Although cancer researchers have made major strides in recent years and more people than ever are surviving longer, these advances haven’t always been accompanied by improvements in quality of life. That’s the subject of this special Cancer Health report—and it’s the next big challenge for the cancer community. Finding effective new treatments is absolutely essential—after all, there’s no quality of life if there’s no life. Making quality of life more central to cancer care means paying more attention to the experiences of people with cancer, from diagnosis through treatment and survival. Here are some key issues, with recommendations for ways the American system of cancer care has to change and tips on how individuals living with cancer—and their caregivers—can advocate for the best quality of life.
As Los Angeles hospitals give record numbers of COVID patients oxygen, the systems and equipment needed to deliver the life-sustaining gas are faltering. “It’s been nuts, absolutely nuts,” said Esteban Trejo, general manager of Syoxsa, an industrial and medical gas distributor based in El Paso. When a hospital draws more and more liquid oxygen from those tanks, the super-cold liquid can seep further into the vaporizing coils where liquid oxygen turns to gas. But that puts additional strain on the hospitals’ cylinder oxygen supply, as well as the medical gas supplier, Karcher said. They thought something was broken, but when engineers took a look, Christensen said, it became clear the system was just not able to provide the amount of high-flow oxygen patients needed.
The hurdle is that COVID vaccine makers are only in the early stages of testing their products on children. The Pfizer vaccine authorized for use by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday was greenlighted only for people ages 16 and up. It will take months to approve use of the vaccines for middle- and high school-aged kids, and months more to test them in younger children. Meissner abstained from the committee’s vote Thursday that supported, by a 17-4 vote, an emergency authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 and older. Federal scientists hope to get that data from the Moderna and Pfizer adult vaccine trials, she said.
In China, many watching the events in Washington D.C. immediately made comparisons to the violent occupation of Hong Kong’s legislature in mid-2019. Protests in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, began in June 2019 as a series of large-scale, peaceful demonstrations against an extradition bill that critics feared would be used by China as a weapon to silence dissenters. But the Global Times posted a side-by-side comparison of scenes of the Hong Kong protests and Trump protesters inside the Capitol building. Ann Chiang, a pro-Beijing lawmaker in Hong Kong posted a video of the turmoil in Washington D.C. on her Facebook page. The U.S. government has passed several pieces of legislation supporting the protest movement in Hong Kong, and the city has become a political flashpoint between China and the U.S.Get The Brief.
Scientists are still investigating what’s triggering the severe reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines. They suspect the culprit may be polyethylene glycol, or PEG, a component present in both vaccines that has been associated with allergic reactions. People who experience severe reactions shouldn’t get the recommended second dose of the vaccine, the agency said. “Appropriate medical treatment for severe allergic reactions must be immediately available in the event that an acute anaphylactic reaction occurs following administration of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine,” the site says. No allergic reactions have been reported, according to Kelli Newman, a spokesperson for Columbus Public Health.
Taking a completely different approach, Moderna is working on two mRNA HIV vaccine candidates. In fact, the mRNA technology was first developed for use in cancer vaccines. Another Moderna cancer vaccine candidate (mRNA-5671) targets cancers with KRAS mutations. Click here for more news about HIV vaccines. Click here to learn more about cancer vaccines.
Fatal drug overdoses have shot up nationwide, according to a recent Health Alert Network Advisory released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Such deaths appear to have increased by 38% in the 12-month period ending June 2020, compared with the year ending May 2020. During the same period, deaths from cocaine also shot up by 27%, while those from psychostimulants, such as methamphetamine, rose by 35%. Deaths from methamphetamine use have been rising faster, irrespective of synthetic opioid co-use and faster than deaths from cocaine overdose. “The increase in overdose deaths is concerning,” Deb Houry, MD, MPH, of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in the statement.
