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.
Across the Globe, Our Diets Are Making Us Sicker, Report Finds
Diet and nutrition are now the biggest risk factors for people's health across the globe, even in poorer countries. That's according to a recent report published by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems Nutrition, an independent group of experts on nutrition and health. The report, which uses some recent data on what people around the world are eating, offers some good news, too. We have fewer hungry people in the world now than a couple of decades ago–only 1 in 10 people, as opposed to about 1 in 5 in 1990. And the number of stunted (a sign of chronic malnutrition) children has decreased from 39.6% to 23.8%. That means fewer people suffering and dying from insufficient food. This has been possible because of targeted projects to tackle hunger, as well as overall reductions in poverty, better education, improved health care and sanitation. Via NPR.
The Race to Create a New Class of Ovarian Cancer Drugs Heats Up
Ovarian cancer has historically been one of the harder cancers to treat—but a promising new class of drugs, called PARP inhibitors, is proving powerful in delaying the growth of tumors by preventing cancer cells from repairing themselves after they’ve been damaged by chemotherapy. In recent days, the researchers behind three PARP drug contenders threw down preliminary data during the European Society for Medical Oncology conference in Denmark. Via STAT.
World Health Organization Backs Tax on Sugary Foods and Drinks
The World Health Organization (WHO) has added its support to countries which place a "sugar tax" on soft drinks. A new report from the body found that raising prices by 20% or more results in lower consumption and "improved nutrition." The global health group has previously advised a a lower sugar intake, but stopped short of backing tax measures. Several countries, including Mexico and Hungary, already tax added sugar products. The WHO said it wants to see lower consumption of "free sugars," which it said will lower incidences of obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. Via BBC.
The Problem with Pop-Up Stem-Cell Clinics
Stem-cell science is a relatively new field. Stem cells hold great potential for medicine because of their ability to develop into different types of cells in the body, and to repair and renew tissue. But so far, the only stem cell-treatments approved for wide use in the U.S. involve transplants from bone marrow or blood for patients with certain cancers and other disorders, says Sidney Golub, Director of the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine. Meanwhile, dozens of experimental stem-cell treatments are being tested across the country in clinical trials on human subjects. “There are some really exciting developments showing great promise, but they are unproven at present,” Golub says. Via Daily Beast.
New Report Questions Value of Mammograms
A new report questioning the value of routine mammograms has generated an unusual amount of almost angry criticism from experts who say it will confuse women without adding any value to the debate. The report finds evidence that the routine use of mammograms has found many more early stage tumors that might never have hurt women. It suggests that widespread screening for breast cancer might lead to what's called overdiagnosis, causing women worry at the very least, and perhaps treatment they never needed. Via NBC News.
Mayo Clinic News
Mayo Clinic Family Mourns the Passing of Sister Generose Gervais
A towering figure in the growth and evolution of Saint Marys Hospital and Mayo Clinic passed away peacefully recently. Sister Generose Gervais was 97. Sister Generose was the administrator of Saint Marys Hospital from 1971 to 1985, and was in charge during the construction of the Mary Brigh Building with its 40 operating rooms, 130 beds, two new intensive care units and larger Emergency/Trauma Unit. She was the fifth and last Franciscan Sister to hold that role in the hospital built by the Sisters of Saint Francis in 1889 to help Dr. W. W. Mayo bring medical care to Rochester. “Sister Generose was known for her faith, her quiet leadership, her wise counsel, her dedication to patients and staff, her sense of humor, and the example of service that she lived every day,” says John Noseworthy, M.D., president and CEO, Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic was blessed by her presence for more than 60 years.” Via KTTC.
When Genetic Autopsies Go Awry
Doctors call it “sudden unexpected death,” but that doesn’t give a grieving family any answers. But that might be changing, thanks to the power of genetic tests. Mayo Clinic doctor Michael Ackerman pioneered the so-called molecular autopsy in 1999, using a DNA test to explain the sudden death of a 19-year-old woman with a previously-undiagnosed inherited heart condition. Since then, sequencing DNA has become orders of magnitude cheaper and more sophisticated. With medical examiners considering DNA tests as part of autopsy reports, the molecular autopsy has raised new ethical concerns. Via The Atlantic.
When Is a Muscle Twitch Cause for Concern?
Clinicians say almost everyone experiences muscle twitching, also called fasciculation, at one time or another—and it usually goes away on its own. In cases where twitching persists, addressing everyday factors that frequently contribute, including too much caffeine, dehydration and a lack of sleep, can limit the annoyance. “If someone’s worried their muscle twitching might be an early sign of ALS, it doesn’t hurt at all to see somebody,” says Anthony Windebank, M.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic and professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester. Experts recommend starting with a primary care doctor, who can do an initial assessment and refer the patient to a neurologist as necessary. Via U.S. News & World Report.
Mayo Researchers Win Patent for Sophisticated New ALS, Dementia Gene Test
A Mayo Clinic research team that recently announced a breakthrough in ways to research amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and an increasingly frequent type of dementia has won a patent on a powerful new genetic test for those neurodegenerative diseases. The U.S. Patent Office in late September approved an application by Mayo for a novel immunoassay targeting ALS and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), invented by members of its Neurodegenerative Diseases Lab, led by Leonard Petrucelli, chairman of the clinic’s neurology department in Jacksonville, Florida. Mayo says that not only will the new mouse model be useful for testing new drugs, but that the study findings also suggest that a drug now used to alleviate the toxicity associated with foci can prevent TDP-43 pathology as well. Via Twin Cities Business.
Mayo, MIT Awarded $9.7M Grant to Improve Brain Tumor Drug Delivery
The National Cancer Institute awarded a $9.7 million grant to Mayo Clinic and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The most common types of malignant brain tumors—brain metastases origination from cancers outside of the brain, and glioblastoma—have regions that are protected from most drugs,” said Jann Sarkaria, a co-principal investigator at Mayo. “Low-level drug exposure in these regions can promote drug resistance and that may be why there have been no new effective drug treatments for brain tumors in more than a decade.” The money will be distributed across a five-year span and go toward supporting an NCI-affiliated Physical Sciences-Oncology Center. Via Twin Cities Business.