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Avastin ‘Raises Blood-Clot Risk’

WASHINGTON ~ The anti-cancer drug Avastin increases the risk of blood clots in the legs and lungs by 33 percent, according to an analysis published by US researchers on Wednesday.

The study examined results of 15 clinical trials with Avastin, made by the Swiss firm Roche, involving 7,956 patients with advanced solid tumors.

The risk of developing venous thromboembolism was 33 percent greater in patients treated with the drug, bevacizumab, than in those who were not, according to Shobha Rani Nalluri, a doctor at Stony Brook University in New York state who led the study.

Breast Cancer Gene Patent Restored

PARIS ~ The European Patent Office restored on appeal this week a controversial patent for a breast cancer gene that had been withdrawn from a US biotech firm, but granting it in a more restricted form than before.

The final decision brings an end to a 14-year court battle in Europe pitting Myriad Genetics against an ad hoc consortium of research institutes supported by national governments.

Backed by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, Myriad obtained nine US patents in the mid-1990s on two genes – BRCA1 and BRCA2 – strongly associated with hereditary forms of breast and ovarian cancer in women.

US Sets Up in Watchdog in China

BEIJING ~ The US Food and Drug Administration opened its first offices outside the United States here on Wednesday as part of plans to increase Chinese imports despite recent safety scandals.

“A permanent FDA presence in China will help us address the challenges presented by globalization,” FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach told journalists at the opening of the Beijing branch.

China is in the midst of a huge tainted milk scandal that saw four babies die and 53,000 fall ill this year after they ingested dairy products laced with the industrial chemical melamine.

EU Schoolkids to Get Free Fruit

BRUSSELS ~ School pupils throughout Europe will soon be offered free fruit every week under an EU initiative agreed this week to improve children’s health and tackle obesity.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said the commission would provide 90 million euros (US$114 million) per year to finance the project, with member states pitching in on a voluntary basis.

“Giving kids good habits at an early age is crucial as they will carry these into later life,” Fischer Boel said. “Too many of our children eat far too little fruit and vegetables and often don’t realize how delicious they are.”

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