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Researchers have identified the first effective treatment for sickle cell anemia, the fatal blood disorder that almost exclusively affects black Americans, the National Institutes of Health announced today. The drug, hydroxyurea, already in use as a cancer treatment, reduced sickle cell attacks so dramatically that NIH ended its trials four months early and today notified 5,000 doctors of the treatment. There is still no cure for the disease, but the new treatment will ameliorate the painful symptoms of sickle cell anemia, which often lead to hospitalization. About 8 percent of black Americans carry the gene that causes sickle cell, an inherited disease common among people with ancestors from Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, that causes the hemoglobin inside red blood cells to clump together.