Liver with a nice bottle of Chianti

We get it, a Hannibal Lecter quote might be a bit of a stretch, but how can you have an InsightCity article about livers without it? Digging deeper…recall (if you can) the age-old college truism that relates drinking to Darwin: Alcohol only kills the weak brain cells, leaving the strong ones to survive. Obvious horsehocky, but is it? Recently, researchers at Children’s Medical Center Research Institute (CRI) at UT Southwestern have found that “polyploid liver cells protected the liver against cancer formation in the mouse” and “polyploidization increases significantly when the liver is exposed to injury or stress from fatty liver disease” (aka drinking too much alcohol). Maybe this is a case of whatever hurts makes you stronger. Not that we are promoting heavy alcohol consumption, but maybe Key West is right, “The liver is evil and must be punished.

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A cancer vaccine?

There’s always healthy skepticism whenever something is called a ‘cure for cancer.’ Most healthcare professionals (hopefully, a percentage in the high nineties) are aware that cancer is a catch-all for a host of diseases that involve abnormal cell growth. But a cure for cancer seems a bit more realistic when immunotherapy is in the picture. Stanford researchers recently published study results detailing an unexpectedly highly effective method of body-wide tumor reduction in mice. The mice’s tumors were injected with two immune-stimulating agents, which led to the elimination of all metastases in the rodents, including in untreated areas. Senior author Ronald Levy’s work has previously led to the development of rituximab, one of the first biologics, so you know the research is legit.

Check out more of the really cool stuff happening in the oncology space in InsightCity’s HealthyDose of Oncology Trials.

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Adding CAR-T to the shopping cart

How about some exciting, multi-billion dollar deals to spice up the first quarter? First, Sanofi acquired Bioverativ, a hemophilia-focused biopharmaceutical company that spun out of Biogen last February. Since losing patent protection, Sanofi has seen flagging revenue from their flagship Lantus products—which occupy the #4 and #15 spots on IQVIA’s list of Top Medicines by Invoice Spending—and they’re hoping Bioverativ can give their treatment portfolio a boost. Similarly, Celgene boosted their pipeline prospects by acquiring Juno Therapeutics, who have a promising CAR-T candidate expected to be FDA-approved in 2019. Celgene also recently bought Impact Biomedicines, all part of a strategy to preemptively address profit losses when their blood cancer drug Revlimid goes off-patent in a few years.

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.com.org.net.cool

Grabbing a good website name is tricky business, namely because a lot of the simple ones are taken, or really expensive. For instance, a search for “Pharma.com” finds that domain already taken (but not live online), the next alternative is listed as “Pharma.tech” which is $6,499, and surprisingly, “Pharma.cool” was only five bucks so you know InsightCity had to snap that one up. Johnson & Johnson had the forethought to nab Cancer.com a while ago, and after two years under construction they’ve finally made it live on the web. It’s not a promo site for J&J’s oncology offerings; they’ve partnered up with a few cancer orgs like the owners of Cancer.org—the American Cancer Society—to provide a repository of info and tools for all kinds of cancer patients. So that’s .cool.

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Contraceptives slightly increase breast cancer risk, probably still worth it

A study of 1.8 million Danish women (for those keeping track, that’s almost a third of the country’s population) found that birth control pills may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. That news isn’t surprising in of itself, there have been studies alleging link this for years. But because the study was so large, researchers were able to see if newer birth control pills—which use lower doses of hormones than older pills—also had the same link, which they did. Same for IUDs that use hormones. No need to worry too much though, the risk is pretty tiny, and increases with age. If you’re concerned, you can ask your doctor about switching to a non-hormone based contraceptives.

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Big Sugar’s not-so-sweet research practices

Cristin Kearns, assistant professor at the UCSF School of Dentistry, stumbled across a decades-old research paper that shows a link between high-sugar diets and both high triglyceride levels and cancer in rats. But she had to stumble across the study because it was never published in a scientific journal. Oh, I almost forgot…the study was sponsored by the sugar industry. The implication, of course, is that the organization, now called The Sugar Association, buried the findings to avoid likely negative commercial implications. In response, The Sugar Association has stated that the study was never published, in part, because it was significantly delayed and over budget. In other words, they probably wouldn’t have published the study even if a high-sugar diet showed health benefits. As King George once said, “If you buy that I’ll throw the Golden Gate in free.”

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