(Medical Xpress) – Data is pouring into the hands of cancer researchers, thanks to improvements in imaging, models and understanding of genetics. Today the data from a single patient’s tumor in a clinical trial can add up to one terabyte—the equivalent of 130,000 books. But we don’t yet have the tools to efficiently process the mountain of genetic data to make more precise predictions for therapy. And it’s needed: treating cancer remains a complex moving target. We can’t yet say precisely how a specific tumor will react to any given drug, and as a patient is treated, cancer cells can continue to evolve, making the initial therapy less effective.
(The Atlantic) – While the description of bipolar disorder in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)—the American Psychiatric Association’s sometimes maligned guide to psychiatric diagnosis—has changed over the years, lithium has remained a standby treatment. “It’s still arguably one of the best medications,” even if it’s not completely understood, says Ben Cheyette, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Now, a new study published on Tuesday by Cheyette’s group in Molecular Psychiatry sheds some light on lithium’s effects on the brain.
(UPI) – Scientists at the University of California Los Angeles have found dozens of genes and two biological pathways they say influence the onset of schizophrenia. The genes were examined in a study published online in the journal Nature. The research team says their findings provide vital new information about the mental disorder, and has the potential to help develop better treatments for the disease in the future.
(BBC) – Indonesia could “wipe out” paedophilia with its new policy of chemical castration, President Joko Widodo has told the BBC. He said Indonesia respected human rights but there would be “no compromise” when it came to punishing such sexual crimes. Indonesia passed controversial laws earlier this month authorising chemical castration for paedophiles. The laws were subject to fierce debate in parliament. The Indonesian Doctors Association says its members should not be involved as the procedure would violate medical ethics.
(Washington Post) – The D.C. Council will take up legislation to allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill residents on Nov. 1, lawmakers decided Tuesday. The council opted to put the matter on its legislative agenda at the start of next month, when it will hold the first of two required votes on the bill. The council chambers were filled with people on both sides of the issue, but the lawmakers did not debate or discuss it or raise any questions. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) announced that the legislative body would take action next month.
(MIT Technology Review) – The first gene therapy for an inherited disease in the U.S. is closer to reality than ever before. Spark Therapeutics is only the second company to pursue an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for such a treatment, but it’s likely to be the first to hit the market. Speaking at EmTech MIT 2016 on Tuesday, Katherine High, Spark’s cofounder, confirmed that the company is on track to launch its first product next year.
(Nature) – But, when we worry about AI, machine consciousness is not as important as people think. In fact, careful reading of the warnings from Gates, Hawking and others show that they never actually mention consciousness. Furthermore, the fear of self-awareness distorts public debate. AI becomes defined as dangerous or not purely on the basis of whether it is conscious or not. We must realize that stopping an AI from developing consciousness is not the same as stopping it from developing the capacity to cause harm.
(NPR) – New research is driving home the consequences. Scientific abstracts presented Monday in Las Vegas, at the annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians, offer insights into how frequently patients with mental health issues land in the emergency room — often because opportunities to intervene earlier are missed. Pediatricians and child psychiatrists say children are among the hardest hit.
(New York Times) – Watching the unfolding epidemic and concerned that many people did not grasp what it meant to raise a child with microcephaly, Ms. Grounds offered to share her family’s experience. “I was hysterically crying all the time,” she recalled of her son’s early days. By the time Nicholas was 2, his developmental problems started to become evident. He crawled awkwardly, did not start to walk on time and would not make eye contact with others.
(Reuters) – The World Health Organization, drugmakers and humanitarian groups are hammering out details of a new vaccine supply system aimed at getting vital shots to vulnerable people in crises such as wars or natural disasters. The mechanism, which so far has British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline signed up to provide its pneumonia vaccine at the lowest possible price, will ask other major pharmaceutical firms including Pfizer and Merck to make similar cut-price agreements for emergencies only.
