Week in Review: Dec. 25

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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.


Industry News

New Diagnostic Tools for Prostate Cancer 

Dan Woska was weighing his treatment options after he was found to have prostate cancer two years ago when a friend mentioned a new genomic test that could gauge how lethal his tumor was. The test, called Oncotype DX, which looks at the expression of 17 genes in a tumor, cost about $4,000 and was not covered by Mr. Woska’s insurance. But through a patient assistance program, the company that created it, Genomic Health, ran it for him free, using a tiny grain of tissue left over from his biopsy. The results indicated there was an 81 percent probability that Mr. Woska’s tumor would not spread beyond the prostate. On an aggressiveness scale of zero to 100, the tumor was an indolent 15. Via NY Times.

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Government Panel Backs Preventive Statin Use by Adults 40 and Over

Aligning with heart health groups and other experts, a U.S. government-backed panel now suggests that adults as young as 40 without a previous heart attack or stroke may need to start on a low or moderate dose of cholesterol-lowering drugs. People ages 40 to 75 with at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and a 10 percent or greater risk of heart attack or stroke over the next decade should take statin drugs, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends. Via FOX News. 

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FDA Lifts Ban on Blood Donations By Gay and Bisexual Men 

The Food and Drug Administration is relaxing a 32-year-old ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. The FDA announced that it was replacing a lifetime prohibition with a new policy that will allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, but only if they have not had sexual contact with another man for at least one year. "Relying on sound scientific evidence, we've taken great care to ensure the revised policy continues to protect our blood supply," said Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. Via NPR.

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One-Third of Incurable Cancer Patients Continue to Work, Study Finds

More than one-third of people with incurable cancer continue to work despite their fatal illness, a new study reports. What's more, they are likely to stay on the job until they grow too sick to keep going, the researchers found. The severity of a cancer patient's symptoms is the most important factor in whether he or she will stop working, researchers reported Dec. 21 in the journal Cancer. Via U.S. News & World Report.

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Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer May Become Possible  

A new version of a screening test for ovarian cancer may reduce deaths from the disease, but it needs more study to determine whether the benefits hold up, researchers reported. The findings come from a 14-year study of more than 200,000 women in Britain, published in The Lancet. “We need to follow up to confirm that this is absolutely significant throughout,” said Dr. Usha Menon, an author of the Lancet article and head of the gynecological cancer center at University College London. She said, “This is almost there, but not yet.” Via NY Times.

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Mayo Clinic News

New Drug Used at Mayo Clinic Helps Fight Advanced Forms of Skin Cancer 

A new drug is now being used at the Mayo Clinic that can help fight advanced forms of melanoma. Keytruda is an FDA approved drug that enhances a patient's immune system to help fight cancer. Mayo Clinic was among the first to use the drug in clinical trials and now hundreds of Mayo patients have received the treatment. It's the same drug that former President Jimmy Carter was administered to fight his melanoma. Mayo Clinic oncologist Roxana Dronca was a principle investigator for Mayo Clinic during the drug's clinical trails. She says one in ten patients see no trace of cancer after the procedure. Via KTTC.

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OptumLabs CEO Describes How Big Data Improves Health Care

OptumLabs is having success with its research projects in both improving cost and quality in health care, according to a report in the Star Tribune. In an interview with the Minnesota newspaper, Paul Bleicher, M.D., CEO of OptumLabs, talked about some of the research being done at the Boston-based health care innovation center that launched in 2013. Two studies using data from the Mayo Clinic may change the way health care is delivered, Bleicher said. Via Fierce Health Payer.

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Letter: How Best to Test and Regulate Medical Tests

I was involved with Mayo Medical Laboratories from its early days as one of many scientists who created the tests discussed in the article. Doctors and hospitals came to Mayo begging for these tests because they weren’t available elsewhere, not because someone figured out that physicians or hospitals could be charged for these tests. The tests in question aren’t the simple lab tests provided by the diagnostics industry, which didn’t offer them because they were low volume and thus too costly to develop and offer. Via Wall Street Journal.

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Racial Disparities Among Genes of Colon Cancer Patients

Depending on the patient’s race, the genes of colon cancer may differ, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic analyzed the genes of more than 3,300 stage III colon cancer patients in order to determine if racial disparities in colon cancer outcomes persist even after controlling for clinical and pathological variables. Via MD Magazine.

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Mayo Clinic Minute: Inside the Mayo Clinic Biobank

2015 brought a milestone for a Mayo Clinic project designed to push the pace of disease research. The Mayo Clinic Biobank reached its goal of enrolling 50,000 patients, creating a robust new tool for researchers. Jeff Olsen takes us inside the bank in this Mayo Clinic Minute. 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.