The Digital Health Update by Paul Sonnier ⋅ Feb 26, 2017 ⋅ #262

I made this announcement to 54,210 members of the Digital Health group on LinkedIn. If you’re on LinkedIn, please do join the group, which allows you to opt in to receiving these announcements in addition to connecting with thousands of other global stakeholders in digital health. Note that I will continue to update this announcement up until sending out the final version via LinkedIn.

The Digital Health Update by Paul Sonnier ⋅ Feb 26, 2017 ⋅ #262

Dear Group,

Dr. Watson, AI, has stumbled in a very costly way at the renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center. As Matthew Herper, Sr. Editor for Pharma & Healthcare at Forbes writes, MD Anderson has benched IBM’s Watson in a “setback for artificial intelligence in medicine”. While the $62M+ project in fact did not meet its goals, an audit report stated it should not be “interpreted as an opinion on the scientific basis or functional capabilities of the system in its current state.” According to an MD Anderson spokesperson, “we decided to go out to the marketplace for competitive bids to see where the industry has progressed.” Another apparent issue was a lack of interoperability between IBM Watson and Anderson’s newly-implemented Epic EHR system. In stark contrast, IBM Watson’s work with Memorial Sloan Kettering resulted in a salable product that helps doctors select cancer treatments.

Writing in STAT News, Dennis Citrin, MD, a medical oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, says that, in spite of criticism and a recent design-biased study (in the Annals of Internal Medicine) on mammograms and the potential for unnecessary treatments, they do make sense as an early-warning screening tool for women over 40. He points out that randomized trials have demonstrated a 15-20% reduction in breast cancer deaths for these types of mammogram screenings. While 1 out of 3 women in the Annals study had a potentially harmless disease that may not require treatment, the long-standing “one-size-fits-all treatment for a particular cancer stage doesn’t work”, he says, and it should now be determined by “first testing the cancer’s genome to identify its biologic type then by determining the stage of the disease and how much cancer is present.”

On the heels of last week’s news about germline DNA editing recommendations by the National Academy of Sciences, new concerns are emerging regarding full genome sequencing of newborns. Writing in Scientific American, Bonnie Rochman, author of “The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies Are Changing the Way We Have Kids“, points out that many serious diseases that can be screened for at birth are not included in standard newborn genetic tests. Not only can the genetic information induce anxiety in parents, doctors may be challenged to provide care based on it. Geneticist Robert C. Green, who co-leads the BabySeq Project newborn-screening study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital says “We’re trying to model that situation at a time when it’s not really easy or cheap to sequence and doctors aren’t used to dealing with it. We’re trying to model the future. In five years, I am suggesting that sequencing will be given away as a freebie”.

The UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published guidance recommending that everyone who is diagnosed with colorectal cancer should be tested for an inherited genetic condition called Lynch syndrome (LS), which is the most common cause of hereditary bowel cancer. People with LS have an increased risk of developing womb, ovarian, and stomach cancers. Genetic testing helps identify whether there is an increased cancer risk to the patient’s family, who should therefore be monitored.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and the New York Genome Center have identified a new type of genetic mutation in cancer. It was found that certain genes that are essential for healthy lung function are also associated with lung adenocarcinoma cancer.

And it turns out that gene variants associated with an apple-shaped body type increases the risk for type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, as well as the incidence of several cardiovascular risk factors. A study published in JAMA by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital indicates that the elevated risks are associated with weight deposited around the abdomen, rather than in the hips and thighs.

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Paul Sonnier
Keynote Speaker ⋅ Management Consultant ⋅ Social Entrepreneur
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Twitter: @Paul_Sonnier
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