Week in Review: May 19

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

Blockbuster Cancer Drug Shows Surprising Promise in Treating Severe Asthma

A blockbuster cancer drug may have a surprising new use: It’s showing real promise in treating severe asthma. That may help researchers better understand the basic biology of the chronic condition—and develop new medications, according to a small proof-of-principle study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The trial studied imatinib, known commonly under the brand name Gleevec, in 62 patients with severe and difficult-to-treat asthma. Imatinib is a chemotherapy used to treat leukemia and other cancers. Imatinib has been found, in mice, to inhibit the growth of mast cells, which are a type of white blood cell that are found in the airways of severe asthmatics. Via STAT.

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Earlier Menopause Puts Women at Greater Risk of Heart Failure, Study Shows

Women who start the menopause earlier have a greater risk of being taken to hospital with heart failure, researchers have found. The U.S.-based study also revealed that women who have never given birth have more than a two-fold increase in the risk of a common type of the condition, known as diastolic heart failure, compared with women who have children. The authors say the new study flags up the importance of looking at how factors such as pregnancy and reproductive period are related to cardiovascular health. “Those are actually factors that can influence a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease, including congestive heart failure,” said Nisha Parikh, co-author of the research from the University of California, San Francisco. Via The Guardian.

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Rare Superbug Strain Found in Houston

A type of bacteria that's resistant to many widely used antibiotics is unusually common among people in Houston, new research reveals. The superbug, known as Klebsiella pneumoniae, is particularly prevalent in this city of 6 million people, according to scientists. "Finding the otherwise uncommon strain in our city was a very surprising discovery," said the study's senior author, Dr. James Musser. He is chair of pathology and genomic medicine at Houston Methodist Hospital. "We urgently need to identify potential vaccine targets or other new treatments, and develop new and rapid diagnostic techniques," he said in a hospital news release. Via CBS News.

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Racial and Ethnic Disparities Persist in Sudden Infant Deaths

American Indian and Alaska Native families are much more likely to have an infant die suddenly and unexpectedly, and that risk has remained higher than in other ethnic groups since public health efforts were launched to prevent sudden infant death syndrome in the 1990s. African-American babies also face a higher risk, a study finds. American Indians and Alaska Natives had a rate of 177.6 sudden, unexplained infant deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013 (down from 237.5 per 100,000 in 1995), compared to 172.4 for non-Hispanic blacks (down from 203), 84.5 for non-Hispanic whites (down from 93), 49.3 for Hispanics (down from 62.7) and 28.3 for Asians and Pacific Islanders (down from 59.3). The declines were statistically significant only among non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders. Via NPR.

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Health Incident Command Team Works to Prevent Measles Spread

An incident command team from the Minnesota Department of Health is overseeing a coordinated effort to stop the spread of measles, which this year is the state's worst since 1990. The team has been meeting daily to monitor new cases, review infection control efforts and coordinate with local health officials. The outbreak has grown to 54 cases. The Star Tribune says the health department team, which includes about two dozen members, has identified 7,000 people exposed to the virus at child care centers, three schools and about 20 health care settings. A low vaccination rate among Somalis has contributed to the spread of the disease in child care centers. In the past four weeks, nearly 1,600 Somali children have been vaccinated. That's up from just 140 in the month before the outbreak. Via U.S. News & World Report.

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Mayo Clinic News

Few Doctors Discuss Cancer Costs with Patients, Study Finds

Cancer patients are three times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people without cancer are, but many doctors are not having the conversations that might help prevent this and sometimes don't know the cost themselves, the results suggest. "That would not occur in any other industry I can think of" where a service or product is sold, said the study leader, Rahma Warsame, M.D., of Mayo Clinic. The study has some limitations—it's not nationwide, and it includes newly diagnosed patients, where cost is most likely to come up, as well as others further along in treatment who may have discussed this earlier. But the larger point is clear, Dr. Warsame said: The "financial toxicity" of treatments that can cost more than $100,000 a year is growing, and talks about that aren't happening enough. Via Associated Press.

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Mayo Clinic Lab Launches Clinical Mate-Pair Sequencing Test for Balanced Rearrangements

The Mayo Clinic's Laboratory Medicine and Pathology Department has taken a step towards making next-generation sequencing a more routine aspect of clinical cytogenetics. Last week, Mayo Clinic announced that the Laboratory Medicine and Pathology Department's reference lab, Mayo Medical Laboratories, will now offer a clinical version of a mate-pair sequencing-based chromosomal breakpoint-detection test, developed in partnership with the Mayo Clinic's Center for Individualized Medicine. The reference lab performs clinical tests and pathology services for thousands of health care centers around the world that will now have access to the test. Via GenomeWeb.

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Study Looks at Parkinson's Effect on Life Span

People with brain diseases such as Parkinson's and dementia with Lewy bodies die about two years earlier compared with people who don't have these conditions, a new study suggests. The report provides new clues about the survival of patients with degenerative brain diseases, researchers at the Mayo Clinic said. "Our results may be helpful to guide clinicians counseling patients and caregivers," Rodolfo Savica, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues wrote in the report published May 15 in JAMA Neurology. The study initially looked at all residents of Minnesota's Olmsted County. The investigators then compared survival rates between 461 people with certain degenerative brain diseases and 452 healthy people in the general population. Via HealthDay.

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Skin Cancer on the Rise

Researchers at Mayo Clinic say new diagnoses for two types of skin cancer increased in recent years. The results have the study’s senior author arguing for sunscreen use—every day, year-round on all exposed skin. Christian Baum, M.D., a Mayo Clinic dermatologist and the study’s senior author says the damage accumulates. “Eventually, those blistering sunburns of your youth and hot, reddened skin, and peeling shoulders of your adulthood can add up to one or more skin cancers.” Via Kare 11.

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Some Pain Medicines May Increase Heart Attack Risk after Surgery

There's more research pointing to an increased risk of heart attack when taking over-the-counter pain medications, especially in the first week after surgery. In a McGill University study published recently in the British Medical Journal, researchers found that post-surgery use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is associated with a significant risk of acute myocardial infarction. 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.