Homeopathy is based on the idea that you can treat sick people with diluted versions of substances that would cause the sick person’s symptoms in a healthy person. So, we guess it’s something like building up an immunity to iocane powder, except without any clinical evidence. In the US, homeopathy is a multibillion dollar industry and the FDA has taken notice. They’ve kind of let homeopathic solutions do their own thing for years now but homeopathic teething products, recently implicated in 400 adverse events, including the deaths of 10 children, have the FDA a bit more ready to take action. The agency is getting serious about getting the most dangerous homeopathic products off the market, which will hopefully help to avert these tragedies in the future.
The situation: a seven-year-old had lost two-thirds of his skin to junctional epidermolysis bullosa. German doctors had tried nearly everything to try to treat the condition which they thought would soon be fatal. When the boy’s father asked if there were any experimental treatments they could try, they found one with Dr. Michele De Luca who was able to use the kid’s stem cells to construct a fully functional skin graft to replace 80% of his skin. And it took! This marks the first time a stem cell other than the hematopoietic kind has been successfully transplanted. The kid has made a full recovery, and is off to playing soccer with his friends, likely with much less fear of scraping a knee.
The party drug known as Molly has been all the rage in popular music recently, but chemists might know it better from its chemical name: methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine or MDMA. MDMA (you may know it as ecstasy if you partied super hard in the 90s). What you might not know about MDMA is that it seems to be an extremely effective way to help treat PTSD. On Tuesday, the FDA gave approval for a Phase III trial, based off previous studies like one that showed two-thirds of patients treated no longer fit the criteria for having PTSD. The researchers have applied for Breakthrough Therapy Designation, and if they succeed, we could see a branded MDMA drug on the market by 2021.
What’s worse than having anxiety and depression? Having anxiety and depression about your cancer diagnosis and the potential for relapse. While the mushrooms your mother gives you may not do anything at all, two separate studies have shown that a single dose of magic mushrooms demonstrated “immediate, substantial, and sustained clinical benefits” with respect to anxiety and depression for about 80% of study participants with minimal side effects. Furthermore, these psychological benefits were immediate for most patients (unlike antidepressant meds that might take weeks to show benefit) and lasted longer than 6.5 months, the duration of the follow-up period. This is particularly good news because cancer-related psychological distress can be resistant to conventional therapy, and cancer treatments have been a gateway to recreational use…thanks, marijuana.
It is estimated that the number of clinical investigators required annually is in the range of 1-7 million! Yes, that’s a wide range but considering there are just over 800,000 practicing physicians in the US, that leaves a big gap. Katherine Vandebelt, global head of clinical innovation for Eli Lilly, thinks the case is clear and wants pharma to stop being the biggest barrier to physicians becoming clinical investigators. She and Lilly are creating a program to tear down institutional barriers that limit participation in clinical trials (i.e., within hospitals). The program also provides hands-on training to investigators new to clinical trials, recognizing that these investigators might not be the highest recruiters on day one. It’s a tough job and more companies have to do it.
ICYMI: Britain is holding a referendum on June 23 to decide whether or not to leave the European Union. There are lots of feelings on both sides, but now a group of senior-level European Oncologists have added their two-cents, arguing that a Brexit could put European cancer patients at risk. The group wrote in the May edition of Lancet Oncology that continued collaboration and data sharing among EU countries is vital to the UK’s strength in cancer research and care, arguing that isolation policies and formal borders are not good for science. UK scientists also receive a great deal of EU cancer research grants, which the Guardian reports Britain would not be able to generate on its own.