A Weekly Compilation of Clinical Laboratory and Related Information
From The Division Of Laboratory Systems
September 03, 2015
- Most Americans' Hearts Are Older Than Their Age
- ASCO Updates Policy on Cancer Susceptibility Genomic Testing
- Best Practices in Establishing Quality Control Parameters
- Charting a Path for Next Generation Sequencing Informatics
- Has the Choosing Wisely Campaign Affected Clinical Oncology Practice?
- New Blood Test Could Predict Breast Cancer Relapse Risk
- Blood Test to Target Patients with Severe Arthritis Early: Identifying Rogue Gene Could Revolutionise Treatment for Sufferers
- Neutrophil Count May Predict Death Risk in Prostate Cancer Patients
- NIH Launches Human RSV Study
- Brief Exercise Helps Sedentary Kids
- U.S. Vaccination Rates High, but Pockets of Unvaccinated Pose Risk
- HIV Testing among Older Adults is Declining, Despite CDC Recommendation
- Electronic Trigger Reduces Delays in Evaluation for Cancer Diagnosis
- 80% of Health IT Leaders Say Their Systems Have Been Compromised
- Rule Change Enables e-Prescribing of All Controlled Substances Nationwide
View Previous Issues - Healthcare News Archive
Most Americans' Hearts Are Older Than Their Age
Your heart may be older than you are – and that’s not good. According to a new CDC Vital Signs report, 3 out of 4 U.S. adults have a predicted heart age that is older than their actual age. This means they are at higher risk for heart attacks and stroke. “Heart age” is the calculated age of a person’s cardiovascular system based on his or her risk factor profile. The risks include high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes status, and body mass index as an indicator for obesity. This is the first study to provide population-level estimates of heart age and to highlight disparities in heart age nationwide. The report shows that heart age varies by race/ethnicity, gender, region, and other sociodemographic characteristics CDC researchers used risk factor data collected from every U.S. state and information from the Framingham Heart Study to determine that nearly 69 million adults between the ages of 30 and 74 have a heart age older than their actual age. That’s about the number of people living in the 130 largest U.S. cities combined. “Too many U.S. adults have a heart age years older than their real age, increasing their risk of heart disease and stroke,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Everybody deserves to be young – or at least not old – at heart.”
ASCO Updates Policy on Cancer Susceptibility Genomic Testing
The American Society of Clinical Oncology released an updated policy statement today recommending ways in which advanced genomic testing tools may be utilized appropriately for assessing cancer risk. In the statement, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, ASCO also recommended "appropriate regulation of tests that detect inherited genetic variants," provided its support for risk-based U.S. Food and Drug Administration-regulation of laboratory-developed tests (LDTs) and commercial assays, and called for improved insurance coverage for genetic counseling and cancer risk assessments.
ASCO estimates there are currently more than 200 genetic tests available for assessing cancer risk. However, labs performing these tests use different methods for classifying and reporting detected variants, which can make it hard for providers to interpret results for patients. Calling for "appropriate regulation" of genetic tests for inherited cancer risk, ASCO said it supports risk-based regulation of LDTs and commercial assays by the US Food and Drug Administration in ways that don't hinder innovation or patient access. The agency has proposed a draft framework for LDTs, but the guidance has been controversial among lab industry players and pathologists.
Best Practices in Establishing Quality Control Parameters
For non-waived tests, laboratory regulations require analysis of at least two levels of control materials once every 24 hours for chemistry tests, and at least once every 8 hours for blood gases, hematology, and coagulation tests. A good practice for laboratories is to define the number of levels of QC material to be assayed for each analyte, ensuring that analyte concentrations are present in the control materials at clinically relevant levels. In addition, laboratories should define analytical run length and, in turn, frequency of QC material analysis. The ultimate goal of establishing QC values is to collect as much information as possible about the control material before using it to monitor the performance of a particular method, Parnas, director of clinical science at Sutter Health Shared Laboratory in Livermore, California emphasizes in her article. She lists the variables that need to be captured during this data collection period. These include:
- Different operators;
- Reagent changes;
- Maintenance event;
- Environmental effects; and
- Calibration events.
