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.
Proton-Beam Therapy for Cancer Gets Renewed Attention
The technology has been around since the 1980s, but until recently demand was muted due to high cost and limited evidence that it makes financial sense. Proton-beam therapy centers can cost up to $200 million to build and are more expensive to operate than traditional radiotherapy. While that higher price tag is justified for treating childhood cancers and a small number of adult cases, such as tumors in the base of the skull, the jury is still out on its cost-effectiveness for most common cancers. For some countries, that meant it was cheaper to send patients abroad for treatment: since 2008, the U.K. has sent its patients to centers in the U.S., which has led the way in adopting proton-beam therapy. Via Wall Street Journal.
Treating Opioid Addiction with a Drug Raises Hope and Controversy
Scientists and doctors say the case is clear: The best way to tackle the country's opioid epidemic is to get more people on medications that have been proven in studies to reduce relapses and, ultimately, overdoses. Yet, only a fraction of the more than 4 million people believed to abuse prescription painkillers or heroin in the U.S. are being given what's called medication-assisted treatment. Methadone and buprenorphine, two of the drugs used for treatment, are themselves opioids. A phrase you often hear about medication-assisted treatment is that it's merely replacing one drug with another. While doctors and scientists strongly disagree with that characterization, it's a view that's widespread in recovery circles. Via NPR.
Exercise Cuts Cancer Risk, Huge Study Finds
Exercise for cancer prevention just got a big boost from international research involving 1.4 million people, published in JAMA Internal Medicine. A connection emerged between comparatively higher levels of physical activity and lower risk of developing 13 cancers types of cancer. The strongest effect was seen for cancer of the esophagus, with 42% lower risk. Liver cancer risk was 27% lower among more physically active participants, and the risk for lung cancer was 26% lower. A 20% lower risk for a type of leukemia and a 10% lower risk of breast cancer were also seen among more active people. Overall, a higher level of activity was tied to a 7% lower risk of developing any type of cancer. Via U.S. News & World Report.
Defective "Breast Cancer" Genes Aren’t Just Dangerous for Women. They’re Also Linked to Aggressive Cancer in Men.
Many women are acutely aware of the stark dangers posed by mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes—the kind that prompted actress Angelina Jolie to have her breasts and ovaries removed preemptively. Few men, however, know that the same genetic defects can have deadly consequences for them as well as their children. New research could prompt a major rethinking. BRCA mutations were already linked to prostate cancer, and a growing body of studies suggests they might play an even bigger role than early findings indicated. Men with these mutations are more likely than non-carriers to contract aggressive, lethal prostate cancer, to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage, and to ultimately die of the disease, researchers say. Via Washington Post.
If You Get Colon Cancer, Your Prognosis Depends Partly on Where It Started
People with cancer that starts on the left side of their colon live significantly longer than those with right-side tumors, according to a new study that provides insights into how best to match drugs to patients with advanced disease. The retrospective analysis involved a federally funded clinical trial with more than 1,100 colon-cancer patients. Overall, it found that those with left-side tumors survived for a median of 33.3 months, while those with right-side tumors survived for 19.4 months. Via Washington Post.
Mayo Clinic News
White House Goes with Its Gut, Backs New Microbiome Project
Anyone who watched "The Martian" learned that crops cannot grow without partner organisms in the soil. Now, the White House wants to encourage research into the microbiome: the microbes living in and on animals, the dirt, oceans, and the atmosphere. The Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine says it will open a $1.4 million Microbiome Clinic offering whole-genome sequencing, checking patients to see if their bodies harbor antibiotic-resistant "superbugs," and offering fecal transplants—the experimental new way of cleaning out killer Clostridium infections with transplants of "healthy" poop from donors. Via NBC News.
VA, Mayo Ramp up Telemedicine to Increase Patient Access, Satisfaction
One of the most maligned health care systems in the United States and one of the most respected ones have something in common. They’re both using telemedicine to improve patient care and save money. Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic treats 1.3 million patients a year in 140 countries, said Mayo CEO and President John Noseworthy, M.D., “so we have an awful lot of opportunities to use telemedicine going forward.” Telemedicine can help patients and health care systems to save money as well as reduce fragmentation in health care delivery. “The future is ours to create; it’s yours to create,” Dr. Noseworthy said. “You’re doing remarkable things.” Via MedCity News.
Looking beyond the Obvious Superfoods
Donald Hensrud, M.D., M.P.H., Medical Director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program in Rochester, said people should try to focus on "patterns of eating" rather than specific foods themselves. To focus on the blueberry—as one of his patients did, going so far as to ask how many to eat each day—means excluding the benefits of other berries out there. Variety means obtaining different nutrients, as each food has its own nutritional profile, Dr. Hensrud says. Via Chicago Tribune.
Immune Cells May Act as "Trash Compactors" to Fight Alzheimer’s
In the battle against Alzheimer’s disease, inflammation may be an ally, not a foe, a new study has found. Immune cells in the brain previously blamed for Alzheimer’s actually protect against the disease by corralling the damage-causing amyloid plaques, according to the Yale University study, published in the journal Neuron. Richard Caselli, M.D., a Professor of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic and Clinical Core Director for the Arizona Alzheimer’s Disease Center, called the study groundbreaking. “It’s cool; it’s putting us in the opposite direction of what some of the common wisdom has assumed,” he said. “It excites me because all the old directions have been failing miserably.” Via Washington Post.
Minnesota Lynx Score a Win with Kids' Captains
When the Minnesota Lynx took on the Washington Mystics in a preseason game at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, the event had Mayo Clinic written all over it—including on the jerseys of the reigning WNBA champions. Mayo is the marquee sponsor of the Lynx, and putting Mayo's name on a team uniform was a first. "It pushed us a bit out of our comfort zone," Mayo President and CEO John Noseworthy, M.D., said at a reception before the game. "But it has been great. It's something very special to come to a Lynx game and see so many families with young kids, especially young girls, wearing Mayo Clinic jerseys." Via Mayo Clinic News Network.