Study of Colon Cancer

Supports 'Keyhole' Surgery

A decade-long study comparing conventional colon cancer surgery with "keyhole" surgery found identical success rates, disproving fears that tumors would be more likely to return if surgeons did not open up the patient's belly for a full view.

In conventional surgery, doctors remove a cancerous colon segment through an eight-inch cut down the abdomen. In keyhole, or laparoscopic, surgery, they operate with a laparoscope, a tiny video camera, and miniaturized surgical instruments inserted through half-inch incisions. The diseased section of colon is removed through a two-inch cut.

The biggest comparison of the two procedures to date, involving 48 U.S. and Canadian hospitals, found the same rates of survival, tumor recurrence and surgical complications. In addition, patients who had laparascopic surgery had less pain and less time in the hospital. Half of the 872 patients were randomly chosen for the laparoscopic procedure, while the rest got open surgery.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and published in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

About 100,000 colon cancer operations are performed in this country each year.

Sperm Could Play Role

In Growth of Embryo

Scientists have uncovered evidence that men play a more vital role in procreation than they may have thought.

Male sperm not only fertilizes the female egg, it also delivers male chromosomes and messenger RNA, molecules that may help the embryo develop and grow.

"Men have a greater role in early development than we previously thought," said Stephen A. Krawetz of Wayne State University in Detroit.

Krawetz and colleagues in the United States and Britain have identified six messenger RNAs found in sperm and fertilized eggs but not in unfertilized eggs.

The finding, reported yesterday in the journal Nature, suggests that messenger molecules are delivered when the sperm fertilize the egg. Krawetz suspects the paternal RNA plays a role in the early development of the embryo and could explain why cloning is so difficult.

Vitamins May Avert Breakage

Of Bones From Osteoporosis

Folate and other B vitamins, already known to prevent severe birth defects and heart attacks, may also ward off broken bones from osteoporosis, two major studies suggest.

The findings underscore doctors' long-standing recommendation that people take multivitamins. They could also further support the government's decision to require bread and cereal makers to fortify their products with folate, also known as folic acid.

B vitamins are known to reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid already linked, at high levels, to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and Alzheimer's disease. Now research in the Netherlands and the United States shows high levels of homocysteine at least double the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures.

"The basic way to keep your homocysteine down in a healthy range is to have plenty of B vitamins," said Douglas P. Kiel, senior author of the U.S. study and director of medical research at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for Aged Research and Training Institute in Boston. The studies were reported in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

-- From News Services