Ebola May Persist in Wastewater for At Least 8 Days
The study, by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, Drexel University - both in Philadelphia - and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters. In their background information, the authors note that in the wake of the outbreak, there remain significant questions on the appropriate handling of virus-contaminated liquid waste. One of these concerns is the persistence of Ebola in wastewater.
Charting a Path for Next Generation Sequencing Informatics
An expert panel has issued a series of “good lab practices” for designing and implementing informatics pipelines for clinical next-generation sequencing (NGS). An article published in Nature Biotechnology discusses the guidelines and principles established by the Next-Generation Sequencing: Standardization of Clinical Testing II (Nex-StoCT II) informatics workgroup, which first met in 2012 to craft these recommendations on NGS. This is reportedly the first known attempt to develop consensus guidelines on creating and utilizing an NGS informatics pipeline. Usually offered as laboratory-developed tests, “NGS-based tests often use several sequencing technologies to test gene panels, exomes and genomes. These generate large amounts of data that require substantial computational infrastructure for storage, analysis and interpretation. An informatics pipeline identifies a set of sequence variants that are subsequently prioritized to identify those that are relevant to diagnosis,” the article explained.
Has the Choosing Wisely Campaign Affected Clinical Oncology Practice?
The aim of the Choosing Wisely initiative, launched in 2012 by the ABIM Foundation, is to encourage providers and patients to follow evidence-based treatment regimens and to cease performing tests and procedures that probably provide no benefit and contribute to healthcare spending in the United States. Although most oncologists agree about the importance of the Choosing Wisely campaign, it is unclear whether they are actually incorporating the 10 Choosing Wisely recommendations issued by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), into practice. Dean Gesme, MD, an oncologist at the Minneapolis Clinic, part of the US Oncology Network, has observed the Choosing Wisely recommendations begin to drive patient care in his group of 60 oncologists. "The recommendations help us provide valuable care and subtract out-of-date practices that do not contribute to a patient's physical, mental, and financial health," said Dr Gesme. "We distribute Choosing Wisely guidelines to physicians in our group as well as work with health systems and the media to publicize and highlight evidence-based oncology care. Although Choosing Wisely recommendations are not enforced throughout the U.S. Oncology Network, they are widely publicized and encouraged."
New Blood Test Could Predict Breast Cancer Relapse Risk
Weeks or even months before there is evidence of a tumor in scans or biopsies, a simple blood test could detect the risk of relapse in survivors of early stage breast cancer. The "liquid biopsy" developed at the Institute of Cancer Research in London is a kind of blood test that shows promise in detecting cancer DNA in the blood before the cells grow into tumors. The results of a prospective pilot study of the test were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Using a technique called mutation tracking, researchers say the blood test identified the risk for relapse an average of 7.9 months before traditional biopsies or imaging scans would have shown tumors, referred to as clinical relapse. "By tracking that, we can see whether after surgery there is disease present in that patient that we couldn't actually detect with our normal imaging approaches," Professor Mitch Dowsett of the Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust told CBS News. "It's far more sensitive and it's actually very specific." Researchers say the blood test they developed can detect an individual's specific "circulating tumor DNA," or ctDNA, matched to the cancer for which they were treated. Previous research has also indicated that mapping cancer DNA could be one of the keys to earlier disease detection.
Sticking It to Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is by far the most lethal form of cancer, and lung cancer research is fraught with sticky scientific problems. Catching the disease early and finding the right treatment are the stickiest. But a new nanochip with a Velcro-like grip is grabbing the attention of lung cancer oncologists eager for a diagnostic breakthrough that sticks. Developed at the California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California Los Angeles, the NanoVelcro Chip is a blood testing device featuring a silicon nanowire substrate that selectively screens out high-purity early traces of cancer. Using about 2 mL of blood as opposed to invasive surgical biopsies or complex imaging methods, the chip has implications in a number of cancers. Recent improvements have shown potential in the care of advanced lung cancer, where any life-extending progress is cause for celebration.
