Advancing the Science

Mayo Clinic Medical Science Blog – an eclectic collection of research- and research education-related stories: feature stories, mini news bites, learning opportunities, profiles and more from Mayo Clinic.

September 3, 2019

Research News Roundup–August 2019

By Elizabeth Zimmermann
three male researchers in suits in lab, Dr. Gores on right

Each month, we publish Mayo Clinic's Research News Roundup. This article includes brief summaries and links to news releases from the preceding month that discuss some of our latest medical research. It also connects readers to related resources.

Read on for recent findings of Mayo Clinic Research:

Colorectal cancer outcomes may improve by genetically altering an immune-regulatory protein in cancer cells, making the cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy. That's according to new Mayo Clinic research.

The findings, published this month in Oncogene, indicate that increasing the expression of the PD-L1 protein in colorectal cancer cells can improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

"These findings, if verified by subsequent research, suggest that the level of tumor cell PD-L1 may be important in drug sensitivity and suggest that enhancing PD-L1 expression may be a potential strategy to improve treatment outcomes in this malignancy," says Frank Sinicrope, M.D., a Mayo Clinic medical oncologist and gastroenterologist. Dr. Sinicrope is co-director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program at Mayo Clinic and corresponding author of the study.


Owning a pet may help maintain a healthy heart, especially if that pet is a dog, according to the first analysis of data from the Kardiozive Brno 2030 study. The study examines the association of pet ownership — specifically dog ownership — with cardiovascular disease risk factors and cardiovascular health. The results are published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes.

The study first established baseline health and socio-economic information on more than 2,000 subjects in the city of Brno, Czech Republic, from January 2013 through Dec. 2014. Follow-up evaluations are scheduled for five-year intervals until 2030.

The study was performed in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, the International Clinic Research Center at St. Anne's University Hospital, and the University of Catania. This research was supported by the National Program of Sustainability and the European Regional Development Fund. 


Cannabidiol (CBD) oils and products have become increasingly popular with consumers as ways to find relief from aches and pains, anxiety, sleep disturbances and other chronic issues. But are these products safe, and are they helpful?

A review of the latest research, published online in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, finds there's a growing body of preclinical and clinical evidence to suggest that CBD oils may hold promise for treating conditions such as chronic pain and opioid addiction. But few clinical studies on the safety and efficacy of CBD have been reported, and more research involving humans is needed before health care providers can say definitely that they're helpful and safe, according to Mayo Clinic researchers.

"There are many intriguing findings in pre-clinical studies that suggest CBD and hemp oil have anti-inflammatory effects and may be helpful with improving sleep and anxiety," says Brent Bauer, M.D., an internist and director of research for the Mayo Clinic Integrative Medicine program. "But trials in humans are still limited, so it is too early to be definitive about efficacy and safety."

The news story also contains a video interview with Dr. Bauer and colleague Karen Mauck, M.D.


Parents, siblings and children of people with celiac disease are at high risk of also having the disease, according to a Mayo Clinic study. This study calls for screening of all first-degree relatives of patients — not just those who show symptoms.

The retrospective study, to be published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in September, found that 44% of screened first-degree relatives had celiac disease. Of those patients, 94% had symptoms that were not classic or had no symptoms at all.

"Research has shown that family members of celiac disease patients are at higher risk, and we used our Mayo Clinic data to show that proactive screening of first-degree relatives, regardless of whether they showed symptoms, resulted in diagnoses that would have been missed," says Imad Absah, M.D., a Mayo Clinic pediatric gastroenterologist and the study's lead author.


For people with diabetes, taking medications and monitoring their blood sugar is part of the rhythm of their daily lives. However, according to new research from Mayo Clinic, more than 2.3 million adult patients in the U.S. are likely treated too intensively. This has caused thousands of potentially preventable emergency department visits and hospitalizations for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

The study team, led by Rozalina McCoy, M.D., an endocrinologist and primary care physician at Mayo Clinic, sought to identify the real-world implications of intensive glucose-lowering therapy across the U.S. The team showed that overly intensive glucose-lowering therapy — when patients receive more medication than is required based on their hemoglobin A1C level — was not only common across the U.S., but also directly contributed to 4,774 hospitalizations and 4,804 emergency department visits in a two-year period. Their findings were published online Aug. 15 in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

"Importantly, these numbers are a large underestimation of the true scope of overtreatment-induced hypoglycemic events," says Dr. McCoy.


Medical doctors in the United States are twice as likely to experience symptoms of burnout as other workers, which can compromise quality of care and place patients at risk. In a study in JAMA Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic researchers suggest a new approach to fighting burnout: external professional coaching.

Defined by the World Health Organization as “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy,” burnout creates problems for both physicians and the patients they treat. This study, led by Liselotte Dyrbye, M.D. and Colin West, M.D., Ph.D., investigates the use of external professional coaching—focused on professional goal setting, work choices, professional relationships, and influencing change at work—to reduce burnout. Though researchers have previously studied coaching in other contexts, this is the first study specifically exploring its effects on physician burnout.


A new Mayo Clinic research study shows that artificial intelligence (AI) can detect the signs of an irregular heart rhythm — atrial fibrillation (AF) — in an EKG, even if the heart is in normal rhythm at the time of a test. In other words, the AI-enabled EKG can detect recent atrial fibrillation that occurred without symptoms or that is impending, potentially improving treatment options. This research could improve the efficiency of the EKG, a noninvasive and widely available method of heart disease screening. The findings and an accompanying commentary are published in The Lancet.


Known for its poor prognosis, lung adenocarcinoma is the most common type of lung cancer, responsible for about 4 of 10 diagnoses, according to the National Cancer Institute. Researchers on Mayo Clinic's Florida campus can now distinguish between two pathways where this deadly cancer can develop. They say their discovery could help future patients. The findings appear in Cancer Cell.

"The ability to identify the specific pathway by which a patient's lung adenocarcinoma came about increases our ability to predict which patients are likely — or unlikely — to benefit from a particular treatment, and hopefully offer alternative options to patients whose cancer subtype is unlikely to respond," says Alan Fields, Ph.D., a cancer biologist and the study's senior author. Dr. Fields is the Monica Flynn Jacoby Professor of Cancer Research at Mayo Clinic.

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Tags: Alan Fields, artificial intelligence, atrial fibrillation, basic science, cardiology, cardiovascular disease, chemotherapy, Colin West, colorectal cancer, diabetes, Findings, Frank Sinicrope, Innovations, Lotte Dyrbye, lung cancer, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, News, oncology, physician burnout, Research News Roundup, Rozalina McCoy

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