Every few years, as he pursues breakthroughs for one of the world’s most notoriously difficult cancers to treat, William Hawkins, MD, says he feels like the first man who walked on the moon. “When you have an idea, and you test it in the laboratory, and you find a new insight that no one else has known previously, that’s cool,” he says. “It pushes the frontier of cancer research that much closer to effective treatments for my patients. It really is like boldly going where no one has gone before.”
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine are establishing an international collaboration that aims to help scientists prepare for the next pandemic and, perhaps, provide insight into the current one.
While radiation is a key part of therapy for 70% of people treated for cancer, its side effects can be significant. That doesn’t mean radiation shouldn’t be used; it is an effective treatment. But making radiation more targeted can mitigate side effects. That’s where pencil beam proton therapy comes in.
Some call it the “therapeutic pipeline.” Others refer to it as “bench to bedside.” Both phrases refer to the scientific process that delivers new therapies, new medicines, to people who are sick. In the pipeline metaphor, an idea rushes along, like water in a hose, from the minds of researchers into the lab, through testing and approvals to the pharmacy or treatment room. In the bench metaphor, progress is similarly linear, advancing from the scientist’s bench in the lab to the patient’s bedside. But neither image paints an accurate picture.
Jeannie Kelly, MD, MS, and Roxane Rampersad, MD, recently sat down to talk with me about the Maternal-Fetal & Newborn Transport Services, a fleet of aircraft and ambulances prepared to transport pregnant women and newborns in need of specialized care.
They would fill St. Louis’ Busch Stadium more than twice, take every seat in 261 jumbo jets and fill each bed in Barnes-Jewish Hospital 85 times over. They are the more than 108,000 Americans waiting for an organ transplant. And for too many, a donor organ won’t arrive in time.
The state of Missouri is ranked 44th in the United States for maternal mortality, according to America’s Health Rankings 2019. Missouri’s maternal mortality rate for black women is nearly three times higher than that for white women. And, according to the Missouri Foundation for Health, approximately 600 infants die every year in Missouri; 33% of those deaths occur in St. Louis and in the Bootheel, in the southeasternmost part of the state.
In a preliminary study of COVID-19 patients with mild-to-moderate disease who were attempting to recover in their homes, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have found that the anti-depressant drug fluvoxamine seems to prevent some of the most serious complications of the illness, and makes hospitalization and the need for supplemental oxygen less likely.
The study involved 152 people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Researchers compared the outcomes of those treated with fluvoxamine to the outcomes of those given an inactive placebo. After 15 days, none of the 80 people who had received the drug experienced serious clinical deterioration. Meanwhile, six of the 72 given placebo (8.3%) became seriously ill, with four requiring hospitalization.