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Are We Really Ready For Human Cloning?

Also... Vaccine Might Stabilize Or Reverse Cancers; Do Genes Affect How Well Drugs Work For You?; New Treatement Approved For Colorectal Cancer

11:45 a.m. EST March 27, 2001 -- Just over a week ago, an Italian and American scientist said they're ready to begin human cloning. But their announcement has sparked an uproar on whether research is going too far.

The two researchers, Panos Zavos and Severino Antinori are confident they can do it -- create a human clone of an existing person.

"Trust me, the high risks will be taken care of because we know what we are doing," assures Zavos.

But there are scientists who don't believe it, including the creators of that famous cloned sheep, Dolly. In a special report in today's Science Journal, doctors Rudolf Jaenisch and Ian Wilmut are adamant that human cloning should not be attempted at this point.

It took over 270 tries to produce Dolly, with many malformed embryos, miscarriages and deaths along the way. Even when cloned animals do survive, they may have respiratory, circulatory, immune and brain abnormalities. And new evidence is beginning to hint at defects on a fundamental level -- failure of proper genetic programming.

Dolly's creators believe the two scientists will have the same high failure rates for human cloning, with potentially disastrous results. They are also worried about the repercussions such failed attempts would cause. Negative public reaction could hinder research in therapeutic cell cloning, for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Vaccine Might Stabilize Or Reverse Cancers

Michigan researchers say a vaccine has appeared to stabilize, and even in one case, reverse hard-to-treat cancers in a small group of children.

The results are still preliminary.

The vaccine was given to 15 patients, who suffered from a variety of cancers including neuroblastoma and bone cancer. All had failed to respond to standard therapy.

The disease was stabilized in five children for as long as two years. It was reversed in one teen, whose cancer had spread to the lungs and spine. Five patients died in the course of the trial.

Doctors at the University of Michigan released their findings at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Do Genes Affect How Well Drugs Work For You?

It's a new area of research spurred by the mapping of the human genome.

Scientists are looking at how genes influence the effectiveness of the drugs we take.

Investigators at Jefferson Medical College have found women with breast cancer who carry an altered gene don't do as well with certain chemotherapy drugs, such as taxol.

This information can be used to choose the right drugs for patients, and may ultimately have an effect on survival rates.

One U.S. expert feels doctors should use genetic profiling more widely, to tailor their treatment of cancer patients.

New Treatement Approved For Colorectal Cancer

Health Canada has approved a new, first-line treatment for advanced colorectal cancer.

The drug is called camptosar and it's manufactured by Pharmacia. The new treatment combines camptosar, which is given intravenously, with standard chemotherapy.

Past studies have shown this therapy can delay tumour growth and increase survival rates among colorectal cancer patients.


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