COVID Outlook; Docs Refuse Opioid Disorder; Cancer Vax Hope?

Three COVID Scenarios That Could Spell Trouble for the Fall

The US enters its third fall with COVID-19, and although experts fear another wave, they caution that those fears may be overblown.

More resistant variants are on the horizon, immunity is waning, people are not seeking out new booster vaccines or treatments, and the flu could return in a “twindemic” with the coronavirus.

New variants: Omicron variant BA.5 still dominates infections in the United States, followed by BA4.6, but new subvariants show resistance to vaccines and immunity. One such Omicron subvariant, BA.2.75.2, makes up under 2% of US cases but has spread to at least 55 countries and 43 US states.

Vaccine reluctance: Only 5.3% of Americans eligible to receive the updated bivalent booster have taken it.

Silver lining: Omicron spread widely and may have left widespread immunity in its wake. Because new variants remain in the Omicron family, that may help stem a large wave.

Doctors Turn Away Opioid Patients

Family physicians are almost three times less likely to offer a new appointment to a patient with opioid use disorder than to a patient with diabetes, a new Canadian study found.

The study published in JAMA Network Open found that physicians with more than 20 years of experience were almost 13 times less likely to give an appointment to a patient with the opioid use disorder than to a patient with diabetes.

A randomized clinical trial included 383 physicians who were contacted by a patient actor who asked for an appointment, posing either as a patient with opioid use disorder or as a patient with diabetes.

Big disparity: Some 11.4 % of physicians offered a new patient appointment to a caller with diabetes; only 4% offered an appointment to a caller for treatment for opioid use disorder.

Gender gap: Family physicians who were women were nearly five times less likely to offer an appointment to a patient with opioid use disorder than to a diabetes patient.

Addressing bias: The study advised education and anti-oppression training to address bias against opioid users.

New Hope for Cancer Vaccines?

Researchers have new hope for vaccines that could prevent cancer, a long held but frustrated dream, The New York Times reported. New preliminary research shows promise for vaccines targeting pancreatic, colon, and breast cancer.

Pancreatic cancer: Researchers at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University devised a vaccine that would train T cells to target cells with a mutation that predisposes a person to develop pancreatic cancer. A safety study involving 12 patients whose early-stage pancreatic cancer had been treated surgically found no recurrence 2 years later.

Colon cancer: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers administered a vaccine or placebo to 102 people in six medical centers who had advanced colon polyps. One quarter of those who got the vaccine developed an immune response, but there was no significant reduction in the rate of polyp recurrences in the vaccinated group.

Breast cancer: Mary L. Disis, MD, director of the Cancer Vaccine Institute at the University of Washington, is founder of EpiThany, a company that is developing vaccines to treat or slow down breast cancer.

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