Health & Fitness


Teen Diagnosed with Cancer Looks for Cure as Researcher

iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- After being diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at age 14, Lauren Bedesky has been fighting the disease as a patient for most of her teen years. It wasn’t until this summer that Bedesky got to fight cancer on an entirely new front -- by working in a cancer research lab.

As an intern at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, Bedesky was able to run experiments and explore potential new cancer treatments.

Under the direction of cancer researcher Dr. Dean Lee, Bedesky, she was able to research the same kind of tumor -- a type of brain cancer called neuroblastoma, she was diagnosed with in 2012.

“I thought it was really cool, we actually drew my own blood,” Bedesky told ABC News of her experiments. “We grew cells and could see how well my own cells were able to kill the tumor.”

Bedesky said she wanted to work in a cancer research lab after seeing firsthand how many pediatric patients had received treatments made for adults patients.

“In the last 20 years there’s only two drugs designed specifically for pediatric patients,” said Bedesky. “A lot of kids have adult types of toxic [cancer] treatments.”

Lee invited Bedesky to the lab after seeing her work as an ambassador for the St. Baldricks Foundation, which raises money for pediatric cancer research and treatments.

“She’s accomplished enough in the four weeks she’s been here that we have important pieces of data from the experiments she did,” Lee told ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV in Houston.

Bedesky was already a bit of an expert in cancer treatments after undergoing multiple rigorous chemotherapy treatments, stem cell transplants and radiation treatments after her diagnosis.

She said even though she was an expert in cancer treatments as a patient, it was a different experience to see the cancer fight from a researcher perspective.

“I thought it would get redundant,” said Bedesky of working in a lab. “But every day…it was really interesting because all the data [was new.] I didn’t realize how much research and work goes into one new medicine.”

Last October, after years of treatments Bedesky was declared to show “no evidence of disease" meaning there is no sign of the deadly cancer in Bedesky's system. However, Bedesky’s cancer has a high chance of reoccurrence, so as the teen plans for the future she also remains committed to finding a cure and new treatments for her cancer.

Next year Bedesky said she hopes to go back to Lee’s lab and spent another two months working on new experiments.

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Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Another American Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in West Africa

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- Another American doctor working for the missionary group SIM has tested positive for Ebola in Liberia.

The doctor was treating pregnant women at ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, according to SIM. But he was not treating Ebola patients in the hospital’s separate Ebola isolation facility, the group said, adding that it was unclear how he contracted the virus.

“My heart was deeply saddened, but my faith was not shaken, when I learned another of our missionary doctors contracted Ebola,” SIM president Bruce Johnson said in a statement.

The doctor "immediately isolated himself" and has since been transferred to the ELWA Ebola ward where he is "doing well and is in good spirits," according to SIM.

SIM is the same missionary group that Nancy Writebol had been working for when she contracted Ebola in July. Writebol and fellow American Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, who worked for the aid group Samaritan’s Purse, were evacuated from Liberia to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment and declared virus-free. Writebol was discharged on Aug. 19 and Brantly went home two days later.

Since March, the deadly virus has killed 1,552 people and sickened 1,517 others, according to the latest numbers from the World Health Organization.

The virus has also sickened at least 240 health workers, half of whom have died, according to WHO.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Parents Arrested for Trying to Override Doctor’s Cancer Treatment for Son

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A British family's arrest following a flight to Spain to get their cancer-stricken son an experimental therapy highlights the delicate balance between when parents should advocate for their children and when doctor knows best.

The King family was arrested for taking their 5-year-old son out of the country for proton beam therapy, which they said their hospital refused to offer. Ashya King had already undergone surgery to remove the tumor, but was not on any medication at the time his family removed him, they said.

"The line usually is when there's a proven treatment that a parent is withholding, the state steps in to protect the child," said New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan. "This family is on the other end of spectrum. They're saying not that they're trying to withhold anything that works, but that 'we want to chase something that might work.'"

Ashya was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a cancerous brain tumor located in the cerebellum, a part of the brain that controls motor functions. Ashya had a 70 percent to 80 percent chance of surviving five years, according to a statement from University Hospital Southampton, where Ashya was being treated.

After surgery to remove the tumor, the boy's father, Brett King, said he wasn't satisfied with hospital's treatment plan, which he called "trial and error." So he researched treatments on the Internet and came up with what he thought was a better approach: proton beam therapy, a type of focused radiation therapy that uses protons rather than X-rays.

"Proton beam is so much better in children with brain cancer," he said in a YouTube video, holding a nearly motionless Ashya in his arms. "It zones in on the area whereby normal radiation passes right through his head and comes out the other side, destroys everything in his head."

