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New study uncovers details behind the bodys response to stress – Medical Xpress

New study uncovers details behind the body's response to stress
New research reveals how key proteins interact to regulate the body’s response to stress. Credit: McLean Hospital

The biological mechanisms behind stress-related psychiatric conditions, including major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are poorly understood.

New research now details the interplay between proteins involved in controlling the body’s and points to potential therapeutic targets when this response goes awry. The study, which was conducted by an international team led by investigators at McLean Hospital, appears in the journal Cell Reports.

“A dysregulated stress response of the body can be damaging for the brain and promote susceptibility to mood and ,” said lead author Jakob Hartmann, Ph.D.. Hartmann is an assistant neuroscientist in the Neurobiology of Fear Laboratory at McLean and an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

“A key brain region involved in the regulation of the stress response is the hippocampus,” said Hartmann. “The idea for this study occurred to us when we noticed interesting distinctions in hippocampal localization of three important stress-regulating proteins.”

The researchers’ experiments in non-human tissue and postmortem brain tissue revealed how these proteins—the (GR), the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR), and the FK506-binding protein 51 (FKBP5)—interact with each other.

Specifically, MRs, rather than GRs, control the production of FKBP5 under normal conditions. FKBP5 decreases GRs’ sensitivity to binding stress hormones during stressful situations. FKBP5 appears to fine-tune the stress response by acting as a mediator of the MR:GR balance in the hippocampus.

“Our findings suggest that therapeutic targeting of GR, MR, and FKBP5 may be complementary in manipulating central and peripheral regulation of stress,” said senior author Kerry J. Ressler, MD, Ph.D.. Ressler is the chief scientific officer at McLean Hospital, chief of McLean’s Division of Depression and Anxiety Disorders, and a professor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

“Moreover, our data further underline the important but largely unappreciated role of MR signaling in -related psychiatric disorders,” added Ressler. “The findings of this study will open new directions for future research.”


Expression of certain genes may affect vulnerability to post-traumatic stress disorder


More information:
Jakob Hartmann et al, Mineralocorticoid receptors dampen glucocorticoid receptor sensitivity to stress via regulation of FKBP5, Cell Reports (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109185

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Comedians parody of interacting with her grown daughter is the most hilariously real thing – Upworthy

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they’re using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here’s what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive — or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan’s treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan’s cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually “undruggable.” According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient’s body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team “wash out” her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she’d be able to live to see, such as her children’s high school and college graduations. She’s also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. “It was an honor to do so,” Ryan said of her experience. “I’m just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people.”

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer’s R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

“Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs,” Lee says, describing her field of work. “We’re driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety.”

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee’s team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. “Now that we’ve had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers,” Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee’s, it’s also a mission that’s deeply personal. “I’m also a breast cancer survivor,” she says. “So I’ve been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial.”

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. “We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma,” Lee recalls. “Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team.”

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: “Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that’s what will help patients.”

Chiuying “Cynthia” Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

“My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick,” Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. “When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better.”

Kuk’s response was immediate: “That’s so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I’m older, I want to create medicine that won’t make people sick like that.”

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor’s degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk’s mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk’s goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk’s mission has changed slightly.

“My mom’s cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that,” Kuk says. “After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now.” With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

“I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary,” says Kuk. “A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone’s care.”

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

“We’ve diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before,” Kuk says. “I can’t make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family.”

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient’s pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

“I’m just one person, and I can’t force everyone to respect you, if you’re marginalized,” Kuk says. “But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them.”

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Rabid dog imported into US sparks multi-state investigation – ABC News

A rabid dog imported into the United States this month has sparked a public health investigation across several states

Health officials say a dog brought to the U.S. from Azerbaijan that ended up with a family in Chester County, Pennsylvania began acting strangely. It later tested positive for rabies and was euthanized. At least 12 people were exposed to the animal.

The dog was one of 34 animals — 33 dogs and one cat — imported by an animal rescue organization from Azerbaijan to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on June 10.

