Week in Review: July 14

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

FDA Panel Recommends Approval for Gene-Altering Leukemia Treatment

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel opened a new era in medicine, unanimously recommending that the agency approve the first-ever treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own cells to fight cancer, transforming them into what scientists call “a living drug” that powerfully bolsters the immune system to shut down the disease. If the FDA accepts the recommendation, which is likely, the treatment will be the first gene therapy ever to reach the market. Others are expected. Researchers and drug companies have been engaged in intense competition for decades to reach this milestone. Novartis is now poised to be the first. Its treatment is for a type of leukemia, and it is working on similar types of treatments in hundreds of patients for another form of the disease, as well as multiple myeloma and an aggressive brain tumor. Via NY Times.

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New Drug Restores Memories in Brain-Damaged Mice

For the first time, scientists have reversed memory and learning deficits in mice following traumatic brain injuries. This new research could someday lead to treatments for head trauma and debilitating cognitive diseases. More than 2 million Americans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are seen in hospital emergency rooms every year. Millions more skip a hospital visit despite suffering a head injury that could cause lasting damage, according to researchers. In a study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists at the University of California in San Francisco found that a new experimental drug can restore normal function in mice following two types of TBIs. Via Washington Post.

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Drinking More Coffee Leads to a Longer Life, Two Studies Say

Greater consumption of coffee could lead to a longer life, according to two new studies. The findings have resurfaced the centuries-old conversation on coffee's health effects. One study surveyed more than 520,000 people in 10 European countries, making it the largest study to date on coffee and mortality, and found that drinking more coffee could significantly lower a person's risk of mortality. The second study was more novel, as it focused on non-white populations. After surveying over 185,000 African-Americans, Native Americans, Hawaiians, Japanese-Americans, Latinos, and whites, the researchers found that coffee increases longevity across various races. Via CNN.

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Chemotherapy before Breast Cancer Surgery Might Fuel Metastasis

When breast cancer patients get chemotherapy before surgery to remove their tumor, it can make remaining malignant cells spread to distant sites, resulting in incurable metastatic cancer, scientists reported last week. The main goal of pre-operative (neoadjuvant) chemotherapy for breast cancer is to shrink tumors so women can have a lumpectomy rather than a more invasive mastectomy. It was therefore initially used only on large tumors after being introduced about 25 years ago. But as fewer and fewer women were diagnosed with large breast tumors, pre-op chemo began to be used in patients with smaller cancers, too, in the hope that it would extend survival. Via STAT.

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Women with High-Risk Pregnancies Are More Likely to Develop Heart Disease

Women who have high-risk pregnancies or complications in childbirth are up to eight times more likely to have heart disease later in life, statistics suggest. But many mothers—and their doctors—are unaware of the danger. Emerging research shows heart disease is a long-term threat for women who develop diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy, for example. Also at higher risk: mothers whose babies were born too small or too soon. Via NPR.

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Mayo Clinic News

Tau Blood Levels May Tell of Cognitive Decline

In cognitively normal individuals, high levels of plasma total tau were associated with a risk of mild cognitive impairment. In people with mild cognitive impairment, however, plasma total tau levels were not associated with risk of dementia. Associations between total tau levels and cognition appeared to be independent of elevated brain amyloid beta, Michelle Mielke, Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, and colleagues found. "A few other studies have looked at plasma total tau in Alzheimer's, but other studies have looked at it, too, with regard to head trauma—traumatic brain injuries and sports-related concussions," Dr. Mielke told MedPage Today. Via MedPage Today.

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Growing Old without Alzheimer's Pathology: What's the Secret?

It may be possible to grow old without developing Alzheimer's disease pathology (ADP), although a wide range of very different types of protective factors are involved. A study published in JAMA Neurology looked at the differences in patterns of amyloid deposition and neurodegeneration that comprise ADP and found that, although challenging, "exceptional aging" without ADP is achievable. The main objective of the study, conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, was to identify and test the effectiveness of the full range of protective factors across a natural lifespan that prevent the development of amyloid deposits in the brain or neurodegeneration, or both. The investigators assembled a cohort of 942 individuals (519 men, 423 women) enrolled in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. Via Neurology Advisor.

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Robot Performs First Knee Surgery at Mayo Clinic

For the first time, doctors at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville are using a robot to help perform full knee replacement surgeries on patients. "I was playing tennis, I was hitting a forehand, and I heard something pop," said native Texan, Mini Kincaid. She said she tore her meniscus and since skiing, hiking and even walking became painful. Eventually she was told she would need a full knee replacement. A robot at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville came to her rescue. "All of a sudden I'm walking, and I'm biking, and I'm almost normal," she said. Her surgery at Mayo Clinic was a success and the first in the region to be performed with the help of the robotic arm. "I do the surgery, I'm holding an instrument, but it guides my hand," said Orthopedic Surgeon Cedric Ortiguera, M.D. He said he never dreamed of having that kind of partner in surgery. Via First Coast News.

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Parkinson's Disease and Melanoma May Occur Together, Study Finds

People with Parkinson's disease are about four times more likely to develop melanoma skin cancer, and conversely, people with melanoma have a fourfold higher risk of getting Parkinson's, researchers report. Although doctors have known about the connection between these diseases, they still don't know why having one increases the risk of the other. "Future research should focus on identifying common genes, immune responses, and environmental exposures that may link these two diseases," said study first author Lauren Dalvin, M.D., who's with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "If we can pinpoint the cause of the association between Parkinson's disease and melanoma, we will be better able to counsel patients and families about their risk of developing one disease in the setting of the other," she said in a Mayo news release. Via HealthDay.

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Mayo Clinic Minute: What Women Need to Know about Zika

Every summer, many people take time off to travel. Mary Jo Kasten, M.D., a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist, says women of childbearing age need to know the risks associated with traveling to areas where there's a known Zika virus outbreak. Women, listen up. Here is information you need to know about traveling to areas where the Zika virus is known to be present. 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.