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News Briefs II

Opposition Parties May Unite in Mexican Presidential Race

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- MEXICO CITY

Struggling to end the ruling party’s unbroken 70-year grip on presidential power, Mexico’s two main opposition parties plunged into debate Monday on a surprise proposal to choose a single candidate for next year’s election.

The idea came this past weekend from Mexico City Mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, the likely nominee of the left-wing Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD. Cardenas called on all opposition parties to organize a winner-take-all primary for a candidate to challenge the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

Cardenas tacitly recognized the possibility that his party and the right-wing National Action Party, or PAN, would split the opposition vote once again, allowing the ruling party to win yet another six-year presidential term. The PRI has won several governor’s races in such circumstances over the past year.

Vicente Fox, the charismatic governor of Guanajuato state and probable PAN presidential candidate, said he was “more than willing” to enter serious discussions on the proposal. The two main opposition parties would have to put aside sharp policy differences. Several smaller parties also could join the alliance.


Breast Cancer Gene May Play Role in Prostate Cancer

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- Researchers have discovered that a gene long associated with breast cancer also plays a role in advanced prostate cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men.

Although the results, published in this month’s edition of Nature Medicine, are based on animal studies, the findings could be good news for men with prostate cancer that has recurred and no longer responds to standard drug therapy.

It could also mean good news for Genentech, the San Francisco biotechnology company that produces Herceptin, a drug that won federal approval last year for use in 25 percent to 30 percent of advanced breast cancer patients -- those whose tumors over-express a gene called HER2/neu.

University of California, Los Angeles, researchers, headed by Dr. Charles L. Sawyers, showed that the same gene, present in all normal tissue, is overexpressed in at least some advanced prostate tumors.

Based on that finding, Sawyers hopes that Herceptin may prove helpful for at least some men in the worst stages of the disease. “I think there is enough reason to plan clinical trials of Herceptin” in prostate cancer, Sawyers said. “I predict it will not work in everyone, only those that over-express the gene.”

Genentech is considering such trials. “We are definitely looking at other indications for Herceptin, including prostate cancer,” said spokesman Neal Cohen.

Last year, an estimated 184,500 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society; the disease claimed 39,200 lives, surpassed only by lung cancer in men’s cancer deaths.

Treatment typically involves removal of the prostate gland or bombarding it with radiation.