Sequenom, UCSD Collaborate on Liquid Biopsy Assay Study
Sequenom said that it is collaborating with the University of California, San Diego in a clinical research study of its next-generation sequencing-based circulating tumor DNA assay. Under the collaboration, UCSD's Moores Cancer Center will test the utility of the assay to profile ctDNA in blood to monitor cancer patients and assist in therapy selection. The ctDNA assay will initially be designed for research use only in solid tumors and will cover over 100 cancer-related genes that are associated with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment, included in professional society guidelines, linked to targeted therapies currently in clinical trials, or part of well-documented cancer pathways. The initial focus of the test will be on late-stage cancers where tissue biopsies are not available or are too risky to obtain.
Dexcom Receives FDA 510(k) Clearance for Bluetooth-Enabled CGM G5
San Diego, California-based Dexcom has received FDA 510(k) clearance for a Bluetooth-enabled continuous glucose monitor (CGM), called the G5 Mobile CGM system. Unlike the company’s previous connected CGM devices, the G5 Mobile CGM System has Bluetooth built right in to the transmitter and sends glucose data directly to a smartphone, so users don’t have to carry a separate receiver device. Data from the CGM can be sent to iOS devices, including the Apple Watch. Dexcom plans to launch an Android version of the app for the CGM early next year. G5 Mobile CGM users will be able select up to five other people to remotely monitor their glucose information and receive notifications based on that data.
High-Sensitivity Troponin I Test Accelerates MI Triage
A high-sensitivity troponin I test showed great accuracy in ruling out MI in patients with chest pain, with triage times reduced to 1 hour, and also showed better positive predictive ability than some other studies. Presenting the data from the Biomarkers in Acute Cardiovascular Care (BACC) study at the European Society of Cardiology 2015 Congress, Dr Dirk Westermann (University Heart Centre Hamburg, Germany) concluded: "Use of this test in patients with suspected MI allows for highly accurate and rapid rule-out as well as rule-in, enabling safe discharge or rapid treatment initiation. There are a lot of data now with these new high-sensitivity tests showing that 1 hour is enough. We don't need to wait for 3 hours," he stated.
Great Basin Submits Staph Panel to FDA
Molecular diagnostics firm Great Basin Scientific said that it has submitted a multiplex test for strains of Staphylococcus to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for 510(k) clearance. Great Basin submitted the assay after completion of a clinical trial, and the test is the company's first multiplex panel. The molecular assay detects and identifies S. aureus, S. lugdunensis, and S. epidermis, as well as the mecA gene, which can confer resistance to methicillin. The panel can also signal presence of the remaining Staphylococcus species generally.
Moffitt Cancer Center Researchers Develop Genetic Test That Predicts Which Pancreatic Cancer Patients Will Benefit from Surgery
Pancreatic cancer, a highly lethal malignancy, is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related mortality in the United States. Approximately 25 percent of patients with early cancers undergo potential curative treatment with surgery and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, only about 30 percent of patients who receive this intervention experience long-term cure. Part of this high mortality rate is attributed to a lack of effective diagnostic and prognostic tests. Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center have utilized modern advanced technology and developed a prognostic test that can determine which early-stage pancreatic cancer patients will have a better outcome following surgery. New strategies, such as our discovery of a gene signature that can discriminate between patients, hold the promise that in the future patients who will not benefit from surgery can be identified and offered other treatments that may be more beneficial to them," said first author Dung-Tsa Chen, Ph.D., senior member of the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Department at Moffitt.
Blood Test to Target Patients with Severe Arthritis Early: Identifying Rogue Gene Could Revolutionise Treatment for Sufferers
A simple blood test could revolutionise the treatment of arthritis for hundreds of thousands of sufferers. British and Irish scientists have identified a gene that is linked to rheumatoid arthritis – especially in severe forms of the disease. If patients were tested early on to see if they had the gene, they could then receive more targeted treatment and be fast-tracked for the most powerful medications. By studying samples from more than 1,000 Britons, the researchers from the University of Sheffield and University College Dublin showed that a gene called C5orf30 is key to rheumatoid arthritis. A flawed version of the gene was found in those with the condition, but not in those with other forms of arthritis or in healthy people. The rogue gene was particularly strongly linked to severe forms of the disease, in which a sufferer’s health deteriorated rapidly, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.