The animals were not in the main cabin of the plane or main terminal of the airport. Travelers through O’Hare are not considered to be at risk, but health officials are checking to see if other animals in the shipment are infected and are still tracking down the pets’ new owners.

Rabies no longer regularly spreads among dogs in the U.S., but imported animals are considered a risk for new outbreaks.

Federal agencies are working with health officials in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, and New York on the investigation.

The incident marks the fourth rabid dog imported into the U.S. since 2015. The three previous were rescue dogs that arrived with rabies vaccination certificates that were later found to be fraudulent.

This week, the CDC announced that starting July 14 it will impose a year-long ban on dogs from more than 100 countries — including Azerbaijan — where rabies is still a problem. The ban is being imposed because of a spike in the number of puppies denied entry because they weren’t old enough to be fully vaccinated.

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The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Infectious Disease Expert Warns Were Not Done With This Virus At All – HuffPost

Infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm warned on Friday of the possibility of “substantial” local and regionalized surges of COVID-19, telling CNN’s Poppy Harlow that “we’re not done with this virus at all.”

Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, doubted another national surge because of the scale of the United States’ vaccination program which to date has seen more than 175 million Americans receive at least one shot.

But Osterholm said more localized surges could occur if the highly transmissible Delta variant took hold in the U.S., where it is now quickly spreading.

The variant first identified in India has already become the dominant strain of the virus in the United Kingdom, where rising cases have forced the delay of easing of lockdown restrictions.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday the Delta variant will “probably” become the most dominant in America. Osterholm agreed, noting its ability to evade the immunity provided by a single dose of the vaccine.

“We have over 100 counties in this country that have had less than 20% of their population vaccinated,” Osterholm told CNN’s Harlow on Friday in a video shared online by Mediaite. “We have states where we’re well below 40% with even a single dose of vaccine in people.”

“So we have a lot of susceptible people out there yet that have been not vaccinated, that, for example, should this Delta variant take over, we’re going to see local and regional surges that are substantial,” he continued.

“I think this is all the more reason why we have to know that we’re not done with the virus yet,” Osterholm added. “We’re surely farther along in this country than other places but we still need to get people vaccinated. And as you know, things have slowed down dramatically in terms of new people getting vaccinated.”

Osterholm recalled similar fears over the Alpha variant, which was first identified in the U.K. and then spread across Europe in January and February. A predicted devastating surge in the U.S. never materialized, though.

“It did become the dominant variant but we didn’t see the big increase in cases,” said Osterholm. “So, I’ve obviously had a note of caution here with regard to the Delta variant, this new one we’re talking about.”

“Maybe the same thing will happen, but maybe it won’t,” he admitted. “And we have to be in our business prepared for the maybe it will happen like it did in England.”


A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus

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University of Minnesota studies COVID-19 vaccine effect in weakened immune systems – Minneapolis Star Tribune

New University of Minnesota research is assessing whether COVID-19 vaccines protect people with compromised immune systems — a key group excluded from vaccine clinical trials.

While evidence shows COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness in the general population, there is little known about how the shots work in people with HIV or taking immune-suppressing drugs as part of their cancer care or organ transplants, said Dr. Amy Karger, a lead investigator of the U study.

“We really need to dig deeper and look at these groups, where we know they have something that could be impairing their ability to mount an immune response,” she said.

Minnesota has counted 604,291 infections with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and 7,531 deaths — including 115 infections and four deaths reported Friday. The state also reported 132 COVID-19 hospitalizations, down from 699 on April 14 at the peak of this spring’s wave.

Vaccination progress in Minnesota has been credited with shortening the duration and severity of the spring wave — with more than 3 million people 12 and older in the state receiving at least a first shot and nearly 2.8 million people completing the one- or two-dose series.

While other researchers study whether people need booster doses over time to maintain protection, Karger said the U study will establish whether the initial doses work in the immunocompromised population. The study is part of a $6.7 million grant the U received as part of the national SeroNet research group.

