The genome of the Zika virus has been isolated. This is an essential step in learning about the virus and how to stop it.
Meanwhile Zika virus continues its spread in southern Florida with three Zika transmission zones identified. Readers would do well to remember that Florida is still recovering from Hurricane Matthew and all the floodwaters are still receding. Florida has called on the Federal Government to help fund their fight against Zika.
In chilling news, a new study out of Brazil indicates that Zika can affect a baby’s brain even if the mother contracts the infection a week or two before giving birth. This begs the question of whether newborns or even toddlers or beyond can incur damage to the growth of the brain by becoming infected.
Breast and ovary cancer, among the most dreaded female cancers, both have new and promising therapies on the horizon. In the case of ovarian cancer, a whole new class of drugs called PARB inhibitors is showing improvement for all women with recurrent ovarian cancer. For breast cancer, an investigational drug Ribociclib combined with the older Letrozole, is showing significant improvement in PFS (progression free survival) for those with hormone responsive cancers. Such drug “cocktails" are becoming increasingly useful in the fight against many difficult diseases such as those from viruses or cancer.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have created a free web based app to guide clinicians in their treatment of breast cancer. In these days of precision medicine, tumors can be subjected to ever more detailed molecular and genetic analysis to determine the best possible therapy. These are costly, which hopefully will change. For now, this app helps clinicians decide whether or not these more detailed tests are necessary.
Have you ever heard of de-prescribing ? Me neither. Apparently this is when a physician takes a patient off medications. Physicians are increasingly trying to help patients avoid medication interactions or unnecessary medications altogether. I can imagine this being important in an internal medicine practice where patients have medication lists a mile long.
Once again the value of mammograms is being questioned. This time it is in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. Once again the concern cited is “ ...needless anxiety, treatment and expense.” Let’s be clear here, by “ treatment”they are referring to biopsy. And now that I think of it, use of this language is really irresponsible. Biopsy is not treatment in the case of breast disease. The authors indicated that over half of breast cancers diagnosed on mammogram are a case of mistaken identity…”. First of all, breast cancer is not a radiographic diagnosis. It is a TISSUE diagnosis. So, they could rightfully say, over half of all mammograms which are suspicious for breast cancer, are actually not on biopsy. This, to me is a cause for relief. Understand that if they want to decrease the mammogram frequency, they will increase the number of women with cancer who are picked up late rather than early. How many inconvenienced women are worth one who gets an early and more curable diagnosis of breast cancer rather than a late one ? I’d say many. Very many. How much inconvenience and expense is worth a life ?
We are continuing to expand our understanding of how maternal obesity affects babies in utero, newborns, and even children into adulthood. Four recently published studies are showing these risks, and they include increased risks of stillbirth, diabetes, and blood pressure disorders of pregnancy. More interestingly, risks for children born to obese mothers of these same types of diseases persist into adulthood.
Our national increase in maternal mortality is of paramount concern. Poor maternal health and the conditions which produce poor maternal health are undoubtedly to blame. Accordingly, experts are increasingly beginning to teach that women should attain a healthy weight and attain control of all their medical conditions before attempting pregnancy.
In that spirit, I will report on a relevant and encouraging story coming from the International Olympic Committee. They have found that “ ...strenuous exercise during pregnancy doesn’t appear to increase the risk of most pregnancy complications for mom or baby”. ACOG (The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) has recommend institution or continuation of “ moderately strenuous” exercise during pregnancy as well.
Stay tuned next week, for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology.