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Morning Rounds

Exclusive: IBM documents show Watson gave incorrect cancer treatment advice

Internal IBM documents show that the company’s Watson supercomputer often spit out erroneous cancer treatment advice, STAT’s Casey Ross and Ike Swetlitz report. The documents — slides that were part of of two presentations in June and July 2017 — contain scathing assessments and show that company cancer specialists and customers identified “multiple examples of unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations” that didn't stick to national guidelines. At the same time, the company was promoting the product around the world. In a statement, IBM said, in part, that the company has "learned and improved Watson Health based on continuous feedback from clients, new scientific evidence and new cancers and treatment alternatives." Read the story here.

Top health officials talk 21st Century Cures progress

NIH Director Francis Collins and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb are headed before a House subcommittee today to give an update on the work to put the 21st Century Cures Act into action. Collins will talk about progress on a handful of fronts, including efforts to improve inclusion of women, racial and ethnic minority populations, kids, and seniors in research. He'll also talk about the sweeping research projects that 21st Century Cures funded, including the cancer moonshot and the BRAIN Initiative. Gottlieb will discuss his agency's efforts to encourage new kinds of clinical trial designs and help researchers harness real-world data.

More snacks are being recalled over salmonella risk

It’s a tough week for snacks. Pepperidge Farm is recalling four kinds of Goldfish Crackers amid concerns they could be contaminated with salmonella. Ritz cheese crackers and Ritz Bits are also being recalled for the same reason, along with Swiss Rolls sold under several brand names. The companies are recalling the products because a supplier of dried whey — which is used to coat many processed foods — reported possible salmonella contamination. There haven't been any reported illnesses, and there's no evidence at this point that any of the products is actually contaminated, the FDA says

Inside STAT: Could gene therapy be used in utero? 

Gene therapies — in which a corrective gene hitches a ride on a virus into a patient’s cells — are being tested as potential cures or long-term treatments for a slew of diseases, from sickle cell to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But some researchers are also eyeing another idea: using gene therapy in the womb to start treating a disease before birth. It's still an untested notion in the clinic, but researchers are making fetal gene therapy advances in animal models. And some scientists think that — in the right case and with the right disease — it's time to move toward trying it in people. STAT's Andrew Joseph has the story here

Lab Chat: How bacteria come up with a Plan B

Researchers watched e. coli react as they were deprived of key nutrients. (CDC)

Scientists have discovered that E. coli have a backup plan to keep up with a day’s work when deprived of key nutrients. Here’s what Zemer Gitai of Princeton told me about the work, published in Nature Microbiology.

What did you set out to study?

There’s a balance between the resources a cell puts into making proteins and the resources it puts into making ribosomes, which are factories that make proteins. The idea, especially for unicellular organisms like bacteria, is that they’re efficient and those factories work close to capacity. We looked at what would happen if cells had limited carbon, nitrogen, or phosphorus.

How did the bacteria compensate?

With limited phosphorous, the cells grew at the same rate, but with half as many factories, which suggests they're not necessarily efficient. With limited carbon, growth slowed. The factories work pretty fast, but only about half are actually working. We think this shows E. coli being an optimist — when times are bad, instead of taking apart factories to eke out every last bit of growth, E. coli just shuts down half and waits to see if things get better.

New study supports New York's sepsis treatment law

A new study lends support to a New York mandate that governs how doctors treat pediatric patients who might have sepsis. Doctors are required to follow a specific protocol that includes quickly delivering antibiotics and IV fluids. The study found that when pediatric patients receive that care within an hour, their chance of survival climbs considerably. While it’s clear the policy has helped save lives, some physicians say it doesn’t allow for flexibility as the evidence changes. The study doesn’t determine whether the whole policy — or just certain parts — are helpful. A 2017 study suggested that IV fluids didn't improve sepsis survival rates in New York hospitals.  

What to read around the web today

  • Desperate Venezuela HIV patients, unable to get life-saving drugs, try DIY remedies. Miami Herald
  • What the mystery of the tick-borne allergy could reveal. New York Times Magazine
  • Dutch trial testing Viagra to boost fetal growth halted after 11 babies die. The Guardian
  • Prescription apps are gaining ground — and drug makers’ backing — as digital therapeutics. STAT Plus
  • Purdue Pharma edits public service ad in Washington Post. Kaiser Health News

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

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