Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

3-D printing offers innovative method to deliver medication

From the 3 March 2015 Society of Interventional Radiology press release

3-D printing could become a powerful tool in customizing interventional radiology treatments to individual patient needs, with clinicians having the ability to construct devices to a specific size and shape. That’s according to a study being presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s Annual Scientific Meeting. Researchers and engineers collaborated to print catheters, stents and filaments that were bioactive, giving these devices the ability to deliver antibiotics and chemotherapeutic medications to a targeted area in cell cultures.

“3-D printing allows for tailor-made materials for personalized medicine,” said Horacio R. D’Agostino, M.D., FSIR, lead researcher and an interventional radiologist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUH) in Shreveport. “It gives us the ability to construct devices that meet patients’ needs, from their unique anatomy to specific medicine requirements. And as tools in interventional radiology, these devices are part of treatment options that are less invasive than traditional surgery,” he added.

Using 3-D printing technology and resorbable bioplastics, D’Agostino and his team of biomedical engineers and nanosystem engineers at LSUH and Louisiana Tech University developed bioactive filaments, chemotherapy beads, and catheters and stents containing antibiotics or chemotherapeutic agents. The team then tested these devices in cell cultures to see if they could inhibit growth of bacteria and cancer cells.

When testing antibiotic-containing catheters that could slowly release the drug, D’Agostino’s team found that the devices inhibited bacterial growth. Researchers also saw that filaments carrying chemotherapeutic agents were able to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

….

 

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March 7, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] New nanodevice defeats drug resistance

New nanodevice defeats drug resistance 

From the 3 March 2015 MIT press release

Tiny particles embedded in gel can turn off drug-resistance genes, then release cancer drugs.

Chemotherapy often shrinks tumors at first, but as cancer cells become resistant to drug treatment, tumors can grow back. A new nanodevice developed by MIT researchers can help overcome that by first blocking the gene that confers drug resistance, then launching a new chemotherapy attack against the disarmed tumors.

The device, which consists of gold nanoparticles embedded in a hydrogel that can be injected or implanted at a tumor site, could also be used more broadly to disrupt any gene involved in cancer.

“You can target any genetic marker and deliver a drug, including those that don’t necessarily involve drug-resistance pathways. It’s a universal platform for dual therapy,” says Natalie Artzi, a research scientist at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, and senior author of a paper describing the device in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of March 2.

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March 7, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Drugs in dirt: Scientists appeal for help

From the 20 January 2015 BBC article

US scientists are asking the public to join them in their quest to mine the Earth’s soil for compounds that could be turned into vital new drugs.

Spurred on by the recent discovery of a potential new antibiotic in soil, the Rockefeller University team want to check dirt from every country in the world.

They have already begun analysing samples from beaches, forests and deserts across five continents.

But they need help getting samples.

Which is where we all come in.

Citizen science

On their Drugs From Dirt website, they say: “The world is a big place and we can’t get get to all of the various corners of it.

“We would like some assistance in sampling soil from around the world. If this sounds interesting to you – sign up.”

They want to hear from people from all countries and are particularly keen to receive samples from unique, unexplored environments such as caves, islands, and hot springs.

Such places, they say, could house the holy grail – compounds produced by soil bacteria that are entirely new to science.

Researcher Dr Sean Brady told the BBC: “We are not after hundreds of thousands of samples. What we really want is a couple of thousand from some really unique places that could contain some really interesting stuff. So it’s not really your garden soil we are after, although that will have plenty of bacteria in it too.”

He said they would also be interested to hear from schools and colleges that might want to get involved in the project.

From the 185 samples they have tested so far there are some promising results, the researchers say in the journal eLife.

analysing samples in the lab

Biosynthetic dark matter

Dr Brady and colleagues have found compounds that might yield better derivatives of existing drugs.

In a hot spring sample from New Mexico, they found compounds similar to those that produce epoxamicin – a natural molecule used as the starting point for a number of cancer drugs.

In samples from Brazil, they found genes that might offer up new versions of another important cancer drug called bleomycin.

And in soils from the American southwest, they hope to find compounds similar to the drug rifamycin that could help with treatment-resistant tuberculosis.

 ….

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mathematical Model May Lead to Safer Chemotherapy

 

From the 12 September article at ScienceDaily

Cancer chemotherapy can be a life-saver, but it is fraught with severe side effects, among them an increased risk of infection. Until now, the major criterion for assessing this risk has been the blood cell count: if the number of white blood cells falls below a critical threshold, the risk of infection is thought to be high.

A new model built by Weizmann Institute mathematicians in collaboration with physicians from the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba and from the Hoffmann-La Roche research center in Basel, Switzerland, suggests that for proper risk assessment, it is essential to evaluate not only the quantity of these blood cells, but also their quality, which varies from one person to another….

 

September 13, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , | Leave a comment

Popular herbal supplements may adversely affect chemotherapy treatment

Six common medicinal herbs in Tibet according ...

Image via Wikipedia

From the 17 Aug 2011 Eureka News Alert
 

Doctors urge cancer patients to discuss supplements with their doctors before beginning treatment

(Northwestern Memorial Hospital) Acai berry, cumin, herbal tea, turmeric and long-term use of garlic — all herbal supplements commonly believed to be beneficial to your health — may negatively impact chemotherapy treatment according to a new report…

Herbal supplements, defined as plant or plant parts used for therapeutic purposes, can interact with chemotherapy drugs through different mechanisms. Some herbs can interfere with the metabolism of the drugs, making them less effective while other herbs such as long-term use of garlic may increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. While culinary herbs used in small quantities for flavoring are generally safe, consuming large amounts for prolonged periods of time may have a negative effect on the body when going through chemotherapy.

