Counting Cancer Cells

A new technology that counts cancer cells in the blood helps predict the success of breast cancer treatments more quickly and reliably than established methods, researchers reported.

A study in today's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine said the technique allows doctors to determine within weeks, not months, whether a patient's treatment is working.

The study, funded by a company that helped develop the technique, could lead to more tailored treatments, said lead author Massimo Cristofanilli of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

But Cristofanilli said the system was tested only on breast cancer that had metastasized.

Safer Tissue Donation

U.S. tissue donations could be made safer with genetic testing for the viruses that cause AIDS and hepatitis, researchers say.

About 20,000 donors supply tissue to about 1 million patients a year. In 2002, dozens of transplant patients contracted hepatitis C from infected tissue distributed in Oregon.

Researchers from the American Red Cross and Puget Sound Blood Center/Northwest Tissue Center in Seattle examined infection data from 11,391 donors to five U.S. tissue banks. They published their results in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

They estimated the chance of a donor's infection at 1 in 55,000 for HIV, 1 in 34,000 for hepatitis B, and 1 in 42,000 for hepatitis C.

With genetic testing, the probabilities could be cut to 1 in 100,000 for hepatitis B, 1 in 173,000 for HIV, and 1 in 421,000 for hepatitis C.

-- From News Services