October Healthcare News Roundup
<p>Welcome to our first edition of the healthcare news roundup, a resource to keep you up to date with the latest developments in treatments, devices, and technologies in the medical field.</p> <p>This month, we highlight new treatments for COVID-19 and cancer. We also discover how an Alexa-based software can improve the lives of people living with dementia, how a simple solution may improve sleep, and how an Ebola outbreak is progressing in Uganda.</p> <h2>Ready-to-Use Cell Therapy for Cancer Move Into Crucial Clinical Trials</h2> <p>Many cancer treatments use the patient’s own cells to make specific, targeted therapies which can only be used in that patient. Although effective, these treatments are costly and time-consuming to make. This has been driving biotechnology companies to try developing “off-the-shelf” treatments, made from donor cells, which would be readily available for use.</p> <p>Allogene Therapeutics is <a href="https://www.biopharmadive.com/news/allogene-first-pivotal-trial-allogeneic-cell-therapy/633579/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">leading the way</a> in these innovative treatments known as allogenic cell therapies, with a blood cancer drug named as ALLO-501A and a drug used in pre-treatment called ALLO-647.&nbsp;</p> <p>ALLO-501A is being evaluated in a phase 2 study in patients with relapsed or refractory large B cell lymphoma, a condition for which CAR-T treatments (the main competitor of allogenic cell therapies) are now commonly used. Patients included in this trial will have received at least two previous treatments, but not a CAR-T therapy. The main objective is to know if ALLO-501A can induce a positive clinical response, possibly in the same range as approved CAR-T therapies.</p> <p>ALLO-647 is being studied in a clinical trial who will enroll about 70 patients, some of whom will receive the drug while others will not. Allogene has stated that updates on these trials are expected later this year.</p> <h2>Using a Weighted Blanked May Improve Sleep, Study Finds</h2> <p>Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden found that the <a href="https://www.uu.se/en/news/article/?id=19544&amp;typ=artikel" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">use of a weighted blanket</a> at bedtime increases melatonin production in young adults. Levels of melatonin rise during the night, and there is some evidence that this hormone can promote sleep.</p> <p>In this study, the researchers recruited 26 young men and women to investigate the effect of weighted blankets on the production of sleep-promoting and anti-stress hormones like melatonin and oxytocin, as well as on the levels of cortisol, a hormone that is produced in stress situations and decreases in its absence.</p> <p>&#8220;Using a weighted blanket increased melatonin concentrations in saliva by about 30 percent. However, no differences in oxytocin, cortisol, and the activity of the sympathetic nervous system were observed between the weighted and light blanket conditions,&#8221; says Elisa Meth, first author and Ph.D. student at the Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences at Uppsala University.</p> <p>These findings explain some mechanisms behind the sleep benefits linked to weighted blankets, but senior author Christian Benedict, Associate Professor of Pharmacology at the Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences at Uppsala University declares that “larger trials are needed, including an investigation of whether the observed effects of a weighted blanket on melatonin are sustained over longer periods.”</p> <h2>New COVID-19 Drug Turns the Virus Against Itself</h2> <p>A <a href="https://fortune.com/well/2022/10/03/new-covid-drug-antiviral-turns-virus-against-itself-coronavirus-prevent-spread-nmt5-scripps-paxlovid/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">new treatment against COVID-19</a> is seeking regulatory approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA), but it has something that sets it apart from all other drugs: it is able to change the virus itself, so that it can no longer infect cells.</p> <p>This new COVID-19 antiviral, called NMT5, is taken orally by someone who has been infected. Then the drug attaches itself to a protein in the virus surface, close to the spike protein. When the virus tries to enter in a human cell to infect it, NMT5, now firmly attached to the virus surface, stops the binding of the spike its target, ACE2.</p> <p>Since NMT5 prevents the virus from replicating, researchers think that it may stop transmission. Although an infected person can still pass the virus to another person, if they are taking NMT5 they will pass virus’ particles that are unable to infect cells.</p> <p>This new medication was developed by a team of scientists led by Dr. Stuart Lipton, from the Scripps Research Institute’s Neurodegeneration New Medicines Center. In a recent research paper, the team described the effects of NMT5 on Syrian golden hamsters, which are extremely susceptible to COVID-19. They found that hamsters that received NMT5 were less likely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 even after receiving a substantial dose of the virus than those that received an inert substance. In addition, even if they got infected, hamsters receiving NMT5 had nearly none of the large lung hemorrhages that are often seen with COVID-19 infections.</p> <p>These promising results support further investigations in clinical trials, which are expected to start soon.