Doctors warn drug doesn't work in rare blood cancer

Drugs that activate the immune system to fight cancer have brought remarkable recoveries in recent years.

But one of those drugs seems to have had the opposite effect on three patients with an uncommon blood cancer who were taking part in a study. After a single treatment, their disease quickly became much worse, doctors reported in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine.

It's a sobering reminder that immunotherapy is still in its early days and can unleash powerful forces that are not fully understood. The patients had adult T-cell leukemia-lymphoma. The patients were the first three in a nationwide clinical trial meant to test the drug, nivolumab, in the disease. But after the third got worse, researchers shut down the study, funded by the National Cancer Institute. "I don't think we should use nivolumab in this disease at all," said Dr. Murali Janakiram.

Third of children use alternative medicines

A third of children younger than 19 are regular users of dietary supplements or alternative medicines. Researchers found that multivitamins were the most common supplements, followed by vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and melatonin. About 30 percent of children younger than 5 take multivitamins. The lead author of the study in JAMA Pediatrics, Dima M. Qato, an assistant professor and pharmacist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, cautioned that in healthy children, there's no evidence that supplements have any benefits and some evidence of serious risks, so "there's no reason for your child to be on these products."

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