July 21, 2015
Health Roundup: Medical Breakhroughs
1. Expanding access to healthcare knowledge
2. Building communities
3. Increasing accountability
4. Advancing research
5. Driving personalization
An experimental vaccine completely prevented HIV infection in half of monkeys given the jab, a new study found.
The monkeys were given the vaccine and then exposed to high doses of an aggressive virus that is the equivalent of HIV in humans.The results were so positive they spurred Johnson & Johnson to test the vaccine in people.
The international trial is underway in 400 healthy volunteers in the United States, East Africa, South Africa and Thailand.
Since it began spreading 30 years ago, AIDS has killed 40 million people worldwide. Today, some 35 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Despite progress in treatments, experts believe a vaccine is the best hope for eradicating the disease.
A breakthrough treatment for cystic fibrosis has offered hope for thousands of patients. A landmark British study showed the gene therapy treatment significantly improved the working of patients’ lungs. The condition, which is caused by the faulty gene CFTR, leads to recurring chest infections and patients have to undergo physiotherapy up to four times a day to clear their lungs.
Scientists from Oxford University and Imperial College London have developed a treatment which repairs the faulty CFTR gene by adding a healthy gene on top, the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal reported. Patients inhale a virus, delivered via a nebuliser, which contains the healthy gene and ensures it reaches the cells in the lungs where it is needed.
Once inside the cells, the healthy genes help them function properly and clear mucus from the lungs.
The treatment is still in the early stages of development and has been tested on only a few patients. Professor Eric Alton, of Imperial College London, said: ‘Patients who received the gene therapy showed a significant, if modest, benefit. The results are encouraging.’ Current treatments include enzymes, proteins, or salt solutions which are inhaled through nebulisers to help thin and clear mucus from the lungs.
Pancreatic cancer. Blood Test IDs Pancreatic Cancer in 250 of 250 Patients
“This study creates enthusiasm that early detection of pancreatic cancer, which is incurable unless removed during very early stages, might become a reality.”
A simple test could reveal any viruses a person has ever had - allowing for better diagnosis of disease. The new tool can detect hundreds of viruses at a time from just a single drop of blood. The test, called VirScan, makes it possible to test for all current and past infections, rather than testing for specific viruses at a time. It also only costs $25 (£16), a fraction of the cost of existing tools, and uses smaller samples of blood, US researchers say. VirScan works by screening the blood for antibodies against any of the 206 species of viruses known to infect humans.
Testing for a wider range of viruses can uncover unexpected factors affecting individual patients' health – and can help doctors make better diagnoses. It also allows researchers to see similarities and differences in large populations. This could be helpful when studying conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is suspected to be caused by viruses, although the link has not been established
TB continues to be a global pandemic, second only to Aids as the greatest single-agent killer in the world.
In 2013 alone, the TB bug mychobacterium tuberculosis was responsible for 1.5 million deaths and almost nine million new infections. Resistance to TB drugs is widespread, creating an urgent need for new medicines.
Swiss scientists screened a number of existing drugs in hope of finding new treatments to counter TB, which caused 1.5 million deaths in 2013. Lansoprazole, marketed as Prevacid, is an antacid used to treat heartburn. They say the class of drug offers 'an excellent opportunity to treat TB'
Lansoprazole belongs to a class of drugs known as 'proton-pump inhibitors' that keep the stomach from pumping too much acid, thus preventing heartburn and ulcers. Professor Stewart Cole, who led the research, said: 'Proton-pump inhibitors are both safe and widely sold around the world.
July 12, 2015
Health Roundup: Cancer Edition: immuno-oncology, skin, breast and lung cancers
The Economist Doctors are trying—with some success—to recruit the immune system to help with the war on cancer . There are four ways of dealing with cancer: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and targeted therapies. Now scientists are adding a fifth: "immuno-oncology" like Bristol Myers' Opdivo or the arthritis vaccine currently in trials.
Like targeted treatments, these new approaches often use antibodies—proteins that match up to other proteins with great specificity. Unlike the targeted therapies, though, the new treatments do not directly attack cancerous cells, but instead unleash the immune system on them.
