The researchers at the University of Georgia have come up with a new study which states that legalized medical cannabis reduces the use of opioids. It says that states that have approved medical cannabis laws saw a dramatic reduction in opioid use. The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine.
The researchers of the study examined the number of all opioid prescriptions filled between 2010 and 2015 under Medicare Part D. It is the prescription drug assistance plan accessible to Medicare enrollees. They observed a 14.4 percent reduction in the use of prescription opioids in the states with medical cannabis dispensaries. Moreover, the researchers found nearly a 7 percent reduction in opiate prescriptions filled in states with home-cultivation-only medical cannabis laws.
Some of the states under observation had medical cannabis laws throughout the five-year study period. On the other hand, some never had medical cannabis, and some enacted medical cannabis laws during those five years. So the researchers asked what happens to physician behavior in terms of their opiate prescribing if and when medical cannabis becomes available.
Also, 29 US states and the district of Colombia approved medical cannabis law with California being the first to approve medical cannabis law in 1996.
As per the researchers, physicians cannot prescribe cannabis because it is still a Schedule I drug. The study doesn’t aim at observing that prescriptions for cannabis go up and prescriptions for opioids go down. It only intends to evaluate the changes when medical cannabis laws are in action. Interestingly, the study reveals big reductions in the use of opioids.
Legal status of Marijuana deserves a consideration
The researchers examined all the commonly prescribed opiates including,
Heroin, being an illegal drug, was not included as part of the study. In the previous year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a public health emergency with respect to the abuse of opiates. Opioid overdoses caused more than 42,000 deaths in 2016. Surprisingly, more than 40 percent of opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid, according to HHS.
Between 2005 and 2011 the opioid prescription rates increased from about 148 million to 206 million. This added dramatically to the number of opioid-related deaths.
The major reason behind the lower use of opiates is the growing body of literature that suggests cannabis may help to manage pain in patients. Note that the researchers didn’t see any notable decline in the number of non-opioid drugs prescribed during the study period. These non-opioid drugs included blood thinners, flu medications, and phosphorus stimulants.
The researches admit that there is still much work to do if medical cannabis is to become an effective treatment. Research scientists are just beginning to understand the effects of cannabis and its derivatives. They believe that an effective “dose” of cannabis needs a clear definition so that each patient receives a consistent dose.
Regardless of their findings, the researchers of the study suggest quite clearly that medical cannabis and its legalization worth serious consideration. It could be one useful tool in the policy arsenal that can help to diminish the harm of prescription opioids.
A Novel Way to Diagnose an Early Stage Cancer
Typically, cancer is difficult to diagnose at the initial stage. This early-stage diagnosis reduces its complications and the mortality rate linked with it. In many countries, cancer is usually diagnosed in later stages which affects the quality of life and results in greater morbidity rates and high treatment costs. Addressing the delays in the detection of cancer and the unavailability of effective treatment is therefore critical in all the health care settings for cancer control.
Early diagnosis strategies are used to confirm the presence of disease, monitor the process of disease and plan interventions to prevent the disease from progression. These strategies help to improve the cancer outcomes by providing care and effective treatments at the initial stage.
Factors that hinder the cancer diagnosis must be identified and addressed so that it becomes easy to implement effective treatment programs at various levels including improving diagnostic and referral capacity, community engagement to address the behavior of the patient, and ensuring the timely access to high-quality treatment.
A team of researchers led by Professor Jenny Yang from the Georgia State University Regents identified a new method for detecting cancer at the initial stage. This method used the target MRI contrast agent that binds with proteins and detects cancer. The study is published in journal Science Advances.
To detect the metastases of the liver, new biomarkers have been identified by Yang and her colleagues at Georgia State and Emory University. Currently, cancer is diagnosed in its late stages such as biopsies. At this stage treatment options become limited and it ultimately lowers the survival rates. The recent discovery discussed in this study provides a wide range of options that includes precise treatments, effective diagnosis and reduce risk for patients.
Yang said that this method is effective as it will have many applications for diagnosis and treatment of any type of cancer. This method is already used in the lab for 10 different types of cancer.
National Cancer Institute-funded this researcher project. Researchers developed an agent which can target specific receptors known as Chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4). In the cancerous cells, this receptor is expressed more than normal in metastasis organs such as the liver.
It would be expected that small instances of cancer can be diagnosed through CXCR4 targeted protein-based MRI contrast agent because it beats all the barriers that hinder the early diagnosis of cancer. This new methodology shows the cancerous cells on multi-color scans known as precision MRI (pMRI).
In MRI technology, Gadolinium is used in contrast to agents that enhance the quality of images. In her previous research analyzing calcium, Yang decided to check the interaction of the metal with proteins. She found that the element wraps the protein around itself and takes it to the site where the image is being formed.
Still is it difficult to diagnose cancer in the early stages even though invasive biopsies. The diagnostic tests that use these contrast agents not only detect the presence of cancerous cells but can distinguish the diseases into different stages. The beauty of this test lies in its high accuracy and sensitivity.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration used the targeted protein contrast agent in the first step of clinical trials to check its efficiency in humans. Yang hopes that these clinical trials in patients will be conducted within 18 months to two years.
Yang is an associate professor at the Center for Diagnosis and Therapeutics. She enrolled 18 foreign and 17 U.S patients in protein engineering. Recently, the National Academy of Inventors awarded her a fellowship. Also, she has started a new company ‘InLight Biosciences’ that allows her to compete for new findings and introduced her latest discoveries to the world.
This research is based on the 2019 study published in the journal Nature Communications. In this study yang and her team identified liver fibrosis for the first time by using a collagen targeted protein contrast agent.
