Body & Brain

Coffee may limit prostate cancer, plus protecting organ transplants and limiting HIV transmission in this week’s news

Drug limits kidney rejection
The anti-leukemia drug alemtuzumab (Campath) can lessen the risk of immune rejection in some people receiving a kidney transplant, a new study finds. But the results, published in the May 19 New England Journal of Medicine, suggest that the drug doesn’t improve prospects for the patients most prone to rejecting a transplant. Researchers at several U.S. medical facilities enrolled 139 such high-risk patients and 335 low-risk patients to get either alemtuzumab or standard drugs after a kidney transplant. Three years later, 85 percent of low-risk recipients getting alemtuzumab and 76 percent of those on standard medication had survived with no rejection. Among the high-risk group, these percentages were 76 and 70, a difference that could be due to chance. —Nathan Seppa


Drugs limit HIV transfer
By taking drugs to suppress HIV, an infected person in a heterosexual relationship can greatly limit the risk of infecting his or her partner. Drug therapy suppresses the virus, boosts T cells and has long been assumed to protect against HIV transmission. An international team enrolled 1,763 couples in which one person was HIV-positive. In half, that partner received a preventive cocktail of three drugs. In the other couples, the HIV-positive partner started on drugs only if CD4 T cell counts dropped. Of 28 new partner-to-partner infections since 2007, all but one arose in couples who hadn’t started on the drugs preventively. The National Institutes of Health released the findings May 12. —Nathan Seppa


Coffee versus prostate cancer
Gulping down a lot of coffee might provide men with an edge against dangerous prostate cancers, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health report May 17 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. They monitored nearly 50,000 men in a large medical study from 1986 to 2006. More than 5,000 developed prostate cancer in that time, 642 with lethal cases. Compared to coffee abstainers, men quaffing six or more cups daily were slightly less likely to develop any advanced prostate cancer and were considerably less prone to getting a lethal case. One to three cups a day decreased the risk of such dangerous prostate cancers slightly. —Nathan Seppa


Transplant protectors
Immune cells that tone down their more excitable fellow soldiers might prevent immune rejection that can jeopardize organ transplants, three studies in the May 18 Science Translational Medicine show. Researchers harnessed regulatory T cells, or Tregs, which inhibit inflammation and calm other immune reactions. Boosting supplies of Tregs in mice limited the animals’ rejection of transplanted skin tissue in two studies. In a third, additional Tregs given to mice thwarted a dangerous condition called graft-versus-host disease, in which immune cells in donor tissues attack their new host. The studies, by an international team of scientists, may advance the use of Tregs in organ transplants and against autoimmune diseases. —Nathan Seppa

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