Skin cancer. Skin cancer jab 'can give TEN more years of life':
Trials have shown that Opdivo boosts average survival rates by 56 per cent. Doctors said it marked a ‘major milestone’ in the fight against skin cancer. Trials have shown that Opdivo – a brand name for the drug nivolumab – boosts average survival rates by 56 per cent and some patients who had been given months to live have since returned to work.
It is one of a new type of drugs in so-called immunotherapy, which work by teaching the body’s immune system to attack cancerous cells. Experts describe them as a ‘paradigm shift’ in the war against cancer and they are particularly effective against some of the deadliest tumors.
The drug developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb costs about $12,500 per month, or $150,000 annually. Opdivo, is a PD-1 inhibitor. PD-1 helps cancer cells masks their presence in the body, which allows them to grow and metastasize before the immune system can detect and attack them.
Lung cancer The FDA expanded the approved use of Opdivo (nivolumab) to treat patients with advanced (metastatic) squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with progression on or after platinum-based chemotherapy.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with an estimated 224,210 new diagnoses and 159,260 deaths in 2014.
Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by immune system mistakenly attack joints. The Vaccine 're-educates' the immune system not to attack healthy tissue and the jab is also said to be kinder to the body than existing drugs. While longer trials of the drug are needed, experts are so far excited by results.
Breast cancer Fresh doubts over breast cancer tests: Harvard finds routine screening fails to cut deaths
A Harvard study of 16 million women has cast doubt on the benefits of routinely offering breast cancer screening.
The data suggests that routine screening is leading to significant numbers of ‘false positives’ – in which women are wrongly told they might have breast cancer when, in fact, they do not. Other women might undergo grueling chemotherapy to treat small, slow-growing tumors which might never have troubled them if they lived on in ignorance.
Progesterone could help treat half of all breast cancer patients, say experts. The hormone, found in many contraceptive pills, is involved in signals between cell molecules that can hold back tumor growth
Experts reveal progesterone receptor 'talks to' other receptors sensitive to estrogen, which fuels breast cancer in many cases Has the effect of applying a brake on the estrogen receptor's ability to stimulate tumors, research reveals.
Scientists have identified a key molecule, a single protein which triggers the growth of blood vessels in tumors that have spread to the brain - a common secondary site for breast cancer to spread. By withholding the protein, called DOCK4, a particular part of the blood vessel did not form as quickly, meaning tumors grew at a slower rate, scientists found.
Dr Georgia Mavria, from the University of Leeds, said the discovery could help develop new drugs and identify people at risk of their breast cancer spreading.
But a new study finds that the sometimes-deadly skin cancer melanoma usually arises in normal skin, where there is no dark spot or sign of cancer until the melanoma suddenly shows up. Moreover, melanomas that arise in non-mole areas of the skin tend to be more aggressive and deadly than those that do arise from moles, the study found.
People whose melanomas did not arise from moles (called de novo melanomas) tended to do worse than people with mole-associated melanoma, the researchers said in their findings, presented June 1 at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting…..In general, between 20 and 30 percent of melanomas are mole-associated, but themajority of melanoma cases are de novo cases — they arise in skin that looks normal until the melanoma forms.
Overweight patients survive 3 months longer than thinner peers surprising study reveals. While the study does not indicate that being overweight is in any way protective for patients undergoing cancer treatment, Dr Zafar said…. the results suggest that there could be an aspect of biology that could put thinner patients at a higher risk for poor outcomes.. Dr Zafar continued, 'There may be a relationship between having a lower BMI and how much treatment patients can tolerate.'I would hypothesise that the lowest weight patients in our analysis received or tolerated less treatment, or received adequate treatment at first, but became too sick to receive additional therapy.
July 11, 2015
Health Roundup: Autism, depression, diabetes, dementia, hospital stays and delirium
Scientists found rats reared in a predictable environment were less likely to exhibit some of the symptoms of autism
Findings consistent with the theory that autism is the consequence of supercharged brains that make the world an intensely painful place Experts hope their findings will help develop new therapies to treat autism.
Children without autism have a sniff response in which they try and limit the flow of air through their nose when they smell something bad But children with the disorder continue to smell the odor . New sniff test was accurate in diagnosing autism in 81% of children. Increasingly abnormal sniff response was associated with more severe symptoms of autism
The large study of nearly 9000 people compared brain volumes in those with/without depression.
