New Mothers – 10 Health Tips for Women After Delivery

December 29, 2011 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!

This video features 10 health tips for new mothers. These recommendations are based on expert clinical guidelines published in UpToDate online version 19.3, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. This video was produced by Nicholas Cohen, MD in 2011.

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!

What’s the latest on the flu vaccine?

December 18, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Here are some updates on the flu vaccine.

NIAID Media Availability: A Flu Vaccine that Lasts
Why do we have to get the flu shot every year? Because each year, the strains of the influenza-causing virus are different and the vaccine manufacturers try their best to keep up with the rapidly evolving strains. However, this process of constantly producing new vaccines for the seasonal flu is costly and time-consuming, not to mention getting on the nerves of the public. But hopefully, this will change eventually. Scientists at teh National Institutes of Health (NIH) are looking into the possibility of making a universal influenza vaccine, a vaccine which would confer long-lasting immunity. Scientists at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases believe this could be possible someday.
“Making such a universal influenza vaccine is feasible but licensing it may require innovation on several fronts, including finding new ways to evaluate the efficacy of vaccine candidates in clinical trials.”

Bacteria Seek to Topple the Egg as Top Flu Vaccine Tool
The process of vaccine is dependent upon chicken eggs. Fertilized eggs are used as live medium to grown the viruses. But this may about to change. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have developed a process of making flu vaccines grown entirely on bacteria – thus bypassing the egg completely. According to research leader Dr. John Treanor:

“There are a number of problems with using eggs to produce flu vaccine. It’s a very specialized product. It’s hard to make more eggs in a hurry – you only get them as fast as hens lay them. They’re not easy to manipulate, and it can be challenging to get the flu virus to grow within an egg. The flu vaccine system would be more flexible and reliable if we didn’t have to rely on them.”

This is also good news for those with egg allergies who may have problems tolerating the vaccine.

2009 H1N1 vaccine safe and induces robust immune response in people with asthma
People with asthma were among those who were seriously affected by the 2009 H1N1 flu. Researcher have analyzed clinical data of the effect of the H1N1 influenza vaccine on those who had asthma and reported the following findings:

In the pipeline: preventive vaccine against breast cancer

June 7, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

Could this be the vaccine we have been waiting for? Researchers at Cleveland Clinic announced last week that we may be closer to having a vaccine to fight breast cancer that previously thought. The researchers have developed a vaccine that was tested and shown to be effective in mice. The next step is to test the vaccine in clinical trials, e.g. in humans.

According to Vincent Tuohy, Ph.D., the study’s principal investigator and an immunologist in Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute Department of Immunology:

“We believe that this vaccine will someday be used to prevent breast cancer in adult women in the same way that vaccines prevent polio and measles in children. If it works in humans the way it works in mice, this will be monumental. We could eliminate breast cancer.”

There are two main types of vaccines: preventive vaccines and therapeutic vaccines. Preventive vaccines are those that we are most familiar with – the childhood inoculations such as MMR and DPT, as well as adult vaccines against yellow fellow and hepatitis. These vaccines start up the immune system to produce that antibodies for certain antigens, thus protecting the recipient from certain diseases. Therapeutic vaccines (also called treatment vaccines), on the other hand, are the new kid in the block. They work not a preventive measure but as treatment of an already existing condition.  The vaccine is designed to boost the immune system to better fight or control an ongoing infection or disease. Currently, there are many therapeutic vaccines against cancer being developed and tested.

There are currently two preventive vaccines targeting some types of cancer. According to the US-based National Cancer Institute:

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of cancer preventive vaccines: A vaccine against the hepatitis B virus, which can cause liver cancer in chronically infected people, and a vaccine against human papillomavirus types 16 and 18, which are responsible for about 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer.”

The Cleveland Clinic prototype is the first of its kind preventive vaccine for breast cancer. The vaccine is made from the antigen and has been shown to prevent the development of breast cancer tumors in mice as well as slow down the growth of existing tumors. The mice tested were genetically engineered to be prone to breast cancer, thus representing a high-risk population. All these mice did not develop breast cancer. The α-lactalbumin antigen targets breast cancer cell without damaging healthy breast tissue. The vaccine will be tested in women as early as next year, targeting women over 40 years old, the age where breast cancer risk starts to increase and the likelihood of pregnancy is low.

