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Clinical Corner: Provenge, Vitamin B-12

Rush Named Official Site for Use of Prostate Cancer Vaccine
Rush has been named an official site for the use of Provenge, a vaccine the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved last year for the treatment of men with advanced prostate cancer. A vaccine manufactured specifically for each patient using his own immune cells, Provenge is the first approved therapy in a new class of drugs called autologous cellular immunotherapy. It is designed to activate a patient's own antigen-presenting cells to stimulate an immune response against prostate cancer. By doing so, it offers a new, potentially life-prolonging option to patients with metastatic disease that has proved resistant to male hormone-deprivation therapy.

Researchers at Rush participated in clinical trials of the therapy, in which patients who received the vaccine had a life expectancy of 22 months, compared to 18 months for those who did not. In addition to prolonging life, the treatment also has the potential to diminish pain and distress by combating the cancer that causes it. "This treatment vaccine is a great option for patients who have advanced prostate cancer, and where other treatments have not shown much benefit," says Dennis Pessis, MD, a urologist and lead investigator of the study at Rush. "It will hopefully stabilize the patient's condition and increase a patient's quality of life as well as his longevity."

Low B-12 Levels May Lead to Cognitive Problems
Older adults with low blood levels of vitamin B-12 markers may be more likely to have lower brain volumes and diminished thinking skills, according to a study authored by Christine C. Tangney, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at Rush.

The study (subscription required), published this fall in the journal Neurology, involved 121 residents of Chicago's South Side who are a part of the Chicago Health and Aging Project, a longitudinal study of common chronic health problems in older adults, especially those related to Alzheimer's risk. These participants had blood drawn to measure levels of vitamin B-12 and markers that can indicate a B-12 deficiency; they then took tests that measured their memory and other cognitive skills. About four and a half years later, researchers took MRI scans of the participants' brains to measure total brain volume and look for other signs of brain damage.

Researchers found that participants with high levels of four of the five markers for vitamin B-12 deficiency had lower scores on the cognitive tests and smaller total brain volume. "Our findings lend support for the contention that poor vitamin B-12 status is a potential risk factor for brain atrophy and may contribute to cognitive impairment," Tangney says. "It's too early to say whether increasing vitamin B-12 levels in older people through diet or supplements could prevent these problems, but it is an interesting question to explore."


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Rush Physician Newsletter Archive
Rush Physician January/February 2012
Clinical Corner: Provenge, Vitamin B-12


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