Week in Review: Sept. 22

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

The Big Question: Will Cancer Immune Therapy Work for Me?

Immunotherapy is the hottest thing in cancer care. Drugs called checkpoint inhibitors can vanquish some advanced cancers by removing a chemical cloak that hides them from the immune system. Former President Jimmy Carter got one at age 91 for skin cancer that spread to his brain, and he is now in remission. But they're expensive, have side effects, and work for only about one-quarter of patients—as few as 5 percent with colon cancer and as many as half with the skin cancer, melanoma. Sometimes the benefits are brief. Worst of all: For a small number of unlucky folks, treatment can backfire. Their cancer grows exponentially after getting a checkpoint drug. Via Star Tribune.

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By the Numbers: Global Causes of Death

Life expectancy has grown in all but one country over roughly the past five decades, according to the latest in The Lancet's Global Burden of Disease report series. The United States had a life expectancy of 78.9 years on average in 2016, good for the 58th highest life expectancy in the world. That's the country's lowest rank since the study began in 1970. Via MedPage Today.

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Weight Loss May Come Down to What's in Your Poop, Study Finds

Wondering why a diet's not working for you? Stop watching your waistline and consider something a little deeper—like the feces lodged in your intestines. A study this month in the International Journal of Obesity found that a specific diet's success may come down to the bacteria mix in one's gut, as observed in stool samples. Danish researchers looked specifically at the ratio of bacteria known as Prevotella and Bacteroides in 62 overweight participants. Then, researchers had participants stick to a diet for 26 weeks, either the New Nordic Diet—a high-fiber regimen—or an average Danish diet. Participants shed about 7 pounds more on the high-fiber diet than the average diet if they had a high ratio of Prevotella to Bacteroides, the study found. But among those with a low ratio of the bacteria, no significant difference between the two diets was found. Via USA Today.

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New Gene-Therapy Treatments Will Carry Whopping Price Tags

The first gene therapy treatment in the United States was approved recently by the Food and Drug Administration, heralding a new era in medicine that is coming faster than most realize—and that perhaps few can afford. The treatment, Kymriah, made by Novartis, is spectacularly effective against a rare form of leukemia, bringing remissions when all conventional options have failed. It will cost $475,000. With gene therapy, scientists seek to treat or prevent disease by modifying cellular DNA. Many such treatments are in the wings: There are 34 in the final stages of testing necessary for FDA approval, and another 470 in initial clinical trials, according to the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, an advocacy group. The therapies are aimed at extremely rare diseases with few patients; most are meant to cure with a single injection or procedure. But the costs, like that of Kymriah, are expected to be astronomical, alarming medical researchers and economists. Via NY Times.

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Literally Lousy: Parasite Plagues World Salmon Industry

Salmon have a lousy problem, and the race to solve it is spanning the globe. A surge of parasitic sea lice is disrupting salmon farms around the world. The tiny lice attach themselves to salmon and feed on them, killing or rendering them unsuitable for dinner tables. Meanwhile, wholesale prices of salmon are way up, as high as 50% last year. That means higher consumer prices for everything from salmon fillets and steaks to more expensive lox on bagels. Via ABC News.

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Mayo Clinic News

Amazon's Alexa Now Offers First Aid Information from Mayo Clinic

Amazon's virtual assistant, Alexa, can now offer basic first aid advice directly from the Mayo Clinic, thanks to a new "skill" Mayo developed for the device—but the health care system cautions that the resource should not be used in medical emergencies, Joe Carlson writes for the Star Tribune. To create the "skill"—which is Alexa's equivalent to an app on a smartphone—Mayo Clinic Global Business Solutions (MCGBS) used Amazon's self-service Alexa Skills Kit to adapt material from Mayo's medical library. The information is updated in real time as medical practices improve, according to Sandhya Pruthi, M.D., Associate Medical Director of MCGBS. Via Advisory Board.

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Mayo Clinic Earns Awards for Quality, Accountability

Mayo Clinic brought home two prestigious honors from a recent national event thanks to its quality and accountability in patient care. Mayo earned the Vizient 2017 Bernard A. Birnbaum, M.D. Quality Leadership award as its Rochester campus earned the No. 1 spot among all academic medical centers and Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing finished first among all community hospitals. "We're honored that Mayo Clinic hospitals received the 2017 Quality Leadership Award," said Paula Santrach, M.D., Mayo's Chief Quality Officer. "The unique Mayo experience is the dedication to quality, safety, and service that our staff displays each day. Their hard work and firm commitment to excellence will make us even better in the future." Via Post-Bulletin.

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Mayo Research into Microbiome-Nutrition Connection Lands ADM’s Backing

The Mayo Clinic’s ongoing research push into analyzing gut bacteria to develop individualized nutrition strategies took a big step forward this month with the announcement a potentially wide-ranging collaboration involving global food processor Archer Daniels Midland Company. It’s the Rochester clinic’s second such collaboration within a year aimed at exploring the relationship between the microbial communities living within the human digestive system and optimal nutrition and wellness programs tailored to individuals. Via Twin Cities Business.

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Mayo Clinic Develops EHR Clinical Decision Support for Lab Tests

Mayo Clinic teamed up with National Decision Support Company (NDSC), which develops clinical decision-support tools, to create CareSelect Lab. CareSelect Lab, delivered via NDSC's CareSelect Platform, integrates with a hospital's electronic health record (EHR) to deliver clinical decision support at the point-of-order for laboratory tests. The tool aggregates clinical guidance on laboratory, pathology, and genetic tests to provide clinicians with medical recommendations. CareSelect Lab also comprises benchmarking and analytics tools to help hospitals compare provider ordering patterns and identify gaps in care. Via Becker's Hospital Review.

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Mayo—Epic Collaboration to Help Patients Assess Symptoms

Patients using the Epic MyChart patient portal now have free access to a symptom "assessment tool" from Mayo Clinic if their provider elects to offer the service. Participating providers will embed the “Ask Mayo Clinic” option within the electronic health record for patients to select the tool. The symptom tool, running 36 algorithms and covering more than 300 symptoms, was developed for patients 18 months or older and females who are not pregnant. Via Heath Data Management.

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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.