Though King said he pleaded with his doctors to help him get the therapy for Ashya, they told him Ashya wouldn't benefit from it because of the kind of tumor he had. But King said his research told him the opposite.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute considers proton beam therapy "under investigation" for tumors like Ashya's.

King said when he questioned the doctors' plans, they threatened to take Ashya away from him via a protection order.

"We couldn't take it anymore, not knowing and not being able to question anything," King said. "We couldn't be under that system anymore."

So on Friday, they took Ashya to Spain, where King intended to sell his property to pay for the proton beam therapy himself. They planned to take Ashya to the Proton Therapy Center in Prague, Czech Republic.

The family stayed in a hotel room as police searched for them.

"We've decided to try and sort it out ourselves, but now we're refugees," King said. "We're not neglecting him. He has everything that he had in the hospital."

He said he bought syringes, intravenous nutrition and other hospital equipment online.

"Call off this ridiculous chase," he said. "We just want to be left in peace. ... I'm not coming back to England if I cannot give him the treatment that I want."

The video was shot minutes before King and his wife were arrested, their son Naveed said in a follow-up YouTube video. They faced extradition back to England, but British prosecutors withdrew their arrest warrant Tuesday.

Caplan said there isn't much evidence proton beam therapy would work, but if the family found a legitimate hospital willing to treat Ashya, they have the right to take him there.

"As long as it's a legitimate place, I think they should be able to do that without being chased all over the globe," Caplan said.

According to Southampton University Hospital, Ashya "went missing" on Friday, prompting hospital officials to involve police, the hospital's medical director Dr. Michael Marsh said in a statement.

"We very much regret that the communication and relationship with the King family had broken down in this way and that for whatever reason they have lost confidence in us," Marsh said, adding the hospital discussed proton beam therapy with the family and concluded there wasn't evidence to suggest it would work.

But Tuesday, after the Prague center said it would take on Ashya as a patient, Southampton University Hospital said it was "willing to support the family's transfer" and was "of course open to discussing this." But now those decisions are up to a judge.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Action Flicks May Fuel Mindless Munching, Study Finds

iStock/Thinkstock(ITHACA, N.Y.) -- We’ve all been there before. You hunker down by the TV with a bag of chips, a tub of ice cream or perhaps your very own pizza pie, and before you know it, the credits are rolling, and the food is gone.

Were those pepperoni slices extraordinarily tasty? Or did the title of that Hunger Games movie have a subliminal effect on your appetite? Something made it much easier to eat while you were on that couch, but what exactly?

A new study from the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University asks that very question. What it finds is that it’s not TV itself that makes the cheesy puffs go “poof,” but certain shows or movies may stop you from realizing just how much you’re consuming, until it’s too late.

The study, published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, was led by Aner Tal, a Ph.D. in consumer behavior at Cornell. Tal hypothesized that distracting, action-packed programming was a key factor.

“If I go to the cinema and I’m really engrossed in the movie, I find myself with an empty bucket of popcorn 10 minutes later,” Tal said. “In a previous study, people would even eat stale popcorn if they weren’t paying attention.”

Accordingly, he chose a 20-minute segment from a film that was bound to capture attention: Michael Bay’s action movie The Island. For a less distracting option, he chose an excerpt from the interview program Charlie Rose.

Tal and his colleagues then recruited three groups of about 30 college students each. One group watched the clip from The Island, while another group watched the same clip without sound. The third group watched the Charlie Rose segment. Meanwhile, these students were supplied with as many M&M’s, cookies, carrots and grapes as they liked.

The results? The students who watched the action movie ate nearly twice as much of all the snacks than those watching the comparison show, which had far fewer camera cuts and fluctuations in sound. Even the students who watched the soundless version of the action movie ate more than the control group.

This, Tal said, was a surprise.

“We expected the action movie to get people to eat more than the laid-back talk show,” he said. “What had never been shown before is that even without sound, you could still get higher levels of engagement, which is relevant if you think about contexts where TV is on in the background, like at bars and restaurants.”

The study’s findings also suggested that the flashy film with jarring camerawork had a bigger impact on male subjects than female subjects. Regardless, the students consumed all snacks in increased amounts in the action film group, suggesting that eating was indiscriminate and based on what was close at hand.

Tal clarified, however, that the findings of the study do not necessarily mean that television is inherently harmful.

“It has been associated with increased BMI and sedentary lifestyle, but ‘everything in moderation’ applies to TV as well as food,” he said. “We’re also interested in how online content influences consumption. In theory, it should work the same way.”

