Week in Review: June 5

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.


Turning a Virus Against Cancer

The virus that causes cold sores can be used to shrink — or even obliterate — melanoma tumors, according to a new study that relied on two dozen Minnesota patients with the potentially deadly skin cancer. Patients receiving injections of the modified virus were more likely to remain cancer-free after treatment, and those with certain stage 3 and 4 melanomas were less likely to die in subsequent years, said Dr. Thomas Amatruda, a cancer specialist at Minnesota Oncology and a study author. “You see (tumors) shrinking week after week,” he said. Via Star Tribune.

Devious Defecator’ Case Tests Genetics Law 

Seven years ago, Congress prohibited employers and insurers from discriminating against people with genes that increase their risks for costly diseases, but the case that experts believe is the first to go to trial under the law involves something completely different: an effort by an employer to detect employee wrongdoing with genetic sleuthing. Amy Totenberg, the federal district judge in Atlanta who is hearing the case, called it the mystery of the devious defecator. Via NY Times. 

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Cancer Trials Aim to Shore Up 'Precision Medicine's' Base of Evidence

Officials of the National Cancer Institute joined cancer scientists on Monday to announce the launch of three ambitious clinical trials designed to bolster research undergirding President Obama's precision medicine initiative. The national trials are expected to help clarify whether and how precision medicine -- also called personalized or individualized medicine -- can improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer by tailoring therapies to the unique genetic makeup of individual patients and their malignancies. Via LA Times.

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U.S. Melanoma Rate is Now Double What it Was 30 Years Ago

The incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has doubled in the U.S. in the last 30 years and is on track to remain high unless Americans take more precautions to protect themselves from ultraviolet radiation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Via LA Times.

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Scientists Grow First Bio Limb In Lab

Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston have grown the fist bio rat limb with veins and muscles. According to the findings from MGH, the scientists believe this is one of the first steps towards developing bioartificial replacement limbs that could be used for human transplantation. Harald Ott, M.D., senior author of the findings and MGH Department of Surgery and the Center for Regenerative Medicine and Assistant Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, said the biological nature of our limbs makes building a functional biological limb replacement a challenge. Via Forbes.

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A Fast-Growing Medical Lab Tests Anti-Kickback Law  

Fast-growing Virginia laboratory has collected hundreds of millions of dollars from Medicare while using a strategy that is now under regulatory scrutiny: It paid doctors who sent it patients' blood for testing. Prescribing the Plavix test routinely to patients "is not something we would endorse," says Allan Jaffe, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist. It is appropriate only for patients with blood-clot risk whom doctors want to treat with the drug, he says. Via Wall Street Journal.

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Mayo Clinic Researchers Determine That Use of High Definition Optical Technology Enables Physicians to Identify Precancerous Polyps Immediately

High definition optical technology is reaching the point where gastroenterologists are able to identify pre-cancerous polyps with 96% accuracy during colonoscopies, according to a recent study conducted at the Mayo Clinic. Pathologists will want to pay close attention to the published findings of this study. That’s because GI biopsies represent a significant proportion of specimens referred to anatomic pathologists. Via Dark Daily.

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Study: Many Cancer Patients Could Be Spared Brain Radiation

A major study could change care for many of the hundreds of thousands of people each year who have cancer that spreads to the brain from other sites. Contrary to conventional wisdom, radiation therapy to the whole brain did not improve survival, and it harmed memory, speech and thinking skills, doctors found. "This is the classic question: Which is worse, the disease or the treatment?" said one study leader, Dr. Jan Buckner of the Mayo Clinic. Radiation helped control the cancer, "but at the cost of cognitive decline." Via AP.

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Medicine Shows Growing Potential to Repair and Regenerate Body Parts

The idea of the body healing itself may be close to making a huge leap forward. Much closer than we think. The rapidly evolving field of regenerative medicine—including stem cells, 3-D printing and bioengineering, among other technologies—is helping repair, and even regenerate, body parts and tissues damaged by disease, trauma or age. “Regenerative medicine is not trying to create the bionic man but to harness the healing powers of the human body and buttress them,” says Andre Terzic, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine in Rochester, Minn. That means treating chronic or degenerative ailments and replacing failing organs. In the U.S. alone, more than 120,000 people are on organ-transplant waiting lists. Via Wall Street Journal.

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Keep Stress Out of Summer Vacation

You may not think that summer and stress go together, but they often do. Routines change frequently, and downtime can lead to complaining and sibling squabbles. Summertime events, such as graduations, family reunions and vacations, come with their own set of stressors. So, what can you do to stress less and have more fun this summer? Dixie Jackson, behavioral health specialist at Mayo Clinic Health System, offers a few time management tips and stress relievers to help you and your family enjoy the summer. Via Mayo Clinic News Network.

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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.