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Dec 19, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- DRUG REDUCES PSORIASIS SYMPTOMS

The new drug efalizumab reduces the thick, red, scaly skin marks of psoriasis and improves quality of life, researchers report. The drug is a "biologic," which researchers describe as a new approach to treating psoriasis. "The symptom relief with biologics is achieved without many of the side effects of traditional psoriasis treatment," says Dr. Kenneth Gordon, director of the Loyola Psoriasis Center at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill. Gordon and colleagues weekly injected 556 psoriasis patients with efalizumab or a therapeutically worthless placebo. "The efalizumab treatment reduced the frequency and severity of psoriasis symptoms, particularly in the severity of itching and scaling," Gordon said.


Researchers recommend limiting routine annual tests for kidney malfunction and premature death to those with other risk factors for kidney problems. The Johns Hopkins researchers say the test for abnormally high levels of protein in the urine that indicates kidney trouble is relatively inexpensive and safe so doctors may assume frequent screening should be universally applied. Not so, says Dr. L. Ebony Boulware, lead study author and assistant professor of medicine. "Our results show that for the majority of the U.S. population -- those without hypertension or diabetes -- annual screening can actually be quite costly and anxiety producing for patients if you factor in false positive or negative test results, and the subsequent tests they may require," Boulware says. He adds screening should either be performed less often, say every decade or so, or be targeted to people at high risk of developing kidney disease.


Doctors say a combination therapy delays the progression of benign prostatic hyperplasia, or enlargement of the prostate gland. They found combining two classes of drugs reduces the risk of complications by 66 percent, they report in The New England Journal of Medicine. They say their study provides the first scientific evidence that combining alpha-blocking doxazosin with the drug finasteride is more effective than using either treatment alone, says Dr. John McConnell of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The five-year study of 3,000 men found finasteride alone or the combination therapy cut the risk of acute urinary retention and the need for surgical intervention. A surprising finding was the alpha blocker doxazosin alone was not effective in reducing the long-term risk of acute urinary retention or need for surgical therapy, McConnell said.


A study shows combining magnetic resonance imaging techniques may help improve the detection of breast cancer. Researchers at Johns Hopkins say in the journal Radiology that MRI scanners can be calibrated to take images that highlight a specific type of human tissue, such as fatty or fluid. Additionally, 3-D MRI can help define the size and shape of tumors. Contrast agents, dyes injected into patients prior to imaging to concentrate in the tumor and make it more visible, further enhance the images, the researchers said. By combining the MRI techniques, doctors could determine whether breast tissue was benign or malignant in all 36 patients studied. In addition, the so-called multiparametric technique was even more powerful when used with contrast agents, providing more precise differentiation between the cancerous and non-cancerous tissue than the same images without contrast. "Each individual imaging modality has its advantages," says Michael Jacobs, lead study researcher. Combining them results in greater benefits than any single method could offer, he adds.


(Editors: For more information about PSORIASIS, contact Joanne Swanson at (708) 216-2445. For KIDNEY, Karen Blum at (410) 955-1534 or For PROSTATE, Rachel Horton at (214) 648-3404 or For BREAST, Gary Stephenson at (410) 955-5384 or

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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