An experimental therapeutic cancer vaccine induced two distinct and desirable immune system responses that led to significant tumor regression in mice, report investigators from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.
The researchers found that intravenous (IV) administration of the vaccine boosted the number of cytotoxic T cells capable of infiltrating and attacking tumor cells and engaged the innate immune system by inducing type I interferon. The innate immune response modified the tumor microenvironment, counteracting suppressive forces that otherwise would tamp down T-cell action. Modification of the tumor microenvironment was not seen in mice that received the vaccine via needle injection into the skin (subcutaneous administration).
Dubbed “vax-innate” by the scientific team, the approach achieves an important goal in the quest for more effective immunotherapeutic vaccines for cancer. The study demonstrates that IV vaccine delivery enables and enhances T-cell immunity by overcoming tumor-induced immunosuppressive activity. The researchers say the candidate vaccine might also be given intravenously to people who have already received tumor-specific T cells as a therapy. It also could improve tumor control by increasing the number of T cells and altering the tumor microenvironment to make them function better, the researchers note.
Older adults who participate weekly in many different types of leisure time activities, such as walking for exercise, jogging, swimming laps, or playing tennis, may have a lower risk of death from any cause, as well as death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a new study led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.
The findings suggest that it’s important for older adults to engage in leisure time activities that they enjoy and can sustain, because many types of these activities may lower the risk of death, the authors wrote.
The findings appear Aug. 24 in JAMA Network Open.
Using data from 272,550 adults between ages 59 and 82 who had completed questionnaires about their leisure time activities as part of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, the researchers looked at whether participating in equivalent amounts of seven different exercise and recreational activities—including running, cycling, swimming, other aerobic exercise, racquet sports, golf, and walking for exercise — was associated with lowered risk of death.
The researchers found that achieving the recommended amount of physical activity per week through any combination of these activities was associated with a 13% lower risk of death from any cause compared with no participation. When they looked at the role of each activity individually, playing racquet sports was associated with a 16% reduction in risk and running with a 15% reduction. However, all activities were similarly associated with lower risks of death.
The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults engage in 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, each week.
The levels of activity by the most active individuals (those who exceeded the recommended levels of physical activity) were associated with even greater reductions in the risk of death, but there were diminishing returns as activity levels increased. Even people who did some recreational activity, though less than the recommended amount, had a 5% reduction in risk of death than those who did not participate in any of the activities studied.
These activities were also associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Playing racquet sports was associated with the greatest reduction in risk of cardiovascular deaths (27% reduction), while running was associated with the greatest reduction in risk of cancer deaths (19% reduction).
Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) announced the launch of the BenchMark ULTRA PLUS system, its newest advanced tissue staining platform. The system enables quick and accurate test results so clinicians can make timely decisions regarding a patient’s care journey.
“Over one million cases of cancer are diagnosed in Africa each year2. With many African communities living in rural areas or far from healthcare centres, waiting for a diagnosis is often one of the most stressful times. The BenchMark ULTRA PLUS enables pathologists to provide quick and accurate results that help inform patient treatment options, timeously.” says Alan Yates Ad-Interim General Manager South Africa & SADC markets, Roche Diagnostics.
Cancer and other abnormal cells can be characterised by biochemical markers from within the cells. By applying chemical solutions to tissue on glass slides with the BenchMark ULTRA PLUS, a healthcare professional can identify these markers to determine the presence or absence of key drivers that feed the unhealthy cells and, in many cases, the type of therapy that could be used to combat them3.
The new BenchMark ULTRA PLUS system continues the evolution of the BenchMark series, which revolutionised cancer diagnostics by fully automating processes that used to be performed manually, one slide at a time.
Lab personnel will be able to manage their activities more efficiently as a result of simplified software and streamlined productivity and quality control. These enhancements can help support the quicker delivery of test results for patients who are waiting for a diagnosis.
The new system has several innovations such as new intuitive software, remote monitoring features, an integrated touchscreen for a more optimised user experience, and a more environmentally sustainable waste system and product packaging1&4.
The BenchMark ULTRA PLUS system will be available in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Namibia and Mauritius in 2023.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have found that a novel blood test can be used to easily evaluate disease severity in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and predict survivability. PAH is a rare, life-threatening condition that causes unexplained high blood pressure in the lungs. In early clinical studies, the researchers showed the test to significantly improve upon conventional tests, some of which use invasive tools.
