Week in Review: Oct. 13

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

In a First, Gene Therapy Halts a Fatal Brain Disease

For the first time, doctors have used gene therapy to stave off a fatal degenerative brain disease, an achievement that some experts had thought impossible. The key to making the therapy work? One of medicine’s greatest villains: HIV. The patients were children who had inherited a mutated gene causing a rare disorder, adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD. Nerve cells in the brain die, and in a few short years, children lose the ability to walk or talk. They become unable to eat without a feeding tube, to see, hear or think. They usually die within five years of diagnosis. The disease strikes about one in 20,000 boys; symptoms first occur at an average age of 7. The only treatment is a bone-marrow transplant—if a compatible donor can be found—or a transplant with cord blood, if it was saved at birth. Via NY Times.

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Ten Times More Children and Teens Obese Today Than 40 Years Ago

The number of obese children and adolescents rose to 124 million in 2016—more than 10 times higher than the 11 million classified as obese 40 years ago, in 1975. A further 213 million children and adolescents were overweight in 2016, finds a new study published in the Lancet. Looking at the broader picture, this equated to roughly 5.6% of girls and 7.8% of boys being obese last year. Via CNN.

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The Best (and Worst) States for Aging, According to U.S. News

Colorado is the "best state for aging," according to a U.S. News & World Report ranking. For the ranking, U.S. News used data from several sources—such as CDC and the Kaiser Family Foundation—to evaluate how all 50 states address and prioritize the needs of older individuals across 12 metrics. U.S. News Executive Editor Tim Smart said, "As lifespans lengthen and the baby-boomer generation enters their golden years, communities are figuring out how to address the emergence of a larger elderly population." He added, "In keeping with our mission of providing transparency for the benefit of state leaders, business, and citizens, U.S. News has determined how well states are serving this growing population." Via Advisory Board.

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Health Conditions That Increase Stroke Risk Rise across All Ages

For years, doctors have been warning us that high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, illegal drug use, and diabetes increase our chances of having a potentially fatal stroke. And yet, most of the stroke patients showing up at hospitals from 2004 to 2014 had one or more of these risk factors. And the numbers of people at risk in this way tended to grow among all age groups and ethnicities in that time period. That's according to an analysis of the charts of more than 900,000 people admitted to U.S. hospitals for stroke within that decade. The study was published in the journal Neurology. Via NPR.

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Nearly 4 in 10 U.S. Adults Now Obese

Almost forty percent adults in the United States are now obese, continuing an ever-expanding epidemic of obesity that's expected to lead to sicker Americans and higher health care costs. Almost 4 out of 10 adults and 18.5% of kids aged 2 to 19 now meet the clinical definition of obesity, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's up from 30.5% of adults and 13.9% of children in 1999–2000, the CDC report noted. Public health experts are concerned that the continuing rise in obesity will lead to greater numbers of people suffering from diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Via HealthDay.

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Mayo Clinic News

Can Men Get Breast Cancer? Yes, and Checking for Lumps Can Save Them

Kathryn Ruddy, M.D., breast medical oncologist at Mayo Clinic, says that many of her male patients do feel isolated following a diagnosis. “Breast cancer is so associated with women in the press and in our culture because breast cancer is so much more common in women, it can be difficult psychologically and psychosocially,” she says. Dr. Ruddy says that among the estimated 2,000 men who are affected each year, the prognosis is usually poor. In many cases, the cancer has already spread by the time it is diagnosed. As Dr. Ruddy explains, male breast cancer is understudied, and solid guidelines to instruct men about when to do a breast self-exam are lacking. Although, self-exams are no longer a recommended screening tool, Dr. Ruddy believes they may be the best course of action for men who are at increased risk. Via Newsweek.

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Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering from Severe Anxiety?

While exposure therapy has been proved highly effective, few teenagers receive it. “We’re much more likely to medicate kids than to give them therapy,” says Stephen Whiteside, Ph.D., L.P., Director of the Child and Adolescent Anxiety Disorders Program at Mayo Clinic. “And when we do give them therapy, it’s unlikely to be exposure. With a few exceptions, we’re not treating people with what actually works best.” Part of the reason is that exposure work is hard. Anxious people aren’t typically eager to feel more anxious. “It’s also uncomfortable for many therapists,” Dr. Whiteside said. “Most people go into therapy or psychology to help people, but with exposure therapy you’re actually helping them feel uncomfortable. It’s not much fun for anybody. It’s much easier to sit in a therapist’s office and talk about feelings.” Via NY Times.

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DNA Data Helping Doctors Prescribe Drugs

Our DNA can tell us just about everything. Spit in an ancestry kit, and you can find out where you're from. But what if your DNA could help your doctor, before you ever get sick? "That's what everybody wants," said William Mauck, M.D., with Mayo Clinic in Rochester. "They want the right medication at the right time for the right patient, and the right dose." Right now, doctors at Mayo Clinic are studying this. Via KARE 11.

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PSA Tests Aren't Great for Diagnosing Prostate Cancer. Here Are Some Better Options in the Works

The test measures the amount of prostate specific antigen, or PSA, in the blood. This protein is produced in the prostate and tends to spike in men with cancer. The PHI test, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012, uses a different scale than the PSA test. If your PHI score is below 27, there’s only about a 10% chance that you have cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. If your score is above 55, there’s about a 50% chance you have cancer. Via LA Times.

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Immune Response to Ovarian Cancer May Predict Survival, Mayo-Led Study Finds

A group of international cancer researchers led by investigators from Mayo Clinic and University of New South Wales Sydney has found that the level of a type of white blood cell, called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, present in the tumors of patients with high-grade ovarian cancer may predict a patient’s survival. Results of the study by the Ovarian Tumor Tissue Analysis Consortium were published in JAMA Oncology. 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.