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Health Highlights: Feb. 18, 2019

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

Immunotherapies Prove Their Mettle Against Kidney Cancer

Adding immunotherapy to targeted cancer therapy boosted survival for kidney cancer patients, two new studies show.

Researchers found that kidney cancer patients had much better outcomes when immunotherapy was combined with the targeted therapy drug Inlyta (axitinib), compared to those who received the first-line kidney cancer drug Sutent (sunitinib), CNN reported.

One study used the immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab), while the other used Bavencio (avelumab).

Average progression-free survival was 13.8 additional months of life among patients treated with avelumab plus axitinib, compared with 7.2 months among those treated with sunitinib, CNN reported.

Average progression-free survival was 15.1 months among patients treated with pembrolizumab/axitinib and 11.1 months among those who received sunitinib.

Patients who received the combination treatment had a 47 percent lower risk of death and a 31 percent lower risk of cancer progression or death than those who received sunitinib, CNN reported.

The studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"This is a proof of principle that we can do this if the drugs are in the same class and tolerated when combined," Dr. Toni Choueiri, senior author of the avelumab study, told CNN. Choueiri is director of the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Brighmam and Women's Hospital.

Overall, new immunotherapies have "have made a revolution in many, many tumors," said Choueiri, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.


Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Deer in 24 States

Chronic wasting disease has been found in wild deer, elk and moose in 24 states, and hunters should avoid handling or eating potentially infected meat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned.

The agency said that animals with the disease -- which affects the central nervous system -- can experience severe weight loss, lack of coordination and listlessness, and become more aggressive and less cautious of people, CNN reported.

Chronic wasting disease is believed to be transmitted between animals through bodily fluids, the CDC said.

While the agency said there is no evidence this disease can spread to people, it warned hunters to be careful around potentially infected animals, CNN reported.

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