KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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A New Weapon In The War Against Cancer: Tumor-Destroying Vaccines

The research on the new therapy is part of a wider push to tap into immune cells’ cancer-fighting powers. In other public health news: myths and vaccines, the cancer death rate, epilepsy, patient mobility in hospitals, soda, and sperm.

The Wall Street Journal: Scientists See Progress For Cancer Vaccines
Conventional vaccines prevent people from getting sick in the first place. Now scientists are testing a new type of vaccine that treats existing cancers by spurring immune cells to go on the attack. These drugs—known as therapeutic vaccines—hold the potential to plunge cancers into remission without causing the side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy. (Gormley, 9/12)

The Wall Street Journal: Myths About Vaccines Are Hard To Dispel
For people who believe myths about vaccines, the facts aren’t very convincing. That’s the result researchers got when they tested if people could be persuaded to change their incorrect beliefs that certain vaccines cause autism or have lesser but still harmful side effects on children. The test subjects stuck to their opinions even after being shown facts about the matter. In fact, their beliefs were stronger afterward, according to Sergio Della Sala, a neuroscience professor at the University of Edinburgh and one of three researchers who conducted the study. (Dizik, 9/12)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com: Cancer Death Rate Continues To Decline Amid Progress, Challenges, Researchers Report
The 2017 report hails the 25 percent fall in  U.S. cancer death rates from 1991 to 2014, while five-year survival rates for all cancers rose from 49 percent in the mid-1970s to 69 percent in 2013. Moreover, in the past year, the FDA has approved nine new cancer drugs and expanded the approved uses for eight more. Two of the new drugs are in the revolutionary class of immunotherapies, called “checkpoint inhibitors,” that includes Keytruda. (McCullough, 9/12)

Stat: Sage's Epilepsy Drug Fails To Do Better Than Placebo In Key Clinical Trial
Sage Therapeutics’ closely watched drug, brexanolone, did not do much better than a placebo in helping patients with a severe type of epilepsy, data from a phase 3 clinical trial show. Sage, which is based in Cambridge, Mass. expected brexanolone to lead to its first-ever drug approval. Instead, its shares dropped 25 percent to $66 in pre-market trading. (Feuerstein, 9/12)

The Wall Street Journal: Hospitals Increasingly Tell Patients To Get Up And Move
To prevent falls that cause injuries, hospitals often encourage patients who haven’t undergone surgery to stay in bed. But some medical experts say that may be a big mistake. Numerous studies have shown that immobility increases the likelihood of muscle atrophy, blood clots, bed scores and delirium. For elderly or very sick patients, the danger is even greater: Being immobilized even for a few days can lead to a permanent functional decline, making it more difficult for patients to return home. (Ward, 9/12)

Bloomberg: Emails Show How The Food Industry Uses ‘Science’ To Push Soda
There are few federal food policies as contentious as the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, developed every five years after a report by the independent U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The guidelines not only inform individual consumers about what’s healthy and what isn’t but are also used to develop approaches to everything from food labeling regulations to school lunch menus and food stamp benefits. ... So it’s not surprising that following the 2015 committee report, which had recommended that Americans reduce their consumption of red and processed meat and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, the food and beverage industry scrambled to respond. (Shanker, 9/13)

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