(The Atlantic) – In March, eye doctors based primarily at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami had published a widely covered report describing three eerily similar cases: Three elderly women with macular degeneration got stem cells derived from their own fat injected into their eyes at a different stem-cell clinic in Florida. The same thing happened: Their retinas became detached, and they went blind. The doctors ended up examining the 77-year-old woman too, which led to the recent case report describing her condition. And there are likely even more cases.
(Kaiser Health News) – A year later, their optimism has turned to uncertainty. Memories of kicking back in a Caribbean hotel during the trial have been overshadowed by the dread of side effects and renewed outbreaks. But they can’t turn to Halford, a Southern Illinois University professor. He died of cancer in June. They also can’t rely on his university, which shares in the vaccine’s patent but says it was unaware of the trial until after it was over. Because the FDA didn’t monitor the research, it can’t provide guidance. Indeed, there is little independent information about what was in the vaccine or even where it was manufactured, since Halford created it himself.
(The Atlantic) – While the Lischners got extremely lucky, researchers are now working on a new treatment that could help men like Lischner who didn’t save a sample before radiation, or even prepubescent boys who develop cancer and have no sperm to save. This experimental technique takes a sample of testicular tissue and turns sperm precursor cells into actual sperm cells. Put back in the testes, these sperm multiply, repairing normal sperm production. This holds the promise of allowing men who lose fertility through cancer treatment to have biological children not just in a lab, but the old-fashioned way.
(CNN) – As firefighters continue to battle blazes across the state of California, public health officials are dealing with another ongoing crisis: one of the largest person-to-person hepatitis A outbreaks in the country since the development of a vaccine, more than two decades ago. An update provided Thursday by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) raises the case count to 600. 395 people have been hospitalized and 19 have died since November 2016.
(Reuters) – Ukrainian lawmakers voted through a long-delayed overhaul of the health system on Thursday that the state’s Western backers say will raise standards and tackle a culture of bribe-taking in surgeries and hospitals. The European Union and the International Monetary Fund have been pressing for faster reform is a country where lives are more than five years shorter than the European average, according to the World Health Organization.
(STAT News) – The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a promising new treatment for a particularly deadly form of cancer, bringing hope to desperate patients while rekindling a global conversation about the escalating cost of new therapies. The treatment, made by Gilead Sciences, is made by extracting patients’ white blood cells and re-engineering them to home in on tumors. Called a CAR-T, the one-time treatment has shown unprecedented results for patients with dire diagnoses.
(Kaiser Health News) – Outrage over the high cost of cancer care has focused on skyrocketing drug prices, including the $475,000 price tag for the country’s first gene therapy, Novartis’ Kymriah, a leukemia treatment approved in August. But the total costs of Kymriah and the 21 similar drugs in development — known as CAR T-cell therapies — will be far higher than many have imagined, reaching $1 million or more per patient, according to leading cancer experts. The next CAR T-cell drug could be approved as soon as November.
(The Atlantic) – The rate of death from opioid overdoses in the United States has more than doubled over the past decade. Amid a deluge of reports on the national crisis, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that in much of the world many people die in preventable pain, without access to morphine for end-of-life care. This is the finding of a global commission published in The Lancet, which includes analysis of the global distribution of narcotics. The above map shows a relative distribution of how much of the need for opioids is met in various places.
(STAT News) – Most doctors have absorbed racist, sexist, and other bigoted verbal remarks from patients under their care, according to a new national survey. And in interviews, physicians say these ugly incidents, while not frequent, can leave lasting scars. African-American doctors told STAT they had been called racial epithets and been asked to relinquish care for white patients by family members — and even colleagues. Asian-American physicians reported being demeaned with longstanding cultural and racist stereotypes, and female doctors being sexually harassed by patients during physical exams.
(Wired) – At the SynDaver factory in Tampa, Florida, mad scientists are bringing bodies to life. Not Frankensteining the dead, but using a library of polymers to craft synthetic cadavers that twitch and bleed like real suffering humans. Hospitals and med schools use the fakes to teach anatomy and train surgeons, and the most lifelike model is the $95,000 SynDaver Patient. This exquisite corpse can be controlled wirelessly so practitioners can rehearse elaborate medical scenarios in which the patient goes into shock and even “dies.”
