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.
The Cancer Lottery
Tumors typically do display genetic aberrations that offer potential targets for drugs. Long before there was widespread talk about precision oncology, targeted therapy had become a major player in cancer clinics. In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug for a subset of breast cancer patients whose tumor cells displayed a particularly hyperactive version of a surface molecule known as the HER-2 receptor. Herceptin was the first targeted cancer treatment, and it was joined by two other blockbuster drugs, Gleevec (which targeted a mutation in a form of leukemia) in 2001 and Zelboraf (which targeted a mutation in melanoma) in 2011. The success of these drugs gave rise to the hope that with DNA sequencing becoming relatively cheap and accessible, the genome of any tumor could be mined for clues about how to directly attack its specific mutations. Via MIT Technology Review.
One in Six American Adults Say They Have Taken Psychiatric Drugs, Report Says
About one in six American adults reported taking at least one psychiatric drug, usually an antidepressant or an anti-anxiety medication, and most had been doing so for a year or more, according to a new analysis. The report is based on 2013 government survey data on some 242 million adults and provides the most fine-grained snapshot of prescription drug use for psychological and sleep problems to date. The most commonly used type of drug was an antidepressant like Zoloft and Celexa, followed by an anti-anxiety or sleeping pill like Xanax and Ambien. All of these drugs can have withdrawal effects, including panic attacks and sleep problems, for many people on them long term. The prescribing of most anti-anxiety pills is strongly regulated in this and other countries because the drugs can be habit forming. Via NY Times.
Finding the World’s Unknown Viruses—before They Find Us
One by one, the viruses have slipped from their hiding places in nature to threaten global populations—SARS, MERS, Zika. In each case, scientists have scrambled to identify the viruses and to develop vaccines or drugs to stop their spread. After each cri The World Health Organization has launched a project called the R&D Blueprint, to spur development of countermeasures for the diseases the agency believes pose the most critical risk, including Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever. A group of powerful players—the World Economic Forum, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust—have rallied to form an organization called the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, with the goal of finding ways to help fund the creation of vaccines that are badly needed but not likely to turn a profit for drug makers. And a pilot project that has been underway for the past seven years—called PREDICT—has discovered about 1,000 new viruses. The assessment has been the same: Countermeasures were not ready in time to help in the containment effort. Via STAT.
4 in 10 Babies Born after Zika Infection May Have Brain Defects, Researchers Say
The toll that Zika virus takes on pregnancies appears to be even higher than was previously estimated, with a newly updated study from Brazil suggesting that 42% of infants infected in the womb may have significant birth defects. When the authors factored in stillbirths and miscarriages suffered by women who had been infected with Zika, 46% of pregnancies were affected. Microcephaly—a condition in which babies are born with smaller than normal heads—was seen in only about 3% of babies in the study. Via STAT.
Just 40% of Americans Have Flu Shot This Season
Only about two out of five Americans had gotten this season's flu shot as of early November, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. About 37% of children between 6 months and 17 years old have gotten the flu vaccine this year. And approximately 41% of adults aged 18 and older have received the shot. The overall rate is similar to the vaccination rate at the same time last year, the CDC noted. Via Yahoo! News.
Mayo Clinic News
The Rise in C-Sections Could Be Changing Human Evolution
An intriguing new study out of Austria suggests that as C-sections have become more common, they might also be altering the course of human evolution. More babies are being born with heads that are too big for their mothers’ pelvises which leads, the theory goes, to more C-sections. And yet some OB-GYNs don’t think the prediction is all that far-fetched. “It seems like a very reasonable theory,” Mari Charisse Trinidad, M.D., an obstetrician at Mayo Clinic, told The Huffington Post. “Look at obesity rates in our country and worldwide. As our weights are increasing, so are our babies’ weights. It’s not a far-off proposition that if you have bigger babies, they won’t fit as easily through the pelvis. And if you have pelvic disproportion, C-section is the safest way to deliver.” Via Huffington Post.
Give Blood This Holiday Season
It’s known as the giving season and this year officials are asking you to think about others and give blood. Mayo Clinic tells us they constantly are looking for donors for any type of blood, and this season, you never know who may need a live-saving transfusion. Just one unit of blood can help multiple people and can also save lives. Plus, it doesn’t take long. Appointments last around an hour, and in the end, you get a big cookie. Via KIMT.
Mayo Researchers Land Patent for Non-Invasive Pancreatic Cancer Test
The same Mayo Clinic research team that developed the Cologuard DNA-based stool test for colorectal cancer has also been working on similar technology for the early detection of pancreatic cancer. After encouraging early studies, they have now landed a patent for their methods. David Ahlquist, M.D., a Mayo Clinic medical professor and consultant in its division of gastroenterology and hepatology, led the team that, late in the last decade, developed the genomic science behind the Cologuard test, which Mayo licensed in 2009 to Exact Sciences Corp. (NASDAQ: EXAS) of Madison, Wisconsin. Now, in a patent dated November 29, Ahlquist and Mayo colleagues John Kisiel, M.D.; William Taylor; Tracy Yab; and Douglas Mahoney were also granted rights to their method of “Detecting Neoplasm,” through which bio-samples, such as those collected from stool, can be analyzed for pancreatic cancer-related DNA biomarkers. Via Twin Cities Business.
Mayo Clinic Adds Wings to Its Transport Fleet
Mayo Clinic's scope of operations is expected to roughly double by 2034 as part of the ambitious $6.5 billion Destination Medical Center project. Flying just below the radar of that explosive growth—up to 45,000 new employees in Rochester—is an increased need for medical transportation. There's where the shiny, new Beechcraft King Air 350C parked in Mayo's renovated hangar at the Rochester International Airport comes into play. Mayo recently unveiled a customized $8.5 million plane to transport high-risk patients to its facilities around the country. It's the only such medical plane operating in the Midwest and the specialized 52-inch cargo door—meant to accommodate stretchers—is believed to be the only one in existence in the Lower 48 states. Via Post-Bulletin.
Innovation Guides Less Invasive Cancer Treatment at Mayo Clinic
What if you could undergo a cancer treatment that would allow you to walk out of the hospital the next day with just three small adhesive bandages to show for it? Although this may sound too good to be true, for some patients, including those whose cancer has spread to their spine, it is reality. Ablation, the freezing or superheating of tissue―in this case cancerous tumors―is one option for many patients seeking cancer treatments. Via Mayo Clinic News Network.