Every Thursday, North by Northwestern's science and tech section will bring you some of the week's most important and noteworthy news, discoveries and events. This week, Northwestern researchers made some key discoveries in heart medication and preventing cancer, among others.
Stop it while you still can
A group of Northwestern Medicine scientists created a clever device that acts as a decoy to attract breast cancer cells away from vital organs in the body. By implanting the device – a spongy pill-like object called a scaffold – just under the skin of patients at risk of cancer recurrence, physicians can detect the cancer before it becomes untreatable.
The scaffold works by causing the immune system to perceive the scaffold as a “foreign object,” so it sends cells to fend off the scaffold. This in turn lures cancer cells to the area, alerting physicians of the cancer before it spreads elsewhere.
Solving public health issues in Tanzania
A group of seven Northwestern students researched public health in the Arusha region of Tanzania for eight weeks this summer, collaborating with medical sociology students at the University of Dar es Salaam to focus on health concerns in the area.
Results from the trip indicated that pharmacy prices in the region were too high, and that citizens and facilities generally did not trust one another, a key source of the health issues. At the end of the trip, students sent reports – written in Swahili and English – to local medical officers and community health leaders in hopes they will take the students' research into account.
An excuse to drink even more coffee
Drinking coffee could be beneficial beyond helping you make it to your 9 a.m. lectures. According a Northwestern Medicine study, patients who regularly drank caffeinated coffee and had been previously treated for colon cancer showed lower rates of cancer recurrence and mortality. The study found that patients who drank four or more cups each day were 42 percent less likely to see their cancer return.
Less medicine = good?
Heart attack patients who receive smaller doses of beta-blockers – drugs that block adrenaline and slow heart rate in order to treat heart failure – than the amounts used in most clinical trials survived at rates equal to patients enrolled in average clinical trials, according to a study led by researchers at the Feinberg School of Medicine.
The results surprised Jeffrey Goldberger, a Feinberg professor of medicine and cardiology who led the team, because Goldberger initiated the study after finding that heart attack patients received smaller doses of beta-blockers than patients treated in clinical trials. While Goldberger initially surmised the lower doses indicated poor medical care, his own study disproved this notion.