Read the news release

 

August 18, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Comparative effectiveness research needs to be taught to doctors and patients

An August 18, 2010 blog post by David Williams (posted in Kevin MD.com)

Oncology is the area where the health care cost conundrum is coming into sharpest focus. Theoretically, who wouldn’t spend whatever it takes to cure a life-threatening disease? And yet practically the costs of new treatments are so high, and the improvements usually modest enough, that when it comes right down to it costs are becoming a real issue for patients and doctors.

An interesting article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology explores the attitudes of US and Canadian oncologists. From a survey of hundreds of oncologists they conclude that views of the two countries’ oncologists are similar, despite the fact that Canadians practice in a system where some chemotherapy drugs are not covered due to their cost, while in US society as a whole it is taboo to even talk about cost effectiveness or “rationing.”

A few highlights from the article:

On cost-effectiveness:

  • 84% of US and 80% of Canadian oncologists agree that,”Patient ‘out of pocket’ costs currently influence my decisions regarding which cancer treatments to recommend for my patients.” (Note that while there is little out-of-pocket spend in Canadian health care in general, patients do have to pay for certain drugs that aren’t covered)
  • 67% of US and 52% of Canadian oncologists say, “Every patient should have access to effective cancer treatments regardless of their cost.” Note that even in the US this means one-third of physicians think costs should be a deciding factor
  • 58% of US and 75% of Canadian oncologists agree that, “Every patient should have access to effective cancer treatments only if the treatments provide ‘good value for money’ or are cost effective.” And yet only 42% of US and 49% of Canadian oncologists said they were well prepared to interpret and use cost-effectiveness information for treatment decisions

On policy issues:

  • 57% of US and 68% of Canadian oncologists favored price controls for cancer drugs by Medicare
  • 80% of US and 69% of Canadian oncologists thought there should be more use of cost-effectiveness data in coverage and payment decisions. (The lower number for Canadians is probably due to the fact that cost-effectiveness information is already used for this purpose)
  • 79% of US and 85% of Canadian oncologists want more government research on comparative effectiveness of cancer drugs

Many ideological foes of health reform and comparative effectiveness research think that all would be well if decisions were left up to doctors and their patients. But oncologists already take costs into account and favor cost-effectiveness research, so life (and death) might not actually change much.

In my opinion, we should support more and higher quality comparative effectiveness research, then train doctors and patients to interpret and act on it.

David E. Williams is co-founder of MedPharma Partners and blogs at the Health Business Blog.


October 29, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , | Leave a comment

Communication in Cancer Care

Communication in Cancer Care is a PDQ (Physician Data Query) summary** which outlines good communication skills among patients, family members, and health care providers. Good communication in all phases of cancer care contributes to the well being of the patient and improves quality of life.

The Communication in Cancer Care Web site has a patient version, a health professional version, and a Spanish language version.

The patient version addresses issues as the roles of family givers and parents, how to talk with the health care team (including the importance of checklists and record keeping)
and where to find more information on communicating effectively in cancer care settings.

The health professional version outlines factors and outcomes related to communicating effectively, how to communicate effectively in cancer care settings, and information on training programs and clinical trials.

On a related note, this is an example of why good communication is important in cancer care…

The Perils of Taking Experimental Cancer Drugs [Reuters Health, Oct 26,2010, by Frederik Joelving]

[Excerpt]

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Trying a new, experimental cancer drug may offer a glimpse of hope for very sick patients, but often does more harm than good, a new study shows.

Researchers said cancer doctors regularly resort to drugs still undergoing testing, as long as they have been approved for other diseases or in different combinations or doses.

But because the science is still up in the air, nobody really knows what the consequences of taking such drugs are.

“Many of these drugs end up not being the tremendous improvement that we hoped they would be,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, who was not involved in the new study.

“People need to realize that because the trials have not been completed there is a great deal that is not known about the treatments,” he told Reuters Health. “There are people who get these treatments and get hurt.”

The new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, looked at 172 clinical trials published over two years. [Editor Flahiff’s note : Ask a reference librarian at a local public, academic, or medical library for availability and if any fee is involved]

Less than a third of the clinical trials showed the experimental drugs improved patient survival, and less than half found the drugs helped other clinical outcomes…..

……

Sometimes, of course, new drugs do work, and no one argues that doctors shouldn’t be allowed to prescribe medications they think will help patients.

But doctors should be very clear about the high risks involved. One way to do that, said Peppercorn, would be to require that cancer doctors get informed consent from patients before they start them on experimental drugs.

In the end, Brawley said, the decision to use such treatment should be left to the patient and his or her doctor.

“There are times when it can be justified,” he noted, “but it is done far more often than it should be.”

 

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**PDQ is an online database developed and maintained by the National Cancer Institute. Designed to make the most current, credible, and accurate cancer information available to health professionals and the public, PDQ contains peer-reviewed summaries on cancer treatment, screening, prevention, genetics, complementary and alternative medicine, and supportive care; a registry of cancer clinical trials from around the world; and directories of physicians, professionals who provide genetics services, and organizations that provide cancer care. Most of this information, and more specific information about PDQ, can be found on the NCI’s Web site athttp://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq. Also called Physician Data Query.

October 28, 2010 Posted by | Health Education (General Public), Professional Health Care Resources | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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