Why Immunotherapy Is The Future of Cancer Treatment

The immune system is a complex network that attacks foreign substances like germs and viruses. But cancer has historically been resistant to the body’s natural defenses, mainly because the body doesn’t see it as foreign. T-cells participating in the immune system’s response are unable to recognize the rogue cancer cells because they carry proteins called PD-L1 that act like masks allowing the cancer to blend in with other normal cells. Immunotherapy is a treatment that essentially simulates natural human antibodies to block the PD-L1 protein and expose the tumor for T-cells to attack. The Past The rise of immunotherapy has been experimental in nature. Beginning in the late 1800s, a New York surgeon named William Coley saw impressive responses from children with sarcoma that he treated with bacterial extracts. However, due to the success of antibiotics, immunotherapy research largely fell by the wayside. A few small breakthroughs during the 1900s, including the introduction of the first cancer prevention vaccine in 1981, eventually led to the continued growth we’re seeing today. The Present In the wake of multiple government-backed research initiatives, including the Human Genome Project of the 1990s and early 2000s and the Cancer Moonshot announced in 2016, immunotherapy has once again surged into the spotlight as an emerging cancer treatment. Growing antibiotic resistance, the negative side effects of chemotherapy and radiation and the overall low survival rates of...

Trump’s Education Budget Cuts Mental Health Money For Schools

President Trump’s new education budget proposes to dedicate no money—that’s right, zero—to fund mental health services and other student support services for public schools. Previously, the government provided schools with $1.65 billion in funding for various initiatives, including mental health services. But, in an attempt to reduce the federal government’s role in education, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have decided it’s best to cut all funding for these important student services. Lack of funding is a serious issue for a number of reasons. According to the NIH, just over 20 percent of children have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder either currently or at some point in their life. Nonetheless, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, only 21% of children with mental health issues actually receive services. There is a disparity between ill children and treatment received, and this gap may grow if funding for school-based mental health services is slashed. The disparity may become an even greater challenge for students who live in areas where community-based mental health services are scarce or too expensive—without school-based services, these children’s options are severely limited. The new education budget’s lack of concern for mental health services may harm children’s health in the long run. A child’s mental disorder may worsen and continue into adulthood if not treated early and appropriately. That’s why school services are vital and even preventive—they...

How To Be A Social Media Expert In Medicine

When you get into medicine, you barely have time for anything. On top of the studying, test-taking, internships, fellowships, and scrambling for resume builders, it’s difficult to keep up in our lives. Obviously, social media has become a staple of everyday life, and thought leaders, key opinion leaders, and influencers in niche fields have all used it to advance their expertise and to show the world as they are. As medical professionals, it can be a key boon in our workplace and schools, telling stories and sharing relevant information to others with a simple click. Vineet Arora, MD, MPP, shows us that it’s possible to be a social media expert while educating and teaching others in your field. Vineet Arora MD, MPP is Associate Director for the Internal Medicine Residency and Assistant Dean for Scholarship and Discovery at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Dr. Arora’s scholarly work focuses on resident duty hours, patient handoffs, medical professionalism, and quality of hospital care.  Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including JAMA and the Annals of Internal Medicine, and has received coverage from the New York Times, CNN, and US News & World Report. She has testified to the Institute of Medicine on resident duty hours and to Congress about increasing medical student debt and the primary care crisis.  As an academic hospitalist, she supervises medical residents and students caring for hospitalized patients. Dr. Arora blogs about her experiences in medical education at...

Stem Cells Can Now Regrow Teeth

Can stem cells really regrow teeth? It sounds like something straight out of a science fiction movie. For most dental patients with missing teeth, there are only a few options: getting dental implants or false teeth. And for dental patients with cavities the remedy usually is a filling or cap. But, what if you could get new teeth – real teeth growing right in your mouth. David Mooney and his team of researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute are working on making this science fact and not fiction. What’s his idea? To use lasers with stem cells and regrow teeth. He and his research team have developed a technique using a low-power laser. The laser’s job is to get stem cells to reform dentin. This could have huge implications for cosmetic dentistry, for wound healing, and even for bone restoration. Arthur Glosman DDS, famous cosmetic dentist in Beverly Hills specializing in dental implants, says: This could be the next big thing, even beyond teeth implants. Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine But, what are stem cells, anyway? Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated cells that can differentiate into specialized cell types by using proteins called growth factors. Adult stem cells can divide, or self-renew on an indefinite basis. Adding different growth factors can force these cells to develop into a particular type of tissue. However, to accomplish this is not...