Neutrophil Count May Predict Death Risk in Prostate Cancer Patients
Neutrophil count may be an independent predictor of overall mortality risk among patients with localized prostate cancer (PCa), according to Canadian investigators. In a retrospective study, Daniel Taussky, MD, of the Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal, and colleagues found that each 1-unit increase in neutrophil count (for example, from 4 to 5 × 103 cells/µL) was associated with a significant 18% increased risk of overall mortality in multivariate analysis. “To our knowledge, this is the first study in the literature reporting an association between neutrophil count and prognosis in localized prostate cancer,” the researchers reported online in BMC Cancer.
NIH Launches Human RSV Study
Understanding Infection in Healthy Adults to Aid Development of RSV Medicines, Vaccines
A new study will expose healthy adult volunteers to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a virus that causes cold-like symptoms in adults. Better understanding of how adults develop RSV infection and immune system responses to infection will assist researchers in developing and testing future antivirals and vaccines to combat the virus. The research is being conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. RSV is the most common cause of lower respiratory tract infections—including pneumonia and bronchiolitis—among young children worldwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the United States each year, RSV leads to an average of about 55,000 hospitalizations among children younger than 5 years, with most of these hospitalizations involving infants younger than 6 months. RSV infection causes roughly 14,000 deaths annually among U.S. adults older than 65 years.
Fox Chase Case Study Demonstrates NGS Panel's Ability to Accurately Diagnose Cancer
A case study from the Fox Chase Cancer Center has illustrated the ability of the center's 50-gene next-generation sequencing cancer panel to correctly diagnose tricky cases and impact patients' treatment. Researchers from Fox Chase published the details of the patient case in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network this month. "Genetic mutational profiling using NGS, although not yet standard in patients with breast cancer or in patients with unknown primary tumors, may be extremely valuable in not only finding targetable genetic mutations but also potentially yielding relevant diagnostic information when a unique genetic mutational profile is detected," the authors wrote.
Glitter from Silver Lights Up Alzheimer's Dark Secrets
Scientists have caught a glimpse of the elusive toxic form of the Alzheimer's molecule, during its attempt to bore into the outer covering of a cell decoy, using a new method involving laser light and fat-coated silver nano-particles. While the origin of Alzheimer's disease, one that robs the old of their memory, is still hotly debated, it is likely that a specific form of the amyloid beta molecule, which is able to attack cell membranes, is a major player. Defeating this molecule would be easier if its shape and form were known better, but that has proven to be a difficult task until now. The findings published in the journal ACS Nano by a joint team of researchers from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Indian Institute of Science and the University of Toronto, have cracked the problem that has eluded scientists for years, by using a modified version of Raman Spectroscopy.
Antibiotics Linked to Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Taking antibiotics might increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, new research suggests. Danish researchers found that people with type 2 diabetes tended to take more antibiotics in the years leading up to their diagnosis than Danes without the condition. "Patients with type 2 diabetes are overexposed to antibiotics compared with matched control persons without diabetes," said study researcher Dr. Kristian Hallundbaek Mikkelsen, a medical-doctoral student at the Center for Diabetes Research at Gentofte Hospital and the University of Copenhagen. "The overexposure is seen after, as well as 15 years, before the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes," Mikkelsen said. Although the researchers uncovered an association between antibiotic use and type 2 diabetes, it's important to note they did not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship.
UC Davis Researchers Identify New Compounds That ‘Shock’ HIV out of Hiding
Lurking beneath the surface, HIV is always ready to wage war. Much like our stealthiest submarines, the virus has developed a built-in survival mechanism, giving it the power to hide from current drugs as well as from our immune system. Researchers at UC Davis recently found a combination of two molecules that together have the potential to seek out and destroy the hidden virus, completely eliminating the disease from those infected. With an estimated 36.9 million people worldwide living with HIV in 2014, the therapeutic advance promises a global impact. As a bonus, researchers may have found the tool in a cancer drug that’s already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Prior approval means the treatment could bypass years of regulatory obstacles for clinical trials, accelerating its way to patients.