Yang further added that this contrast agent is used for more than 30 years in different aspects and it is my biggest contribution to the scientific world and hoping for the more to come in the future.
New Technology to Predict Cancer Recurrence in Melanoma Patients
The beginning of melanoma takes place when a small pigmented spot appears on the skin. By removing the lesion, a primary melanoma can be treated but it has a tendency of reoccurrence and can spread throughout the body. A new study showed that the likelihood of cancer can be predicted after the removal of the lesion.
Despite all medical advancements, the analysis of lesion his performed in the same old way. Generally, molecular diagnostic labs have many advances for the detection of other forms of cancer but for the skin lesion cancer the way of diagnosis is very simple. The diagnosis is based on the thickness of the melanoma and microscopic features.
A patient with thinner melanomas is considered to be normal and the T stage from 1 to 4 is assigned. The complete details of this study are published in Nature Cancer.
The researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in collaboration with international colleagues showed a new technique about the reoccurrence and spread of melanomas. It leverages the sequences of DNA for predicting the possible factors involved in the reoccurrence and spread of melanomas.
Thomas Kupper who is the chairperson of the department of dermatology at the Brigham that there were no treatments available for metastatic melanoma 10 years ago. But now it is possible to treat the patients who have metastatic melanoma and these treatments can be given at the primary stage of the disease. It is important to have a clear idea about the patient’s progress report after giving the new immunotherapy treatments, so we can modify the treatment.
There are immune checkpoint inhibitors that can reinitiate the immune response through T cell against the cancer cells. These inhibitors have changed the results and options for the patients in which cancer has spread throughout the body. Immune checkpoint inhibitors can start dramatic responses such as long-term remission in the period of curing a patient.
Kupper and colleagues wanted to know about some measurable features of T cells. These features are used to check the predictions of the reoccurrence of melanoma in the removed primary melanoma and disease-free patients. Scientists study T2, T2, and T4 primary melanoma as the T1 are rarely metastasized melanoma.
They also face difficulty in finding the sample that was enough for results because skin lesion surgeries are usually performed at private clinics and ambulatory clinics. So, the concentration of the specimen is not available in the hospitals. For resolving this issue and for sharing the resources researchers collaborated with colleagues of the Melanoma Institute of Australia and the Zealand university Hospital in Denmark. The sample size for the analysis contains more than 300 patients from different areas.
The samples of primary melanoma patients with progress have been compared with those patients whose primary melanoma did not show any progress. For analyzing the T cell range of tumors, Adaptive Biotechnologies performed high throughput DNA sequencing. It was found that out of all identified variables the T cell fraction (TCFr) was an independent and strong predictor for the patients’ progress condition.
Patients with the same lesion thickness were more at the risk of developing metastatic disease. If the TCFr value is lower than 20 % in the patients, then they are more at the risk of disease progression. On the other hand, if the TCFr value is more than 20% then the risk of disease progression is low in patients.
The test used in this study is not available at the commercial level for clinical use. It is only used for research purposes. The authors said that the study is retrospective because it took the sample and data of patients that are already available. While the prospective study is that in which data for outcomes is not known and further tests are needed for validation.
Kupper and colleagues imagine that if a test could bring to the clinics then it will improve the patient care and strengthen the results. The test is elegant, simple and quantitative. These types of tests will help us in the future to modify the treatments according to the situation. If the patients have high TCFr then we will benefit him with checkpoint inhibitor therapy. If the value is low in patients, then more interventions are needed.
Dangerous Effects of Cannabis During Pregnancy Explained by New Research
Cannabis is a derivative of Cannabis sativa that affects the normal functioning of the brain and impairs motor coordination leading to hallucinating effect. This new study suggests that cannabis exposure has real-time devastating effects on the fetus and placental development during the gestation period in pregnancy.
The principal constituent in cannabis is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the researchers at Western University and Queens University find that regular exposure to THC has a great effect on the development of the placenta and fetus during gestation. Since recreational cannabis has been legalized in Canada, the effects of cannabis during pregnancy are beginning to be perceived.
Researchers used a rat model and human placental cells to show that regular exposure to THC during pregnancy has a great impact on not only the development of the vital organs of the fetus but also on the gene expression that is extremely important for the proper functioning of the placenta.
The researchers practically find an 8 percent deduction in birth weight and diminished growth of brain and liver by more than 20 percent during gestation in a rat model due to the regular exposure to a low-dose of THC that copies the daily use of cannabis.
An associate professor, Daniel B. Hardy at Westerns Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry and co-author on the paper suggests that the use of cannabis during pregnancy is highly linked with low birth weight babies.
Clinical data is hard to analyze because it is perplexed by other factors. The study is a definite way that supports that THC has a direct influence on the growth of the placenta and fetus.
Oxygen and nutrients cross the placenta into the developing fetus for nourishment and the research team characterizes how THC prevents oxygen and nutrients from crossing the placenta.
A decrease in a glucose transporter called GLUT-1 is caused by the exposure to THC that was found by studying the placental cells of humans. This shows that THC is stopping the transfer of key nutrient glucose through the placenta, from mother to the fetus. A reduction in placental vasculature was also found in the rat model and infers a reduced flow of blood from the mother to the fetus.
In the researcher’s opinion the restricted growth they observed in the offspring is likely caused by both of these factors and find that there are recently no proper guidelines from Health Canada on the use of cannabis during the gestation period.
To prevent morning sickness, for anxiety, depression or social issues up to one in five women are using cannabis during pregnancy according to some studies.
A Ph.D., Associate Professor, David Natale at Queens finds in Canada and many states of the US the use of marijuana has been legalized, but its use during gestation period has not been studied well. There are very real devastating risks associated with the regular exposure of cannabis during pregnancy.
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