Unvaccinated people with weakened immune systems had been protected by mask-wearing and social distancing that reduced viral transmission in their communities, but those practices have declined over the past month since state mandates were lifted.

The U is recruiting 2,000 people who have either recently received vaccine or are about to receive their first dose — a challenge now that 64% of all eligible people 12 and older have received their shots — and will monitor the antibody levels in their blood over two years.

“Minnesota has been so successful with vaccination … that our pool is ever-shrinking,” Karger said.

The U planned last fall to study the duration of natural immunity in people after coronavirus infections. While public health guidance suggests protection lasts 90 days in most people, Karger said there is credible evidence that protection lasts eight months or more in people with healthy immune systems.

“Ninety days seems to be old news,” said Karger, although the duration of protection in immunocompromised people remains less clear.

Federal approval of COVID-19 vaccines in December shifted the U research toward duration of immunity after people received their shots.

“I do think the booster shots and future shots and timing and doses are going to be really important questions that we need to tackle,” she said.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore this week reported improved protection in some organ transplant recipients who received a third booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Separate research in Minnesota also has contributed to the ongoing review of the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

Doctors with the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation this week published details of four vaccine recipients ages 16 to 31 who suffered myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that was found in enough recipients to prompt a review next week by the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Two of the patients with the inflammation had received first doses of vaccine after suffering coronavirus infections. The other two had received two doses but weren’t infected.

“This research isn’t a definitive answer, but it adds to the clinical insights available and encourages ongoing study and diligent monitoring,” said Dr. Mario Goessl, a cardiologist and researcher with the Minneapolis foundation.

Researchers this week at nference, in partnership with Mayo Clinic in Rochester, also published a review showing that COVID-19 vaccination was not significantly linked to the development of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, a blood clot.

Equal numbers of clots were found before and after vaccination in a group of Mayo patients, suggesting they weren’t influenced by vaccination, said Venky Soundararajan, co-founder and chief scientific officer of nference.

“This study comes at a critical moment in the pandemic and provides independent evidence that it is generally safe to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Most people in the study received either Moderna or Pfizer doses, which haven’t been linked to blood clot risks.

Usage of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused briefly in the U.S. this spring to assess clots found in some recipients, but then resumed without restrictions when federal health officials concluded the benefits outweighed the small risks.

The low number of recipients of that vaccine in the nference study limited its findings.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744

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Coronavirus in Illinois: 928 New COVID Cases, 65 Deaths, 211K Vaccinations During Week – NBC Chicago

Health officials in Illinois reported 928 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus since Monday, along with 65 additional deaths and more than 211,000 new vaccine doses administered.

In all, 1,388,688 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state since the pandemic began. The additional deaths reported this week bring the state to 23,133 confirmed COVID fatalities.

The state has administered 171,685 tests since Monday, bringing the total to more than 25 million tests conducted during the pandemic.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate on all tests is now down to 0.6%, while the seven-day positivity rate on individuals tested stands at 0.8%.

Over the past five days, a total of 211,440 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered to state residents. That brings the state’s average to 42,153 daily vaccination doses over the last seven days, according to IDPH data.

State officials say 53% of adult residents in the state are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with nearly 70% receiving at least one dose.

As of midnight, 492 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID in the state. Of those patients, 123 are in intensive care units, and 69 are on ventilators.

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Florida reports 10K new cases, 290 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last week – FOX 13 Tampa Bay

Another 290 Florida residents have died of COVID-19 as the death toll approaches 38,000 since the pandemic started, according to a weekly report issued Friday by the state Department of Health. 

As of Thursday, 37,555 people had died, up from 37,265 a week earlier. 

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases increased by 10,095 during the week-long period, with the total at 2,310,881 cases as of Thursday. 

RELATED: Deadly COVID-19 outbreak closes Manatee County Administration Building

Also, 10,659,464 people in Florida had received COVID-19 vaccinations, with 8,979,816 considered fully vaccinated. 