So she’s drafting a bill that would require cultural awareness training for the state’s health care professionals. In addition to an internal review, IU Health CEO Dennis Murphy said in a statement that outside experts will examine her complaints. She says Black women like Moore—even in her death—have been essential for speaking out on health disparities. “As Black women, we tend to really just continue to be disrespected, devalued, dismissed,” she says. How do we start living the life we deserve?”This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaborative covering public health.
We witnessed an election where the impossible happened. Georgia voted for a Democratic president and two Democratic senators. Many people in the progressive LGBTQ community are celebrating, and rightfully so. Did President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senators Rev. Now is the time for this election to be consequential to those who have been obstructing the lives of Black people in the LGBTQ community, especially those of us living with HIV.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that people who engage in oral sex have an 80% higher risk of developing mouth and throat (oropharyngeal) cancers. The risk was particularly high for those who first had oral sex before age 18 and for those who had multiple oral sex partners. Like sexual intercourse, oral sex can transmit the human papillomavirus (HPV). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV infection is responsible for 70% of all oropharyngeal cancer cases. For more on how number of lifetime sexual partners affects health, read “People With 10-Plus Lifetime Sexual Partners More Likely to Develop Cancer.” And to learn more about how HPV vaccination can reduce oropharyngeal cancer risk, read “FDA Approves HPV Vaccine for Prevention of Oral Cancer.”
Among those in the group with consistently high BMI during childhood and adolescence, researchers noted no greater risk of depression in adulthood. Researchers warned that these physical health measures alone cannot foretell the probability that a child will develop these mental disorders in adulthood. “These findings are an important reminder that all young people presenting with mental health problems should be offered a full and comprehensive assessment of their physical health in tandem with their mental health,” said Benjamin Perry, a PhD research fellow in Cambridge’s Department of Psychiatry and the study’s first author. Next, researchers plan to determine why consistently high blood sugar levels during childhood heighten an individual’s psychosis risk in adulthood. For related coverage, read \"Can Chronic Illness Lead to Mental Health Problems for Kids?\"
The evening before President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President–elect Kamala Harris take their oaths of office, the Biden Inaugural Committee will host a nationwide COVID-19 memorial to remember those lost to the pandemic. On Tuesday, January 19, join us for a nationwide moment of unity as we honor and remember the 400,000 American lives lost to COVID-19. #COVIDMemorial — Biden Inaugural Committee (@BidenInaugural) January 18, 2021As the United States exceeds 400,000 deaths from COVID-19, tackling the pandemic will present one of the greatest challenges for the new administration. The national memorial will take place January 19 at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The event will include a live ceremony that will feature the first-ever lighting of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool with 400 lights to honor those who have died.
A year into the new pandemic, there’s still much to learn about immunity to SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Immunity to other coronaviruses that cause the common cold usually lasts a matter of months and reinfection is common. After natural infection or vaccination, the immune system produces antibodies against the virus; this usually happens within a couple of weeks. Vaccines appear to provide SARS-CoV-2 immunity similar to that of natural infection. Most experts expect that population or herd immunity will be achieved when approximately 75% of the population as been exposed, either via natural infection or vaccination.
Trying to Make Sense of Long COVID SyndromePosted on January 19th, 2021 by Dr. Francis CollinsCredit: NIHMore than 400,000 Americans have now lost their lives to COVID-19. Indeed, new results from the largest global study of this emerging “Long COVID syndrome” highlight just how real and pressing this public health concern really is. A small percentage of respondents, thankfully, seemed to have bounced back from brief bouts of Long COVID, though time will tell whether they have fully recovered. In an earlier survey, this group provided a first-draft description of Long COVID syndrome, based on the self-reported experiences of 640 respondents. Another 22 percent weren’t working at all due to their Long COVID.
