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Vol. LXVI, No. 4
February 14, 2014
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Digest

Study Shows Crash Risks Greatest for Teens

Risks of distracted driving were greatest for newly licensed teen drivers, who were substantially more likely than adults to be involved in a crash or near miss while texting or engaging in tasks secondary to driving, according to researchers.

Risks of distracted driving were greatest for newly licensed teen drivers, who were substantially more likely than adults to be involved in a crash or near miss while texting or engaging in tasks secondary to driving, according to researchers.

Drivers eat, reach for the phone, text or otherwise take their eyes off the road about 10 percent of the time they are behind the wheel, according to a study using video technology and in-vehicle sensors. The study of drivers in the Washington, D.C., area and in southwestern Virginia appeared in the Jan. 2 New England Journal of Medicine.

Risks of distracted driving were greatest for newly licensed teen drivers, who were substantially more likely than adults to be involved in a crash or near miss while texting or engaging in tasks secondary to driving, according to the researchers from NIH and Virginia Tech.

“Anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road can be dangerous,” said study co-author Dr. Bruce Simons-Morton of NICHD, where the study was conducted. “But our study shows these distracting practices are especially risky for novice drivers, who haven’t developed sound safety judgment behind the wheel.”

Study Launched on Use of Genetic Sequencing To Improve Patient Outcomes

A pilot trial to assess whether assigning treatment based on specific gene mutations can provide benefit to patients with metastatic solid tumors was launched recently by NCI. The Molecular Profiling-based Assignment of Cancer Therapeutics, or M-PACT, trial is one of the first to use a randomized trial design to assess if assigning treatment based on genetic screening can improve the rate and duration of response in patients with advanced solid tumors. A trial in which patients are randomly assigned to various treatment options is the gold-standard method for determining which treatment option is best.

“Patients will have their tumors genetically screened and if a pre-defined mutation is found, they will receive treatment with targeted agents,” said principal investigator Dr. Shivaani Kummar. “What we don’t know, however, is whether using this approach to assign targeted treatments is really effective at providing clinical benefit to patients, as most tumors have multiple mutations and it’s not always clear which mutation to target and which agent is most likely to provide maximal benefit. This study hopes to address some of these questions in the context of a prospective, randomized trial.”

Bladder Cancer Study Reveals Potential Drug Targets

Investigators with The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Research Network have identified new potential therapeutic targets for a major form of bladder cancer, including important genes and pathways that are disrupted in the disease. They also discovered that, at the molecular level, some subtypes of bladder cancer—also known as urothelial carcinoma—resemble subtypes of breast, head and neck and lung cancers, suggesting similar routes of development.

The researchers’ findings provide important insights into the mechanisms underlying bladder cancer, which is estimated to cause more than 15,000 deaths in the United States in 2014. TCGA is a collaboration jointly supported and managed by NCI and NHGRI.

“TCGA Research Network scientists continue to unravel the genomic intricacies of many common and often intractable cancers,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. “These findings are defining new research directions and accelerating the development of new cancer therapies.”

In this study, published online Jan. 29 in Nature, investigators examined bladder cancer that invades the muscle of the bladder, the deadliest form of the disease. The current standard treatments for muscle-invasive bladder cancer include surgery and radiation combined with chemotherapy. There are no recognized second-line therapies—second choices for treatments when the initial therapy does not work—and no approved targeted agents for this type of bladder cancer. Approximately 72,000 new cases of bladder cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2014.

“This project has dramatically improved our understanding of the molecular basis of bladder cancers and their relationship to other cancer types,” said lead author Dr. John Weinstein of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “In the long run, the potential molecular targets identified may help us to personalize therapy based on the characteristics of each patient’s tumor.”

“The real excitement about this project is that we now have a menu of treatment and research directions to pursue,” said a senior author of the paper, Dr. Seth Lerner of Baylor College of Medicine. “The field is poised to use this information to make new advances toward therapies for a very-difficult-to-treat form of bladder cancer.”—compiled by Carla Garnett


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