The new blood test measures DNA fragments shed by damaged cells. Researchers found that these fragments, called cell-free DNA, were elevated in the blood of patients with PAH and increase with disease severity. If future studies confirm the findings, this first-of-its-kind blood test for PAH patients could allow doctors to intervene faster to prevent or delay progression of the disease and possibly save lives. Cell-free DNA is a relatively new analytical technique that is growing in its potential medical uses, which include the early detection of heart- and lung-transplant rejection as well as early detection of cancer.
The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the NIH Clinical Center, both part of NIH. The findings will appear online in the journal Circulation, a publication of the American Heart Association.
PAH is a rare form of pulmonary hypertension that can cause difficulty breathing, chest pain, and fatigue. The disease, whose exact cause is unknown, is estimated to affect less than 50,000 people in the United States, according to the NIH’s Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. It is characterized by progressive narrowing and blockage of the small pulmonary arteries of the lungs, strain on the right side of the heart, and eventual death from heart failure. The damage to the lung in severe cases can require lung transplantation. Patients with PAH have a high death rate, and the condition mostly affects women. Despite treatment advances, it currently has no cure.
Current tests used to monitor PAH severity rely on established risk prediction scores based on clinical symptoms and on the use of an invasive catheter to measure pressure in the lungs. Doctors sometimes use echocardiography, or heart imaging, to measure pressures in the heart as an indirect measurement of lung pressure, but these tests tend to lack reliability and sensitivity.
“Researchers have been actively searching for novel, less-invasive approaches to evaluate PAH severity, disease progression, and response to therapy for more than a decade. These cell-free DNA analyses represent progress toward that goal,” said study co-author Michael A. Solomon, M.D., M.B.A., who is part of the NHLBI Cardiovascular Branch and co-director of the NIH Clinical Center Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Section.
Sean Agbor-Enoh, M.D., Ph.D., study co-author and chief of the NHLBI’s Laboratory of Applied Precision Omics, agreed. “Here we’re proposing a one-time test where you collect a vial of blood from a patient and use that to predict survival. We’re very encouraged by the early results.”
In the current study, the research team analyzed cell-free DNA from blood samples taken from 209 adult patients, predominately women, diagnosed with PAH at two large U.S. medical centers. The researchers compared the results to cell-free DNA measured from a control group of 48 healthy volunteers without PAH at the NIH Clinical Center.
They found that cell-free DNA was elevated in patients with PAH, and also found that cell-free DNA concentrations increased in proportion to the severity of the disease. Patients with the highest level of cell-free DNA had a 3.8 times greater risk of either death or a need for lung transplantation compared to those with the lowest level of cell-free DNA, the researchers said.
Further analyses of cell-free DNA samples revealed that multiple tissue types – including the heart, blood vessels, fat tissue, and inflammatory cells circulating in the blood – were affected by PAH. The new blood test will allow researchers to better pinpoint the specific tissues involved in the PAH disease process. This knowledge may lead to new drug interventions for PAH, whose current treatment options may slow but not halt or reverse disease progression.
In addition to funding from the Intramural Research Program of the NHLBI, this research is supported by the NIH Clinical Center Research Award for Staff Clinicians Program, the NIH Distinguished Scholar Award, the Lasker Clinical Research Scholars Program, and the Intramural Research Programs of the NIH Clinical Center.
An outbreak of a disease called monkeypox is currently taking place in many countries that do not typically have cases. This can be concerning, especially for people whose loved ones or community have been affected. Some cases have been identified through sexual health clinics in communities of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
It is important to note that the risk of monkeypox is not limited to men who have sex with men. Anyone who has close contact with someone who is infectious is at risk. However, given that the virus is being identified in these communities, learning about monkeypox will help ensure that as few people as possible are affected and that the outbreak can be stopped.
This public health advice contains information on how monkeypox spreads, what to do if you think you have symptoms and how to protect yourself and others. It can be used by community leaders, influencers, health workers and people attending social events and parties to inform and engage communities of men who have sex with men.
