Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Study: Nearly third of teens changed health habits based on online search - The Washington Post

Some good news about teens and the Internet: Many switch to healthier habits after consulting the Web.

In the first national study in more than a decade to look at how adolescents use digital tools for health information, nearly one-third of teenagers said they used online data to improve behavior — such as cutting back on drinking soda, using exercise to combat depression and trying healthier recipes — according to a study to be released Tuesday by researchers at Northwestern University.

Although it's common to hear about "all the negative things kids are doing online," the study highlights the importance of making sure there is accurate, appropriate and easily accessible information available to teens, "because it's used and acted upon," said Ellen Wartella, director of Northwestern's Center on Media and Human Development and lead author of the report.

Researchers also found that nearly one-quarter of teens were going online to look for information about health conditions affecting family or friends. While most teens rely on digital resources to learn more about puberty, drugs, sex and depression, among other issues, a surprising 88 percent said they did not feel comfortable sharing their health concerns with friends on Facebook or on other social networking sites.

More ...

Cancer trial to begin targeting tumors by mutations, not location - The Washington Post

The National Cancer Institute's announcement Monday that it will soon begin a nationwide trial to test treatments based on the genetic mutations in patients' tumors, rather than on where the tumors occur in the body, highlights a profound shift taking place in the development of cancer drugs.

Researchers increasingly are using DNA sequencing, which has become far faster and cheaper over time, to identify molecular abnormalities in cancers. That technology is allowing them to develop drugs they hope will prove more effective in specific sets of patients and to design clinical trials that get the most promising drugs to market more quickly. 

"We are truly in a paradigm change," James H. Doroshow, director of the division of cancer treatment and diagnosis at the NCI, said in announcing the initiative Monday. He called the project "the largest and most rigorous precision oncology trial that's ever been attempted."

Traditionally, drug trials have focused on cancers in specific organs, such as the lungs or prostate. But that model is being upended by newer approaches such as basket trials, which group together patients with similar genetic mutations, regardless of the location of their cancers.

More ...


Monday, June 1, 2015

Top Oncologist To Convention Of Doctors, Pharma Execs: New Cancer Treatments Cost Too Damn Much - Forbes

Will anything ever curb the runaway growth in the cost of breakthrough cancer drugs?

Eleven years ago, I wrote about a Memorial Sloan Kettering oncologist named Leonard Saltz who, after helping to develop some of the most important drugs for colon cancer, had gotten a bad case of sticker shock. The new breakthroughs were simply too expensive, he insisted. "Sooner or later the bubble is going to pop," he told me.

He was dead wrong. As 29% of my life so far passed by, two things changed: the new cancer medicines got more promising, and they got way more expensive. So there I was yesterday listening to him give a blistering talk on high cancer drug prices to thousands of oncologists at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The prices will make your nose bleed. Take the exciting new medicines that unleash the immune system against tumors. A combination of two Bristol-Myers Squibb BMY +2.91%drugs dramatically shrank melanoma. By Saltz's calculations, that will cost $295,566 for the average patient. Merck 's immune system drug Keytruda showed promise in colorectal, gastric, and esophageal tumors. But if doctors adopted the 10-milligram-per-kilogram dose of Keytruda used in several New England Journal of Medicine papers, it would cost $1,000,000 to treat a 165-pound patient.

Saltz is an evangelist, and it's possible to take issue with his numbers. He uses an average selling price for the Bristol drugs; using their list prices gives a figure closer to $280,000, and we could discount it as much as 30% because so many patients have to stop the treatments because of side effects. (In one demonstration of how great these drugs are, many of those patients still get a benefit as their immune systems continue to attack their cancer.)

More ...