More studies might be needed to confirm these findings, however. Dr. Kelly Pritchett, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said this study, while interesting, was not conclusive.

“It’s hard to infer what this means for the general population,” said Pritchett, who was not involved with the study. “It’s just one group. We don’t know how this would apply to middle-aged Americans. We also don’t know anything about these students, about their families or socioeconomic status.”

Doctor’s Take

A growing body of evidence suggests that the factors that lead to obesity and unhealthy eating habits have to do with much more than simply what is on our plates. This study is the latest to demonstrate how distractions in our environment can affect our behavior when it comes to food.

“We’re trying to help people avoid mindless eating traps,” Tal said. “More distracting content is more dangerous.”

So what can you do to counter this tendency? Tal says the solutions are simple.

“If you have to snack, you can pour out a reasonable portion and put the rest in the kitchen,” he said. “Getting up for more would require conscious engagement. If you have to have endless snacks, instead of chips or candy, you can have baby carrots.”

As for those who prefer to settle in for a quiet evening with Charlie Rose, Tal said he did not intend the study to diminish the importance of in-depth talk shows.

“I was constantly thinking about that when I wrote the paper,” he said. “If he found out about it, I would have to say, ‘nothing personal.’”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Breastfeeding May Influence Kids’ Eating Habits at Age 6

Polka Dot/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- What you feed your child in his or her first year of life could very well predict their health habits at age 6, according to a new report from researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings provide a lens to understanding childhood obesity rates, which have more than doubled in the past 30 years.

The researchers surveyed more than 1,500 mothers and concluded that children who were breastfed for longer periods as infants tended to eat more healthily at age 6 -- drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, and indulging in fewer sugar-sweetened beverages.

Moreover, the children whose parents introduced them earlier to healthful foods between 6 months and a year of age tended to continue to enjoy a healthier diet later on. For example, when mothers fed their children sugar-sweetened beverages or juice during the first year of life, their children were twice as likely to drink sugar-sweetened beverages at age 6.

The study was published Tuesday in a special supplement of the journal Pediatrics.

“Seeing these relationships between early feeding and later health really emphasizes the importance of following the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics,” said Kelly Scanlon, one of the CDC researchers who authored the study.

These recommendations urge exclusive breastfeeding for six months, followed by continued breastfeeding until the infant is a least 1 year old. They also suggest that parents introduce complimentary foods starting at six months that are healthy and nutrient rich.

The findings underscore a simple fact that is gaining traction in the field of childhood nutrition: preference for flavor in a child begins early. And it can even begin in the womb, some research suggests.

Scanlon said that breast milk, too, exposes infants to a variety of flavors, which studies have shown makes them more accepting than formula-fed infants of various flavors.

Childhood nutrition experts not involved with the study said the findings provide additional weight to the importance of shaping a child’s diet early. Dr. David Katz, editor-in-chief of the journal Childhood Obesity and director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, said the findings serve to underscore the long-established relationship between breastfeeding and health in mothers and children.

“The question we need to be asking is not ‘Why should mothers breastfeed?’ but, ‘Why shouldn’t they?’” Katz said. “For all mammals, our first food is breast milk.”

The study also points to other benefits of breast feeding. Kids who breast fed for longer in infancy tended to have a lower risk of ear, throat and sinus infections at age 6. The study also noted that mothers may have much to gain -- or lose, in this case -- as obese mothers who adhered to breastfeeding recommendations retained about 18 pounds less than obese women who did not breastfeed once their children reached the age of 6.

Doctor’s Take

This new study is only the latest in a growing body of research that suggests that there are things that mothers (and fathers) can do when their children are still very young to set them on the right path to healthy behaviors later. For women, this means breastfeeding your child if possible according to AAP guidelines. And for both parents, it means introducing your child early to the nutritious foods that will benefit their health both now and later on in life -- while avoiding the ones that are likely to lead to obesity and other health problems.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Low-Carb May Be Better Than Low-Fat in Diet Debate

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new medical study found that low-carb diets may be more effective for losing weight than low-fat diets.

Researchers at Tulane University, funded by the National Institutes of Health, compared 73 individuals who embarked on a low-fat diet and 75 who took on a low-carbohydrate diet and studied their daily food intake for one year. Each participant also received individual and group diet counseling sessions.

According to the study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, those who cut out the carbs saw significant benefits in weight loss, decrease of fat mass, decrease in waist circumference, lower triglycerides and increase good cholesterol when compared to those on a low-fat diet.

On average, those in the carb-cutting diet lost about eight pounds more.

The study also indicated that a low-carb diet may be linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio