The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy, to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.
Opioid Crisis Heightens, Search for Alternate Painkillers Underway
The devastating opioid crisis has been taking a toll on communities across America. Overdoses are already the leading cause of death among Americans under 50, and if solutions are not implemented quickly, the number of opioid deaths per day could spike to 250. STAT News recently consulted public health professionals to explore 10 possible scenarios for the future of the opioid crisis.
Drugmakers have recognized the urgency of the crisis and are now working to produce safer pain killers. The drugs in development would target more specific forms of pain and are using pain-reducing attributes of cannabis and chili peppers. In addition to forming new drugs, some companies are developing drugs with opioids but modifying them to try to hinder addiction like pills that are difficult to crush or are too viscous to move through a needle.
New Breakthrough in Preventing Metastasis of Cancer
Metastasis, the spread of cancer through the body, is the main cause of death in cancer, but a new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology has exhibited promising results in stalling the process.
This is done by breaking the filopodia, or ‘legs,’ of cancers cells with a small gold rod heated by a laser. The rods are coated with molecules that cause them to stick to a cell protein called integrin. This binding to integrin prevents the cell from producing filopodia. The treatment also does not harm healthy cells, minimizing the toll taken on the body that can come with other cancer treatments like chemotherapy.
Stanford to use Apple Watch in Digital Health Research
Stanford’s Center for Digital Health funded five projects and awarded them 1,000 Apple Watches to use in their research. Stanford has become increasingly involved with the Silicon Valley tech community, previously partnering with Google Genomics last year to develop cloud-based precision medicine platforms.
Among the projects funded are an exploration of AI for psychiatric treatment and migraine attack prediction and management.
Joe and Jill Biden launch Biden Cancer Initiative
The former Vice President and Second Lady have created the Biden Cancer Initiative with the goal of “to develop and drive implementation of solutions to accelerate progress in cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, research, and care, and to reduce disparities in cancer outcomes.”
The initiative will work with the Cancer Moonshot program started by the Obama administration, but will be independent of the federal government. In an op-ed in TIME Magazine, Joe and Jill push for data-driven cancer research noting there “is an enormous possibility that comes from aggregating and sharing millions of patients’ data — their genomics and genetics, family history, lifestyles and treatment outcomes.”
Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech
Vaccine with No Needle? It’s Possible
Scientists have begun a clinical trial for the delivery of vaccines via a microneedle patch. The patch is roughly the size of a dime and lined with dissolvable microscopic needles, it can be placed on the skin like a bandaid. The patch is safer to dispose and less painful as the needles to not enter the muscle.
Another advantage of the patch is it delivers a dry drug and therefore does not need to be refrigerated, which has previously been a barrier to transporting vaccines to rural areas. Despite promising preliminary results, the patch still needs to be tested for long-term effects before being brought to market.
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