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Immunotherapy scores a first win against some breast cancers

The Japan Times

NEW YORK – For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown promise against breast cancer in a large study that combined it with chemotherapy to treat an aggressive form of the disease. But the benefit for most women was small, raising questions about whether the treatment is worth its high cost and side effects. Results were discussed Saturday at a cancer conference in Munich and published by the New England Journal of Medicine. Drugs called checkpoint inhibitors have transformed treatment of many types of cancer by removing a chemical brake that keeps the immune system from killing tumor cells. Their discovery recently earned scientists a Nobel Prize.


Subgroup Identification and Interpretation with Bayesian Nonparametric Models in Health Care Claims Data

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Inpatient care is a large share of total health care spending, making analysis of inpatient utilization patterns an important part of understanding what drives health care spending growth. Common features of inpatient utilization measures include zero inflation, over-dispersion, and skewness, all of which complicate statistical modeling. Mixture modeling is a popular approach that can accommodate these features of health care utilization data. In this work, we add a nonparametric clustering component to such models. Our fully Bayesian model framework allows for an unknown number of mixing components, so that the data determine the number of mixture components. When we apply the modeling framework to data on hospital lengths of stay for patients with lung cancer, we find distinct subgroups of patients with differences in means and variances of hospital days, health and treatment covariates, and relationships between covariates and length of stay.


Scan that can predict how well chemotherapy will work

Daily Mail - Science & tech

A hi-tech scan that takes just five seconds to perform can tell if chemotherapy is working in patients with breast cancer. The scan, which involves waving a hand-held probe resembling a shower head over the tumour site, can detect tiny changes that indicate whether it is responding to chemo drugs after just one round of treatment. The breakthrough means women showing no early signs of improvement can be switched to other drugs or treatments, sparing them from the unnecessary and toxic side-effects of chemotherapy. Currently, most patients undergoing chemo have to endure several weeks or months of treatment -- often with debilitating side-effects, such as nausea, hair loss and extreme fatigue -- before they find out whether their tumour has shrunk. The new technique could potentially slash that time to a matter of hours, allowing doctors to try other chemotherapy combinations or carry out surgery sooner in a bid to stop the cancer from spreading. At present, there can be a wait of weeks or months to see if the drugs are working.


Distrusting China's medical system, patients turn to U.S. doctors online

Los Angeles Times

The doctor told Renee Gao's parents that the tumor in their teenager's chest wasn't disappearing. The girl would need a costly operation that could leave her sterile -- if she survived.


How a daughter's cancer treatment inspired an interactive app for sick kids

#artificialintelligence

After watching his 13-year-old daughter go through a gruelling year of cancer treatment Dom Raban realised more could be done to help children feel at ease in hospital. Now his app, Xploro, has been trialled at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, with further plans to expand it across the NHS. The app provides an interactive experience for young patients receiving hospital treatment, allowing them to interact with a personally designed avatar that can explain treatments, machines that will be used and answer any questions they have about their hospital stay. With more than 10 years experience as the managing director of an interactive design company, Raban set about looking at digital solutions that would provide important information about care and treatment to young patients. His daughter, Issy, was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2011.