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Top 5 Reads of the Week

Celebrity Oncologist Heads New Immunotherapy Startup: Physician and Pulitzer Prize winning author Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee is teaming up with Boston-based Pure Tech Health to develop immunotherapy technology. His startup, Vor, plans to use reengineered T-Cells to target cancer, a method that other companies have successfully leveraged to fighting leukemias and lymphomas. (STAT News)

  • Follow-Up Read: Dr. Mukherjee also made headlines this week for an article he wrote on epigenetics for the May 2nd issue of the New Yorker. Researchers claim that Mukherjee ignored important aspects of the science behind gene regulation. (Nature)

Mental Health Outcomes and Costs: The Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker published a series of charts meant to explore the “prevalence, outcomes, costs, and access to care associated with common mental health and substance abuse disorders in the United States.” Among other things, the charts show that “mental health and substance abuse disorders are the leading causes of disease burden in the U.S.” and that we spend approximately $80 billion of our total health spending on treating mental illness. (Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker)

New York Times Magazine on the “Anatomy of Cancer”: The NYT published a Health Issue this week that focuses on Cancer.  Highlights from the issue include:

  • A Cancer Atlas: For decades, doctors have been categorizing cancer based on the organ or system in which it originated. In this article, the NYT lists the 10 cancers that the American Cancer Society estimates will account for over 70% of new cancer cases in the US this year.
  • Starving Cancer: In the early 20th century, German scientist Otto Warburg realized that cancer cells consume an enormous amount of glucose and break it down without oxygen. But the “Warburg Effect”—as his discovery was called—was largely dismissed as unimportant, until recently. Now scientists have renewed interest in metabolism centered therapies to cut off the nutrients that fuel these ravenous cells.
  • Improvising Cancer Treatment: As the initiative to personalize medicine ramps up, oncologists are increasingly moving away from standardized protocols and developing individualized treatment plans for patients. In this article, Siddhartha Mukherjee discusses how the genetic heterogeneity of cancer requires physicians to address each patient’s cancer as a unique problem and improvise new therapies. “Oncologists must use their knowledge, wit and imagination to devise individualized therapies,” he says.

What Kills Americans: This week Vox published an interactive map of death trends. The map charts 20 categories of disease deaths (as well as deaths from external causes) and illustrates how our risk of dying from each changes as we age. (Vox)

Second Skin Technology Out of MIT: Researchers at MIT, MGH, Olivo Labs and Living Proof have developed a new “second-skin” polymer that mimics the properties of youthful skin. The potential medical applications for this new product are exciting, and include drug delivery and treatments for skin conditions. With that said, the media is in a frenzy over the potential cosmetic applications for the product. Playfully dubbed “Spanx for the face” by writers at The Scientific American, photos of the product have already demonstrated the ability to compress and tighten skin around the eyes.  (MIT News)

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