A Medical Device Daily

A new alliance between the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Chile, aims to accelerate progress against cancer in Hispanic populations in both the U.S. and Latin America.

The alliance endeavors to strengthen and expand cooperation in a broad range of mutual interests, emphasizing basic and clinical cancer research, bioinformatics, data systems and informatics, and transfer of technology. Also, the nations seek to develop competencies and training of researchers by sharing technology and expertise. Further, the partners will work to enhance already existing cancer registries and execution of early phase clinical studies with cultural sensitivity.

In 2006, cancer was estimated to be the second-leading cause of death in Chile. Each year, 36,500 new cases are diagnosed. Cancer mortality rates for Chilean males are highest in stomach, lung and prostate cancers, while for Chilean females the highest mortality rates are in gallbladder, breast, and stomach cancers.

In mid-June, Chilean Undersecretary of Public Health Jeanette Vega, MD, representing the Ministry of Health of Chile, and John Niederhuber, MD, National Cancer Institute director, representing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, signed a letter of intent where the institutions will work under a collaborative agreement to advance cancer research that meets the needs of Chile and the U.S.

"We're eager to work with the U.S. on this very important effort," said Vega. "Chile and the U.S. have much to share in the area of cancer. We can share our longstanding experience in the area of gallbladder cancer and the U.S. can share their knowledge in the area of breast cancer. The key to be able to advance globally in these areas is to collaborate, collaborate and collaborate."

Niederhuber said, "Cancer knows no borders and we must conquer this disease globally. This new partnership holds great promise to facilitate science that elucidates why cancer so often affects patients of different ethnicities and nationalities in unique ways, such as the high prevalence of stomach and gallbladder cancer in Chile."

Chile joined four other Latin American countries — Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay — and the U.S. in the collaboration, known as the United States-Latin America Cancer Research Network. The network is responsible for developing a comprehensive understanding of the burden of cancer and the current status of the research and care infrastructures in Latin America.

The first collaborative pilot project of the United States-Latin America Cancer Research Network will focus on breast cancer because it is among the deadliest cancers in each of the five participating Latin American countries. The alliance will conduct research on those cancers that have the greatest impact on Latin America.

Canada moves to ban BPA baby bottles

The government of Canada is moving forward with proposed regulations to prohibit the advertisement, sale and importation of polycarbonate plastic baby bottles that contain bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA, to reduce newborn and infant exposure to this substance, said Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq.

BPA is used in the production of polycarbonate, a clear hard plastic used to make many products, including baby bottles. When in contact with hot or boiling liquid, bisphenol A can migrate from the plastic into the liquid and be ingested.

"Our government is acting to protect its most vulnerable citizens — newborns and infants," said Aglukkaq. "Canada is the first country to move ahead with regulations to prohibit polycarbonate baby bottles that contain bisphenol A. We want parents to feel confident that they can safely bottle-feed their newborns and infants."

The government has concluded that exposure levels for newborns and infants up to 18 months of age are below those that could cause health effects. However, due to the uncertainty raised in some studies relating to the potential effects of low levels of BPA, it wants to further limit exposure.

Health Canada has now published these proposed regulations in Canada Gazette Part I for a 75-day public comment period to consult with interested parties.

Aussie firm eyeing rapid virus test

A scientist in Melbourne, Australia, has unveiled a test able to detect swine flu or any other virus within hours. The test, known as the Retcif test, is carried out on a patient sample such as a nasal swab. Any viruses present in the sample are grown rapidly in a culture before being examined under a fluorescent microscope.

The company behind the test is Pallane Medical Pty Ltd (Caulfield North, Australia). The company says the Retcif test is "almost 100% accurate" and is currently the most effective way of testing for live viruses, including the swine flu virus.

The test, developed by virologist Dr. Robert Alexander, has been used extensively at Royal Children's Hospital (Melbourne, Australia). It has been used to diagnose viruses in patients but, to date, has never been widely available to the general community or on a commercial basis.

Pallane CEO Peter King said the Retcif test had the potential to revolutionize viral testing around the world, and not just in relation to swine flu. "Within one to three hours, we can ... tell if someone has a virus — and to tell you what type of virus or multiple viruses a patient has takes approximately 24 hours."

The Retcif test is expected to be commercially available internationally within 24 months.

Larger stake taken in subsidiary

Novartis (Basel, Switzerland) reported completing an open offer to acquire an additional stake in its majority-owned Indian subsidiary, Novartis India Ltd., increasing its holding to about 76.4% from the previous level of 50.9%.

The transaction represents a total value of some Rs 3.7 billion (about $76 million). Almost all large institutional investors and quasi-institutional shareholders participated in the offer, Novartis said.