, who led the study published in January, told SFGate that Stanford plans to run a pair of trials of the treatment with about 35 test subjects by the end of the year. He said researchers are looking for subjects with low-grade lymphoma.

"Getting the immune system to fight cancer is one of the most recent developments in cancer," Levy told SFGate. "People need to know that this is in its early days and we are still looking for safety and looking to make this as good as it can be."

Levy said the drugs used in the treatment have already been proven safe for people and that the side effects known thus far include fever and soreness at the injection site, but not vomiting.

“It’s the combination (of the drugs) that we are testing,” Levy told SFGate.

He added that he doesn’t expect the Federal Drug Administration to give the treatment final approval until a year or two from now, if the treatment is cleared.

Levy is considered a leader in the field of cancer immunotherapy. His research previously led to the development of rituximab, a groundbreaking anticancer treatment for humans.

"All of these immunotherapy advances are changing medical practice," Levy said in January. "I don't think there's a limit to the type of tumor we could potentially treat, as long as it has been infiltrated by the immune system.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.

Dentists seek 7-day limit on opioid prescriptions 

More than 115 Americans overdose on opioids every day, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The addiction to opioids, including prescription pain relievers, synthetic opioids like fentanyl and heroin has become a national epidemic.

>> Read more trending news

And now, the American Dental Association is advocating its support for the statutory seven-day limit for opioid prescriptions, a renewed stance that comes at a time when dental prescriptions were on the rise as opioid prescriptions were declining across the country.

The Chicago-based group represents around 161,000 dentists in the country.

“As president of the ADA, I call upon dentists everywhere to double down on their efforts to prevent opioids from harming our patients and their families,” ADA president Joseph Crowley said in the Monday announcement. “This new policy demonstrates ADA’s firm commitment to help fight the country’s opioid epidemic while continuing to help patients manage dental pain.”

The new policy also supports making continuing education courses focusing on limiting opioid use a requirement for licensing dentists, mandates many states have adopted.

The ADA announcement cites new research published in the Journal of the American Dental Association that sheds light on the public health epidemic from the dental perspective. 

Though most opioids are prescribed to patients by physicians and other medical professionals, dentists often prescribe opioids for short-term pain management, including for extractions, root canals and severe tooth decay.

And while the percentage of opioids prescribed by dentists has decreased since 1998, dentists are still the leading prescribers of opioids for U.S. teens.

For many of these younger patients, "This is going to be their first experience with opioids," Dr. Paul Moore, co-author of the analysis, told Modern Healthcare. "Maybe it is our opportunity to stop and counsel patients about the dangers."

CDC warns of second wave of flu virus

Although the flu season is coming to an end, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that in recent weeks, a second wave of the deadly influenza virus has emerged.

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In its weekly flu report, issued Friday, CDC officials said they saw a decline in overall influenza cases for the week ending March 17. The decline was particularly apparent for the A-strain of the virus, which has been dominant since the flu season started in October.

However, officials noted that they’ve seen more reports of the flu virus’s B-strain, which has been slowly overtaking reports of influenza A. For the week ending March 17, influenza B made up about 58 percent of the week’s total flu reports.

The virus strain, while different, can pose just as many health problems as the A-strain, according to the CDC.

>> Related: What is the flu? 17 things to know about flu symptoms, flu shot side effects and more

"We know that illness associated with influenza B can be just as severe as illness associated with influenza A," CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund told CNN. "We also know that influenza B tends to be more severe for younger children."

Officials said five children were confirmed to have died of influenza during the week ending March 11. Two of the deaths were associated with the influenza B virus. Overall this flu season, 133 flu-related pediatric deaths have been reported.

>> Related: Flu virus spread by breathing, study finds

Officials recommend that unvaccinated people get the flu vaccine, as influenza viruses continue to circulate. Last month, officials said the vaccine “usually (works) better” against influenza B and H1N1 viruses than it does against the H3N2 virus most common this flu season.

>> Related: Why the flu shot worked less than half the time during last year's flu season

Norlund told CNN that the second wave of influenza cases was not unexpected.

"We often see a wave of influenza B during seasons when influenza A H3N2 was the predominant virus earlier in the season,” she told the news network. “Unfortunately, we don't know what the influenza B wave will look like."

Teacher contracts both flu strains, now on life support

A special education teacher in Texas is fighting for her life after contracting both flu strains.

Crystal Whitley, 35, was physically active and had no underlying physical conditions, friends told WFAA, when she contracted both strains of influenza two weeks ago. She then developed pneumonia in both lungs and a MRSA infection.

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While she is showing some signs of improvement, Whitley remains on life support at Baylor Scott & White, WFAA reported.

Whitley received a flu shot after giving birth in October, friends told WFAA.

Doctors are cautiously optimistic about Whitley's chances for recovery, but told family that she could remain in the hospital for months, WFAA reported.

Jury awards Florida woman $109M after botched surgery led to amputation of hands, feet

A Florida woman who lost her hands and feet from complications after surgery to remove a benign ovarian cyst was awarded more than $109 million in damages, The Tampa Bay Times reported.

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A Tampa jury on Friday awarded Lisa-Maria Carter the damages from the University of South Florida. The surgery in November 2010 took place at Tampa General Hospital through the USF college of medicine, which employed the surgeon, the Times reported.

In a medical malpractice suit, Carter, 52, alleged that she suffers from constant abdominal pain due to a surgical error and the near severance of her small intestine. Complications from the surgery led to gangrene in her hands and feet, requiring four amputations below her elbows and knees, the Times reported.

Carter was an intelligence analyst with the Department of Defense, but now she must use a wheelchair and needs assistance when she eats or bathes, the Times reported.

“It’s very hard emotionally,” Carter told the Times on Monday from a rehabilitation center in St. Petersburg. “I try to keep my head up and not worry about it.”

To collect, Carter must go to the Florida Legislature and seek the passage of a claim bill. The university is protected from exposure in lawsuits through Florida’s sovereign immunity law, which has a cap for damages at $100,000, the Times reported.

The school also can appeal the case.

“The University of South Florida has great sympathy for Ms. Carter and we recognize the life-changing injuries she has suffered,” USF spokeswoman Lara Wade-Martinez said in a statement. “We also believe that the verdict that was delivered was not supported by the evidence. We will be carefully evaluating several grounds for appeal.”

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