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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 18, 2020

Mayo Clinic Research in the news — 9/18/2020

By Elizabeth Zimmermann
graphic art newspaper laptop

Allure Magazine, KAAL-TV, The Scientist and Yahoo! are just a few of the outlets that were talking this week with Mayo Clinic researchers and about Mayo Clinic Research. Read on for national and international news on COVID-19, cancer, disparities in health care access and outcomes, the relationship between migraine and pregnancy, vaping and more.

Coffee consumption may lower risk for death in advanced, metastatic colorectal cancer (HemOnc Today, 9/17/2020)

Drinking coffee may reduce the risk for disease progression and death among patients with advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer, according to results of a prospective observational cohort study published in JAMA Oncology.

“We have some hypotheses regarding why this association exists, such as the high antioxidant content of coffee or caffeine’s insulin-sensitizing effects, which other research has implicated in cancer development,” Christopher Mackintosh, MLA, medical student at Mayo Clinic, told Healio. “However, our study was not designed to test such hypotheses.” …

Why Are Black Women More at Risk for Uterine Fibroids? (Allure, 9/16/2020)

Not only that, but Black women also have a more difficult time receiving adequate care for this condition. Here's what you need to know, including how (and when) to talk to your doctor.

NOTE: The article references Mayo Clinic research on uterine fibroids. For more information on this and related research, visit this PubMed link.

Medicare for hormone therapies: Study finds huge variability (Medical News Today 9/15/2020)

A recent study has found great variability in terms of which hormone therapies are covered by Medicare. This may have a significant impact on transgender individuals’ access to appropriate gender-affirming therapy.

… Recently, a team of researchers — from the Yale School of Medicine, in New Haven, CT, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine, and the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, MN — assessed Medicare coverage for a range of hormone therapies used by transgender people. Their research appears in the journal LGBT Health.


Scientists identify synthetic cannabinoid adulterants in CBD vape oil cartridges, warn of "devastating toxicological consequences."

It wasn’t so long ago that a frightening new lung disease linked to vaping dominated the news cycle. Although it might feel like a distant episode to Americans overwhelmed by COVID-19, during the summer of 2019 the vaping crisis became a national obsession. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an alarming report that attributed a sudden outbreak of deaths and pulmonary injuries to the consumption of harmful e-cigarettes and cannabis vape pen cartridges.

By February 2020, sixty-eight people in the United States, including teenagers and seniors, had died because of this mysterious respiratory illness and nearly 3000 were hospitalized with problems ranging from shortness of breath to severe nausea and coughing up blood. The CDC identified vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent added to poor quality cannabis oil extracts, as the likely culprit in cases of respiratory failure linked to vaping.

But the CDC stopped tracking vaping-related incidents shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical scientists turned their attention to the highly infectious coronavirus, which also kills by damaging the lungs – and does so in ways that aren’t easy to distinguish from the telltale signs of vaping. …

But a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine, coauthored by a team of Mayo Clinic physicians, cast aspersions on the vitamin E acetate hypothesis, noting that the pathology of vaping-associated lung illness “is poorly understood” and that “few reports of vaping-associated lung injury have included histopathological findings.” A histopathological diagnosis is based on direct examination of diseased tissue or cells under a microscope.

Upon inspection, some cases of vaping-associated lung injury look more like a chemical burn than lipid suffocation – which suggests that additives other than vitamin E acetate are responsible for damaging lung tissue. Accordingly, another group of doctors advised in a letter to the Journal of American Medicine that the presence of lipid-laden immune cells in the lungs “should be interpreted with caution because it may merely be a marker of exposure rather than a marker of toxicity.”

Researchers identify specific potential therapeutic targets for aggressive form of pancreatic cancer (news aggregator via TGen, 9/15/2020)

A team of researchers led by Mayo Clinic and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, has identified specific potential therapeutic targets for the most aggressive and lethal form of pancreatic cancer.

