Trending News Today: Study Targets Breast Cancer Outcomes Racial Disparity

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

Despite popular opinion that physicians will continue to use medical practices even if they are no longer effective, a new study published in Health Affairs contradicts this perception. According to Kaiser Health News, a particular breast cancer treatment was found to be quickly abandoned by physicians shortly after a clinical trial found it to be ineffective. Axillary lymph node dissection is a procedure that removes at least 8 lymph nodes. However, the procedure frequently ended in side effects such as lymphedema. For the study, researchers used 2 large cancer registry databases to track whether physicians changed treatments after trial data was released to the public. They found that between 2008 and 2012, the proportion of patients who underwent the procedure declined by more than 50%.

Data has shown that black women have a greater risk of suffering from aggressive subtypes of breast cancer and death from the disease. Despite improved survival rates among other races, the same advances do not seem to apply to this ethnic group, and researchers want to find out why. The New York Times reported that a $12 million grant funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will fund a study involving more than 20,000 black women with breast cancer, and compare thousands of black women without the disease and white women with it. The study will explore whether genetic and biological factors influence these racial disparities. “This effort is about making sure that all Americans — no matter their background – reap the same benefits from the promising advances of precision medicine,” Dr. Douglas R. Lowy, acting director of the NCI, told the Times. “The exciting new approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment ring hollow unless we can effectively narrow the gap of cancer disparities, and this new research initiative will help us do that.”

Researchers recently created a synthetic stingray propelled by living muscle cells and controlled by light, and believe that it may be possible to build an artificial heart using some of the same techniques, reported NPR. “I want to build an artificial heart, but you’re not going to go from zero to a whole heart overnight,” Kit Parker, bioengineer and physicist at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute, said in the report. Although there have been previous artificial hearts that are versions of mechanical pumps, a heart made from living muscle cells would act much more like a natural heart does, and would be able to change and grow over time.