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Roundup: U.S. Cancer Death Rate Declining But New Cases Rising; Not Enough Antibiotics to Fight Superbugs, WHO Says

A new report finds that 25 percent fewer adults died from cancer in 2014, compared to 1991. That means that 35 percent fewer children and 25 percent fewer adults died from cancer in 2014 than did 23 years earlier.

The data from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) [1] shows that death rates are easing, but cases of cancer continue to increase. The number of people with cancer will increase from 1.7 million this year to 2.3 million by 2030, the AACR said. This year, 600,00 people in the U.S. will die from cancer, the report said.

Researchers say that the rise in cancer cases is largely due to the aging population. Other potential factors include high rates of obesity and physical inactivity, both of which have been linked to higher risks of developing some types of cancer.

The report also pointed to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of nine new cancer treatments between Aug. 1, 2016 and July 31, 2017. The agency’s expanded approvals of these drugs likely will play a role in the continuing decline in the cancer death rate. Most of the drugs are already on the market and can be used to treat various types of cancer. Two of the new drugs are immunotherapeutics, referred to as checkpoint inhibitors. These treatments can potentially increase survival rates and improve the quality of life for patients with many types of cancer.

The AACR report also emphasized that death rates for many of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States — including breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancer — have been decreasing for more than a decade. But deaths from other types of cancer — brain, liver and uterine cancer — have been on the rise.

Survival rates for some of the deadliest forms of cancer, such as pancreatic, liver, and the form of brain cancer with which Senator John McCain was diagnosed in July, have not improved in recent years.

The report concludes that increased funding by the federal government is critical for accelerating progress in the fight against cancer.

The AACR concluded: “To maintain a vibrant cancer research enterprise, it is imperative that Congress provide sustained, robust, and predictable increases in investments in the federal agencies that are vital for fueling progress against cancer, in particular the NIH (National Institutes of Health), NCI (National Cancer Institute), and FDA (Food and Drug Administration), in the years ahead.”

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Not Enough Antibiotics to Fight Superbugs, WHO Says

Most of the drugs to fight infections currently “in the clinical pipeline” target “short-term solutions,” says the World Health Organization (WHO) in a new report [5] that finds there are too few antibiotics to combat drug-resistent conditions.

Moreover, it is likely that the speed of increasing resistance to “superbugs” will outpace the slower development of drugs to fight these infections, the WHO says.

“The report found very few potential treatment options for those antibiotic-resistant infections identified by WHO as posing the greatest threat to health, including drug-resistant tuberculosis which kills around 250,000 people each year,” the organizations states in a summary of the report.

The WHO has identified 12 classes of “priority pathogens” – some of them causing common infections such as pneumonia or urinary tract infections – that are increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics and urgently in need of new treatments.

As of May, a total of 51 antibiotics and 11 biologicals — drugs commonly derived from natural sources — are being developed, the new report said.

Tuberculosis (TB) infections require a combination of at least three antibiotics, says the new report. However, only seven of the new TB medicines are in clinical trials. There may soon be a serious lack of treatment options for TB infections, the report warns.

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Toy ‘Nerf Guns’ Can Cause Eye Injuries, Report Says

Doctors are warning parents that toy Nerf guns can cause damage to the eyes, according to a new report in the medical journal BMJ [7].

The report details unrelated cases that occurred within three months in London in which two adult patients had pooling of blood and inflammation in the eye after being struck with a foam dart from a Nerf gun. One 11-year-old patient had pooling of blood, inflammation and damage to the outer retinal layers of the eye.

Bleeding under the white part of the eye, the conjunctiva, is common and not that dangerous. But bleeding in the space between the cornea, the eye’s outer layer, and iris, the circular colored portion of the eye, is far more dangerous.

All three patients reported blurred vision and pain, in addition to the internal bleeding in the eye. While all three patients have recovered their full eyesight, doctors warn of potential serious consequences from using these toys.

“This case series emphasizes the seriousness of ocular injury from Nerf gun projectiles and calls into consideration the need for protective eyewear with their use,” writes co-authors Mukhtar Bizrah and Seema Verma from Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London.

Julie Duffy, senior vice president of global communications at Hasbro, the toy’s manufacturer, told USA Today that the foam darts used in Nerf guns are not hazardous when used correctly. Nerf toys “undergo rigorous reviews and testing to assure that they are safe and fun to play with, and meet or exceed global standards and regulations,” she said.