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Research Briefs

Call me sometime
Improving cancer-screening rates among minority and low-income women may be just a phone call away. In a study led by DMS's Allen Dietrich, M.D., researchers found that minority and low-income women were more likely to get screened for breast cancer, cervical cancer, and colorectal cancer if they received a phone call encouraging them to do so. Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the study showed that phone calls boosted screening rates 12 percentage points for mammography, 7 points for Pap tests, and 13 points for colorectal screening.

Compound interest
A compound developed by DMS pharmacologists proved extremely effective, even in small doses, at preventing liver cancer in rats during a recent study conducted at Johns Hopkins. The compound—CDDO-Im—caused an 85% reduction in precancerous lesions at the lowest dose and a 99% reduction at the highest dose. Dartmouth researcher Michael Sporn, M.D., who has been leading the development of CDDO-Im and related compounds for over a decade, believes CDDOIm may also be useful in inflammatory bowel disease, hepatitis, and the prevention of liver metastases from colon cancer.

Risk is revised
The risk after an initial melanoma diagnosis of developing a second melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—may be higher than had been previously thought, according to a recent Dartmouth study. Of 354 individuals diagnosed with melanoma, 27 (8%) had a recurrence within two years, and 20 of the 27 had a recurrence within one year. The results "underscore the importance of close surveillance of patients with melanoma," wrote researcher Linda Titus-Ernstoff, Ph.D., and her coauthors in the Archives of Dermatology.

Stick 'em up
A typical dose of seasonal flu vaccine could protect five people instead of just one, according to preliminary results of a DHMC study. Kathryn Kirkland, M.D., associate director of infection control, presented the early findings at a meeting of the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America. While stretching the supply of seasonal influenza vaccine appears safe and effective, a similar approach probably could not be used in case of a bird-flu vaccine shortage, Kirkland cautioned. To stretch the seasonal supply, the vaccine was injected into skin rather than muscle. A bird-flu vaccine, if and when one is developed, would probably require injection into muscle.

Is bypass better?
Heart-bypass surgery trumps catheter-based procedures in patients over 80, concluded a recent seven-center study. The DHMC-based Northern New England Cardiovascular Disease Study Group compared the survival rates of nearly 1,700 patients aged 80 to 89 who underwent either a catheter-based coronary procedure—called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)—or heart-bypass surgery. Short-term survival was better among the PCI patients, but after six months heart-bypass surgery took the lead. DHMC surgeon Lawrence Dacey, M.D., was the lead investigator.

Utility notice
Physicians order the test 100,000 times a year, and with good cause it seems. Esophageal manometry (EM)—in which a tube is inserted into the esophagus to measure its muscle action—provides new information for diagnosis 86% to 100% of the time, according to a survey by DHMC gastroenterologist Brian Lacy, M.D., Ph.D. Presenting his findings at an American College of Gastroenterology meeting, Lacy said that information gleaned from EM led to a change in patient management in up to 60% of the cases in his study. That's not bad for a test whose clinical utility had never before been formally evaluated.

DMS ranks 12th among the 126 U.S. medical schools on the basis of research funding per basic science faculty member, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

A DMS research team has received a federal grant of almost $400,000 to develop a simple factual box, like the nutrition information panel on packaged foods, for prescription drugs.

DMS doctoral student David Radley quantified off-label prescription drug use in an Archives of Internal Medicine paper that was deemed a "must read" in the May 19 Medical Economics.

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