Advancing the Science

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October 2, 2019

Research News Roundup–September 2019

By Elizabeth Zimmermann
Let me tell you what you missed.

The Mayo Clinic Research News Roundup includes brief summaries and links to research-related news releases from Mayo Clinic in the past month. It also connects readers to associated resources. Read on for more information from Mayo Clinic Research.


Though research shows that medication-assisted treatment can help people who are addicted to opioids, the three drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration are underused, according to a review of current medical data on opioid addiction in the U.S. This review appears in the October issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Along with addiction counseling, the drugs naltrexone, buprenorphine and methadone all have a place in treatment for opioid use disorder, says Tyler Oesterle, M.D., medical director of Mayo Clinic Health System's Fountain Centers drug and alcohol treatment programs. Evidence of the three drugs' effectiveness in treating opioid use disorder is well-established, says Dr. Oesterle, the review's lead author. This review uses data from available medical literature to provide a framework for determining the optimal approach for medication-assisted treatments.


When a patient has had coronary artery bypass grafting, and needs a second surgery because of recurrent chest pain, more often than not they will receive a percutaneous coronary intervention, commonly known as coronary angioplasty with stents.

study published in September in Mayo Clinic Proceedings says that a better option may be repeating the coronary artery bypass grafting operation. The cohort study, based on health records of 1,612 patients at Mayo Clinic from 2000 to 2013, finds that overall survival was increased with repeat coronary artery bypass grafting versus patients who underwent  percutaneous coronary intervention.

Long-term survival was improved, especially when compared with percutaneous coronary intervention involving previous bypass grafts.


Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is a lethal malignancy that most often is resistant to chemotherapy. Researchers have been searching for ways to increase the sensitivity of the tumors to cancer-fighting drugs.

A Mayo Clinic-led study published Sept. 13, 2019, in Clinical Cancer Research, opens a promising new front in that battle.

Using patient cell lines and tumor-bearing models, researchers found that inhibition of GSK-3, an enzyme involved in many cancer-promoting processes, sensitizes PDAC cell lines to gemcitabine, the most commonly used chemotherapy. They found that GSK-3 inhibitor treatment prevented cancer cells' ability to repair single-strand DNA damage induced by gemcitabine.


In a small safety and feasibility clinical trial, Mayo Clinic researchers have demonstrated for the first time that senescent cells can be removed from the body using drugs termed “senolytics”. The result was verified not only in analysis of blood but also in changes in skin and fat tissue senescent cell abundance. The findings appear in the journal EBioMedicine.

This trial — involving participants who had diabetes-related kidney disease — is the second clinical study of senolytics to be published by Mayo, but is the first trial to show that senolytic drugs, discovered by Mayo researchers, can remove senescent cells from humans as they did in numerous studies in animals. 

Senescent cells are malfunctioning cells that accumulate with aging and in organs affected by chronic diseases. Senescent cells can remain in the body and contribute to multiple diseases as well as features of aging, ranging from heart disease to frailty, dementias, osteoporosis, diabetes, and kidney, liver, and lung diseases.


The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of a positron emission tomography radiochemistry facility, also known as the cyclotron facility, at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

Mayo Clinic is now the only academic center with a cyclotron facility in Northeast Florida that is approved by the FDA for patient care. This approval paves the way for Mayo to use sophisticated imaging agents to detect medical conditions at early stages.

This facility will deliver breakthrough diagnostic tests and research capabilities for individualizing patient care across a wide range of applications, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, dementia and infections.


Mayo Clinic and Google announced a 10-year strategic partnership on Tuesday, Sept. 10. This partnership will redefine how health care is delivered and accelerate the pace of health care innovation through digital technologies.

Mayo Clinic selected Google Cloud to be the cornerstone of its digital transformation. Mayo will use advanced cloud computing, data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to redefine health care delivery, bringing together global providers and consumers to make health care better.

With the help of Google, Mayo Clinic will transform the way it advances virtual care with AI-enabled digital diagnostics. Mayo also will leverage Google technology to boost its ability to conduct medical research. Through this partnership, Mayo Clinic will be able to develop and deploy new machine learning models designed to improve treatment precision and clinical outcomes of diseases.


