Roundup: Guilt-free stem cells, the trials of Avandia, sponsor research bias, news from ASCO, and more

Flip switch for stem cells — Three research teams reported a technique for “reprogramming” skin cells into embryonic stem cells, those primordial bits of protoplasm that can propagate themselves indefinitely and, under the right conditions, transform themselves into any type of cell in the body. Deriving embryonic stem cells normally requires destroying an embryo — the main reason research with the cells remains limited, as does federal support for the work.

Senate approves new drug-safety powers for FDA

The Senate passed a bill that requires the FDA to monitor the safety of drugs more rigorously once they’re on the market, but punted on other proposals that would have allowed the legal import of drugs from other countries and bolstered the agency’s ability to regulate drug advertising aimed at consumers.

Roundup: No-nukes cancer treatment, E. coli vaccines, ovarian-tissue banking, more

No nukes in lymphoma treatment — Two innovative biotech drugs that target tumor cells for destruction by tiny radioactive particles are struggling in the marketplace, in part because cancer doctors are simply too specialized to make proper use of them. The drugs — Zevalin (pictured at left), from Biogen Idec, and Bexxar, now produced by GlaxoSmithKline — consist of bioengineered antibodies that carry fragments of radioactive material directly to lymphoma tumors in the bloodstream, where the localized radiation can kill cancer cells with fewer side effects than traditional radiation or chemotherapy.