KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Highly Touted Immunotherapy Can Actually Unleash Full Fury Of Cancer Rather Than Thwarting It

Researchers are noticing that in some cases using immunotherapy can actually cause tumors to enter a hyperactive phase. In other public health news: faulty diagnoses, the effect being overweight has on life span, skin cancer, vaccinations, Alzheimer's and more.

Stat: Immunotherapy May Hasten Growth Of Tumors In Some Patients
In a troubling phenomenon that researchers have observed in a number of cases recently, the treatment appeared not only to fail to thwart the man’s cancer, but to unleash its full fury. It seemed to make the tumor grow faster. The patient’s case was one of a handful described last week in the journal Clinical Cancer Research. Of the 155 cases studied, eight patients who had been fairly stable before immunotherapy treatment declined rapidly, failing the therapy within two months. Six saw their tumors enter a hyperactive phase, where the tumors grew by between 53 percent and 258 percent. (Tedeschi, 4/3)

The Washington Post: 20 Percent Of Patients With Serious Conditions Are First Misdiagnosed, Study Says
More than 20 percent of patients who sought a second opinion at one of the nation’s premier medical institutions had been misdiagnosed by their primary care providers, according to new research published Tuesday. Twelve percent of the people who asked specialists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to review their cases had received correct diagnoses, the study found. The rest got diagnoses that were partly in line with the conclusions of the Mayo doctors who evaluated their conditions. (Bernstein, 4/4)

NPR: Overweight Americans May Have Shorter Lifespans After All
New research published Monday adds fuel to an ongoing debate in the public health community over whether a few extra pounds are good, or bad, for you. Earlier research found that being somewhat overweight, but not obese, may result in a longer life. But today's study in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that being slightly overweight may actually decrease a person's life span, which is more in line with conventional wisdom about weight. (Neighmond and Neel, 4/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Should You Have A Scan For Skin Cancer?
Beverly McCormick gets a full-body exam for skin cancer every six months. With blond hair, freckles and light skin, she’s not taking any chances. Ms. McCormick, a 64-year-old manager in the financial-services department at the Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, says that over the years her dermatologist has removed a squamous cell carcinoma—a type of skin cancer—as well as numerous precancerous lesions. (Reddy, 4/3)

The Washington Post: Vaccinations Significantly Reduce Risk Of Death From The Flu, CDC Study Finds
Children who were vaccinated in recent years significantly lowered their chances of dying from the flu, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Using data from four flu seasons between 2010 and 2014, researchers found that flu vaccinations reduced the risk of flu-associated death by half among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions and by nearly two-thirds among healthy children. (Schmidt, 4/4)

The New York Times: The Campaign To Lead The World Health Organization
In May, the World Health Organization will select a new director general, a choice that will affect the health of hundreds of millions in the developing world — perhaps even more if a global pandemic were to emerge. For the first time, the selection will be made by a vote of the W.H.O.’s member nations for candidates who have campaigned openly for the post. (McNeil, 4/3)

The Washington Post: Wealth Didn’t Matter. Pollution From A Coal-Fired Plant, Carried Miles By Wind, Still Hurt Their Babies.
Air pollution from power plants has wanderlust. It never stays still. It rides the wind, drifting far from its source, visiting homes miles away with potentially harmful effects. New research released Monday documents the impact that pollution from a coal-fired plant in Pennsylvania had on four wealthy New Jersey counties as far as 30 miles downwind. Women in those counties had a greater risk of having babies of low or very low birthweight — less than 5½ pounds — than did women in similarly affluent areas. (Fears, 4/3)

Los Angeles Times: Health Officials Acknowledge Effects Of Utility Leak On Alabama Residents
A chemical leak at a natural gas facility that had long been owned by San Diego-based Sempra Energy has been found to have contributed to the troubled health of residents in a poor Alabama community. The Alabama Department of Public Health announced in a recent press release that the ongoing review of the 2008 leak in Eight Mile, Ala., has determined that the chemical odorant used to detect natural gas leaks is affecting residents in the predominantly African American community of 8,000. (Penn, 4/3)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.