Hysterectomy is associated with an increased risk of long-term mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety, according to a cohort study by Mayo Clinic researchers involving nearly 2,100 women.

The review of health records from 1980 to 2002 involved women who underwent removal of the uterus but not the ovaries. The study, which used data from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, considered only new diagnoses of depression, anxiety, dementia, substance abuse and schizophrenia after hysterectomy, and excluded women with prior diagnoses.

Researchers found an absolute risk increase of 6.6% for depression and 4.7% for anxiety over 30 years, says senior author Shannon Laughlin-Tommaso, M.D., a Mayo Clinic OB-GYN. For women who underwent hysterectomy between the ages of 18 and 35, the risk of depression was higher, with absolute risk increase over 30 years of 12%.


Mayo Clinic physicians presented findings at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology annual meeting Sept. 15–18 in Chicago.

Among many other projects, these four were highlighted as especially newsworthy:

Prolonged radiation therapy does not improve brain tumor control

Prolonged radiation therapy for brain cancer patients does not improve brain tumor control and may have more side effects, according to Mayo Clinic research, which concludes that 10 treatments of whole-brain radiotherapy should be the standard of care. Current international standards for whole-brain radiotherapy call for 10 or 15 treatments.

Native American cancer patients tend to have significant concerns about radiation therapy

Native American cancer patients tend to have significant concerns about radiation therapy that are not being addressed adequately, according to a collaborative study by researchers at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and Phoenix Indian Medical Center. Fifty American Indian or Alaska Native radiation patients at Phoenix Indian Medical Center were surveyed regarding attitudes and concerns about radiation therapy.

The patients surveyed expressed concern about the side effects of radiation therapy, with special concerns about cost, transportation to and from the treatment center, and insurance compatibility.

DNA in blood test may help identify patients with HPV-associated cancers

Another study presented as late-breaking research at the meeting suggests that a DNA blood test could be used to identify patients with HPV-associated cancers. The test also may help in subtyping HPV without requiring a biopsy of the tumor.

There are more than 100 varieties of HPV, and infection with HPV can cause skin or mucous membrane growths, such as warts. Some types of HPV infection can cause cancer. The study involved patients treated at Mayo Clinic for cancers of the head and neck associated with HPV and investigated whether DNA shed by a patient's tumor was detectable before and after surgery.

PD-L1 contained within cancer cells has role in making the cells more resistant to therapy

The protein PD-L1 is frequently present on the surface of cancer cells and is known for its role in helping cancer cells escape the immune system by shutting down immune cells’ anti-tumor function.

Mayo Clinic-led researchers have discovered a new role for PD-L1 in cancer.  They found that cancer cells also use PD-L1 to promote their resistance to cancer therapy by improving their ability to fix DNA damage caused by radiotherapy or chemotherapy. According to Robert Mutter, M.D., a Mayo Clinic radiation oncologist and co-corresponding author along with Zhenkun Lou, Ph.D., and Haidong Dong, M.D., an antibody named H1A can be used to target this function of PD-L1 in cancers.

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At Mayo Clinic, research is integral to everything we do. From the laboratory bench to each patient's bedside, from training our own care providers to improving health for our global community, we are continuously striving to transform the practice of medicine, one piece of evidence at a time. Read about the Mayo Model of Research.

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Tags: aging, artificial intelligence, ASTRO, basic science, brain tumor, cancer, cardiology, Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, chemotherapy, clinical trials, collaboration, coronary bypass, diabetes, discovery research, DNA, DNA testing, Findings, gynecology, Haidong Dong, HPV, hysterectomy, immunotherapy, individualized medicine, Innovations, kidney disease, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, mental health, Native American, News, oncology, opioids, pancreatic cancer, radiation therapy, radiology, Research News Roundup, Robert Mutter, Rochester Epidemiology Project, senescent cells, Shannon Laughlin-Tommaso, Tyler Oesterle, Zhenkun Lou

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