Week in Review: Oct. 5

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

Is Fasting the Fountain of Youth?

Research involving animals has revealed that intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of obesity and its related diseases, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes and cancer. According to Mark Mattson, chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging, research from the 1980s revealed that the lifespan of rats increases substantially when they fast every other day, compared to rats who have food available at all times. A much more recent study, published this month, found that mice who fasted, whether because they were fed all of their calories only once per day or because their calories were restricted, which naturally caused them to eat all of their limited food at once—were healthier and lived longer compared to mice who had constant access to food. Via CNN.

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Officials Fear Ebola Epidemic May Be Spinning beyond Their Control, Threatening Regional Spread

Public health officials are expressing deepening concern that the latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo may be spinning beyond their control and could soon spill over into neighboring countries including Uganda and Rwanda. With Ebola response teams facing restrictions on their movements in a conflict zone, officials fear containment efforts are falling further behind the virus. And if response teams lose sight of where the virus goes, it could spread undetected and unchecked in places where they cannot safely travel. “At this point in an epidemic, we’d probably be peaking in terms of knowing where the virus is. And now with the insecurity, that’s compromised,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, assistant director-general of the World Health Organization’s emergency preparedness and response program. Via STAT.

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How Scientists Are Treating Breast Cancer Using the Immune System

The immune system mounts the body’s defense and offense against unwanted intrusions: bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells. Cancer, however, poses a tricky problem. Malignant cells develop from normal cells that start to grow out of control, and the immune system is specifically programmed not to attack the body’s own cells. But scientists have found ways to retrain the body to recognize and destroy tumor cells, making immune-based treatments the newest, most promising weapon against many types of cancer. The first of these immunotherapy drugs approved to treat cancer began in the labs of James Allison of MD Anderson Cancer Center and Dr. Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University in the 1990s. They independently discovered different ways in which the immune system is blocked from attacking tumor cells, which just earned them the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Their finding led to a new class of drugs, called checkpoint inhibitors, that allow the immune system to see cancer cells as the disease-causing rogues they are and attack them, drastically improving remission rates. In the past five years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a dozen new cancer drugs and therapies that exploit the immune system. “All cancer patients will likely receive [immunotherapy] in five years, so it’s going to be curative for a lot of them,” Allison says. Via TIME.

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Turning to Scientific Outliers, EPA Says a Little Radiation May Be Healthy

The Trump administration is quietly moving to weaken U.S. radiation regulations, turning to scientific outliers who argue that a bit of radiation damage is actually good for you—like a little bit of sunlight. The government's current, decades-old guidance says that any exposure to harmful radiation is a cancer risk. And critics say the proposed change could lead to higher levels of exposure for workers at nuclear installations and oil and gas drilling sites, medical workers doing X-rays and CT scans, people living next to Superfund sites and any members of the public who one day might find themselves exposed to a radiation release. The Trump administration already has targeted a range of other regulations on toxins and pollutants, including coal power plant emissions and car exhaust, that it sees as costly and burdensome for businesses. Supporters of the EPA's new proposal argue the government's current no-tolerance rule for radiation damage forces unnecessary spending for handling exposure in accidents, at nuclear plants, in medical centers and at other sites. Via CBS News.

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More Than 1 in 3 Adults Eat Fast Food on a Given Day, CDC Survey Finds

Americans can't get enough fast food, suggests a survey published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics shows between 2013 and 2016, more than 36% of adults—or more than 1 in 3—consume fast food on a given day. Findings also showed fast food consumption decreased with age. Forty-five percent of adults ages 20 to 39 ate fast food, while only 24% of adults over 60 had fast food as a meal or snack. Men tend to eat more fast food than women, said the survey, and non-Hispanic black adults consumed more fast food (42%) compared to other races. Via USA Today.

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Mayo Clinic News

Mayo Clinic to Develop Limb Loss and Preservation Registry

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has awarded the Mayo Clinic a $5 million contract to develop and launch a Limb Loss and Preservation Registry. Supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, the database will be the first national registry of people who have lost limbs and will include the electronic health records of U.S. adults and children. The goal of this data collection effort is to establish the number of Americans living with limb loss and to improve prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation activities for this population. Via Health Data Management.

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Mayo Clinic Discovery Could Extend Quality of Life

Researchers at Mayo Clinic are looking at a way to extend quality of life. "The ideal would be is if people could live to be 90 or 100 and feel like they're 50 or 60," said James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., a geriatrics researcher at Mayo Clinic. Via KARE 11.

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Mayo Researchers Develop New Genetics-Based Prognostic Tool for Myelodysplastic Syndrome

Researchers at Mayo Clinic have developed a new genetics-based prognostic tool for myelodysplastic syndrome. Their findings are published in the October print issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. "Myelodysplastic syndrome is one of the most frequent blood cancers affecting the elderly with annual incidence exceeding 50 cases per 100,000 in people 65 years or older," says Ayalew Tefferi, M.D., a Mayo Clinic hematologist who is the principal investigator and lead author. Dr. Tefferi says the average survival for patients with myelodysplastic syndrome is estimated at 2½ years, and survival rates have not improved over the past several decades. Via Science Codex.

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Family History Tied to Nearly Eightfold Increased CRC Risk for IBD Patients

Patients with inflammatory bowel disease who have a first-degree relative with a history of colorectal cancer have a higher risk for also being diagnosed with that cancer, according to research published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. N. Jewel Samadder, M.D,, MSc, of the division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, and colleagues wrote that although risk for CRC among patients with IBD is already high, estimates of lifetime risk have varied. They sought to determine risk factors to help guide screening and surveillance strategies going forward. “Family history of CRC in a first-degree relative is an important risk factor among those in the general healthy population, nearly doubling their risk of developing the disease,” they wrote. “Although there are increasing data to support the role of genetic susceptibility in the pathogenesis of IBD, little is known about the impact of family cancer history on development of CRC in IBD.” Via Healio.

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Mayo Researchers Identify Potential New Treatment for Subset of Women with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Mayo Clinic researchers have identified the drug estradiol as a potential new treatment for a subset of women with triple-negative breast cancer. Their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 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.