Today’s Headlines: Harmless Lung Tumors, Gene Therapy and Meningitis B

Study says many lung cancer tumors prove harmless: “A provocative study found that nearly 1 in 5 lung tumors detected on CT scans are probably so slow-growing that they would never cause problems.” Lung cancer is the world’s leading cause of cancer deaths and is often diagnosed after symptoms develop. Imaging tests are not currently recommended for routine lung cancer screening, as they often lead to overdiagnosis and unnecessary invasive testing, but a leading health panel may soon recommend screening for people at increased risk. The new study is unlikely to change screening or treatment practices, since “doctors don’t know yet how to determine which symptomless tumors found on CT scans might become dangerous, so they automatically treat the cancer aggressively.” (Washington Post)

Gene therapy scores big wins against blood cancers: “In one of the biggest advances against leukemia and other blood cancers in many years, doctors are reporting unprecedented success by using gene therapy to transform patients’ blood cells into soldiers that seek and destroy cancer.” More than 120 patients with a variety of blood and bone marrow cancers that had resisted other treatment options have been treated with the new strategy, and many remain cancer free. The treatment involves removing immune cells called T-cells from a patient’s blood, inserting a gene targeting cancer into them and infusing them back into the patient. “Doctors say this has the potential to become the first gene therapy approved in the United States and the first for cancer worldwide.” (CBS News)

Princeton starts offering meningitis B vaccination to students: A vaccine not approved for use in the U.S. was offered to Princeton University students starting yesterday, after a meningitis B outbreak sickened eight people at the prestigious school. The vaccine, Bexsero, has been approved in Europe and Australia. The Centers for Disease Control allowed the vaccine to be imported to try to control the spread of the dangerous disease, which infects the membranes lining the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can result in permanent neurologic damage or death. The vaccine, which is not mandatory, will be available to approximately 5,000 undergraduates and 550 graduate students living in dorms at the New Jersey school. (CNN)