A Government Panel Says Preteens Only Need Two Doses of HPV Vaccine Against Cervical Cancer, Instead of Three
(Associated Press) – It may soon be easier for preteens to get the vaccine against cervical cancer. A government panel is recommending they get fewer shots spaced further apart. Since the HPV vaccine went on sale a decade ago, three doses have been needed. The panel decided Wednesday that two doses are enough. “It will be simpler now for parents to get their kids the HPV vaccine series, and protect their kids from HPV cancers,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(The Guardian) – More than 70% of migrants travelling overland through north Africa to Europe have become victims of human trafficking, organ trafficking and exploitation along the way, according to the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The IOM’s surveys of migrants arriving in Europe by boat reveal that nearly three-quarters of those interviewed show strong indicators of having been trafficked or exploited for profit by criminals at some point on their journey. Nearly half of all those questioned (49%) reported being held in a location against their will, often for ransom. The majority of these cases occurred in Libya.
(Reuters) – A New York fertility specialist, who said he successfully carried out a “three-parent” in vitro fertilization (IVF) technique resulting in a baby boy, called the procedure a “revolutionary approach in human reproduction.” A New York fertility specialist, who said he successfully carried out a “three-parent” in vitro fertilization (IVF) technique resulting in a baby boy, called the procedure a “revolutionary approach in human reproduction.”
(Chicago Tribune) – If the Dutch Cabinet gets what it wants, citizens who feel they have a “completed life” soon will be able to request public support for help in ending their lives. It is a frightening precedent that other nations ought not follow, and a policy the Dutch ought to reject. In a letter to Parliament, the ministers of health and justice propose a new law as a “solution” to the growing number of people who feel “tired of life” but currently do not have access to euthanasia — a practice that is already widely accessible in the Netherlands.
(Wired) – For a decade we’ve been talking about the potential of gene sequencing and personalized medicine, how advances in computer processing power combined with an increasingly intimate understanding of our individual genomes has put us on the threshold of an age of miracles. With enough data, the theory goes, there’s not a disease that isn’t druggable. But as Schadt has learned, it’s not enough to plumb the depths of an individual’s DNA. It requires a universe of data—exabytes worth—to detect patterns in a population, apply machine learning, find the network of mutations responsible for disease, and do something about it. The bigger these data sets become, the more accurate and powerful the models and the predictors become.
(Kaiser Health News) – The health law prohibits insurers from discriminating against people with serious illnesses, but some marketplace plans sidestep that taboo by making the drugs that people with HIV need unavailable or unaffordable, complaints filed recently with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights allege. The effect may be to discourage people with HIV from buying a particular plan or getting the treatment they need, according to the complaint.
(UPI) – An international research team says they have identified the physical source of depression in the brain in a new study. Investigators traced depression, one of the most common mental ailments in the world, to the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for a non-reward mechanism. According to the research team, this is likely the reason people living with depression often feel a sense of loss, disappointment and low self-esteem.
(Medical Xpress) – For patients with chronic back pain, “open” treatment with placebo—informing patients that they are taking an inactive pill, and why it might be helpful—leads to reductions in pain and disability, reports a study in Pain, the official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). “This study is the first to demonstrate potential clinically significant benefits of open placebo treatment in chronic low back pain,” according to the new research by Claudia Carvalho, PhD, of ISPA-Instituto Universitário, Lisbon, and colleagues. “Our data suggests that harnessing placebo effects without deception is possible in the context of a plausible rationale.”
(The Atlantic) – This new environment presents a complex mix of opportunities and challenges for health officials. On one hand, increased public engagement during a health crisis can allow officials to communicate more directly with citizens. But every new online platform is also a conduit for spreading criticism or misinformation. The rise of social media makes it “harder for governments to shut down the flow of information, but the information itself may be unreliable,” says Crawford Kilian, a Vancouver-based writer who covers the politics of public health.
(Reuters) – China has zero tolerance for non-voluntary organ transplants and is fighting corruption in its fledgling donor system, an official who has led reform said on Monday, as Beijing seeks to leave behind an era of controversial organ harvesting. Last year, China officially ended systematic use of organs from executed prisoners in transplant procedures, a practice long condemned by international human rights groups and medical ethicists.