Soon: a vaccine against prostate cancer?

February 23, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

What does the small pox virus has to do with prostate cancer? Well, scientists are using relatives of the deadly virus to develop a vaccine that holds lots of promise for patients with advanced prostate cancer. The vaccine Prostvac-VF is still in the testing stage and is a ground-breaking project of BN ImmunoTherapeutics, a division of Danish biotech firm Bavarian Nordic.

In the clinical trial development program of Prostvac-VF, the vaccine the vaccine was tested in 125 male patients with advanced prostate cancer that was resistant to most cancer drugs. The study conducted with the help of researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

The results of the trial was very promising, with patients treated with the vaccine having extended survival of 8 months or more compared to those who did not receive the vaccine. According to researcher Dr. Philip Kantoff:

The average survival for these men is two years…At three years, 30 percent of the men who got the vaccine were still alive.”

Prostvac is one of therapeutic vaccines currently in the development stage Therapeutic vaccines are used to treat diseases that have been diagnosed and are therefore different from prophylactic vaccines which prevent diseases.

Prostvac was developed from genetically-engineered cowpox virus and fowlpox viruses which are related to the small pox virus. The viruses were weakened and genetically engineered to carry irregular versions of the prostate specific antigen (PSA), which are produced only by prostate cells. In addition, the vaccine also induces the production of “three costimulatory molecules that spur the immune system to a more vigorous attack on tumor cells.”

The results of the study have been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The authors concluded that immunotherapy with Prostvac-VF was well tolerated and associated with a 44% reduction in the death rate and an 8.5-month improvement in median overall survival rate in patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. However, larger studies needed to confirm these findings.

Dr. Kantoff continues:

“Although this study is relatively small, it offers encouraging evidence of a clinically meaningful benefit from this vaccine approach.”

A trial that intends to include about 600 patients is in the planning.

There is a large economic potential for an effective prostate vaccine. Prostate cancer is a leading cause of mortality among American men, ranking second only to lung cancer as cancer killer. 2009 statistics from the American Cancer Society give 192,000 diagnosed cases 27,000 deaths. Financial analysts foresee a billion-dollar market for such a vaccine.

Paper linking vaccination and autism retracted – now what?

February 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, HEALTHCARE

Who would ever have thought that a medical article aimed for a medical professional audience would have such a profound effect on a layman’s attitude towards vaccines? I mean, thousands and thousands of medical and scientific articles are published every year. So what made this paper so influential and yet so controversial?

1998: Twelve years ago, a team of researchers from the Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine in London led by Dr. Andrew Wakefield wrote a paper entitled “Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children.”

Sounds innocuous enough, if rather a bit too much of doctor speak to interest the general public. The objective of the study was to investigate “a consecutive series of children with chronic enterocolitis and regressive developmental disorder.” A total of 12 children were involved in the study, with ages ranging from 3 to 10 years old, 11 of whom were boys. Nine of the children had autism, one had disintegrative psychosis, and two had possible postviral or vaccinal encephalitis. Based on study results, the study authors concluded that the gastrointestinal and developmental disorders in these children were associated with environmental triggers including the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

To say that the paper attracted public attention was an understatement. Some of its effects are as follows:

  • Major concerns about the safety of childhood vaccinations (not only MMR) among parents and doctors
  • Decrease in vaccination rates in the UK from 92% down to 80%
  • Strengthening of the anti-vaccination movement, which rapidly spread from Europe to North America and the rest of the world
  • Compromising the goals of global vaccination and eradication of childhood diseases, especially MMR
  • More recently, frequent outbreaks of once rare childhood diseases including measles and pertussis; a 70% increase in measles in 2008 was reported in England and Wales, mostly due to unvaccinated children

Over the years, scientists and health experts questioned the credibility of the paper. For one thing, the sample size is very small. How can data from 12 children be representative of the millions who received the MMR vaccine? Other experts think the analysis and interpretation of the data was not appropriate and the research methods were “flawed”.

2004: The majority of the authors (10 out of 14) who wrote the original paper sat together and issued a partial retraction, specifically “retraction of an interpretation.” This did not include Wakefield.

