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Health Highlights: April 22,  2009

Last Updated: April 22, 2009.

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

California Swine Flu Cases Investigated by CDC

Two California children were diagnosed with a unique type of swine flu, and the cases are being investigated by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 10-year-old boy in San Diego County and a 9-year-old girl in neighboring Imperial County were diagnosed last week, and both have recovered, the Associated Press reported.

The CDC is determining the genetics of the virus in these two cases and trying to track down and test people who may have had contact with the children. However, the agency said there's no reason for the public to take special measures to protect themselves.

Both children, who had no contact with each other, became sick in late March, the AP reported. The boy's mother and brother, and the girl's brother and cousin, also had flu-like illnesses recently, but weren't tested for flu while they were sick.

More than a dozen cases of human swine flu virus infections have been reported in the United States since late 2005. Prior to that, about one case was reported to the CDC every one or two years.


Avastin Has Little Impact in Colon Cancer Recurrence: Trial

A clinical trial of about 2,700 early-stage colon cancer patients found that the drug Avastin didn't reduce the risk of recurrent colon cancer by a significant amount, drug manufacturer Genentech announced Wednesday.

The patients in the study had surgery and then received six months of standard chemotherapy or six months of standard chemotherapy plus Avastin. The trial did not meet its endpoint, which means the drug didn't reduce the risk of cancer recurrence by the targeted amount, The New York Times reported.

No more details were made public. Study data was expected to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, in Orlando, Fla., that begins in late May.

Avastin is approved for treatment of late-stage colon, breast and lung cancers. The new trial was designed to assess its effects on the course of colon cancer when used immediately after surgery to remove the tumor, The Times reported.

Current chemotherapy keeps about 70 percent of colon cancer patients disease-free three years after surgery. Achieving a significant improvement on that is viewed as a major challenge.


FDA Device Division Problems Prompt Rare Meeting

A rare, broad-based internal meeting was scheduled for Wednesday to discuss problems within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's office of device evaluation.

It's the first time in years that such a meeting -- which includes all scientists within the division -- has been called, The New York Times reported.

In signed letters to the White House, nine dissident scientists accused agency officials of acting illegally and said that some medical devices were approved for sale over the objections of scientific reviewers. A Congressional investigation has been launched to look into the scientists' charges.

A report release in January by the Government Accountability Office criticized the FDA's device division. Legislation expected to be proposed in Congress this week would ask the Institute of Medicine to investigate concerns about the device division, The Times reported.


Cloned Human Embryos Implanted in Women's Wombs: Report

The birth of the first cloned human may be just a few year away, according to a controversial fertility doctor who says he cloned 14 human embryos and transferred 11 of them to into the wombs of four women.

While none of the women had a viable pregnancy as a result of the procedure, the test is a major step toward creating cloned humans, suggested Dr. Panayiotis Zavos.

"There is absolutely no doubt about it ... the cloned child is coming. There is absolutely no way it will not happen," he told Britain's Independent newspaper, Agence France Presse reported.

Other scientists have created cloned embryos in test tubes in order to harvest stem cells, but Zavos has broken what's viewed as a taboo by implanting cloned embryos in women's wombs. His work is condemned by many fertility experts, who question the safety and morality of his methods.

Zavos is a naturalized U.S. citizen, but it's believed he carried out the cloned embryo procedures somewhere in the Middle East in order to evade the U.S. ban on human cloning, AFP reported.

The procedures were recorded by a documentary maker and will be shown on the Discovery Channel in Britain Wednesday.

Reaction to the claim was swift, as the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) issued a statement calling attempts at human cloning unethical.

"We have read the press reports on a documentary to air tonight purporting to show attempts to transfer clonal human embryos," the ASRM statement said. "Nine years ago, The Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued a report calling attempts at human cloning unethical. This statement was reviewed in 2006. The statement concludes, 'As long as the safety of reproductive SCNT is uncertain, ethical issues have been insufficiently explored, and infertile couples have alternatives for conception, the use of reproductive SCNT by medical professionals does not meet standards of ethical acceptability.' Nothing we have seen since has caused us to change our views. Any attempt to create a cloned human embryo for gestation and birth is ethically, scientifically, and clinically unacceptable," the statement concluded.

Previous: Obesity May Hide Fetal Abnormalities on Ultrasounds Next: Clinical Trials Update: April 22, 2009

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