Week in Review: June 26

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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Health Mergers Could Cut Consumer Options

The nation’s biggest health insurers, which are pursuing a series of potential megamergers, have market overlaps that could damp competition in sectors such as private Medicare plans, an analysis of state and federal data by The Wall Street Journal has found. The board of Cigna Corp. on Sunday rejected a $47.5 billion bid from Anthem Inc. that was disclosed on Saturday. Aetna Inc. has made an offer for Humana Inc. in recent days. Those deals, if completed, would shrink the current top five insurers to a powerful big three, each with revenue on paper of more than $100 billion. Meantime, the largest player by revenue, UnitedHealth Group Inc., has recently made a takeover approach to Aetna. Via Wall Street Journal.

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New Formula Aims to Help Weigh Value of Cancer Treatments 

A leading oncology group has developed a formula designed to help doctors and patients weigh the value of cancer treatments, in the latest example of rising concern over the price of new drugs. The American Society of Clinical Oncology published a template for assessing new treatments based on the benefits and side effects seen in clinical trials and on the cost for individual patients. The formula is an initial step toward producing software-based tools that doctors and patients can use in deciding among treatment options for the disease, ASCO said. Via Wall Street Journal. 

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Smartphones Harmful for People with Pacemakers

People with pacemaker should keep a safe distance from smartphones to avoid unwanted painful shocks or pauses in function, a new study has warned. "Pacemakers can mistakenly detect electromagnetic interference (EMI) from smartphones as a cardiac signal, causing them to briefly stop working," said Dr Carsten Lennerz, first author and cardiology resident in the Clinic for Heart and Circulatory Diseases, from the German Heart Centre. Via Business Standard.

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Pursuit of Cash Taints Promise of Gene Tests 

Dr. Scott Wilson often participated in medical studies, so the one being proposed by the New Orleans laboratory Renaissance RX seemed reasonable. An assistant would swab inside the cheeks of qualified patients and send the samples off to the company, which was doing research in the fast-growing arena of personalized genetic medicine. Dr. Wilson signed on to what was supposed to be one of the largest and most definitive studies of its kind. In exchange, he and other doctors would be paid $75 for every patient they enrolled and tracked. Via NY Times.

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Health Panel Recommends Cautious Approach to Meningitis B Vaccine

A panel of health experts stopped short of recommending that all American adolescents and young adults be vaccinated against a dangerous strain of meningitis that has caused outbreaks at Princeton University and the University of California campus in Santa Barbara, opting instead to let doctors decide whether to give the vaccine. Via NY Times.

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Can Epigenetics Stop Late-Stage Cancer? 

A new study from the Mayo Clinic hints at a promising treatment for late-stage cancer patients—but a real breakthrough could be years away. Just when you thought you understood genetics, researchers have shown up with a new term that sounds sort of like the old term but isn't. Meet epigenetics—the non-DNA way things are inherited. Via The Daily Beast.

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Mayo Clinic Harnesses Proton Power 

Until this week, Mayo Clinic had tested its $180 million proton beam accelerator only on water, a cadaver, and cuts of meat donated by Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe in Rochester. But Monday, with a turn of a safety key and a press of a “beam on” button, radiation therapist Rebecca Keller sent positively charged protons through a series of powerful magnets, accelerating them to 60 percent of the speed of light, and focused them straight at the bottle cap-sized tumor in the brain of ­Ashley Sullivan. Physicists and cancer specialists crowded over Keller’s computer in the control room of Mayo’s new proton beam center to watch protons pepper the tumor. Via Star Tribune.

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Mayo Clinic, Translational Genomics Part of Precision Medicine Trials for Metastatic Melanoma

The Mayo Clinic has teamed with Translational Genomics Research Institute to help launch a multi-institutional, national study in precision medicines to treat BRAF wild-type metastatic melanoma. “This study is unique in offering more than 20 different treatment options in a single trial,” Alan Bryce, M.D., Mayo Clinic investigator for the trial, said in a press release. Via Healio Dermatology.

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Could Fitbit’s Wearables Transform Health Care?

Remember when wearing a fitness tracker labeled you a geek or a nerd? Well, don't tell anyone, but we're now living in the age of the nerd. According to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, over 20 percent of Americans own a fitness tracker. And another 80 percent are familiar with at least one wearable health device on the market. Dr. David Cook, an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, is one of a number of physicians who believe that the data from trackers like Fitbit could transform medical care. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Dr. Cook, along with his colleagues, uses Fitbit's wristband with his cardiac-surgery patients. Via Motley Fool.

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Mayo Clinic Infectious Diseases Expert Comments on Measles

Recent outbreaks of measles in various parts of the world have public health officials concerned. Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist Dr. Pritish Tosh says worldwide, 150,000 children die of measles each year, and the recent outbreaks in the United States have happened because people have opted to not have their children vaccinated. 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.