There were also allegations of conflicts of interests and unethical behaviour on the part of the researchers. In the end, UK’s General Medical Council (GMC) decided to investigate.

In the meantime, celebrities which include Jenny McCarthy and Ophra Winfrey joined the debate. McCarthy, who has an autistic son, openly preaches against vaccination.

2010: The investigation of the GMC showed the following to be untrue:

  • that the study participants were “consecutively referred”
  • that the study was “approved” by the local ethics committee

and led to the following conclusions:

Wakefield had presented his research in an “irresponsible and dishonest” way and shown a “callous disregard” for the suffering of the children he studied.

Wakefield, who now works and resides in the US, may lose his medical professional license in the UK.

Thus twelve years later after its publication, the controversial paper was fully retracted by the Lancet “from the published record.”

What are the consequences of the retraction?

  • Will it or will not restore people’s belief in vaccines? It is too soon to tell but the retraction might be already too late.
  • Will it slow down the anti-vaccination movement? It is doubtful but let’s hope that people will try and make informed and wise decisiosn about their kids’ health.

What do Wakefield and his supporters have to say?

He thinks GMC’s findings are “unfounded and unjust.”

“The Lancet retraction of vaccine autism paper condemned as Big Pharma conspiracy to discredit Dr. Wakefield”, according to his supporters.

I guess we haven’t heard the last of that paper of the autism-vaccine issue yet.

Flu updates: pork, vaccination, and ethnic susceptibility

January 22, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

What’s new in the flu front? Here’s the latest updates.

USDA Confirms Pork From Pigs Exposed to H1N1 Virus is Safe to Eat
Are pigs exposed to teh H1N1 flu virus safe for human consumption? The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the results of a study in December that showed that meat coming from pigs which were exposed to 2 strains of the H1N1 virus did not contain any virus at all and is therefore safe for eating.

According to Edward B. Knipling, administrator at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS):

“This research provides additional reassurance for consumers about the safety of pork. The information contained in the study will also benefit customers of U.S. pork products, both here and abroad.”

Interim Results: Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 Monovalent Vaccination Coverage — United States, October–December 2009
In July, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued recommendations for the prioritization of the influenza A (H1N1) 2009 monovalent vaccine distribution. At that time, a shortage was expected. Currently, there is enough supply (even surplus?) of the vaccine. The CDC has conducted a survey to determine the exact coverage of the vaccine. Here are the figures:

  • As of January 2, about 20.3% of the U.S. population (61 million persons) had been vaccinated. This included 27.9% of persons in the initial target groups and 37.5% of those in the limited vaccine subset.
  • About  29.4% of U.S. children aged 6 months–18 years had been vaccinated.

The CDC continues:

Now that an ample supply of 2009 H1N1 vaccine is available, efforts should continue to increase vaccination coverage among persons in the initial target groups and to offer vaccination to the rest of the U.S. population, including those aged ≥65 years.

 H1N1, American Indians and Alaska Natives
Data from states in the US revealed that some ethnic groups are more susceptible to the H1N1 flu than others. The two groups identified as having higher risk compared to the rest of the population, are American Indians and Alaska Natives, who are four times more likely to die of H1N1 flu.
Says the director of the Indian Health Service, Dr. Yvette Roubideaux:

“Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community against the flu. Ask your health care provider for both the H1N1 and the seasonal flu vaccine.”

Adult Immunization Schedule for 2010 Issued
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the CDC has recently issued clinical guidelines for the adult immunization schedule for 2010. Among the major revisionss compared to the previous one concerned the following:

  • HPV vaccines – for women and for men
  • measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccines
  • hepatitis A and B vaccines
  • meningococcal vaccine
  • flu vaccines

Flu updates, October 26

October 26, 2009 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

swine_fluObama declares swine flu a national emergency

US President Barack Obama has declared the swine flu epidemic a national emergency. The declaration will make it easier for U.S. medical facilities to handle a surge in flu patients by allowing the waiver of some requirements of Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health insurance programs as needed.

Swine flu vaccine met with a big dose of skepticism

Not everyone welcomes the H1N1 vaccine with open arms. Many people are sceptical about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine and the skeptics, including some healthcare professionals who are opposed to the mandatory vaccinations in their line of work. A September survey by Consumer Reports revealed that

  • 51% of parents are agreeable to giving the shorts to their kids.
  • 40% of adults are certain they will get the shots.

