(UPI) – A new genetic blood test might pave the way for detecting early stage cancers that often prove fatal when caught too late, a new study suggests. The test scans blood for DNA fragments released by cancerous tumors, explained lead researcher Dr. Victor Velculescu. By reviewing these DNA fragments for mutations found in 58 “cancer-driver” genes, the blood test detects many early stage cancers without rendering false positives for healthy people, said Velculescu, co-director of cancer biology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, in Baltimore.
(STAT News) – The nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager will soon limit the number and strength of opioid drugs prescribed to first-time users as part of a wide-ranging effort to curb an epidemic affecting millions of Americans. But the new program from Express Scripts is drawing criticism from the American Medical Association, the largest association of physicians and medical students in the U.S., which believes treatment plans should be left to doctors and their patients.
(STAT News) – But instead of rejecting members who get contrary results, Donovan said, the conversations are “overwhelmingly” focused on helping the person to rethink the validity of the genetic test. And some of those critiques — while emerging from deep-seated racism — are close to scientists’ own qualms about commercial genetic ancestry testing. Panofsky and Donovan presented their findings at a sociology conference in Montreal on Monday. The timing of the talk — some 48 hours after the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. — was coincidental. But the analysis provides a useful, if frightening, window into how these extremist groups think about their genes.
(The Guardian) – When a child suffers a long-term or chronic illness, one of the greatest psychological problems they confront is isolation from their peers and schoolmates. It’s possible to keep up with schoolwork, but not the social interplay and group dynamics that are a critical part of school life. Dolva realised just how important and neglected this issue of social solitude was when she met a woman who lost her teenage daughter to cancer. She and her partners researched the problem, speaking to children with a multitude of different health conditions and came up with an answer: a telepresence robot called AV1.
(New York Times) – More than 500,000 Yemenis have been infected with cholera this year, and nearly 2,000 have died, the World Health Organization said Monday. Cholera is endemic in Yemen, which is on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula and across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. But the disease, caused by a bacterium in contaminated water, has spread rapidly since April. Civil war and bombing by neighboring Saudi Arabia have crippled much of the country’s water-distribution system, destroyed hospitals and forced vast numbers of people to flee their homes.
(Nature) – Early experiments are beginning to show how genome-editing technologies such as CRISPR might one day fix disease-causing mutations before embryos are implanted. But refining the techniques and getting regulatory approval will take years. PGD has already helped thousands of couples. And whereas the expansion of PGD around the world has generally been slow, in China, it is starting to explode. The conditions there are ripe: genetic diseases carry heavy stigma, people with disabilities get very little support and religious and ethical push-back against PGD is almost non-existent. China has also lifted some restrictions on family size and seen a subsequent rise in fertility treatments among older couples.
(The Verge) – The European inspection and certification company Tüv Süd gave Natural Cycles a CE certification in February, which means the app is now considered a medical device for contraception in Europe. To get the CE certification, Scherwitzl says the app has repeatedly demonstrated in a series of clinical studies that it improves the effectiveness of traditional planning methods. Notified bodies are companies like Tüv, which certify high-risk medical devices, whereas the European Medicines Agency gives certification for pharmaceuticals. EU member states pick the notified bodies, which are organizations that assess whether medical devices meet requirements set out in legislation.
Faith and Philosophy (vol. 34, no. 3, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “Christian Cyborgs – A Plea For a Moderate Transhumanism” by Benedikt Paul Göcke
(New York Times) – With the arrival of two revolutionary treatment strategies, immunotherapy and personalized medicine, cancer researchers have found new hope — and a problem that is perhaps unprecedented in medical research. There are too many experimental cancer drugs in too many clinical trials, and not enough patients to test them on. The logjam is caused partly by companies hoping to rush profitable new cancer drugs to market, and partly by the nature of these therapies, which can be spectacularly effective but only in select patients.
