Nation digest 05/17/05

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Showdown over judicial nominees imminent

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Leader Harry Reid declared an end Monday to compromise talks with Republican leaders over President Bush's controversial judicial nominees, saying their fate along with the future of long-standing filibuster rules will be settled in a showdown on the Senate floor. "I've tried to compromise and they want all or nothing, and I can't do that," Reid said after a private meeting with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. With Democrats threatening to block confirmation votes on several of Bush's appeals court nominees, Frist has threatened to change Senate procedures to strip them of their ability to do so. At issue is the filibuster, a parliamentary device that can be defeated only by a majority of 60 votes or more.

Drug used for traveler's diarrhea may prevent it

HOUSTON -- A drug already used to treat that tourist nightmare -- traveler's diarrhea -- may also prevent it without causing the antibiotic resistance that can eventually make medicines ineffective, new research suggests. The study, to be published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed that the antibiotic rifaximin prevented the troublesome condition in about 85 percent of the people who took it. Antibiotics have been used for years to treat traveler's diarrhea because it is caused by bacteria found in local food and water. Traveler's diarrhea affects about 20 million international travelers a year, said lead author Dr. Herbert DuPont, of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

Doctors stunned at drug for blood disease

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Doctors were just hoping to relieve the symptoms of a deadly blood disorder -- and ended up treating the disease itself. In nearly half of the people who took an experimental drug, the cancer became undetectable. Specialists said Revlimid now looks like a breakthrough and the first effective treatment for many people with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, which is even more common than leukemia. "It may be, if not eradicating the disease, putting it into what I would call deep remission," said Dr. David Johnson, a cancer specialist at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center who is familiar with but had no role in the research. Revlimid "is not yet on the market but almost certainly will be" because of these findings, he said. MDS refers to a group of disorders caused by the bone marrow not making enough healthy, mature blood cells. About 15,000 to 20,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States, and as many as 50,000 Americans have it now.

Child cancer survivors often have problems later

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Two out of three children who beat cancer go on to develop other chronic health problems, ranging from heart disease to blindness, because of radiation and other treatments that saved their lives, new research finds. Cancer treatments have vastly improved in recent years, so today's patients shouldn't suffer as many future problems, specialists say. Nevertheless, the research shows the tremendous medical, financial and emotional burdens that those treated in the 1970s and 1980s are now facing. "We've concentrated so much on our 5- and 10-year survival that we haven't paid attention to the impact of our treatments," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy medical director of the American Cancer Society. Indeed, survival is at an all-time high. More than three out of four children are cured of cancer today, up from 58 percent in 1975.

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