This Week in Health: New prenatal test diagnoses Down syndrome with incredible accuracy
Location of study: U.S.
Study subjects: Nearly 16,000 pregnant women
Results: When compared to standard prenatal screening for chromosomal abnormalities like Down syndrome, a new cell-free DNA blood test was found to be significantly more accurate. In a recent study, 38 out of 16,000 fetuses were diagnosed with Down syndrome. While standard screening rendered 854 false positives, the new blood test had only nine. It was also far better at identifying the ones that were later diagnosed with the condition.
Significance: While the results are indeed significant, researchers say there's still much debate over which assessment should be the first-line screening test. The cell-free DNA test may be more accurate at detecting Down syndrome specifically, but it offers a less comprehensive snapshot of what else could potentially be going on in utero.
Location of study: U.S.
Results: Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine are reporting encouraging results from a recent melanoma study. Administering personalized vaccines to existing cancer patients triggered a clear and strong immune response. For the study, three patients with advanced melanoma were given a tailored vaccine made from mutated proteins that researchers predicted would jump-start a powerful immune response. Turns out they were right.
Significance: “Our results are preliminary, but we think the vaccines have therapeutic potential based on the breadth and remarkable diversity of the T-cell response," senior author Gerald Linette, M.D. said in a statement. Researchers administered the vaccine to patients with melanoma who’d had their tumors surgically removed, but whose cancer had already spread to the lymph nodes. They say this makes these patients particularly susceptible to cancer recurrence.
Results: While poor sleep is a common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the medications typically used to treat the condition are antidepressants. But can addressing poor sleep help improve the overall disorder? A new clinical trial is currently underway to test the safety and efficacy of a new PTSD treatment. Unlike the antidepressant approach, the novel treatment specifically targets poor sleep.
Significance: “There has been a lot more recent research showing a very strong connection between sleep disturbance and PTSD,” says Dr. Greg Sullivan, chief medical officer at Tonix Pharmaceuticals. “Sleep disturbance is also one of the symptoms of PTSD.” The study will be testing the safety and efficacy of a drug commonly used to treat muscle spasms. Sullivan and his colleagues believe that the drug might help enhance restorative sleep – something many people with PTSD have lost. This, in turn, may help support the processes that aid in recovery.
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