The National Cancer Institute has announced that they will begin a new study in which cancer patients will be sorted into treatment groups based on genetic mutations in their tumors as opposed to cancer type. This research aims to identify whether targeting molecular abnormalities in cancer is a more effective treatment than traditional labeling of cancer types.
“Precision medicine”, as it has been dubbed, is the result of over a decade of attempting to create more efficient means of treating cancer by matching drugs to the patients who will best benefit from them. James H. Doroshow, director of the division of cancer treatment and diagnosis at the National Cancer Institute states, “[the effort] is the largest and most rigorous precision oncology trial that’s ever been attempted,” and is expected to cost 30 to 40 million dollars to undertake. the NCI hopes to receive additional funding from Congress.
The project plans to initiate screening for participants on July 1st of this year. More>>
The Americas region has become the first to eliminate rubella, a contagious viral infection similar to measles. Rubella and the associated congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) are now the third and fourth vaccine-preventable diseases eliminated in the Americas following small pox and polio. Prior to mass vaccination, it is estimated that between 16,000 and 20,000 children were born with CRS in Latin America and the Caribbean. The elimination of the disease is the result of a fifteen year long vaccination initiative.
Rubella is typically less contagious and less aggressive than measles. However, it can cause birth defects or miscarriages if women are infected during pregnancy. Rubella is still prominent in other regions of the world, with the Americas and Europe being the only two with elimination goals for the disease. More>>
Over the past 16 years, the American Lung Association has produced a “State of the Air” report which examines levels of air pollution across the United States. The report is particularly important in that 4 in 10 people across the US live in a region of unhealthy ozone (smog) or particle (soot) pollution. Findings in this years report show signs of progress, but conditions must be improved. Recent research has indicated that air pollution can be more harmful than expected and at lower levels. The reports findings have been used over the years to underscore the importance of the Clean Air Act.
While air pollution can harm healthy adults as well, those at greatest risk of harm are children and infants, the elderly, people with asthma or COPD, those with heart disease, and those who work or exercise outside. High levels of air pollution can induce asthma, strokes, or cardiac arrest. A recent report from the World Health Organization has linked particle pollution to lung cancer.
Climate change is one of the greatest contributors to both ozone and particle pollution. Rising temperatures have increased droughts, wildfires, and other sources of particle pollution. While there have been significant improvements since the original State of the Air report, climate change is creating conditions in which ongoing improvements will be made more difficult. Children with asthma and the elderly, among others, will bear the greatest health burden. More >>
President Obama gave an interview on climate change with Dr. Sanjay Gupta after a roundtable discussion on the topic at Howard University. The President stated that his interest in the environment began after enrolling in Occidental College in Los Angeles, and noting the poor quality of the air and health consequences of smog on individuals with respiratory conditions. He then credited the Clean Air Act with helping reduce the prevalence of asthma and other respiratory diseases between 1970 and 2010. Throughout the course of the interview, the President also went on to explain how he considers climate change a public threat, with rising global temperatures increasing the risk of heat stroke and insect-borne diseases. Natural disasters such as hurricanes or droughts, he believes, are making the impact of climate change much more visible to the public. Dr. Gupta states that the President is attempting to re-frame the conversation around climate change to reflect a public health perspective. More >>
Springtime is a great time to revitalize your workout to get the health results you have been aiming for. When it comes to maximizing your work out, variation is key. Engaging in the same workout routine allows your muscles to adapt to that workout and make it easier while burning less calories. This ultimately makes losing weight and maintaining fitness more difficult. A study from the University of Florida also indicates that people who do the same work out are less likely to continue exercising. The same study indicates that to alleviate mental fatigue and boredom, workouts should be modified every two weeks. This change allows people to remain interested in their exercise routine and are thus more likely to follow through with their fitness goals.
Ways to change up your workout include incorporating strength training, changing location, and the intensity of your workout. More >>
A new study indicates that one’s drinking habits are tied to one’s geographic location. The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health indicates that binge drinking levels are on the rise nationwide, and assessed drinking levels county by county. While the percentage of people who drink is remaining fairly constant, the amounts of alcohol being consumed are increasing among drinkers.
Heavy drinking is defined as more than two drinks per day for men and more than one drink a day for women. Heavy drinking is linked to heart disease, cancer, and liver damage among other health complications. Binge drinking–at least five drinks on one occasion for men and at least four drinks for women–is linked to car crashes, injuries and alcohol poisoning. In general, the study finds the highest rates of problem drinking occur in New England, the Pacific coast and in the northern parts of the West and Midwest.
While regular, moderate drinking is more prevalent in wealthier communities, problem drinking is more prevalent in poorer, more rural communities. More>>
The Ebola epidemic, which has claimed 10,000 lives in West Africa, has served as a point of analysis of current public health and disease control systems: namely, their lack of presence. This has served to highlight the need for increased preparedness and protocol in the case of future epidemics which have the potential to be even more lethal. Ebola, Gates notes, requires physical contact for transmission as well as active symptoms. Drawing comparisons to the Spanish flu which killed approximately 30 million people in 1918, diseases that are either airborne or are contagious before the onset of symptoms are a great threat to our increasingly mobile society and require adequate systems in place to control an outbreak in the future. While conversations about Ebola have centered primarily on whether the WHO or the CDC responded effectively do not highlight the fact that there are very rudimentary and ill structured systems to address a crisis of this size. The Ebola crisis made clear that there is little protocol for essential functions of disease control in vulnerable regions such as volunteer deployment, transportation of patients, diagnostic procedures, and data collection.
Gates calls for increasing infrastructural capacity and encouraging the development of global warning symptoms for epidemics. Local health systems need to be adequately prepared and strengthened in order for these measures to be effective. In addition, there must be a more efficient way to have medical professionals and experts on call, standard deployment measures, organized data collection measures, and emergency resources ready and accessible. More>>