Week in Review: Aug. 17

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

Scientists Race to Improve "Living Drugs" to Fight Cancer

CAR-T therapies are among the most exciting developments in cancer research in years—one of several approaches that harness the immune system to fight cancer. The Food and Drug Administration has already approved two CAR-T therapies. The first was for children and young adults suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is the most common cancer among children. The agency subsequently approved a second CAR-T therapy for adults with a form of lymphoma. But these "living drugs" are far from perfect. They're very expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars for each infusion for each patient. Via NPR.

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Breast Cancer Drug Promising in Phase 3 Trial

For women with advanced breast cancer who carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, an experimental drug could improve survival, a new study suggests. The BRCA mutations are linked with a greater risk for aggressive breast and ovarian cancer. The drug, talazoparib, works by blocking an enzyme called poly ADP ribose polymerase, thus preventing cancer cells from killing healthy ones. In a phase 3 trial of 431 women, funded by the drug's maker, those who received talazoparib lived longer without their cancer progressing than women treated with standard chemotherapy by an average of three months, researchers found. Via HealthDay.

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CDC Monitoring Measles Outbreak in 21 States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 107 people from 21 states have reported contracting the measles. The states included are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. This number will likely outpace the number of measles cases reported in 2017. There were 118 cases in 2017 and only 86 the year before that. Via ABC 11.

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Weed-Killing Chemical Linked to Cancer Found in Some Children's Breakfast Foods

A new report found glyphosate, a weed-killing chemical that some health authorities link to cancer, in a number of popular breakfast foods and cereals marketed to children. The study by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) discovered trace amounts of the most widely used herbicide in the country in oats, granolas, and snack bars. Of the tested products, 31 out of 45 had levels higher than what some scientists consider safe for children. Recently, some scientists, doctors, and activists around the world have worked to keep glyphosate out of crops due to concerns that it is a dangerous carcinogen. "We're very concerned that consumers are eating more glyphosate than they know," said Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at EWG. He has been working to improve food safety standards for more than a decade. He said he and his team at EWG had a lab test involving "45 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats" and found glyphosate–the active ingredient in the Monsanto weed-killer Roundup–in all but two. Via CBS News.

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Multigene Test May Find Risk for Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Breast Cancer

You know your cholesterol, your blood pressure . . . your heart gene score? Researchers say a new way of analyzing genetic test data may one day help identify people at high risk of having a heart attack at a young age in time to help. Today, gene testing mostly focuses on rare mutations in one or a few genes, like those that cause cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease, or the BRCA gene responsible for a small fraction of breast cancer. It is less useful for some of the most common diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, because they are influenced by vast numbers of genes-gone-wrong working together in complicated ways. Researchers revealed a new way to measure millions of small genetic variations that add up to cause harm, letting them calculate someone's inherited risk for the most common form of heart disease and four other serious disorders. They estimated that up to 25 million Americans may have triple the average person's risk for coronary artery disease even if they haven't yet developed warning signs like high cholesterol. Via NBC News.

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Mayo Clinic News

Many Breast Cancer Survivors Do Not Receive Recommended Mammograms

A considerable number of insured breast cancer survivors do not undergo recommended annual mammograms for breast cancer surveillance, according to study results published in Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. “The use of regular mammograms to detect a return of breast cancer before any symptoms appear is associated with better overall survival,” Kathryn Ruddy, M.D., Director of Cancer Survivorship in the Department of Oncology at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Rochester, Minnesota, said in a press release. “Clinicians need to make sure that their patients are fully aware of the role these annual mammograms play in screening for new breast cancers, as well as for local recurrences.” Via Healio.

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Troubling Rise in Pregnancy-Related Heart Problems

The number of women having heart attacks before, during and after deliveries increased by 25% from 2002 through 2013, according to a study published in July in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Around 4.5% of women who had heart attacks died, a high mortality rate for such a young age group, the researchers say. While deaths are still relatively rare, the increase in heart attacks is worrisome. “Cardiovascular disease and heart attacks are a major cause of maternal death,” says Sharonne Hayes, M.D., a cardiologist and founder of the Women’s Heart Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who wasn’t involved with either study. The heart-attack study found that 15% of the incidents involved spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or SCAD: A tear forms in a blood vessel in the heart, causing a heart attack. Dr. Hayes says that is likely a serious underestimation and points to other studies, including one published in 2014 in the journal Circulation, that found SCAD was the top cause of pregnancy-related heart attacks. Via Wall Street Journal.

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Lyme Disease Is Spreading Fast. Why Isn’t There a Vaccine?

Gregory Poland, M.D., a vaccinologist at Mayo Clinic, has written that public concern—induced by anti-vaccine groups and class-action lawsuits—resulted in the vaccine LYMErix being withdrawn from the market. “There’s a big difference between what’s claimed and what’s proven,” he said. The high cost of the vaccine and confusion over who should get it and how many doses were needed didn’t help its prospects. Additionally, a vaccine was never intended to replace “personal protective measures” like tick checks. After all, ticks can carry a number of diseases besides Lyme. Via NY Times.

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5 Insights into Mayo Clinic's New CEO/Longtime GI Doc Gianrico Farrugia

Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic named gastroenterologist Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., its new president and CEO, effective at the end of the year. Here's what you should know. Via Becker's ASC Review.

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Mayo Clinic Ranked No. 1 Hospital Nationwide by U.S. News & World Report

Mayo Clinic was named the best hospital in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s 29th annual "Best Hospitals Honor Roll" published online on Tuesday, August 14. Mayo Clinic also ranked No. 1 in more specialties than any other hospital in the country. 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.