Program 755,
  October 15, 2002


A. Making Strides in Breast Cancer Research

Narrator: This is Science Today. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month - a time when women across the nation are reminded about the prevention and early detection of the disease. It's also a time to raise awareness about breast cancer research. At the University of California, San Francisco there's a clinical an ongoing clinical trial using a drug that blocks new blood vessel growth. Dr. Laura Esserman, director of the university's Breast Cancer Center, says the field is called angiogenesis.

Esserman: What that means is, the blood vessels that support the growth of tumors. Tumors can't bet big if they don't have food and food comes from the blood. And there's specific ways in which tumors recruit the growth of blood vessels to help support them. It's like they're building roads to themselves so they can get supplies in. So the idea is, if you can block the road or destroy the roads or the bridges, that you can stop tumors from growing.

Narrator: The ultimate goal of this research is to determine whether an anti-angiogenic agent can effectively starve tumors in women with earlier stages of breast cancer. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.

B. Don't Always Count on End-of-life Decisions

Narrator: This is Science Today. Various studies have found that family members and doctors are often unaware of patient preferences when it comes to do-not-resuscitate orders or other life-and-death decisions. Peter Ditto, a professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, found this to be the case in a study of living wills, or advance directives.

Ditto: What I'm really interested in is getting sort of the psychology of advance directives. How is it that people can try to decide in advance what sort of medical treatments they would want if they're in a very serious medical condition - a state very different from the one they're in now.

Narrator: Ditto found that for the most part, advance directives did not significantly help people accurately predict patient preferences.

Ditto: The point that the research makes is that if you believe that a simple statement like that is going to communicate your wishes with somebody else, that's not a good assumption. That it's going to at least take a more elaborate process. It's an ongoing process of discussion sort of examining the reasons for people's wishes, the values that underlie their wishes.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.

C. The Possible Spread of Sudden Oak Death Syndrome

Narrator: This is Science Today. Plant biologists are working hard to learn more about a fast spreading disease called sudden oak death syndrome, which has already affected tens of thousands of trees in California and has jumped to Oregon. Researchers, including Dr. David Rizzo of the University of California, Davis, fear it may be able to spread to the Midwest and east.

Rizzo: We don't have definitive answers on how the pathogen has moved from one tree to another, but we have evidence that the fungus can be found in the soil, therefore it may be moved within a stand by people, by animals. So those are areas where we're working now that we have preliminary evidence, but the definitive evidence we're still working on that.

Narrator: In the meantime, Rizzo says it would be wise for hikers, bikers and off-road drivers to wash their shoe soles and tires after possible exposure to contaminated soil.

Rizzo: So if somebody is getting mud in the tires, before they head to an area that does not have the disease, they should probably run their car through a car wash to get the mud off their tires.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.

D. Women and Children Suffer Most from Indoor Air Pollution

Narrator: This is Science Today. Indoor air pollution from cooking fires in Third World countries, cause an estimated 3 to 4 million deaths worldwide each year. Daniel Kammen, a professor in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, says women and children are much more affected by particulate matter caused by inefficient, indoor stoves.

Kammen: Women are exposed to so much pollution in this situation because they do all of the cooking, they put their face over the fire, children who are on their backs frequently in many developing countries are also highly exposed. Children are the most vulnerable segment of the population.

Narrator: Kammen conducted field studies in Africa to demonstrate that improved, clean-burning stoves, which cost only a dollar apiece, dramatically reduce pollution levels. And now the EPA is working to get these stoves in place.

Kammen: This EPA effort will provide funds for countries who are partners with the U.S. in this effort to popularize these stoves, explain their use, basically do the process we did in this rural community on a much larger, international scale.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.

E. New Technology Tracks Hazardous Releases from the Atmosphere

Narrator: This is Science Today. Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have developed new Internet and web technology that makes it possible to predict the downwind hazard zones from radioactive and nuclear releases into the atmosphere. John Nasstrom, one of the program leaders, says they have recently added chemical and biological materials into their capability.

Nasstrom: The heart of our system, there are three-dimensional, atmospheric models. They include terrain, the land-use characteristics; they use meteorological data - we have real-time access to meteorological observations and forecasts that cover the globe.

Narrator: Those models are used to predict a three-dimensional understanding of materials in the atmosphere, including how they are spread, how they decay and hazardous air concentration levels.

Nasstrom: And that's used by decision makers to decide: Who are the affected populations? Who needs to be evacuated? Where is it safe? Where is it not safe? How many people can we be expected to have been affected by some accident or in the case of a terrorist event, some intentional terrorist act?

Narrator: For Science Today, Larissa Branin.



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