In what is believed to be the most comprehensive analysis of adenosquamous cancer of the pancreas (ASCP), the Mayo Clinic and TGen team identified, in preclinical models, therapeutic targets for this extremely fast-moving and deadly form of pancreatic cancer, and identified already available cancer inhibitors originally designed for other types of cancer, according to a study published today in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

Increase in mask use causes some people to get mask acne (KAAL-TV, 9/14/2020)

Masks have become a part of our everyday lives, they have to be worn in public spaces or when social distancing is not possible, but masks are also causing problems for our skin. Many have begun to call this "maskne" or mask acne. 

Mayo Clinic Dermatologist, Dr. Dawn Davis has done some research on how to keep both your face and mask clean. (Read article or watch the news clip on the KAAL website).

Many Women With Severe Migraine Might Avoid Pregnancy, But Should They? (Medical Dialogues, 9/16/2020)

A survey of 607 women who suffer from severe migraine found twenty percent of the respondents are currently avoiding pregnancy because of their migraines. The women avoiding pregnancy due to severe migraine tend to be in their thirties, are more likely to have migraine triggered by menstruation, and are more likely to have very frequent attacks (chronic migraine) compared to their counterparts who are not avoiding pregnancy, according to a new study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Their decision appears to be based on perceived fears about their own health and the health of their child, even though evidence shows that migraine improves in up to 75 percent of women during pregnancy. …

Investigators ID Predictors of CKD Progression After Radical Nephrectomy (Renal & Urology News, 9/18/2020)

Nephron hypertrophy and nephrosclerosis may be important determinants of chronic kidney disease (CKD) progression and death after radical nephrectomy (RN), according to new study findings.

Using a precise approach, pathologists detailed microstructural features of kidney parenchyma (a large wedge not involved with tumor) obtained from 936 patients without a specific kidney disease (mean age 64 years; 92% White). Mean estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) at 4 months after RN was 48 mL/min/1.73 m2. Over a median follow-up of 6.4 years, 117 patients had CKD progression (dialysis, kidney transplantation, or a 40% decline in eGFR), 183 died from noncancer causes, and 116 died from cancer.

Larger glomerular size and more severe nephrosclerosis significantly predicted later CKD progression, Andrew D. Rule, MD, of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues reported in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Data, data and more data will make a coronavirus vaccine safe, USA TODAY's vaccine panel says (USA Today, 9/17/2020)

USA TODAY's expert panel sees steady progress toward a safe and effective COVID vaccine, urge public's patience as trials proceed and data comes in.

… The bar for how effective an experimental vaccine is must be very high to make early release a reasonable choice, said Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Vaccine Research Group and editor-in-chief of the journal Vaccine.

The only circumstances under which he sees justification for early release is if there were major changes in either the rate of death or complications among people who got COVID-19, he said. 

Why You Should Be Worried About COVID If You Snore, Study Says (Yahoo!, 9/15/2020)

The coronavirus has proven to affect different people in different ways—and for some, it's particularly serious and potentially deadly. That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has isolated various conditions that could increase one's risk for getting a severe case of COVID, such as diabetes, obesity, and kidney disease. But there's another condition new research is highlighting that may pose the same risks: obstructive sleep apnea. If you snore as a result of sleep apnea, you could be three times more likely to die from COVID, new research has found.

Indian Study Shows No Survival Benefit of Plasma in COVID-19 (The Scientist, 9/15/2020)

In the absence of a vaccine or an effective antidote to SARS-CoV-2, the use of convalescent plasma therapy is in vogue globally. It involves the infusion of plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and thus carry protective antibodies into patients who are currently infected with the coronavirus. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for its use, although the absence of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), the gold standard of scientific research, has led to skepticism about its effectiveness among experts.

In light of this, the PLACID (PLAsma Convalescent InDia) trial helps fill this gap. Recently conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the apex medical research body in India, it is the first RCT for plasma in COVID-19 patients to be completed in the world. …

Michael Joyner, the lead author of the Mayo Clinic study that prompted the FDA to grant EUA for convalescent plasma therapy to treat COVID-19 in the US, tells The Scientist that the authors, the Indian research council, and the country deserve a lot of credit for doing this trial under very difficult circumstances. “I think that’s most impressive. . . . So, high compliments there.”