What you need to know
An outbreak of a disease called monkeypox is happening in some countries where the virus is not typically found. Some of these cases are being found in communities of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. Transgender people and gender-diverse people may also be more vulnerable in the context of the current outbreak.
Rash with blisters on face, hands, feet, eyes, mouth and/or genitals
Swollen lymph nodes
You can catch monkeypox if you have close physical contact with someone who is showing symptoms. This includes touching and being face-to-face.
Monkeypox can spread during close skin-to-skin contact during sex, including kissing, touching, oral and penetrative sex with someone who has symptoms. Avoid having close contact with anyone who has symptoms.
Protect yourself and others by:
Isolating at home and talking to a health worker if you have symptoms
Avoid skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact, including sexual contact with anyone who has symptoms
Clean hands, objects, and surfaces that have been touched regularly
Wear a mask if you are in close contact with someone with symptoms
The article is published courtesy of the World Health Organization (WHO).
A research team supported by the National Institutes of Health has identified characteristics of people with long COVID and those likely to have it.
Scientists, using machine learning techniques, analyzed an unprecedented collection of electronic health records (EHRs) available for COVID-19 research to better identify who has long COVID. Exploring de-identified EHR data in the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C), a national, centralized public database led by NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), the team used the data to find more than 100,000 likely long COVID cases as of October 2021 (as of May 2022, the count is more than 200,000). The findings appear in The Lancet Digital Health.
Long COVID is marked by wide-ranging symptoms, including shortness of breath, fatigue, fever, headaches, “brain fog” and other neurological problems. Such symptoms can last for many months or longer after an initial COVID-19 diagnosis. One reason long COVID is difficult to identify is that many of its symptoms are similar to those of other diseases and conditions. A better characterization of long COVID could lead to improved diagnoses and new therapeutic approaches.
“It made sense to take advantage of modern data analysis tools and a unique big data resource like N3C, where many features of long COVID can be represented,” said co-author Emily Pfaff, Ph.D., a clinical informaticist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The N3C data enclave currently includes information representing more than 13 million people nationwide, including nearly 5 million COVID-19-positive cases. The resource enables rapid research on emerging questions about COVID-19 vaccines, therapies, risk factors and health outcomes.
The new research is part of a related, larger trans-NIH initiative, Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER), which aims to improve the understanding of the long-term effects of COVID-19, called post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC). RECOVER will accurately identify people with PASC and develop approaches for its prevention and treatment. The program also will answer critical research questions about the long-term effects of COVID through clinical trials, longitudinal observational studies, and more.
In the Lancet study, Pfaff, Melissa Haendel, Ph.D., at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, and their colleagues examined patient demographics, health care use, diagnoses and medications in the health records of 97,995 adult COVID-19 patients in the N3C. They used this information, along with data on nearly 600 long COVID patients from three long COVID clinics, to create three machine learning models to identify long COVID patients.
In machine learning, scientists “train” computational methods to rapidly sift through large amounts of data to reveal new insights — in this case, about long COVID. The models looked for patterns in the data that could help researchers both understand patient characteristics and better identify individuals with the condition.
The models focused on identifying potential long COVID patients among three groups in the N3C database: All COVID-19 patients, patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and patients who had COVID-19 but were not hospitalized. The models proved to be accurate, as people identified as at risk for long COVID were similar to patients seen at long COVID clinics. The machine learning systems classified approximately 100,000 patients in the N3C database whose profiles were close matches to those with long COVID.
“Once you’re able to determine who has long COVID in a large database of people, you can begin to ask questions about those people,” said Josh Fessel, M.D., Ph.D., senior clinical advisor at NCATS and a scientific program lead in RECOVER. “Was there something different about those people before they developed long COVID? Did they have certain risk factors? Was there something about how they were treated during acute COVID that might have increased or decreased their risk for long COVID?”
The models searched for common features, including new medications, doctor visits and new symptoms, in patients with a positive COVID diagnosis who were at least 90 days out from their acute infection. The models identified patients as having long COVID if they went to a long COVID clinic or demonstrated long COVID symptoms and likely had the condition but hadn’t been diagnosed.
“We want to incorporate the new patterns we’re seeing with the diagnosis code for COVID and include it in our models to try to improve their performance,” said the University of Colorado’s Haendel. “The models can learn from a greater variety of patients and become more accurate. We hope we can use our long COVID patient classifier for clinical trial recruitment.”