New Strategy Improves Detection of Genetic Mutations in Hereditary Colorectal Cancer
About 3% of colorectal cancers are due to Lynch syndrome, an inherited cancer susceptibility syndrome that predisposes individuals to various cancers. Close blood relatives of patients with Lynch syndrome have a 50% chance of inheritance. The role that PMS2 genetic mutations play in Lynch syndrome has been underestimated in part due to technological limitations. A new study in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics describes a multi-method strategy to overcome existing technological limitations by more accurately identifying PMS2 gene mutations, which will improve diagnosis and support appropriate genetic counseling and medical management. The majority of cases of Lynch syndrome are attributed to heterozygous germline mutations in the DNA mismatch repair genes MLH1 and MSH2, and current methods for DNA sequencing and deletion analysis can successfully detect these mutations. However, at least 16% or more cannot be analyzed with these methods because individuals have a mutation in another mismatch repair gene, PMS2 (PMS 1 homolog 2, mismatch repair system component). Investigators report on a new testing method developed to fill the gap of accurately detecting PMS2 mutations.
Brief Exercise Helps Sedentary Kids
Metabolic biomarkers improved with short walks after periods of sitting.
Even a little bit of exercise during long spells of sitting had positive short-term biomarker effects for kids in a small study. Twenty-eight healthy children age 7-11 were required to either sit for 3 hours, or were interrupted every 30 minutes for a short walk over two sessions of the study, each lasting 3 hours. Researchers led by Britni Belcher, PhD, MPH, at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., found that those who got up to walk had a 32% lower insulin area under the curve (P<0.001), 17% lower C-peptide area under the curve (P<0.001), and 7% lower glucose area under the curve (P=0.018) compared with kids who sat for the entire 3 hours. In addition, mixed model results suggested that insulin and free fatty acid concentrations were lower in the walking group (P=0.036 and P=0.009, respectively). Belcher and colleagues published their findings on Thursday in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
U.S. Vaccination Rates High, but Pockets of Unvaccinated Pose Risk
The vast majority of U.S. kindergarten-age children are vaccinated against preventable diseases but sizable pockets of unprotected children still exist, posing a public health threat, according to a government study. Only 1.7 percent of U.S. parents of kindergartners sought exemptions in 2014 from laws requiring children be vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. Rates vary nationwide, however, with at least one state reporting over 6 percent of parents seeking exemptions. "Pockets of children who miss vaccinations exist in our communities and they leave these communities vulnerable to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases," Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters in a media briefing.
HIV Testing among Older Adults is Declining, Despite CDC Recommendation
Researchers led by the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health examined HIV testing trends among adults ages 50 through 64 both before and after 2006, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that most doctors automatically screen all patients for HIV regardless of whether they have symptoms. The researchers found that gains in HIV testing were not sustained over time. Levels of engagement in HIV risk behaviors remained constant, yet testing decreased among this age group from 5.5 percent in 2003 to 3.6 percent in 2006. It increased immediately after the CDC's recommendation to about 4.5 percent, but then fell to 3.7 percent after 2009. Testing increased over this period only among non-Hispanic blacks and those with a recent doctor visit.
Birmingham Targeted as CDC Seeks to Stop Spread of HIV among Young Gay Men
Despite advances in prevention and treatment, HIV infection rates have been increasing for young gay men of color in Birmingham. Efforts to fight this trend will receive $1.5 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on top of more than $3 million announced earlier this year. Last year, a CDC report identified Birmingham as having the 17th highest rate of HIV infection in the country. The infection rate for young African-American men who have sex with men is more than twice the national average, according to Birmingham AIDS Outreach. The trend among young gay men is alarming, said Sharon Jordan, director of the Division of HIV Prevention and Care at the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Electronic Trigger Reduces Delays in Evaluation for Cancer Diagnosis
Electronic triggers designed to search for key data, developed by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center, were able to identify and reduce follow-up delays for patients being evaluated for a diagnosis of colon or prostate cancer. The full study can be found in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. "Our computerized triggers scanned huge amounts of patient data in the electronic health record and flagged individuals at risk for delays in follow-up of cancer-related abnormal clinical findings," said Dr. Hardeep Singh, associate professor of medicine at Baylor and chief of health policy, quality & informatics program for the Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety at the DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "We created these trigger algorithms in the hopes of being able to leverage electronic health records to improve patient care and safety." "While all patients flagged by the computerized trigger algorithm in the intervention group are considered at risk, we confirmed the presence of delay by manually reviewing their records and communicating to their clinicians only when necessary," Singh said.
