Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 21, 1997

In Brief
Medical News

Study finds cancer vaccine tests promising

A genetically engineered cancer vaccine, made with a potent immune system activating gene, GM-CSF, has shown promise in recent clinical trials. Researchers say that after further testing, the vaccine could prove useful in treating a variety of solid tumors.

Study patients with advanced kidney cancer who received the vaccine showed activation of immune cells thought to be important in antitumor immunity. The trial vaccine produced measurable immune response in all 18 patients on the study, but only one patient experienced temporary remission.

Researchers, who said that much more research is necessary before the treatment becomes available, were pleased that the vaccine could produce an immune response and also be administered safely and with few side effects.

"The patients we treated had extremely advanced disease, so we didn't expect to cure anyone," said Fray Marshall, professor of urology and oncology at the School of Medicine and the study's lead author. "We believe these results demonstrate that the vaccine has clinical potential."

The findings were published in the April 15 issue of Cancer Research.

Needle exchange program does not increase litter

Researchers say a program that exchanged 25,000 needles used by injection drug users did not significantly increase the number of needles discarded on the streets of Baltimore, probably because 97.2 percent of the needle users returned their used needles to the program.

"We knew that giving clean needles was the best way to limit the risk of spreading bloodborne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C," said David Vlahov, professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health and lead author of a study that appeared in the April 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. "[But] we wanted to make sure that in helping limit disease, we were not creating another problem."

The program gave enrollees two starter needles. Each time a used needle was turned in, a clean needle was given out in return. According to Vlahov, once before, and one and two months after, a mobile van began dispensing needles four days a week, teams of surveyors counted vials, needles and bottles lying in the streets in a 32-block area around the exchange site. Two months after the program started, surveyors found no significant increase in the numbers of needles discarded in the streets surrounding the site.

Patients who are subjects of rounds say 'keep 'em'

A recent trend in teaching hospitals has been to move "morning rounds" from patient bedsides into conference rooms. The trend has risen over concerns for patient privacy and sensitivities. But a recent study suggests that patients value their interaction with doctors and medical students and would like to see morning bedside rounds continued, albeit improved.

"Our study results suggest that, from the patient's perspective, bedside presentations are at least as good and perhaps better," says Lisa Lehman, a former fellow in medicine at Hopkins and lead author of the study, published in the April 17 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Patients who participated in the morning bedside rounds study felt they had a better understanding of their illness. They also thought that their doctors took more time with them during morning rounds than they might otherwise.

Patients suggested that bedside presentations would be better if fewer medical terms were used, if patients were allowed to say more and if fewer physicians were in the room and all were introduced. Patients also wanted their privacy respected more.

"Bedside presentations encourage physicians to view patients as real people rather than as abstract hosts for disease," Lehman added.

Other News

Students analyzing Hampden businesses

A trio of student interns working with former Gov. William Donald Schaefer at the Institute for Policy Studies has developed an analysis and series of recommendations for Hampden area businesses.

Seniors Jamie Boston and Alexandra Spessot and second-year graduate student Kantahyanee Whitt began working with Schaefer, a visiting fellow at IPS, on the Homewood Business Revitalization Project at the beginning of last semester. Several times they met with members of the Hampden Village Merchants Association, including president Alice Ann Finnerty of The Turnover Shop.

Last week the students attended the regular monthly meeting of the association and told members that, according to survey results, most merchants are concerned with parking, criminal activity in the area and insufficient police protection.

They recommended a variety of promotional activities, including seasonal events and the creation of First Fridays or Second Saturdays, during which merchants could hold open houses and host cultural guests.

The students also suggested merchants work together on such promotional events and joint advertising efforts such as coupon books; 57 percent of the businesses are currently involved in independent advertising.

Whitt said none of the merchants criticized the student plan.

"I think they're willing to go ahead," she said, adding that merchants agreed with the recommendation to appeal to students in the area. At next month's merchants association meeting, the students plan to present a blueprint for putting their ideas in place, Whitt said.

Nurses prep students for Special Olympics

Fifty special education students from the George W. F. McMechan Middle/Senior High School #177, who will participate in the Special Olympics April 24-25, recently received "pre-games" physicals courtesy of faculty and students at the School of Nursing's Department of Pediatrics and the hospital's Division of Community Affairs.

In order to enter the Special Olympics, students were required to get physicals.

"Our entire school is comprised of special needs students, so the Special Olympics is a big deal," said school principal Paula Cottrell. "I don't want to have to tell any student that he or she can't be part of the event because he or she doesn't have an up-to-date physical."

"We are pleased to be able to provide a day of physical examinations in the name of helping children," said Stella Shiber, associate dean for professional education programs and practice. "The School of Nursing has a strong commitment to the community."

Medici virtual unveiling set for April 25

The Medici Archive Database, a cooperative endeavor between the Florence, Italy-based Medici Archive Project and Homewood Academic Computing to create a database chronicaling the life and times of the Medici grand dukes, will have a World Wide Web "virtual unveiling" on April 25. To attend, visit

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