Allocating more money to make sure every U.S. resident living with HIV achieves and maintains an undetectable viral load, rather than focusing on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), could slash new HIV cases by 94% by 2027. So the CDC model sought to see whether available resources could nearly eliminate new HIV diagnoses in the United States by 2027 without significantly increasing the current total budget of $37.5 billion for HIV testing, treatment and prevention. The model based its estimates of the number of people living with HIV on federal HIV surveillance data and used data from studies of evidence-based interventions for testing, PrEP, care engagement, viral suppression and syringe services programs. The assumption of this model was that with current funding, services wouldn’t be able to reach everyone, but they could be allocated more effectively. This was achieved by dramatically increasing testing among heterosexuals at high risk for HIV between 2018 and 2022 and then ramping up screening among low-risk heterosexuals between 2023 and 2027.
Celebrating the Gift of COVID-19 VaccinesPosted on December 22nd, 2020 by Dr. Francis CollinsCredit: NIHThe winter holidays are traditionally a time of gift-giving. As fatiguing as 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have been, science has stepped up this year to provide humankind with a pair of truly hopeful gifts: the first two COVID-19 vaccines. And the accomplishments don’t end there—several other types of COVID-19 vaccines are also on the way. Unfortunately, the gift of COVID-19 vaccines comes too late for the more than 313,000 Americans who have died from complications of COVID-19, and many others who’ve had their lives disrupted and may have to contend with long-term health consequences related to COVID-19. When your chance for immunization comes, please roll up your sleeve and accept the potentially life-saving gift of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Accelerating Cures in the Genomic Age: The Sickle Cell ExamplePosted on December 11th, 2018 by Dr. Francis CollinsCredit: Jill George, NIHForty-five years ago, when I was a first-year medical student, a lecturer introduced me to a young man with sickle cell disease (SCD). Sickle cell disease is the first “molecular disease”, with its cause having been identified decades ago. In fact, it inspired some of my earliest research on human hemoglobin disorders, which I conducted as a postdoctoral fellow. Somatic cell gene editing is associated with ethical issues that are much more in line with decades of deep thinking about benefits and risks of therapeutic trials. December 3, 2018Links:Sickle Cell Disease (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute/NIH)Cure Sickle Cell Initiative (NHLBI)John Tisdale (NHLBI)Somatic Cell Genome Editing Program (Common Fund/NIH)What are genome editing and CRISPR-Cas9?
White fat, on the other hand, stores extra calories and makes you, well, fat. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could instruct our bodies to make more brown fat, and less white fat? A while ago, I told you about proteins that influence the development of brown fat cells, but the unraveling of this biological mystery continues. That finding is important because it’s the first evidence in humans suggesting that deleterious mutations in genes controlling brown fat production can cause obesity.  Initiation of myoblast to brown fat switch by a PRDM16-C/EBP-beta transcriptional complex.
Muscle Enzyme Explains Weight Gain in Middle AgePosted on May 9th, 2017 by Dr. Francis CollinsThe struggle to maintain a healthy weight is a lifelong challenge for many of us. An NIH-led team recently discovered that the normal process of aging causes levels of an enzyme called DNA-PK to rise in animals as they approach middle age. To see if reducing DNA-PK levels might rev up the metabolism, the researchers turned to middle-aged mice. They found that a drug-like compound that blocked DNA-PK activity cut weight gain in the mice by a whopping 40 percent! The researchers suspected that an increase in DNA-PK in middle age might lead directly to weight gain.
Genes, Blood Type Tied to Risk of Severe COVID-19Posted on June 18th, 2020 by Dr. Francis CollinsCaption: Micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles isolated from a patient. In contrast, people with blood type O appear to have about a 50 percent reduced risk of severe COVID-19. Their study included 1,980 people undergoing treatment for severe COVID-19 and respiratory failure at seven medical centers in Italy and Spain. The analysis identified two places that turned up significantly more often in the individuals with severe COVID-19 than in the healthy folks. The researchers did find evidence suggesting a relationship between blood type and COVID-19 risk.
At Wellness Axis we want to encourage habits of wellness, Increase awareness of factors and resources contributing to well-being, Inspire and empower individuals to take responsibility for their own health, and to support a sense of community. Wellness can be thought of as the quality or state of being in good health.