Significant reductions in cigarette use were found among U.S. adults with major depression, substance use disorder, or both from 2006 to 2019, according to a new analysis of nationally representative survey data published today in JAMA.
The study was conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
These findings suggest that groups at higher risk of cigarette smoking can be reached by, and may have benefitted from, tobacco use prevention and cessation efforts that have led to significant declines in tobacco use in the general population. At the same time, the findings highlight remaining disparities, documenting higher smoking rates in people with psychiatric disorders than in those without.
“This study shows us that, at a population-level, reductions in tobacco use are achievable for people with psychiatric conditions, and smoking cessation should be prioritized along with treatments for substance use, depression, and other mental health disorders for people who experience them,” said Nora Volkow, M.D., director of NIDA and co-author of the study. “Therapies to help people stop smoking are safe, effective, and may even enhance the long-term success of concurrent treatments for more severe mental health symptoms in individuals with psychiatric disorders by lowering stress, anxiety, depression, and by improving overall mood and quality of life.”
Cigarette smoking, the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the U.S., has been declining. Experts attribute this in part to increases in available treatments, insurance coverage of these treatments, cigarette prices, smoke-free and tobacco-free policies, mass media and educational campaigns and other evidence-based strategies to help people avoid or quit using cigarettes that have been implemented in recent decades.
Quitting cigarette smoking and tobacco use reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung diseases. Studies have also found that smoking cessation in people with psychiatric disorders can help decrease anxiety, depression and stress; lower likelihood of a new-onset substance use disorder; and improve quality of life.
Past studies have documented that smoking rates remained essentially unchanged in people with substance use disorders, major depression or other psychiatric disorders. Now, analyzing data from more than 558,000 individuals aged 18 and older who participated in the 2006 to 2019 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), researchers found that while people with major depression, substance use disorder or both were more likely to smoke cigarettes than people without these disorders; improvements in smoking cessation were seen among those with these psychiatric disorders during the 14-year period. The NSDUH, conducted annually by SAMHSA, provides nationally representative data on cigarette smoking, tobacco use, major depressive episode and substance (alcohol or drug) use disorders among the US civilian, non-institutionalized adult population. Among the population studied here, roughly 53% were women, 41% were aged 18 to 25 and 62% were non-Hispanic white.
After controlling for factors such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, education and family income, the researchers found that past-month smoking rates declined by 13.1% from 2006 to 2019 among adults with a past-year major depressive episode and by 8.2% from 2006 to 2019 among adults without. The difference in past-month cigarette smoking among those with versus without past-year major depressive episode significantly narrowed from 11.5% in 2006 to 6.6% in 2019.
Similarly, past-month cigarette smoking declined by 10.9% from 2006 to 2019 among adults with past-year substance use disorder and by 7.8% among adults without. For people with co-occurring substance use disorder and major depression, past-month smoking rates decreased by 13.7% during this 14-year period and by 7.6% among adults without these disorders.
“These declines tell a public health success story,” said Wilson Compton, M.D., NIDA’s Deputy Director and the senior author of the study. “However, there’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure tobacco use in patients with substance use disorder, depression, or other psychiatric conditions continue to decrease. It is crucial that healthcare providers treat all the health issues that a patient experiences, not just their depression or drug use disorder at a given point in time. To do this, smoking cessation therapies need to be integrated into existing behavioral health treatments. The result will be longer and healthier lives for all people.”
During 2006 to 2019, among adults with past-year major depressive episodes or substance use disorder, past-month cigarette smoking declined significantly across every examined age, sex, and racial and ethnic subgroup, except that among non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native adults smoking rates did not decline. Given that American Indian and Alaska Native communities face the highest smoking and lowest quitting rates among racial and ethnic subgroups in the United States, this highlights the need to channel additional prevention and treatment efforts into these communities.
In future work, the researchers note the need to include data on certain populations at high risk of psychiatric disorders and cigarette smoking, such as institutionalized individuals or those experiencing homelessness without living in a shelter. More work is also needed to continue to monitor national trends in differences in tobacco use and nicotine vaping among adults with or without psychiatric conditions – including substance use disorder – during the COVID-19 pandemic.