(STAT News) – Doctors were just guessing a decade ago when they gave Alison Cairnes’s husband a new drug they hoped would shrink his lung tumors. Now she takes it too, but the choice was no guesswork. Sophisticated gene tests suggested it would fight her gastric cancer, and they were right. Cancer patients increasingly are having their care guided by gene tumor boards, a new version of the hospital panels that traditionally decided whether surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy would be best. These experts study the patient’s cancer genes and match treatments to mutations that seem to drive the disease.
(STAT News) – A once-a-month shot to treat opioid addiction was as effective in maintaining short-term abstinence from heroin and similar drugs as a more commonly prescribed daily treatment, according to a Norwegian study released Wednesday. The study is believed to be the first to directly compare Vivitrol — administered as a monthly shot — with a combination drug treatment sold under the brand name Suboxone. In the U.S. and many other countries, Suboxone or methadone have been the standard medical treatment for people with an opioid use disorder.
(Reuters) – The prices of injectable cancer drugs – even older medicines around since the 1990s – are increasing at a rate far higher than inflation, researchers report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The study, led by Dr. Daniel Goldstein of Emory University in Atlanta, looked at 24 injectable cancer drugs approved since 1996 and found the average increase was 25 percent over eight years. After inflation, the average increase was 18 percent.
(Salon) – Humans have long dreamed of living forever, and as life expectancy has increased throughout the past century, it seemed as if immortality— or at least, unprecedented longevity — were within grasp. Yet a new study has, yet again, dashed collective hopes for eternal life. Scientists from the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands used statistical methods to analyze the Dutch population over a period of 30 years to answer three main questions about life expectancy. The first one was whether there was an unbreakable wall of age, or if you can always get one year older. If there is such a limit, can it change over time? And most importantly, how old can we get?
(MIT News) – How, then, can unnecessary surgeries be eliminated while still maintaining the important role of mammography in cancer detection? Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School believe that the answer is to turn to artificial intelligence (AI). As a first project to apply AI to improving detection and diagnosis, the teams collaborated to develop an AI system that uses machine learning to predict if a high-risk lesion identified on needle biopsy after a mammogram will upgrade to cancer at surgery.
(CNN) – Recent wildfires in California and hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico have put a spotlight on vulnerable seniors — including a number of deaths that authorities have said were preventable. “The bulk of them are in their 70s and 80s, so there is that commonality,” Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said of the first wildfire victims to be identified during a press conference Thursday. The majority were found in their homes, reduced to “ashes and bones,” Giordano said. Several were identified using medical implants, such as a hip replacement, with unique serial numbers.
(STAT News) – en who received a blood transfusion from a woman who had ever been pregnant had a higher risk of dying prematurely than men who got blood from a man or a never-pregnant woman, scientists reported on Tuesday. Bizarre as this seems, researchers have seen hints of a “mother effect” on blood transfusions before. Half a dozen studies have found that recipients were more likely to die after receiving blood from a woman than from a man — though the biggest and most recent did not.
(UPI) – Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine were shocked to find that nearly half of all medical care in the United States is delivered at hospital emergency departments. In recent years, the percentage of care given at ERs has grown significantly, with a new study revealing a nearly 44 percent increase in visits over a 14-year period.
(BBC) – A drug-based therapy appears to restore breathing in rats paralysed from the neck down by a spinal injury, according to scientists. They hope their “exciting but early” findings could ultimately help free patients from ventilators. The pioneering work, in Cell Reports, suggests the brain may not be needed for respiration if a nerve pathway in the spine can be awakened.
(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) on Tuesday won the reversal of a $72 million verdict in favor of the family of a woman whose death from ovarian cancer they claimed stemmed from her use of the company’s talc-based products like Johnson’s Baby Powder. The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District said that given a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that limited where injury lawsuits could be filed, the case over Alabama resident Jacqueline Fox’s death should not have been tried in St. Louis.