80% of Health IT Leaders Say Their Systems Have Been Compromised
Roughly eight out of 10 health information technology leaders recently surveyed say their provider or insurance organizations suffered a cyberattack that compromised their computer systems in the past two years, according to the consulting group KPMG. Only 16% of the 223 executives who participated in the survey said their organizations had not been compromised in the past 24 months while another 3% were unsure. The percentage, 81%, with breached systems could be even higher if the remaining 19% are like most health IT leaders, said Michael Ebert, head of KPMG's health and life sciences cyber practice. “I would argue that many of the providers aren't even aware that their systems have been compromised,” Ebert said. “They don't necessarily know who's in their systems or what's occurred.” One in four respondents said, based on their knowledge of their organization's defenses, they don't have or don't know their capabilities to detect, in real time, whether their organizations are being compromised.
Rule Change Enables e-Prescribing of All Controlled Substances Nationwide
All controlled substances now legally can be electronically prescribed in any state, nationwide, after Vermont enacted updated administrative rules on Aug. 28. While Missouri, in late July, became the last state to pass laws allowing the e-prescribing of controlled substances, according to its state medical association, Vermont, which had already allowed some e-prescribing, limited those efforts to Schedule 3-5 drugs. The Green Mountain State, changed its rule to include Schedule 2 controlled substances, such as hydrocodone and morphine. According to Surescripts CEO Tom Skelton, "throwing out the prescription pad" in lieu of electronic prescribing will help to curb potential fraud and drug abuse.
NQF Report Outlines Strategies to Make Healthcare Data More Transparent and Usable
The National Quality Forum (NQF) has released a white paper and infographic (PDF) outlining strategies to help make health data and analytics more meaningful, usable, and available in real time for providers and consumers. The project distills the recommendations of public- and private-sector leaders who convened to craft recommendations to address one of the biggest challenges for the healthcare industry: how to harness the value of big data. The report identifies several opportunities to improve data and make it more useful for systematic improvement.
Most Large Employers Will Offer Telemedicine, Study Shows
Telemedicine services will be offered in health plans sponsored by 74% of large employers during the next year in states where it is legal, according to a survey released by the National Business Group on Health, which represents employers' perspectives on national health policy issues. The new survey shows a dramatic projected increase in telemedicine services from the 48% of employers this year and 28% of employers in 2014.
Intel Launches Infrastructure to Help Institutions, Hospitals Share Private Datasets
Intel is currently putting in place a general platform-as-a-service (PaaS) infrastructure that will enable hospitals and research institutions who are interested in sharing private genomic, imaging, and clinical datasets, to do so securely, without compromising the privacy of the contributing patients. As a first step, Intel is setting its sights on using its infrastructure to support efforts to share cancer data. Intel showcased the first iteration of the platform, which it developed in collaboration with researchers at Oregon Health & Science University's Knight Cancer Institute, at its annual developer forum held in San Francisco. The planned system provides a way around the security, policy, and intellectual property concerns that have hampered data sharing, according to Eric Dishman, general manager of Intel's Health & Life Sciences Group.