Those who suffer chronic depression have a significantly smaller hippocampus than healthy individuals, researchers discovered. The mental illness tends to shrink this area of the brain which is associated with creating new memories, storing memories and connecting them to our emotions. The study highlights the need to treat depression in teenagers to stop further bouts.
Bacteria responsible for common skin infections, food poisoning and MRSA could also trigger one of the most prevalent diseases of our time - type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes comprises 90 per cent of all people with diabetes. Scientists at the University of Iowa discovered exposure to Staphylococcus aureus bacteria causes insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and systemic inflammation - hallmark symptoms of the disease in rabbits. Professor Patrick Schlievert, who led the study, said: 'We basically reproduced type 2 diabetes in rabbits simply through chronic exposure to the staph superantigen."
Obesity, a known risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, alters a person's microbiome - the ecosystem of bacteria that colonize a person's gut, and affect their health. Professor Schlievert said: 'What we are finding is that as people gain weight, they are increasingly likely to be colonized by staph bacteria - to have large numbers of these bacteria living on the surface of their skin. 'People who are colonized by staph bacteria are being chronically exposed to the superantigens the bacteria are producing.' Professor Schlievert's past research has shown that superantigens - the toxins produced by all strains of staph bacteria - disrupt the immune system.
People with type 2 diabetes lose brain power as their ability to regulate blood flow drops, research suggests.
A study by experts at Harvard Medical School suggests that the impact can be seen in memory and cognition tests - with the decrease in thinking skills dropping over just two years. They found a significant decrease in cognitive power, which impacted their ability to cook and bathe themselves.
The study size was small. The US researchers tracked 40 people over two years. Of those, 19 had type two diabetes and 21 did not have diabetes.Study leader Dr Vera Novak, whose work was published in the journal Neurology, said: ‘Normal blood flow regulation allows the brain to redistribute blood to areas of the brain that have increased activity while performing certain tasks.
A protein that accumulates in the blood as we age may provide the basis for new treatments to reverse dementia, research has shown. The molecule, dubbed B2M, is found in higher concentrations in the blood and cerebral spinal fluid of aging humans, scientists said. And in mice, inhibiting B2M improved learning and memory in laboratory experiments. And mice genetically bred not to have B2M did not develop memory decline
'We are very excited about the findings because it indicates that there are two ways to potentially reverse age-related cognitive impairments,' study co-author Dr Saul Villeda of the University of California, San Francisco.
Often misdiagnosed as dementia, delirium can cause hallucinations and delusions…….Turpin’s experience illustrates the consequences of delirium, a sudden disruption of consciousness and cognition marked by vivid hallucinations, delusions and an inability to focus that affects 7 million hospitalized Americans annually. The disorder can occur at any age — it has been seen in preschoolers — but disproportionately affects people older than 65 and is often misdiagnosed as dementia.
While delirium and dementia can coexist, they are distinctly different illnesses. Dementia develops gradually and worsens progressively, while delirium occurs suddenly and typically fluctuates during the course of a day. Some patients with delirium are agitated and combative, while others are lethargic and inattentive.
Patients treated in intensive care units who are heavily sedated and on ventilators are particularly likely to become delirious; some studies place the rate as high as 85 percent. But the condition is common among patients recovering from surgery and in those with something as easily treated as a urinary tract infection. Regardless of its cause, delirium can persist for months after discharge.
A recent meta-analysis led by Harvard researchers found that a variety of non-drug interventions — which included making sure patients’ sleep-wake cycles were preserved, that they had their eyeglasses and hearing aids and that were not dehydrated — reduced delirium by 53 percent. These simple fixes had an added benefit: They cut the rate of falls among hospitalized patients by 62 percent.
My broken arm
The reason why I haven't been posting for the past month is simple - I broke my right arm in a freak accident. Among the many things you can not do easily with one arm in a sling is typing and blogging. But my doctor says that my recovery is "ahead of schedule." It's amazing what a lot of sleep, rest and Advil can do.
Since I've been doing exercises to increase my range of motion, I've started typing again. And now blogging.