Health Highlights: May 3, 2017

4 minute read

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Jury Awards $55 Million to Woman in J&J Talcum Powder Lawsuit

Jurors decided Monday that Johnson & Johnson must pay $55 million to a South Dakota woman who said the company's talcum powder caused her ovarian cancer.

Gloria Ristesund used J&J's talc-based feminine hygiene products for nearly 40 years and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011. She was awarded $5 million in compensation and $50 million in punitive damages, Bloomberg News reported.

She underwent a hysterectomy and her cancer is in remission.

This is J&J's second such trial loss this year. In February, the company lost a $72 million verdict to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer, Bloomberg reported.>

J&J is accused in more than 1,000 lawsuits in state and federal courts of ignoring research linking its Shower-to-Shower product and Johnson's Baby Powder to ovarian cancer.

"Science has been simple and consistent over the last 40 years: There's an increased risk of ovarian cancer from genital use of talc," Allen Smith, Ristesund's lawyer, said to jurors Friday, Bloomberg reported.

One expert suggested J&J create a settlement program to deal with the talc-related lawsuits.

"The more talc verdicts that come down against them adds to the public's growing distrust of their baby powder, which is one of their iconic products," Carl Tobias, who teaches product-liability law at the University of Richmond in Virginia, told Bloomberg.

"There are both economic and reputational issues that may motivate them to start thinking about a global settlement of these cases," he added.

J&J will appeal the verdict in Ristesund's lawsuit and denied any link between talc and ovarian cancer or any need to warn women, spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in an e-mailed statement, Bloomberg reported.

"Unfortunately, the jury's decision goes against 30 years of studies by medical experts around the word that continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc," she said. "Johnson & Johnson has always taken questions about the safety of our products extremely seriously."


New Findings Bring More Personalized Breast Cancer Treatments Closer

Five newly-identified genes that may trigger breast cells to become cancerous have been pinpointed by researchers and the finding could eventually lead to more personalized breast cancer treatment.

The discovery was made after scientists sequenced the genomes of 560 breast cancers from people worldwide. It was the largest whole-genome sequencing study of a single cancer type, Time magazine reported.

The findings were published Monday in two corresponding studies in the journals Nature and Nature Communications.

"We wanted to be able to profile each cancer patient, to see if we could further our understanding of personal cancer genomes," study lead author Dr. Serena Nik-Zainal, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, wrote in an email to Time.

The investigators also identified 13 gene mutation patterns associated with the switch from normal breast cells to cancer cells.

"We can pull all this data together -- the genes and the mutation patterns in each patient -- [to] determine the personalized genomic profile of each cancer patient and through comparing and contrasting these patients, learn a lot about individual patient cancers," Nik-Zainal told Time.

The uniqueness of breast cancer profiles could someday help identify other people with cancer with similar abnormalities, according to the scientists.

The next phase of this research is to use the genomic data in clinical trials to test various drugs, Nik-Zainal said.

"I envision a future where we would all get our bits of tumor and biopsied tissue sequenced at the point of suspicion of cancer," she told Time. "This should help us know all the important genes and all the important signatures that are present and give us critical clinical interpretation that then could help guide treatment options."

"As we gather more a more data, we will learn more about each cancer and improve on our methods to treat everyone more efficiently and more effectively," Nik-Zainal concluded.


Cinnabon Stix Recalled Due to Possible Undeclared Peanut Allergens

Cinnabon Stix are being recalled because they may contain undeclared peanut allergens, bakery supplier CSM Bakery Solutions says.

People with peanut allergies are at risk for a life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

All Cinnabon bakeries are halting sales of Cinnabon Stix until CSM confirms that the potential source of peanut allergens has been eliminated. Anyone with Cinnabon Stix should throw them away if there is any chance that someone with a peanut allergy will be exposed to them.

Cinnabon Stix are sold in bakery cups, bags, or boxes, and may have been distributed to Cinnabon stores across the U.S. and internationally.