The other 1,679,648 people had received first doses of two-dose vaccination series.

RELATED: Study reveals reasons unvaccinated Floridians haven’t taken the shot

During the first week of June, the Florida Department of Health announced it would cease providing daily COVID-19 reports that have been used by the media and the public to track changes in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw told The News Service of Florida on Friday that there is no need to keep issuing the daily reports.

PREVIOUS: DeSantis nixes Florida’s daily COVID-19 reports

Soon after, the state’s COVID-19 website was reconfigured to link to new reports that will be updated weekly.

A state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic remains in effect and is scheduled to expire on June 26. DeSantis has indicated that he does not plan to extend it any further.

LINK: COVID-19 vaccine distribution information in Tampa Bay area counties

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Andy Grammer and his 4-year-old daughter Louisiana want your help writing lyrics for a new song – Upworthy

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they’re using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here’s what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive — or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan’s treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan’s cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually “undruggable.” According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient’s body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team “wash out” her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she’d be able to live to see, such as her children’s high school and college graduations. She’s also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. “It was an honor to do so,” Ryan said of her experience. “I’m just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people.”

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer’s R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

“Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs,” Lee says, describing her field of work. “We’re driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety.”

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee’s team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. “Now that we’ve had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers,” Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee’s, it’s also a mission that’s deeply personal. “I’m also a breast cancer survivor,” she says. “So I’ve been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial.”

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. “We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma,” Lee recalls. “Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team.”

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: “Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that’s what will help patients.”

Chiuying “Cynthia” Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

“My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick,” Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. “When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better.”

Kuk’s response was immediate: “That’s so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I’m older, I want to create medicine that won’t make people sick like that.”

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor’s degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk’s mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk’s goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk’s mission has changed slightly.

“My mom’s cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that,” Kuk says. “After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now.” With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

“I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary,” says Kuk. “A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone’s care.”

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

“We’ve diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before,” Kuk says. “I can’t make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family.”

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient’s pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

“I’m just one person, and I can’t force everyone to respect you, if you’re marginalized,” Kuk says. “But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them.”

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The US marks a vaccine milestone, but one expert warns that the coronavirus Delta variant has a worrying impact on patients – CNN

But virus variants, particularly the Delta variant, have been a top concern for many experts when it comes to those who remain unvaccinated against the coronavirus.

The Midwest and South lag in vaccination rates compared to coastal states, with Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Wyoming among the slowest to vaccinate.

In Missouri, where 43.4% of the total population is at least partially vaccinated, the Delta variant is on the rise.

“We have seen a five-fold increase in hospitalized patients in less than four weeks. Our doctors are describing them as younger, sicker. They’re often coming to us later in the disease process so we have less therapy options for them,” Steve Edwards, the CEO of the CoxHealth, a system of hospitals and clinics based in Missouri, told CNN on Friday.

About four weeks ago, Edwards’ health system was seeing nearly one death per week, he said. Currently, however, he said one or two people are dying daily.

“We can’t tell why one patient is doing poorly and one is doing well. There’s just something different about how this variant is affecting the immune system of our patients,” Edwards said.

He added that doctors are also struggling with determining patients’ health trajectories compared to January.

Edwards explained that while the low vaccination rate in Southwest Missouri, where his hospitals operate, is a contributing factor to the rise in cases, the Delta variant is also playing a big role in the surge.

“I think the Delta variant is what’s fueling this,” he said. “Much of the South, Midwest, much of the places that have low vaccination rates — if confronted with the Delta variant, will see a similar kind of surge of patients as we’re beginning to see right now.”

As of Friday, 44.7% of the total US population has fully been fully vaccinated while 53.1% received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The good news is that the virus is almost “rare” in parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner said.

“But in other parts of the country, like Missouri, it’s not that way at all,” Reiner said. “We have to really pick up the pace in the South, or we’re going to see a lot of people die who just simply don’t need to die.”

There are other variants, too

The dangers of the Delta variant cannot be overstated.

