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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

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Good morning, everyone! It's a historic day here at STAT — we're launching our national publication! To celebrate, we're bringing you a special edition of Morning Rounds to highlight the range of stories, videos, animated graphics, and other features we'll serve up daily. We'll return to our regularly scheduled programming of breaking science and medicine news tomorrow. 

A note from our executive editor 

We're so excited to introduce you to STAT.
 
For months, we've scoured the country (and raided Canada!) to build a team of top journalists with this mission: To tell stories about health, medicine, and life sciences that are captivating, provocative and important and that you can't find anywhere else.
 
The possibilities are endless.  Whenever any of us talks with physicians, with venture capitalists, with scientists, we end up scribbling story ideas for STAT. The politics. The personalities. The discoveries. The challenges that patients and doctors face. The fights over funding. The competition to find cures. We'll cover it all in STAT. 
 
Our team of nearly 40 journalists includes reporters in Boston, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C. We'll publish breaking news throughout the day as well as deep investigations, pointed interviews, and a great lineup of columns. We'll have fun, too; we want our coverage to be engaging as well as authoritative. And with help from our crack multimedia team, we hope to explain the science and demystify complex issues. 
 
These are life and death stories that touch us all. We can't wait to bring them to you. 

— Rick Berke

Donald Trump and the vitamin company that went bust

Illustration: Dom smith / stat
Photo: getty images

The Trump Network — yep, that Trump — used to sell nutritional supplements, promising to tailor them to each customer based on an analysis of their urine. The pills were promoted with Trump's name, brand, and a "personal" endorsement from the mogul himself. But a STAT investigation finds that the claim of customized supplements was based on bad science.

A company called Ideal Health created the network and sold the urine tests and supplements, and later licensed Trump's name to promote the business. The test and a month's worth of custom vitamins ran $139.95, with re-testing (at $99.95) recommended every nine to 12 months, according to an archived version of the website. 

“They make an outrageous statement, which is that this testing and supplement regimen, this process, are a necessity for anyone who wants to stay healthy,” said Dr. Pieter Cohen, a supplement safety expert who reviewed some of The Trump Network’s marketing materials at STAT's request. “That’s quite insane.” Read the story here.

The STAT expert panel weighs in on cancer screenings

"Nothing magical happens to a woman's breasts when she is 40, 45, or 50," says Dr. Ruth O'Regan, a professor at the University of Wisconsin's medical school. Yet different public health groups have set each of those ages as the ideal time to start mammograms. What's a woman to make of the mixed signals? And what's so difficult about settling on a universal set of guidelines? STAT explores the issue in our new section, First Opinion.

Each week 
 and frequently, more often than that the director of STAT's scientific advisory board, Patrick Skerrett, will ask experts around the globe to help readers sort through conflicting medical advice or make sense of breaking news in the life sciences. He'll cover everything from nutrition to preventive care to regulatory debates to the business of drug development. So stay tuned and read the first installment here.

For cancer patients, breakthrough drugs save lives but wrench souls

Doctors are increasingly able to bring cancer patients back from the brink of death with the help of targeted therapies that counteract the genetic mutations in their tumors. But too often, the reprieve doesn't last long and they're back at that brink within months, looking for another miracle.

For some patients, the roller coaster can take a huge emotional toll that's not always worth the extra time a new drug might bring them. One woman with lung cancer had five life-saving treatments before declining a sixth, a decision that was painful for family members. It's new, and difficult, terrain for doctors, too.  “The struggle is real, and I don’t have a good answer for it," Dr. Cardinale Smith, an oncologist with Mount Sinai Hospital, told STAT senior writer Bob Tedeschi.  “The science is taking off, and we’re scrambling to figure out how to deal with it.”

We've got the story here, including a searing video, produced by Matthew Orr, the STAT senior editor for video. It'll introduce you to Linnea Olson, an artist who's tried three different targeted therapies to control her lung cancer, despite fear that they were so experimental they might be toxic.

“When you’re chased by a bear to the edge of a cliff, you jump,” Olson said. Before she started her first targeted therapy, her left lung was completely snowed in with cancer. Three months later, it was almost all gone. "All of a sudden, my life which had taken such an unexpected, dramatic and tragic turn, felt like a fairy tale." But the gains didn't last.

Startup aims to harness the microbiome to fight cancer

You can buy self-help books, yogurts, and cosmetics purported to help you strike just the right balance in your unique microbiome that collection of trillions of microorganisms that live in and on you. Now drug makers are getting in on the action, aiming to target microbes to treat everything from type-2 diabetes to inflammatory bowel disorders. Some experts caution that the hype may be outpacing the science. But that didn't stop a startup, Evelo Therapeutics, from jumping into the market. Evelo, based in Cambridge, Mass., launches this morning with $35 million in funding from the venture capital firm Flagship Ventures. It's trying several different approaches to use bacteria to fight cancer. STAT financial reporter Rebecca Robbins has more here.

More to read from STAT

If you're curious to hear more about STAT, read this note from our publisher, John Henry, on why he launched the publication.  Thanks as always for reading! Until tomorrow, 

Megan

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