Counting Number Of Mutations In Tumor Cells Can Predict How Well Patient Will Respond To Immunotherapy
If the results hold up, they could spare many patients from suffering the severe side effects of these drugs with nothing to show for it. In other public health news: transplants, twins, biological weapons, suicides, stillborns, and more.
Which Cancer Patients Will Checkpoint Inhibitors Help?
Experiments involving just a few patients have hinted at it, and research on one type of tumor at a time has supported it, but a large study has now delivered the strongest evidence yet about how to identify cancer patients who are likely to benefit from a particular form of immunotherapy: count. Specifically, count how many mutations their tumor cells have. The higher this “tumor mutational burden,” concludes a study published on Monday in Nature Genetics, the likelier a patient is to go into remission, and possibly be cured, by checkpoint inhibitor drugs such as Bristol-Myers Squibb’s nivolumab (Opdivo) and Merck’s pembrolizumab (Keytruda). (Begley, 1/14)
Transplant Surgeon Joshua Mezrich On 'When Death Becomes Life'
When Joshua Mezrich was a medical student on the first day of surgical rotation, he was called into the operating room to witness a kidney transplant. What he saw that day changed him. After the donor kidney came out of ice and the clamps on it were released, he says, "it turned pink and literally, in front of my eyes, this urine just started squirting out onto the field." (Davies, 1/14)
Dynamic Duos: Why Science Loves Twins
One of the broadest studies of twins in the United States suggests that our genes tend to influence the diseases that afflict us more than where we live, according to research published Monday in the journal Nature Genetics. Using insurance claims data, researchers identified more than 56,000 pairs of twins and estimated the heritability of 560 diseases, finding that nearly a third of the variation in these conditions could be attributed to genetics, on average. Where people grew up was less contributory on the whole. (Nedelman, 1/14)
The New York Times:
North Korea’s Less-Known Military Threat: Biological Weapons
Pound for pound, the deadliest arms of all time are not nuclear but biological. A single gallon of anthrax, if suitably distributed, could end human life on Earth. Even so, the Trump administration has given scant attention to North Korea’s pursuit of living weapons — a threat that analysts describe as more immediate than its nuclear arms, which Pyongyang and Washington have been discussing for more than six months. (Baumgaertner and Broad, 1/15)
The New York Times:
A Device That Gives Parents Of Stillborn Babies Time To Say Goodbye
The death of a child is nearly always devastating and typically followed by an outpouring of support while parents mourn. But when a baby dies before it is born or shortly thereafter, parents are often alone in a hospital with a limited source of comfort and little, if any, opportunity to say goodbye to the baby — or babies. Enter the CuddleCot, a kind of refrigerated baby bed that helps preserve the body of a deceased newborn for days. The device gives parents a chance to bond with their babies — to love and hold them, take pictures, even take them home and take them for walks, creating memories to last a lifetime. (Brody, 1/14)
Suicide Risk Quadruples For People With Cancer, Study Finds
New research from the Penn State College of Medicine shows people with cancer are more than four times more likely to die of suicide than those without cancer, highlighting a need for a more comprehensive approach to treatment. ... For the study, published Monday in the journal Nature Communications, researchers examined data on more than 8.6 million cancer patients in the United States (28 percent of the country’s population) from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program. (Pirani, 1/14)
Kaiser Health News:
Providers Walk ‘Fine Line’ Between Informing And Scaring Immigrant Patients
While the Trump administration decides whether to adopt a controversial policy that could jeopardize the legal status of immigrants who use public programs such as Medicaid, doctors and clinics are torn between informing patients about the potential risks and unnecessarily scaring them into dropping their coverage or avoiding care. “We are walking a fine line,” said Tara McCollum Plese, chief external affairs officer at the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers, which represents 176 clinics. “Until there is confirmation this indeed is going to be the policy, we don’t want to add to the angst and the concern.” (Ibarra, 1/15)
The New York Times:
A Silver Bullet Against The Brain-Eating Amoeba?
The brain-eating monsters are real enough — they lurk in freshwater ponds in much of the United States. Now scientists may have discovered a new way to kill them. Minuscule silver particles coated with anti-seizure drugs one day may be adapted to halt Naegleria fowleri, an exceptionally lethal microbe that invades through the sinuses and feeds on human brain tissue. (Baumgaertner, 1/14)