NYC Schools to Start Offering Swine Flu Shots

Meanwhile, New York City is not seemed to be fazed by the scepticism surrounding the H1N1 vaccine. The city will start offering flu shots or nasal sprays at the public primary schools this week. Private schools are also welcome to participate. Older kids in middle and high schools will have to wait till November or December for vaccination. School nurses will administer the vaccine.

H1N1 in turkeys poses ‘minimal’ human risk: official

With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, many people are already planning the holiday menus. However, there are concerns over about the safety of the turkey that will end up on the family table. In Canada, there was a reported incident of a swine flu outbreak in Ontario, CBC Canada reports. Health officials however, declared that the birds in the said farm were not meant for eating but only for egg production and there poses “minimal” risk to humans.

Doctors Told to Give Flu Medicine Promptly

US health officials warned doctors not to wait for the results of flu tests before prescribing flu medications. The lab tests would take time and people with high risk factors, e.g. children under 2, pregnant women, and those with underlying condition such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease should be treated promptly.

Get H1N1 vaccine: health minister

Country leaders are urging their people to get the vaccine. And to set a good example, many heads of states and other leaders have got the vaccine. Canada’s health ministers Leona Aglukkaq is appealing to the public, especially those who are at high risk, to accept the vaccine. Canada is said to have entered the 2nd wave of H1N1 infections.

Breast cancer vaccine in the making

February 2, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. In the US alone, it is estimated that 40,000 women will die from deadly disease this year. Mayo Clinic diagnoses and treats approximately 1,300 new breast cancer patients each year.

For the last 25 years, Mayo Clinic researcher Dr. Sandra Gendler has been studying a large molecule called MUC1 which is a naturally occurring protein. Her life’s work led to the development of a breast cancer vaccine. Dr. Gendler describes MUC1 as a protein that looks like a “bottle brush, covered with sugar”. These proteins are found on surfaces of cells in the lungs, breasts, stomach, intestine and reproductive tract. When cancer occurs, the cell architecture collapses and MUC1 with abnormal sugars are produced in abundant amount. These MUC1 proteins are found on more than 90% of breast cancers and are said to be involved in 70% of the breast cancer deaths of humans in 2007.

Dr. Gendler was the first scientist to clone MUC1 successfully by developing transgenic mice that produce human version of MUC1. She and her colleagues discovered that the production of MUC1 resulted in tumors in the mammary glands of these transgenic mice. This protein, however, can also act as an antigen and triggers weak immune response.

 Dr. Gendler and her team of researchers are now working together to develop a vaccine made of peptides based on MUC1 and HER2/neu, a molecule associated with 25% of breast cancers. These peptides were combined with adjuvants which can trigger immune responses and production of white blood cells. The preclinical studies showed that the vaccine can prevent tumor formation and slowed down the growth of existing tumors in mice.

 “The nice thing about MUC1’s being a target is that it is expressed in just about all breast cancers,” says Dr. Svetomir Markovic, a team member whose specialty is the development and clinical testing of cancer vaccines and immune boosting agents. “If this vaccine works, it will help most patients. Based on our laboratory data, this should work better than prior efforts.”

If this vaccine works in humans, this can be used with tamoxifen, an estrogen-based therapy which is commonly used as temporary post-treatment in preventing the recurrence of tumors. The vaccine, however, won’t be available anytime soon. Clinical research in general takes time.

According to Dr. Markovic

First, we need to see if the vaccine will produce an immune response. If it does, then we do another trial and ask whether that immune response will protect patients from cancer relapses. It will take at least five to seven years before we know.”

For breast cancer patients, that’s a very long time. But still we are crossing our fingers, if not for now but for generations of women to come.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

New vaccine strategy reduces prostate cancer treatment side effects

November 19, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

Therapeutic cancer vaccines can help cure prostate cancer patients. However, the technique comes with side effects such as fatigue and increased blood sugar levels that are not well tolerated by many patients. These adverse effects usually lead to the discontinuation of the treatment. New research, however, developed a new strategy to minimize these side effects and thus giving new hope to prostate cancer patients.

