Week in Review: Dec. 30

pancreatic-cancer-tumor-pancreasThe 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

52 Weeks, 52 Faces: Obituaries Narrate Lives Lost to the Opioid Epidemic

The faces are a snapshot of the devastating opioid epidemic sweeping across the United States. Publicly acknowledging that a family member suffered from an addiction to drugs, or died of an overdose, has long been a taboo subject — one best kept secret among family and a few knowing friends. That is changing. STAT searched Legacy.com and other sources and selected excerpts from the obituaries of 52 people who died in 2016. In every case, the families of these mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, and even grandmothers decided to make their loved one’s struggle with opioids public in the death notice. Via STAT.

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CAR-T Therapy Makes Early Inroads in Treating Brain Cancer

Glioblastoma is one of the deadliest cancers — an illness that responds to few treatment options, and often poorly. But a single case study that uses an experimental immunotherapy to treat these brain tumors might give oncologists a new way to approach the disease. The therapy, called CAR-T, is controversial and has faced hurdles in clinical trials. It has shown great promise in treating blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma — but has proven challenging in treating other forms of the disease, including solid tumors. “This is the first example of CAR-T working in solid tumor cancers,” said Dr. Behnam Badie, chief of neurosurgery at City of Hope and a key investigator in the study. “In the initial treatments, I was holding my breath, waiting to get called in the middle of the night to go rescue somebody. But it’s amazing how safe it was.” Via STAT.

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Heart Failure Drug Shows Promise in First Human Trial

Heart failure patients have weakened hearts, but researchers say an experimental drug used for the first time in humans may repair heart cells and improve heart function. According to the results of a small phase 1 trial, a single intravenous infusion of the drug cimaglermin was safe and, at high doses, improved heart function for at least three months. “Right now we have many therapies that we use for heart failure, and these patients [in the study] were on all of those therapies and still had significant heart dysfunction,” said lead researcher Dr. Daniel Lenihan. He’s a professor of medicine and director of Vanderbilt University’s heart clinical research program in Nashville. Via CBS News.

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Early Alzheimer's Gene Spells Tragedy For Patients, Opportunity For Science

Ordinarily, it's difficult — if not impossible — to predict Alzheimer's. But with these families, researchers know the mutation carriers will get the disease. They also know approximately when symptoms will appear. So they can get a real-time look at how the disease develops — and can measure when the brain starts changing relative to expected onset. Perhaps most important, they can design drugs to target the disease before patients lose their memory. Via NPR.

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New Ebola Vaccine Gives 100 Percent Protection

In a scientific triumph that will change the way the world fights a terrifying killer, an experimental Ebola vaccine tested on humans in the waning days of the West African epidemic has been shown to provide 100 percent protection against the lethal disease. The vaccine has not yet been approved by any regulatory authority, but it is considered so effective that an emergency stockpile of 300,000 doses has already been created for use should an outbreak flare up again. NY Times.

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Mayo Clinic News

Why Heart Attacks are Striking Healthy Young Women

Researchers are discovering that SCAD heart attacks occur more frequently than once thought. "SCAD is a type of heart attack, but completely different than the one we normally think of," says cardiologist Dr. Sharonne Hayes of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. "It's caused by a split or tear in an otherwise healthy artery that leads to a drop in blood flow to the heart leading to a heart attack." Via NBC News.

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Mayo-Backed Vitruvian Networks Joins Blood Cancer Immunotherapy Race

Mayo Clinic Ventures partnered up with General Electric earlier this year to launch a new technology company aimed at speeding the commercialization of genomics-based personalized medical treatments. Now that startup, Vitruvian Networks Inc., has become part of a high-profile competition to bring the first blood cancer immunotherapy to market. Vitruvian Networks, which made its debut in April, was tapped this month by well-funded Los Angeles-based biotech Kite Pharma (Nasdaq: KITE) to help make its non-Hodgkin lymphoma drug candidate (known as Axicabtagene Ciloleucel) widely available to potential users once it gains hoped-for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. Via Twin Cities Business.

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Mayo Clinic Finds Surprising Results on First-Ever Test of Stem Cell Therapy to Treat Arthritis

Researchers at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida have conducted the world’s first prospective, blinded, and placebo-controlled clinical study to test the benefit of using bone marrow stem cells, a regenerative medicine therapy, to reduce arthritic pain and disability in knees. “Our findings can be interpreted in ways that we now need to test — one of which is that bone marrow stem cell injection in one ailing knee can relieve pain in both affected knees in a systemic or whole-body fashion,” says the study’s lead author, Shane Shapiro, M.D., a Mayo Clinic orthopedic physician. Via Targeted OrthoSpineNews.

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Landmark Study Published in The Lancet Shows Clear Myeloma Survival Benefit with Triple Drug Combination

This important trial compared the effectiveness of two drug regimens in patients undergoing their first round of treatment for multiple myeloma. The trial shows that a three-drug combination – known as VRd – delays recurrence and lengthens life for myeloma patients, indicating a possible new standard of care. This is a landmark study that lends clarity to frontline therapy of myeloma," said Dr. S. Vincent Rajkumar of Mayo Clinic and a co-author of the study. "Newer alternatives to VRd may be more expensive, cumbersome, or toxic. These regimens will therefore need to show superiority over VRd in randomized trials." Also worth noting, Dr. Rajkumar said, is that the VRd regimen will become even more cost effective as the drugs in this combination become generic over time. Via Yahoo! Sports.

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Mayo Clinic Minute: The Link Between Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. That's because the disease often is hidden and doesn't cause symptoms until it has spread. But for a small number of pancreatic cancer cases, one clue can help doctors find the tumor early, while it's still curable. That clue is an unexpected diagnosis of diabetes. In this Mayo Clinic Minute, reporter Vivien Williams talks to Dr. Michael Wallace about the link between pancreatic cancer and diabetes. Via Mayo Clinic News Network.

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Gina Chiri-Osmond

Gina Chiri-Osmond is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She manages public relations and media outreach. Gina has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2011. Outside of work, Gina is going for gold in volleyball at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo . . . or at small-town summer festivals.