BUYING TIME In what may be a breakthrough, researchers used early drug intervention to delay the onset of the autoimmune disorder multiple sclerosis. Doctors administered either a placebo or interferon beta-1a (Avonex) to 383 patients who had suffered one episode of symptoms--such as double or cloudy vision or problems with bladder control or balance--that often precede MS. Forty percent of the placebo group but less than 24% of the Avonex group developed MS over the course of the three-year study.
MENTAL FITNESS Another reason to get off the couch: researchers at Duke University Medical Center have shown that moderate aerobic exercise three times a week works as well as Zoloft in lifting clinical depression. What's more, after 10 months only 8% of the exercisers had relapsed into depression, in contrast to 38% of patients on medication and 31% of those who were both exercising and taking medication.
CHEMO COMBO More than 55,000 Americans will die from colorectal cancer this year. But doctors have designed a new chemotherapy regimen that can slow metastatic colorectal cancer and buy patients a few more months of life. By adding the drug irinotecan to the standard treatment of fluorouracil and leucovorin, researchers increased patients' survival time from 13 to 15 months, afforded them seven months (up from four) of progression-free disease and nearly doubled the percentage of patients whose tumors shrank.
Contrary to previous studies, new data suggest that cigarette smoking may lead to teenage depression--not the reverse. In a yearlong study, researchers found that adolescents who smoked cigarettes were nearly four times as likely to develop depression as their nonsmoking counterparts.
--By Sora Song
Sources: Good News--New England Journal of Medicine (9/28/00); Psychosomatic Medicine (9/10/00); New England Journal of Medicine (9/28/00). Bad News--Pediatrics (10/00)