</p> <h2>Race Against Time With Ebola Outbreak in Uganda</h2> <p>Researchers are concerned with the rapid spread of a rare species of <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-03192-8" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Ebola in Uganda</a>, for which there are no available vaccines or treatment. So far, about 64 people have been infected and 30 have died. The rapid rise in infections and deaths is worrying scientists, who say the outbreak may be hard to contain.&nbsp;</p> <p>Although the first symptoms of Ebola are non-specific and include fever, vomiting, headaches and fatigue, this disease quickly evolves to organ damage, hemorrhages, and death. In previous outbreaks, the death rate has ranged from 25% to 90%.</p> <p>Uganda is familiar with Ebola outbreaks — it had five previous ones, with four of them being caused by <em>Sudan ebolavirus</em>, the same virus species responsible for the current outbreak. The problem is that vaccines and treatments for this particular viral species are still in clinical trials, and not readily available. The vaccines have been tested for safety in humans, but larger studies are needed to confirm efficacy.</p> <p>Even if treatments and vaccines exist, there are still obstacles to overcome: they have to be produced quickly and distributed widely to make sure they reach those who need them, says Gary Kobinger, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston who specializes in Ebola.</p> <p>For now, healthcare professionals and officials are drawing on their experience of past outbreaks to try to contain the deadly disease to spread any further.</p> <h2>Positive Results on Alzheimer’s Clinical Trial Give New Hope to Patients and Researchers</h2> <p>A new drug for Alzheimer’s disease, lecanemab, showed that it can <a href="https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/eisais-trial-success-raises-hope-alzheimers-prevention-2022-09-30/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">slow cognitive decline</a> in early-stage dementia by 27% compared with placebo.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the same to say that a patient will have an extra six months or so in which they can still perform daily activities such as cooking, using a computer, or being able to pay their bills, said Dr. Christopher Van Dyck, director of the Alzheimer&#8217;s Disease Research Unit at Yale School of Medicine.</p> <p>Lecanemab is an antibody that attaches to a protein called amyloid beta, signaling it for destruction and removal from the brain. Amyloid clumps have toxic effects on the brain, building up into plaques between neurons and interrupting cell functions.</p> <p>The Clarity AD phase 3 clinical trial included 1,750 patients with mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease or mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia and confirmed amyloid accumulation in the brain. The participants received either lecanemab or placebo, and after 18 months of treatment, those receiving lecanemab showed a significant reduction of cognitive decline on the global cognitive and functional scale.</p> <p>These promising results are encouraging for the clinical trials that are already investigating the use of lecanemab in people who have elevated brain amyloid but are still cognitively normal.</p> <h2>Alexa-Based Medical Device Can Help People With Dementia</h2> <p>Family members of patients with dementia living alone often worry about their loved ones’ well-being. Although living independently is important for them, these patients can have good days and bad days, and it is hard to predict when they will happen or what triggers them. Furthermore, they often need help to remember when to take their medication, drink water, or go out for a walk.</p> <p>This is why Dave Pearson decided to create <a href="https://www.med-technews.com/medtech-insights/ai-in-healthcare-insights/exercising-the-mind-alexa-based-device-developed-for-people-/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">MindMinder</a>, an Alexa-based software that delivers engaging conversations to people living with dementia. It can be set up to use a family member’s voice to interact with the patient several times a day, not only to assess how they are feeling but also to collect quick assessments about their cognitive state at the moment. The software also includes recordings of familiar situations for the patient, recorded by the family member, such as “remember that time at Tom’s wedding when Sally tripped up and dropped the cake; we still laugh about that even now!” This makes the conversation more informal, stimulating someone living with dementia while moving away from the clinical, question-answer focus.</p> <p>Family members have access to a data dashboard in which they can visualize the results of the interactions of their loved one with the software. The results are presented with statistics and visual representations of the data. It is also possible to assess trends and long-term results, which are extremely important to assess the patient’s trajectory in terms of cognitive functioning.</p> <p>This project won the Ingenuity Health Champion prize, sponsored by Nuffield Health. Brendan Street, Head of Charity at Nuffield Health, stated: “I think MindMinder has true potential to improve the lives of many people living with dementia, reduce health inequalities in underserved communities and deliver benefits to the NHS.”</p> <h4>Want to stay up to date with the latest healthcare news?</h4> <div class="is-layout-flex wp-block-buttons"> <div class="wp-block-button"><a class="wp-block-button__link has-text-color has-background wp-element-button" href="https://www.trueprofile.io/member/resources/category/healthcare-news" style="border-radius:50px;color:#f5f5f5;background-color:#00497a" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Healthcare News Roundup</a></div> </div>