In this third week of July we bring you news of proposed changes to US lung cancer screening guidelines which could potentially double the number of people eligible for screening each year - resulting in improved screening rates of under-represented populations. We also feature news of research advances across several therapeutic areas; the launch of an action fund to tackle antibiotic resistance; and rare disease patient perspectives on COVID-19.
Lung Cancer Screening Guidance Would See More Black Patients and Women Tested
A notable panel of medical experts have recommended that a wider swath of people in the US are screened for lung cancer annually - a suggestion that would see more black patients and women eligible for potentially lifesaving scans. They plan to lower the age at which routine scans of heavy smokers begin. As well as changing the screening eligibility measure known as “pack years” (the clinical quantification of exposure to tobacco) from 30 years down to 20 – a move that would see increased inclusion of women and black people, who tend to smoke less than white men.
Voices from the Front Line in Rare Disease
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and healthcare systems still find themselves in unprecedented situations, online patient communities can give us important insights into how people with a rare disease are responding. Drug developers are becoming increasingly receptive to patient communities to guide R&D practice and clinical trial conduct. Recently, a community of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis patients reported on their willingness to join clinical trials during the COVID-19 crisis, and which important additional safety measures were of key importance to them.
NIH Funded Study Links Endometriosis to DNA Changes
DNA from uterine cells of endometriosis patients has different chemical modifications, compared to the DNA of those without the condition, according to research funded by the National Institute of Health. The changes involve DNA methylation - the binding of compounds known as methyl groups to DNA - which can alter gene activity. Moreover, the methylated DNA regions varied according to the stage, or severity, of endometriosis, and responded differently to hormones involved in the menstrual cycle.
Apathy, Rather Than Depression, 'Could be Early Warning Sign of Dementia'
A recent study led by Cambridge University which studied 450 cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) patients in the UK and the Netherlands over several years has concluded in a new understanding of early warning signs for dementia. After accounting for other factors such as age and cognition, scientists found that apathy was connected to a greater risk of developing dementia among the participants, while depression was not. Concluding that depression was previously thought to be linked as tests partially address apathy.
Genetic Mechanism Helps Understand Common Blood Disorder
A prominent consortium of researchers in the US have uncovered a genetic mechanism that helps drive clonal hematopoiesis - a common age-related condition known to increase the risk of blood cancer and cardiovascular disease. The new research shows that clones often swap certain genetic variants on one chromosome arm for those on its counterpart chromosome arm, effectively duplicating one parent’s genetic contribution and erasing the others. This swapping helps the mutated blood stem cells outgrow the cells around them.
A Lifeline for Antibiotic Development
Rarely has biopharmaceutical innovation been the focus of such public attention. As the world reels from the impact of the COVID-19, the hopes of many are pinned upon researchers successfully collaborating to get the treatments and vaccines the world needs. Yet, while urgent efforts are rightly directed towards COVID-19, we must not lose focus on other serious, long-term health issues. High on the list of acute concerns is the continuing global spread of drug-resistant infections which can no longer be effectively treated by existing antibiotics. Earlier this month a launch of a $1 billion industry-led AMR Action Fund marked a major and much-needed step forward in our struggle with this problem and promises revitalization of antibiotic development.
A 'Safety Switch' for Cell Therapy Based on Nutrient Deprivation
The early success of CAR-T therapies in treating some blood cancers has resulted in oncology researchers now looking to develop the technology to address a wide range of tumor types. However, the risk that the modified immune cells could cause a potentially deadly side effect known as cytokine release syndrome has prompted an equally enthusiastic effort in the research community to find innovative ways to combat that problem - including London-based startup Auxolytic - who are developing “safety switches” for cell therapy that hinge on depriving them of nutrients they need to survive.