KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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In Search Of Genetic Marker For Suicide: Scientists Envision Medication That Could Save Lives

It will be a long and complicated path even if it's successful, but researchers think searching DNA for links to suicide will eventually lead to them being able to create a pill to stop it. In other public health news: melanoma, doctors and Yelp, breast milk, chemotherapy, tick saliva and more.

Stat: Could A Pill Prevent Suicide? A New Genetics Study In Utah Seeks The Answer
The project, unveiled Friday, seeks to advance existing genetic research on suicide by potentially developing new medications that could help prevent patients from ending their lives. Utah’s famously expansive DNA database makes it an ideal setting for the research. The state also has one of the highest suicide rates in the country — more than 22 per 100,000 people — and suicide is the leading cause of death among youths between the ages of 10 and 17. (Ross, 9/11)

The Washington Post: New Clinical Trial Might Change The Standard Treatment For Melanoma
In a head-to-head comparison of two immunotherapy drugs used to prevent relapse in certain patients with advanced melanoma, one treatment was the clear winner — and it's not the one that most people get. The international study, released Sunday, involved 900 patients whose tumors were removed by surgery but who remained at high risk of recurrence of melanoma, an often aggressive form of skin cancer. (McGinley, 9/10)

Bloomberg: Don't Yelp Your Doctor. Study Finds Ratings Are All Wrong. 
If you’re looking for the best doctor, online ratings are unlikely to be much help. That’s the determination of researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, who compared reviews of 78 of the medical center’s specialists on five popular ratings sites with a set of internal quality measures and found there was essentially no correlation. The results suggest that in a world awash in online feedback for seemingly every consumer choice, reliable, easy-to-interpret information on how good doctors are at their jobs remains scarce. (Tracer, 9/8)

The Washington Post: Neonatal Facilities Increasingly Use Donated Breast Milk To Save Premature Babies
The weekly shipment arrived at noon Thursday — 300 ounces of breast milk donated by women across the country and pasteurized at a milk bank in Austin. It was packed with dry ice and shipped via FedEx to feed the most medically fragile premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s National Health System. “Liquid gold,” said Victoria Catalano, a NICU dietitian at the children’s hospital in Washington, holding up a plastic bottle containing three ounces of frozen milk. Then she corrected herself. “Well, that’s liquid gold,” she said, pointing to two large deep freezers stocked with milk the infants’ mothers had produced. “This is the next best thing,” she said. (Chandler, 9/10)

The Washington Post: She Rejected Chemotherapy And Chose To Die Of Cancer — So She Could Give Birth To Her Child
The headaches began sometime in March. They didn’t think much of them, other than that they were possible migraines — until she started vomiting.An initial scan showed a mass in Carrie DeKlyen’s brain. More tests showed that it was a form of cancer, possibly lymphoma, but treatable. But a pathology exam revealed a more grim diagnosis. The 37-year-old mother of five from Wyoming, Mich., had glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. If lucky, she could live for five more years. (Phillips, 9/10)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Tick Saliva May Be A Secret Ingredient To Help HIV Patients
The blacklegged tick — the one that carries Lyme disease — may have some value: its spit. The insect’s saliva — which helps it feed on hosts by blocking blood coagulation — is now part of experiments examining ways to reduce heart disease in people living with HIV. Their risk of heart attack and stroke is nearly double that of the general population, according to a study last year. That risk was found even in people whose virus was undetectable in their blood because of antiretroviral drugs. (Daly, 9/9)

The Oregonian: Genetic Test Bumps Breast Cancer Patients Down A Stage Or 2 
For decades, tumor size has been crucial to the treatment and prognosis of breast cancer. Bigger usually meant the cancer was more advanced and at a higher stage, required more treatment and brought a worse outlook. But now physicians have biological tests that help them determine how aggressive the cancer is likely to be and the best course of treatment. (Terry, 9/10)

The Washington Post: E Cyclists’ Recovery From Brain Injuries Can Be Slow, But Death Rate Has Dropped
On the day that would change his life forever, Ryan Brown went on his regular morning run. He rode his bicycle the quick mile to work at the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office in Alexandria, Va., where he was an examiner for plant molecular biology patents. Late in the afternoon, he headed home to take his two sons to dinner while his wife finished teaching a piano lesson. He never made it. (Arcement, 9/9)

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