Morning Rounds Elizabeth Cooney

Happy Monday! Today marks my last day writing this newsletter while Shraddha Chakradhar is on family leave. She’ll be back next week, so some of our STAT colleagues will pick up the baton for now. Thank you for reading and writing in with your thoughts these past three months.


Inside the White House’s push for a new, $6.5 billion agency aimed at curing cancer

The Biden administration on Friday proposed the creation of a $6.5 billion medical research agency with an audacious goal: quickly developing cures for diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. If the agency is established, it could mark a fundamental shift in how the U.S. government funds research, steering the emphasis from basic science to higher-risk projects more directly aimed at major medical breakthroughs. The proposal follows years of advocacy from a small group of scientists and philanthropists frustrated with the pace of government-funded research. It also reflects the longtime cancer-research aspirations of President Biden, who as a candidate drew criticism for pledging the country would “cure cancer” if he was elected. More for STAT+ subscribers here.

Top-tier medical journals have few editors of color on their boards 

When cardiologist Ray Givens read the article in the Journal of the American Heart Association, it stopped him in his tracks. Written by a fellow cardiologist, it claimed educational affirmative action programs were
promoting underprepared Black and Hispanic trainees who would not gain admission to top medical schools or become the best doctors. While the article was widely condemned as racist and error-filled and was swiftly retracted by the journal, its publication left Givens with a host of questions. "I thought, 'How did this get published?'" he told STAT’s Usha Lee McFarling. "That started the wheels turning. Who’s on the masthead?" So began a deep dive by Givens into the race and ethnicity of the editors and decision-makers at top-tier medical journals. Read more.

Early trial shows promise aiming a modified cold-sore virus against brain tumors in children

A therapy that sends a modified cold-sore virus to selectively kill tumor cells and spark an immune response to a particularly deadly brain cancer in children showed promise in an early clinical trial, scientists reported Saturday. They hope their approach to high-grade gliomas will pave the way toward a combination treatment with immunotherapy. “We want to change the clinical practice paradigm from using these toxic, marginally effective therapies to something that is much more effective and much less toxic,” Gregory Friedman, who led the research, told me in an interview. Friedman presented the Phase 1 trial results at a virtual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. For more of STAT’s AACR coverage, go here.

Inside STAT: Despite resistance, researchers investigate a new mental health disorder

(janice chang for stat)

For Abby Williard, school always felt like a slog. Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, Williard couldn’t seem to complete her schoolwork or stop daydreaming in class. Although she has anxiety and depression, she felt like something else was at play. A psychiatric evaluation from when she was 12 listed a mysterious classification, one neither her mother nor her school’s psychologist had since talked to her about: sluggish cognitive tempo. As she researched SCT online, the symptoms seemed just right. But SCT is not an officially recognized diagnosis. It’s currently what’s called a clinical construct — a term used in psychology to define a group of behaviors — and the subject of some controversy. STAT’s Rebecca Sohn has more.

A cost-benefit model for banning tanning beds in adolescents

Tanning beds are notorious for their connection to skin cancer. Parts of the U.S. limit tanning bed use, but there is no national policy. A new study models the cost of tanning in economic terms for adolescents ages 14 to 17. The researchers estimate a tanning bed ban in this under-18 age group would avoid 15,101 melanoma cases and 3,299 melanoma recurrences among 17.1 million minors. That would save $61 in direct and indirect health care costs per minor. After factoring in costs to enforce the ban and economic losses to the tanning bed industry, a ban would still save $12 per minor. That adds up to $205.4 million over the lifetimes of 17.1 million minors.

Keto diet may help people during alcohol withdrawal

When people with alcohol use disorder quit drinking, their withdrawal symptoms and craving can be so harsh they abandon the first steps to sobriety. A small new study links eating high-fat, low-carb foods, also known as a ketogenic diet, with reduced need for relief from discomfort, tremors, anxiety, and restlessness. Alcohol consumption lowers glucose metabolism and raises acetate metabolism, draining energy stores in the brain of someone who abruptly quits drinking. So the researchers put 19 patients on a ketogenic diet and 14 on a standard American diet for three weeks. Patients on the ketogenic diet reported lower alcohol cravings than those on the standard diet, suggesting the low-carb, high-fat diet may weaken alcohol dependence by providing acetate and other ketone bodies that provide energy.

Correction: An item in Friday’s newsletter misstated the gender of a First Opinion author writing about foreign-trained physicians applying for licenses in the U.S. Lubab al-Quraishi, a licensed physician in Iraq who now works as a pathologist’s assistant in New Jersey, is a woman. We regret the error.

Covid-19 cases in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 46,378
Deaths yesterday
: 283
Vaccine doses distributed, per CDC237,796,105
Total doses administered: 187,047,131

What to read around the web today

  • My family’s global vaccine journey. New York Times
  • Biden seeks $400 billion to buttress long-term care. A look at what’s at stake. Kaiser Health News
  • Google is exploring a health record tool for patients. STAT+
  • Effectiveness of Chinese vaccines ‘not high’ and needs improvement, top health official says. Washington Post
  • Clinical study reports hold more details about the side effects of cancer drugs. STAT+

Thanks for reading!

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