Cancer vaccines were developed when researchers discovered that some cancer cells produce some unique proteins in excessive amount. These proteins are unique in a way that they can trigger the immune system to attack the cancer cells. The cancer vaccines were developed by targeting these proteins and stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells but not the normal cells.

The vaccine for prostate cancer is designed to trigger the immune system to attack prostate-specific antigen (PSA). PSA is a protein produced by the prostate and is found in the blood of men with prostate cancer and non-cancerous conditions. An immune booster called interleukin-2 (IL-2) is normally administered with the vaccine to further boost the body’s natural defense. IL-2, however, brings about the side effects previously described.

“Developing an alternative method of administering vaccine therapy that is well tolerated by most patients and produces similar immune responses to standard methods may help further the development of vaccine therapies for prostate cancer,” according to James L. Gulley of National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research.

In earlier studies using the same prostate cancer vaccines, IL-2 was given daily for 5 days to 19 patients in every 28-day vaccine treatment cycle. The majority of the patients, however, experiences severe fatigue so that IL-2 was reduced or discontinued.

In the new study led by National Cancer Institute (NCI) researchers, a method called “metronomic dosing” was tested. In this method, 18 patients were treated with vaccine and radiation therapy. The patients were also given the same total amount of IL-2 but were administered daily for 14 days in smaller doses of each 28-treatment cycle. The metronomic dosing showed that less than 25% of the patients experienced side effects that required the reduction of their IL-2 doses. The strategy was found to be safe with fewer side effects but produces similar immune response to the standard dosing method.

“Based on safety and feasibility, metronomic dosing appears to be superior to standard dosing and administration,” said Gulley.

However, more research is needed to evaluate the efficacy of this dosing method in the treatment prostate cancer.”

 Photo credit: stock.xchng

In the making: a vaccine against hypertension

September 18, 2008 by  

You’ve heard of vaccines against polio, measles, small pox. What about a vaccine against hypertension? Last year, a paper presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions reported about an investigational vaccine against angiotensin II. Angiotensin II is a vasoconstrictor agent – it causes constriction of blood vessels leading to increase in blood pressure. When a vaccine is investigational, it is still being tested and not yet ready for use.

However, this vaccine being tested by Cytos Biotechnology seems to be promising.

The name of the vaccine is CYT006-AngQb and is a virus-like particle-based conjugate vaccine. The vaccine is now tested in Phase II clinical trials. This means that the vaccine has passed through tests with animals and healthy humans without major safety problems. In Phase II trials, medications are tested in people showing the symptoms for which the drugs are indicated. In this case, CYT006-AngQb is intended for patients with mild to moderate hypertension.

Is the vaccine effective?

Preliminary results of the 2007 tests show that

“treatment with the high dose produced a significant reduction of daytime ambulatory blood pressure [BP] and a marked reduction in the early morning hours, when most adverse cardiovascular events occur.”

If approved, what would be the advantage of the vaccine over currently available antihypertensive drugs?

Well, antihypertensive drugs have to be taken on a daily basis because of their short half-life. CYT006-AngQb, on the other hand, produces extended antibody response because it has a half-life of about 4 months. That means, a hypertensive patient only needs to take medication 3 to 4 times a year.  In addition, currently available hypertensive drugs are not so effective in controlling early morning increases in blood pressure, the time of the day when major cardiac events such as heart attacks and stroke usually occur.

Even if the vaccine proves to be effective, will it be safe?

The study tested the vaccine in 72 patients with mild to moderate hypertension and followed-for 12 moths. During this period, the vaccine was observed to be well-tolerated by the study participants. There were side effects but they were mostly mild and the most common of these were headaches and irritation on the injection site.

The author, Prof. Juerg Nussberger

“Despite the fact that effective drugs are available to treat hypertension, only about one out of four hypertensive patients has the blood pressure successfully controlled. Once people are aware of the often symptomless hypertension, they have to take their medications daily, and many are apparently unable or unwilling to take pills every day for the rest of their lives. The major remaining medical need in this important therapeutic area is thus improved patient compliance. If we could support or substitute the oral therapy with a vaccine that would need to be given just every few months, I think we could achieve a better control of high blood pressure.”

The results of the study were later published in the journal Lancet.

Photo credit: syringe by Scyza at Stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.