Docinfo Tool Provides Consumers Physician Licensure, Disciplinary Data
The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) announced that it has launched a free online resource to provide consumers with important background information on the more than 900,000 actively licensed physicians in the United States, including whether or not a physician has been disciplined by a state medical board. The Docinfo physician search tool (www.docinfo.org) draws data from the FSMB’s Physician Data Center, the nation’s most comprehensive database of physician licensure and disciplinary information. The tool is easy to use – consumers simply enter their physician’s name and state to receive a report including this information:
- Whether or not the physician has been disciplined by a state medical board
- States in which the physician is actively licensed
- Medical school
- Location information (City, State)
- Specialty Certification information (provided by the American Board of Medical
- Specialties and the American Osteopathic Association)
NIH Aims to Fund Cancer Informatics Research Projects
The National Cancer Institute announced that it intends to fund multiple research projects related to the development and management of informatics technologies for cancer research. Among the specific technologies of interest to the agency are ones related to data acquisition and analysis, modeling and simulation, and those that can improve upon existing informatics tools and resources. "Over the last decade, major advances in biology coupled with innovations in information technology have led to an explosive growth of biological and biomedical information," particularly as they relate to genomics, according to the NCI.
Allergy: Research and Diagnostic Updates
The rise in prevalence of allergic diseases has continued in the industrialized world for more than 50 years. The worldwide sensitization rates to one or more common allergens among school children are currently approaching 40 percent to 50 percent. Allergy-testing methods include blood tests, skin patch tests, skin injection, and the skin prick/scratch test. Allergy tests play a key role in the diagnosis and management of allergy when used in conjunction with a patient’s history of exposure and physical examination. Blood tests (in vitro) measure the concentration of allergen-specific IgE (sIgE) in the bloodstream. With third-generation blood-allergy testing available, physicians are using this diagnostic tool as a complement to traditional skin-based testing options. In the last few years, the relationship between vitamin D and immune status, particularly with regard to allergy (food and environmental) and asthma, has been studied. Both cross-sectional and prospective studies have examined the effects of vitamin D on the inception and severity of allergies and asthma. Most studies have shown that low vitamin D levels increase the risk for asthma and allergies. A few suggest an increased risk with high vitamin D levels. Results from small, short-duration trials suggest that vitamin D supplementation decreases the severity of eczema and decreases the risk for asthma exacerbations. The optimal level of 25(OH)vitamin D that decreases both the risk for development and severity of allergy and asthma requires additional clinical trials before recommendations can be established. To ensure accurate measurement, it is important to use a 25(OH)vitamin D assay that measures both 25(OH)vitamin D2 and D3 and is standardized to the ID-LC/MS/MS 25(OH)vitamin D Reference Measurement Procedure (RMP),11,12 the reference procedure for the Vitamin D Standardization Program.
Mayo Opens New Lab Center on Rochester Outskirts
The expansion adds 50,000 square feet of clinical lab space to Mayo's Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. Four existing labs downtown will relocate to the new facility. Matt Binnicker, chair of the Facilities and Space Committee in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, said the shift provides room to grow for other clinical laboratories on the Mayo campus. He said it'll take about six months to relocate equipment, as well as 170 lab employees. "Whenever you move a piece of laboratory equipment, you're required by regulatory agencies to basically prove ... that test is performing the same in the new site as it was in the old site," he said.
Man Sheds Vaccine-Derived Poliovirus for 28 Years
Researchers report the unusual case of an immunodeficient man who has been excreting highly virulent, vaccine-derived poliovirus for 28 years in PLOS Pathogens. Other so-called "chronic excreters" may be out there, and they may complicate the World Health Organization's (WHO) plans to eradicate polio, said senior investigator Javier Martin, PhD, of the U.K.'s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control in Potters Bar, and colleagues. Chronic excreters are extremely rare. Only 73 have been identified since 1962.
Wasp Venom 'a Weapon against Cancer'
The venom of a wasp native to Brazil could be used as a weapon to fight cancer, scientists believe. A toxin in the sting kills cancer cells without harming normal cells, lab studies suggest. The University of Brazil team say the experimental therapy latches to tumour cells and makes them leak vital molecules. The work is at an early stage and more studies are needed to check the method will work safely in humans.
Mother's Hormone Levels Predict Child's Ability to Do Maths
Children born to mothers with low levels of thyroid hormones during pregnancy are 60 % more likely to do badly in arithmetic tests when they reach school age as children born to mothers with normal levels of the hormone; according to a study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology.
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