Learn More How HIV Life Expectancy Is Improving

Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been the preferred treatment for patients with HIV for 20 years. Since its inception in 1996, the therapy has continued to improve. Now, studies report that patients living with HIV who take the new ART drugs may look forward to near-normal life expectancy. In particular, people with the disease are likely to live 10 years longer than people who were infected with HIV in 1990s. A new study published in The Lancet reports advances in antiretroviral drug treatment (ART) that improve life expectancy for patients living with HIV. ART is the standard treatment regime for HIV patients. While ART cannot cure HIV, a combination of medications help patients live longer and reduce the risk of HIV transmission. ART was first introduced in 1996. One year after ART was introduced, the FDA approved Combivir, a combination drug taken as a single daily tablet, which made taking daily medication HIV patients easier. Since then, ART initiation has improved by leaps and bounds, making medication management easier for patients. The study was co-authored by a collective called “The Antiretroviral Therapy Cohort Collaboration.” Research was conducted by an international team led by the University of Bristol in the UK and funded by the UK’s Medical Research Council, Department for International Development and the European Union. The study combined data from 18 European and North American cohorts enrolled in...

What Will Medical Technology Look Like in 2025?

Take a trip to the future of medicine in these excerpts from TED Talks. What might 2025 hold? Patient-specific pluripotent stem cell lines stored in the freezer until they’re needed for regenerative therapy. Medical devices embedded in clothing that send signals when something goes wrong. Patients taking ownership of their own bodies and their own data. And nanotechnologies to detect and treat cancer. The brave new world may also be a healthier world. From Induced pluripotent stem cells. A new resource in modern medicine: Pluripotent stem cells possess a remarkable unlimited self-renewal capacity and offer unparalleled in vitro differentiation potential. This provides a unique model system not only to study early human development but also gives renewed hope in terms of developing cell therapies and regenerative medicine. S. Yamanaka, a medical doctor and researcher, reported the possibility of reprogramming somatic cells to so-called induced pluripotent stem cells via the ectopic expression of four transcription factors, namely Oct4, Sox2, Klf4 and c-Myc. This Nobel Prize winning work has since revolutionized stem cell research and paved the way for countless new avenues within regenerative medicine. This includes disease modeling in a patient-specific context with the ultimate aim of individually tailored pharmaceutical therapy. Additionally, genetic correction studies have rapidly increased in basic science and thus there is hope that these can be effectively and efficiently translated into clinical applications. Addressing the medical...

How A Five Sentence Doctor’s Note Helped Facilitate The Opioid Epidemic

All it took was one-hundred words to kill over hundreds of thousands of Americans. A new report from the New England Journal of Medicine tells the story of how this short doctor’s note helped facilitate today’s American opioid epidemic: We found that a five-sentence letter published in the Journal in 1980 was heavily and uncritically cited as evidence that addiction was rare with long-term opioid therapy. We believe that this citation pattern contributed to the North American opioid crisis by helping to shape a narrative that allayed prescribers’ concerns about the risk of addiction associated with long-term opioid therapy. In 2007, the manufacturer of OxyContin and three senior executives pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges that they misled regulators, doctors, and patients about the risk of addiction associated with the drug. Our findings highlight the potential consequences of inaccurate citation and underscore the need for diligence when citing previously published studies. Since opioids were not widely used forty years ago, so doctors did not have much data to support addictive properties. The New England Journal of Medicine performed a bibliometric analysis of the validity of the 1980 letter. There were 608 scholars that cited the letter as proof since 1980. 72% cited that addiction was rare among those prescribed opioids; however 81% of scholars did not mention that the patients were hospitalized when they receive the prescription. Because so many scholars cited the letter...