Dying with Dignity May Challenge Ontario Law Exempting Religious Hospitals from Offering Assisted Death
(CBC News) – While more than 630 Ontarians to date have legally ended their lives with the help of a nurse or doctor, none have been able to do so within the walls of a hospital that has historic ties to the Catholic Church. But advocates for medically assisted dying argue that since these are public-funded health-care centres, they are bound to offer the option — even though Ontario law currently exempts any person or institution that objects. It’s legislation that Dying With Dignity Canada may challenge in court, according to the group’s CEO.
(Quartz) – Animal studies are the backbone of medical and scientific research. Because of animal testing, humans have developed vaccinations for smallpox, nearly eradicated polio, discovered chemotherapy, and made countless other innovations across the medical spectrum. But there’s a major flaw in the way we conduct these experiments: Far too many animal tests ignore biological sex entirely. A new study from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, published in Nature Communications, argues that too many animal experiments have failed to take into account sexual dimorphism—the traits that differ between sexes in a species, from size to bone density to coloring.
“What Kind of Society Do You Want to Live in?”: Inside the Country Where Down Syndrome Is Disappearing
(CBS News) – With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland. Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.
(BBC) – Plants have been “hijacked” to make polio vaccine in a breakthrough with the potential to transform vaccine manufacture, say scientists. The team at the John Innes Centre, in Norfolk, says the process is cheap, easy and quick. As well as helping eliminate polio, the scientists believe their approach could help the world react to unexpected threats such as Zika virus or Ebola. Experts said the achievement was both impressive and important. The vaccine is an “authentic mimic” of poliovirus called a virus-like particle.
(The Atlantic) – There’s nothing to do for the dead patient at this point. But his or her organs can be saved, and because most transplanted organs in the United States come from brain-dead donors, these minutes are crucial. For this reason, researchers have wanted to study the use of drugs or procedures in brain-dead donors, halting organ damage that happens in the minutes after death. But this kind of research is almost impossible to do in the United States. The ethics of so-called donor-intervention research are incredibly fraught. How do you get informed consent and from whom? The dead donor?
(UPI) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the first multiplex test for the Zika virus and three other viruses. The FDA made the authorization for CII-ArboViroPlex rRT-PCR Test developed by the Center for Infection and Immunity, or CII, at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Medicine Monday.
(ABC News) – South Carolina has become the latest state to accuse a drug manufacturer of exacerbating its opioid drug crisis by using deceptive marketing, with the state’s top prosecutor suing the maker of OxyContin. Attorney General Alan Wilson on Tuesday announced the state had sued Purdue Pharma, accusing the maker of OxyContin and other opioid drugs of violating South Carolina’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.
(Reuters) – Indian health authorities on Monday delivered oxygen to a public hospital where 63 people have died of encephalitis in recent days, nearly half of them children, as it ran out of medical supplies because of unpaid bills, triggering public outrage. The deaths of the children have again exposed India’s underfunded and poorly managed public healthcare despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s vows to revamp the system.
(NPR) – Public health officials and others concerned about the nation’s opioid crisis are hailing President Trump’s decision to declare it a national emergency. A Presidential commission on opioids said in its interim report that an emergency declaration would allow the administration to take immediate action and send a message to Congress that more funding is needed. But while the Trump administration prepares the presidential order, governors in six states have already declared emergencies to deal with opioids. They range from Alaska and Arizona in the West to Florida, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts in the East.
(Readers’ Digest) – They asked him questions: Blink once for yes, twice for no. It took extraordinary effort for Richard to get his eyes to work. Up to 70 percent of people diagnosed with the syndrome die within a short period of time. Of those who do survive, only a handful recover enough to lead a normal life. But before he could even hope for such an outcome, Richard would have to endure new terrors.
(San Francisco Chronicle) – Although no studies of doctors’ views have been conducted since the law took effect, Duncan said her conversations with colleagues and other information led her to conclude that far fewer than half of California’s 135,000 licensed physicians would agree to prescribe life-ending medications. Some have religious or personal objections, she said, and others just don’t see it as part of the doctor-patient relationship. Even most doctors who specialize in end-of-life care, such as those who work in hospices, “don’t have comfort or expertise” in the new law, Duncan said.