“I see the cup being half full in terms of the viral load data and the improved oxygenation and so forth,” Joyner says. The half empty part, he adds, is that most of the plasma had low titers of antibodies and was given relatively late during the course of the disease—a median of eight days after onset of symptoms. “Those are the two main limitations of the study.” …

Lymphoma Treatment Paradigm Refined Over Years, Expert Says on World Lymphoma Awareness Day (Targeted Oncology, 9/15/2020)

In an interview with Targeted Oncology, Thomas M. Habermann, MD, reflects on the advancements he has observed in the treatment paradigm for lymphomas.

The treatment paradigm for lymphomas has undergone significant advancements over the recent years. Although there are more than 100 types of lymphomas, investigators have refined the treatment landscape, particularly for some of the most common lymphomas, which include Hodgkin lymphomas (HLs) and non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs).

NOTE: You can read the whole interview online with Dr. Habermann, a Mayo Clinic hematologist.

ASCO updates guidelines on chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (HemOnc Today, 9/16/2020)

Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy is a potentially debilitating consequence of many cytotoxic drugs for the treatment of cancer.

Neuropathies caused by taxanes, platinums, vinca alkaloids, epothilones, eribulin and bortezomib (Velcade, Millennium/Takeda), among other agents, have not been well-defined, and measurement approaches have lacked consistency. However, the use of uniform measurement tools in several recent clinical studies has enabled a more detailed comparison of neuropathies caused by paclitaxel and oxaliplatin.

Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy [CIPN] continues to be a major clinical problem,” Charles L. Loprinzi, MD, FASCO, Regis professor of breast cancer research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said in an interview with Healio“A large number of additional randomized clinical trials provided new data from what was available when the first ASCO CIPN guidelines were published.”

Loprinzi served as co-chair of an ASCO expert panel dedicated to updating the society’s guidelines on prevention and management of CIPN among adult cancer survivors, based on these new data. He spoke with Healio about the need for effective treatment for CIPN, the updated guidelines and how the recommendations can be applied in clinical practice. …

As evidence builds that COVID-19 can damage the heart, doctors are racing to understand it (Science, 9/15/2020)

… Whether SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, induces cardiac injury including myocarditis more often, or with greater severity, than other viruses is still unclear. Because SARS-CoV-2 can trigger an intense immune response throughout the body, survivors may be at heightened risk of cardiac inflammation. Another idea suggests COVID-19 patients might be prone to the condition because the virus enters cells by binding with the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, which sits on heart muscle cells. But researchers caution against outrunning the data. “It’s a good hypothesis, but it’s not a tested one,” says Leslie Cooper, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, about ACE2.

COVID-19 raises urgency for getting your flu shot (Post Bulletin, 9/13/2020)

COVID masking will reduce spread of the flu, but pandemic could also reduce utilization of flu vaccine

With a Minnesota mask order in place, the approach of fall may offer the first flu season in 100 years to test the role of masks in reducing the spread of the virus -- if they are used correctly.

The relationship between the flu and COVID-19 is complex.

On one hand, the coronavirus has us taking extraordinary precautions to limit mingling and breathing on each other, and that should reduce the spread of the flu. On the other hand, the flu threatens to reduce the utilization of flu shots.

Flu shots are underutilized as it is, with just 45% of adults and 63% of children receiving them in 2018-2019. That figure rose to 68% for adults over 65. Health officials hope the public's concern over an approaching "twindemic" of the flu and COVID-19 will increase participation this year. …

When masks were last used to prevent a flu, in 1918, research shows that people wore them, but did not maintain a social distance. Studies also found that Americans back then wore masks outside, but took them off once they got indoors to socialize.

Both of these would have short-circuited the effectiveness of masks against the flu. ...


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Tags: About, Andrew Rule, cardiology, Charles Loprinzi, chemotherapy, Christopher Mackintosh, colorectal cancer, COVID-19, Dawn Davis, Findings, Gregory Poland, health disparities, hormones, influenza, kidney disease, Leslie Cooper, lung disease, lymphoma, Mayo Clinic Health System, Michael Joyner, migraine, neuropathy, News, News of the Week, pancreatic cancer, plasma, pregnancy, sleep apnea, Thomas Habermann, uterine fibroids, vaccines, vaping, women's health

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