Week in Review: May 1

The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories news, and upcoming events.

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HCV Linked to Higher Cancer Risk 

People with hepatitis C (HCV) appear to be more prone to cancer -- not just liver tumors -- than those without the infection, a researcher said here. In a retrospective analysis of medical records, those with HCV were more than twice as likely to have any of a range of common cancers, according to Anders Nyberg, M.D., of Kaiser Permanente Southern California in San Diego. Via MedPage Today.

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Obama Proposes That Medicare Be Given the Right to Negotiate the Cost of Drugs

Embedded in President Obama’s budget request to Congress is a paradox. He proposes a major new initiative to develop drugs tailored to the genetic characteristics of individual patients, but he expresses deep concern about the costs of such specialty medicines for consumers and for the Medicare program. Via NY Times. 

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As Celiac and Gluten Sensitivities Gain Prominence, Drug Companies Race to Find Treatments

Pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop the first drugs for celiac disease, which researchers say is much more common than previously thought. No drugs are expected to reach the market until 2018 at the earliest, but a couple of them have shown hints of promise in small clinical trials and might soon advance to the final stage of testing. With that in mind, the Food and Drug Administration held a daylong public workshop recently to discuss something it has not had to ponder before: How to measure the effectiveness of celiac disease drugs in clinical trials. Via NY Times.

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World’s First Viable Malaria Vaccine Shows Success in Trials

Malaria is present in over 100 countries and threatens half of the world's population. The results of final clinical trials of the first viable malaria vaccine show it offers partial protection against malaria for up to four years. The vaccine is called RTS,S and has been developed over two decades by GlaxoSmithKline and a non-profit organization funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Via TIME.

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Ovarian Cancer: We Need Better Access to BRCA Testing

There is innovative work being done to combat ovarian cancer, which women have a one in 50 chance of developing, but as yet there is no accurate test for early diagnosis. Dr. Pramod Srivastava, Director of the University of Connecticut's Neag Comprehensive Cancer Centre, is leading the team at the Department of Immunology which has launched the first human genomics-driven clinical trial of ovarian cancer. Via Telegraph UK.

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Researchers Identify Molecular Switch for Protein That Causes HER2-Positive Breast Cancer

Herceptin has been touted as a wonder drug for women with HER2-positive breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease that is fueled by excess production of the HER2 protein. However, not all of these patients respond to the drug, and many who do respond eventually acquire resistance. A team of researchers led by Mayo Clinic has found a promising way to circumvent this obstacle. They identified a small site in the HER2 protein that enables it to form a molecular switch that sets off a cascade of events that turn normal cells cancerous. Via News Medical.

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Mayo Clinic, Exact Sciences Team IDs Methylated DNA Markers to Differentiate GI Cancers  

In a poster presentation at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Philadelphia, John Kisiel of the Mayo Clinic shared how he and his collaborators at Mayo and Exact identified and used a set of methylated DNA markers to distinguish between different types of GI cancers with an accuracy of around 88 percent using tissue samples and 74 percent using plasma sample. They hope their research has laid the groundwork to develop a blood- or stool-based test to noninvasively screen patients for GI or other types of cancer without prior knowledge of which organ is affected. To that end, the group is currently planning corroborative studies using a larger number of blood samples and examining several other cancer types, both in the GI tract and in other parts of the body, Kisiel told GenomeWeb. Via GenomeWeb.

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Researchers Identify Risk Factors for Development of Pancreatic Cancer

A team of international researchers developed a profile identifying risk factors for malignancy progression in intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms of the pancreas. “The factors we found that increase risk of pancreatic cancer now allow us to separate patients as either low or high risk. High-risk patients can then be scanned and biopsied more frequently or can opt for surgery, but low-risk patients don’t need such surveillance,” Michael B. Wallace, M.D., MPH, from Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., said in a press release. Via Healio Gastroenterology.

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Genetic Testing Moves Into World Of Employee Health 

Big companies in the U.S. are considering blending genetic testing with coaching on nutrition and exercise to help workers lose weight and improve their health before serious conditions like diabetes or heart disease develop. However, in addition to employee concerns, there are questions about whether genetic testing can be helpful in dealing with metabolic syndrome. Mayo Clinic endocrinologist Dr. Michael Jensen says, as far as he knows, genetic testing isn't used as part of care. He said genetic factors linked to obesity are hard to analyze, and more than 95 percent of weight gain is tied to factors like diet or exercise. Via AP.

Mayo Clinic Doctors Getting Close to a Blood Test for Cancer

Doctors may soon be able to easily find cancer anywhere in the body. Researchers at Mayo Clinic report success in identifying the source of cancer in patients' gastrointestinal tracts by looking at DNA markers from tumors. “What’s exciting about our discovery is that it allows us to stop thinking about screening organs and start thinking about screening people,” said Mayo Clinic's Dr. John Kisiel. “As far as we are aware, this is the first series of experiments that has ever shown this concept.” Via Consumer Affairs.

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Kelley Schreiber

Kelley Schreiber is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She is the principle editor and writer of Insights and leads social media and direct marketing strategy. Kelley has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2013. Outside of work, you can find Kelley running, traveling, playing with her new kitten, and exploring new foods.