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Morning headlines - Monday, June 11, 2012

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(via Flickr/Indofunk Satish)

Finding from Washington University could hold key to more targeted breast cancer treatments

Researchers at Washington University have uncovered a genetic mutation that explains why some women don't respond to a common form of breast cancer treatment.

Before surgery, most women with breast cancer receive aromatase inhibitors, which reduce the production of estrogen to shrink the size of tumors. But it doesn't always work.

The study's lead author, Matthew Ellis, says understanding why could lead to more targeted forms of treatment.

"If we can understand that biology, we can begin to design new treatments that are directed against the biology of resistance," Ellis said.

He says women who don't respond to aromatase inhibitors may be better served by immediate surgery followed by chemotherapy. But determining which women will respond well to estrogen reduction could help those patients avoid more invasive procedures.

Ellis says this is the first time this type of deep genomic research has been done in the context of a clinical trial. He says researchers have activated an expanded study that will involve patients from around the country.

Pevely, Mo. stops fluoridation of water

The Jefferson County, Mo. town of Pevely has stopped adding fluoride to its drinking water.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the town of 5,400 about 30 miles south of St. Louis ran out of fluoride at the end of May, and chose not to purchase more. City officials say they could no longer afford the $10,000-a-year cost.

Fluoride occurs naturally in drinking water around 0.3 to 0.4 of a milligram per liter. Pevely had supplemented the supply to boost that level to one milligram per liter.

The US Health and Human Services Department in 2011 dropped its recommended fluoride level to 0.7 of a milligram per liter.

United Nations pondering investigation of Tamms prison

The United Nations is expected to decide this week whether to launch an investigation into the conditions at the Tamms super-max prison in southern Illinois.

The Belleville News-Democrat says the investigation would take place even if Tamms is closed, a cost-saving measure proposed by Governor Pat Quinn.

The UN would look at whether solitary confinement at Tamms meets the international definition of torture. Many inmates at the prison have been held in isolation since 1998, when the prison opened. Some are there because of violence at other prisons, but many are mentally ill.

The Illinois Department of Corrections says inmates housed at Tamms can be safely incarcerated elsewhere. But the union representing prison guards says the facility should be kept open as a relief valve for violent inmates.

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