The CDC began calling it a variant of concern last week because of its ability to transmit more easily or cause more severe disease. Federal health officials have also predicted that it may become the dominant strain in the US.

But other variants have emerged in parts of the US.

Delta variant will likely become dominant Covid-19 strain in US, CDC chief saysDelta variant will likely become dominant Covid-19 strain in US, CDC chief says
One of them is the Gamma variant, also known as P.1, which spread fast to dominate in Brazil.

Gamma, which the CDC has also classified as a variant of concern, has been detected in every state where the CDC has variant information. The most recent tracking data shows that Gamma’s prevalence is greater than 15% in multiple regions, including the West and Northeast.

“I am very concerned about the P.1,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, the state epidemiologist for communicable diseases in Washington state.

“We’ve seen it across the state of course, but we’re seeing it in some outbreaks in Eastern Washington, we’re seeing it in counties with low vaccination rates, and I’m very concerned the role that this P.1 is going to take. It has increased its percentage in this state.”

So far, none of the most common variants show much ability to evade the effects of full vaccination. But several have shown the ability, both in laboratories and in real life, to re-infect people who recovered from natural coronavirus infection and to infect people who have been only partially vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated people had a strong and broad immune response that should take care of the variants, vaccine experts have agreed.

The Gamma variant has become common in Rhode Island, where it comprises 20% of all variants, according to Dr. Philip Chan, consultant medical director with the state’s Department of Health.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Health and Human Services halted the distribution of two monoclonal antibody treatments from Eli Lilly in nine states, citing reduced effectiveness against both the Gamma and Delta variants. Those states are Rhode Island, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington.

According to the CDC, the Gamma variant exhibits “significantly reduced susceptibility” to the Lilly treatment and reduced neutralization from post-infection and post-vaccine immunity.

That antibody resistance presents a key issue in this variant, Dr. Peter Hotez told CNN.

“If you’re not vaccinated or if you’ve only got a single dose of vaccine, you have vulnerability,” said Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Covid-19’s potential effects on the brain

A United Kingdom study found that some people who have been infected with Covid-19 experienced loss of gray matter in the brain, especially in areas affecting smell and taste.

The researchers, who are from the University of Oxford and the Imperial College, compared brain scans of 782 people who have been volunteering as part of a larger study and who had MRIs three years apart — before and after the pandemic.

Those who had Covid-19 had evidence of a loss of brain cells compared to similar people who had not been infected, the study found.

It’s not yet clear what the findings mean because the researchers didn’t provide details about the subjects. The study has not peer-reviewed, and it’s a pre-print posted online.

The researchers noted that it was hard to tease out whether the impact on smell and taste were a symptom of the virus’ infection or because of the potential pathway of infection.

CNN’s Virginia Langmaid and Nadia Kounang contributed to this report.

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California gives residents digital access to their COVID-19 vaccine record – Engadget

The state of California has launched a tool designed to give residents easy access to a digital copy of their COVID-19 vaccine information. Unlike New York’s Excelsior Pass, it’s not an app people have to install on their phones. It’s a simple website where residents will have to enter their name, date of birth and the phone number or email they used when they got their vaccine. They also have to create a 4-digital PIN, which they’ll have to remember to be able to open the digital copy of their vaccine record.

In addition to a link with their information, users will also get a QR code that makes their record readable with a QR scanner. They can use that to gain entry to establishments or events that require customers or attendees to have been vaccinated beforehand. While the digital records are handy to have, the California Department of Public Health “recommends that vaccinated Californians keep their paper CDC card in a safe and secure place.” Their digital COVID-19 vaccine record is supposed to be a convenient backup they can take with them wherever they go. 

The state government said the tool was built following “national standards for security and privacy,” since it will have access to people’s sensitive information. That said, it may not work perfectly at the moment. One of Engadget’s editors from California signed up and found that his information on the digital version of his record was incorrect. The initiative may be suffering from some rollout issues that’s affecting the state’s database. 

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