Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 22, 1996

Medical News

Scientists identify another pancreatic cancer gene 

     Researchers at the School of Medicine have identified a gene
involved in half of all cases of pancreatic cancer, the nation's
fifth leading cancer killer. The discovery gives insight into the
nature of the cancer and eventually may lead to practical ways to
diagnose tumors early and reverse the defective gene's damage.

     The gene, called DPC4, joins a few other tumor suppressor
genes, including p53 and p16, which have been identified as
having pivotal roles in many cancers, the researchers said. The
findings were published in the Jan. 19 issue of Science. 

     "The old saying, 'To beat your enemy, you must know your
enemy' is as true for science as it is for war," said Scott Kern,
the study's senior author and an assistant professor of oncology
and pathology. "Now we know our enemy much better."

Potassium may lower BP for African Americans

     A Hopkins study has concluded that potassium tablets may
greatly reduce high blood pressure and its consequences in
African Americans who do not eat enough fresh fruit and
vegetables and other potassium-rich foods. The study was
published in the Jan. 8 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

     "Potassium supplements produced a striking reduction in
blood pressure," said Frederick Brancati, the study's lead author
and an assistant professor of internal medicine. "The magnitude
of the average reduction is all the more impressive given the
participants' relatively low blood pressure before the study."

     Supplements of potassium, a mineral that helps regulate
heart rhythm and other functions, or even eating potassium-rich
foods, may be a safe,cheap and effective way to fight high blood
pressure's complications, such as stroke and heart failure, which
affect African Americans at an unusually high rate, Brancati

     Further research is needed to determine if potassium's
blood-pressure-lowering effect in healthy African Americans is
long term, whether it can be achieved with smaller supplements or
by eating potassium-rich foods without supplements, and whether
it can benefit other ethnic groups and those with high blood
pressure, Brancati said.

SOM receives gift from Hughes Medical Institute

     The School of Medicine was one of 30 U.S. medical schools to
receive a donation from the Chevy Chase-based Howard Hughes
Medical Institute. The institute--the nation's largest private
philanthropy--will disburse over the next four years a total of
$80 million, including $3.4 million to Hopkins. The money will be
used to create five faculty positions in basic research,
particularly in biological chemistry and pharmacology. Some money
also will be used to expand core laboratories and computer

Other News

Student singers perform for 'second family,' staff

     The Allnighters, one of Hopkins' student a cappella groups,
was the primary entertainment at Vice President Al Gore and his
wife Tipper's Christmas party for his executive staff on Dec. 20
at the Blair House. The 11-man group sang a combination of
Christmas carols and selections from their extensive repertoire
as guests arrived and mingled around the buffet tables. Toward
the end of the evening, after the vice president thanked his
staff for a job well done, the group took center stage and sang
"Right Here, Right Now," by Jesus Jones, the Eurythmics' "Sweet
Dreams" ("which Tipper just loved," said Allnighter president
Peter Tillinghast) and concluded with their adaptation of "White

     Although they were not paid for their performance,
Tillinghast says they were compensated royally. "We were taken to
the kitchen and told to dig in, and the food was terrific. Shrimp
from Mexico the size of your fist, and amazing desserts."

     Tillinghast says the vice president got progressively more
casual with them as the evening wore on. "When we left, I had a
few minutes to thank him, and he was real relaxed--not at all
like the guy you see on television."

     Ahead for the Allnighters is participation in the national
collegiate a cappella competition. They are one of seven groups
invited to compete in the mid-Atlantic regionals to be held at
Drew University in New Jersey on March 2. Hopkins will host the
Southern/Southern New England semifinal round on March 9. The
finalists will perform at Lincoln Center in New York the weekend
of March 16 and 17.

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