ASCLS eNewsBytes
Feb. 9, 2010

The fatal strain
The Philadelphia Inquirer
For most Americans, the threat of avian flu - "bird flu," in the vernacular - is likely a distant memory. The highly pathogenic virus, which came to public attention in 1997 with the first human cases identified in Hong Kong, swept through the poultry industry in Southeast Asia and eventually spread to birds around the world. But H5N1, as scientists call the virus, never gained much of a toehold in humans, mainly because it isn't easily transmitted from one person to another.More

Genetic testing for cancer susceptibility — ASCO updates policy statement
Medscape Medical News
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has issued an updated policy statement on genetic and genomic testing for cancer susceptibility. The new document, an update of a statement issued in 2003, was published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The update was prompted by an increase in the number of such tests, and it raises two main concerns — the fact that some tests are of unproven clinical benefit, and the fact that some are now being marketed directly to consumers.More

GSK launches new specialist unit to research and develop medicines for rare diseases
Medical News Today
GSK announces the formation of a new standalone unit specializing in the development and commercialization of medicines for rare diseases. Over 5,500 rare diseases have been identified of which less than 10 percent are currently being treated, presenting a significant unmet medical need.More

NIH scientists identify maternal and fetal genes that increase preterm birth risk
The National Institutes of Health
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have identified DNA variants in mothers and fetuses that appear to increase the risk for preterm labor and delivery. The DNA variants were in genes involved in the regulation of inflammation and of the extracellular matrix, the mesh-like material that holds cells within tissues. "A substantial body of scientific evidence indicates that inflammatory hormones may play a significant role in the labor process," said Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., acting director of the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "The current findings add evidence that individual genetic variation in that response may account for why preterm labor occurs in some pregnancies and not in others."More

U.S. swine flu epidemic shows signs of being over
USA Today
One U.S. expert said the epidemic has "one foot in the grave," and there are many reasons to believe there won't be another wave later in the year. For one thing, the virus has shown no signs of mutating. The vaccine against it is effective. And roughly half the people in the U.S. probably have some immunity because they were infected with it or got vaccinated.More

fMRI may allow communication with some patients in vegetative or minimally conscious states
Medscape Medical News
Researchers are reporting evidence of willful brain activation in a small number of patients in vegetative or minimally conscious states using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Further, one patient with a diagnosis of vegetative state was able to correctly answer yes or no questions by activating different areas of his brain through visualization of different activities while he was undergoing fMRI, this despite being unable to show any signs of consciousness at the bedside.More

New chinks emerge in malaria's armour
AFP via Google News
Investigators said they had made important lab discoveries in mosquitoes and the parasite which causes malaria, opening up new paths for attacking a disease that claims nearly a million lives per year. In one of two studies published in the British journal Nature, Yale University researchers said they had found more than two dozen smell receptors in the mosquito Anopheles gambiae that enables the insect to home in on human sweat.More

ArQule announces initiation of clinical programs with ARQ 197 in germ cell tumors and colorectal cancer
BusinessWire via MarketWatch
ArQule, Inc. announced the initiation of a Phase 2, single agent trial with ARQ 197 in germ cell tumors (GCT), including testicular and non-central nervous system tumors, and a Phase 1/2 clinical trial designed to evaluate the safety of ARQ 197 administered in combination with irinotecan and cetuximab in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer who possess the wild-type form of the KRAS gene.More

Fate therapeutics, MIT scientist get stem cell patent
Rudolf Jaenisch, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist, will be granted a U.S. patent for conceiving a way to turn cells from mammals' bodies into stem cells, a discovery also claimed by two other scientists.More