KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Hot New Cancer Treatment Comes With Sometimes Toxic Side Effects, And Scientists Want To Know Why

The therapy uses patients' own immune system to help fight the disease, but it can lead to dangerous complications. In other public health news: cervical cancer, the evolution of cells, stroke risks, high blood pressure, vaccines and more.

The Washington Post: Cancer Researchers Learn More About Toxic Side Effects Of New Treatments
One of the most promising new cancer treatments involves altering patients' own immune cells to attack blood cancers. But it comes with a big downside: It can cause serious side effects, including high fevers and sharp drops in blood pressure as well as potentially fatal brain swelling. Now researchers at two major cancer centers — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston — are homing in on these toxic complications to better understand why they occur, which patients are most vulnerable to the side effects and how to prevent them. (McGinley, 10/12)

NPR: Do Women Still Need 2 Tests For Cervical Cancer?
A proposal to simplify cervical cancer screening could end up missing some cancers, researchers and patient advocates say. And that could be especially true for minority women. Latina and black women already have the highest rates of cervical cancer in the U.S., and more than half of women with the disease were not screened in the five years before their diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Haelle, 10/11)

Boston Globe: Scientists Aim To Address Racial And Ethnic Disparities In Cancer Research
It is a medical puzzle: Why are death rates for black men with prostate cancer almost 2.5 times the rate of white men in the United States? ... Understanding those biological differences is difficult, however, because many ethnic and racial groups are underrepresented in genomic studies and in the cell lines and clinical trials used to test new drugs, said Franklin Huang, an oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. (Levenson, 10/11)

Stat: Meet The MacArthur 'Genius' Tracking The Evolution Of Our Cells
This year’s crop of MacArthur “geniuses” included artists, writers, computer scientists — and one biomedical researcher: Gabriel Victora, an immunologist who’s studying how our bodies respond to foreign invaders. Victora — who runs an immunology research lab at Rockefeller University in New York City — didn’t pick up the phone the first time the folks at MacArthur tried to call to notify him he’d won the award. Nor did he pick up the second time his phone rang, or the third. He was sitting in on a seminar. (Thielking, 10/12)

NPR: Modifiable Stroke Risks Still Rising Across All Ages, Races
For years, doctors have been warning us that high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, illegal drug use and diabetes increase our chances of having a potentially fatal stroke. And yet, most of the stroke patients showing up at hospitals from 2004 to 2014 had one or more of these risk factors. And the numbers of people at risk in this way tended to grow among all age groups and ethnicities in that time period. (Fulton, 10/11)

The New York Times: High Blood Pressure In Midlife Tied To Later Dementia
Women with high blood pressure in their 40s are at increased risk for dementia in later years, researchers report. But the finding does not hold for men. Beginning in 1964, investigators collected health and lifestyle information on 5,646 men and women when they were 30 to 35 years old, and again when they were in their 40s. From 1996 to 2015, 532 of them were found to have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. The study is in Neurology. (Bakalar, 10/11)

NPR: Why Does Sex Exist? This 18-Million-Year-Old Worm Left It All Behind
Abstinence may have found its most impressive poster child yet: Diploscapter pachys. The tiny worm is transparent, smaller than a poppy seed and hasn't had sex in 18 million years. It's basically just been cloning itself this whole time. Usually, that's a solid strategy for going extinct, fast. What's its secret? (Bichell, 10/12)

Stat: Century-Old Vial Sheds Light On One Of Medicine's Enduring Mysteries
A115-year-old vaccine vial has provided an important clue in the search for an answer to one of medicine’s enduring mysteries: What went into the world’s first vaccine?  Medical legend has it that Edward Jenner — the father of vaccination — used cowpox virus to protect against the dreaded smallpox. But a new report, published Wednesday, shows a virus closely related to the horsepox virus was used in a 1902 smallpox vaccine, providing fresh ammunition to those who believe the history books have it wrong. (Branswell, 10/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Ebola Vaccines Show Promise In New Study
The first placebo-controlled study of two vaccines against the Ebola virus found they both successfully created a powerful antibody response for a year, suggesting they both could be tools to save lives in a future epidemic of the deadly disease. The research, by doctors from the U.S. and Liberian governments and elsewhere, was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study looked at 1,500 patients in Liberia, and took place amid and after the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia from 2014 into 2015. (Burton, 10/11)

WBUR: Obesity In Children And Teens Rose Sharply Worldwide Over Past 4 Decades
In just over four decades, obesity levels in children and teenagers have risen dramatically worldwide, though that rise has been far from uniform. In a new study published online Tuesday, British researchers and the World Health Organization say those levels have plateaued lately in high-income countries, "albeit at high levels," while the rise in obesity rates has only accelerated in regions such as East Asia and Latin America. (Dwyer, 10/11)

Denver Post: Aurora Mental Health Agencies And Kaiser Permanente Expand Access, End Stigma
Kaiser Permanente timed the kickoff of some efforts to broaden its reach to coincide with National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September. Its new campaign, “Find Your Words,” encourages people to discuss their mental illness and treatment and help remove the stigma. One of Kaiser’s public service announcements features a young black teenager walking alone around his neighborhood. He doesn’t speak, but the lyrics to rapper and songwriter Kendrick Lamar’s confessional “i” are recited. It is vastly different from the typical pharmaceutical industry commercial related to mental health. (Scoville, 10/11)

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