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This week, the Environment Report is taking an in-depth look at the connections between cancer and the environment.When somebody gets cancer, one of the first questions is usually "why?"Does this kind of cancer run in my family?Was it something in the water, or in the air around me?Did I get exposed to something?What would you do, or where would you go to answer these questions? We'll explore how much we really know about the connections between cancer and the chemicals in our environment.We'll also meet both regular people and scientists trying to figure out if certain towns around Michigan are struggling with more cancer cases than other places because of current or past pollution.You'll hear about whether or not turning to the courts makes sense when it seems a company might to be blame for putting people at risk of cancer or other illnesses.Finally, we'll look at where we go from here. What do researchers know, and where are they looking next?

UM researchers developing treatment to make bone marrow transplants safer

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Christy Barnes
/
University of Michigan

University of Michigan researchers are developing a new use for an old drug.

Small doses of medicine already used to treat cancer may reduce inflammation in patients after a bone marrow transplant.

These transplants can save a cancer patient's life, but many recipients suffer from a life-threatening side effect called Graft-versus-host disease. It occurs when the donated cells attack their new host's tissues.

The drug Vorinostat could help reduce that risk. For the first time, researchers at U-of-M's Comprehensive Cancer Center are testing that possibility on human patients.Dr. Sung Choi is one of those researchers.

"This could have a huge impact in reducing the one barrier to good quality of life and outcomes in transplants," she said.

Doctor Pavan Reddy has been studying effects of the drug on mice for a decade. He said he was surprised by the unknown properties of the medicine.

"Right now, it looks like it could make a difference to these patients who would otherwise frankly just die," he said.

Forty-seven patients have already undergone the new treatment in a clinical trial, and more extensive tests are planned for next year.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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