September 17th, 2015

New Drug Combo Attacks Melanoma Cancer Cells

By Catherine Benson bensonca

Metastatic melanoma is known as “the cancer that gives cancer a bad name.” While melanoma makes up less than 2 percent of all skin cancer cases, it accounts for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 73,870 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2015.

A Mayo Clinic clinical trial is combining two drugs to create a compound that specifically targets melanoma tumor cells. The drug Abraxane has unique packaging that insulates the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel, providing the drug safe passage through the body until it gets to the intended target.

Metastatic melanoma tumor cells have distinct protein markers called VEG-F. Abraxane is combined with anti-VEG-F antibodies that recognize and bind to the VEG-F proteins. The packaging dissolves in the body, releasing the chemo drug and killing the cancer cells. The animation below shows how the new compound precisely and safely delivers chemotherapy to tumors.

This new technology has the potential to be used in other cancers, immune system disorders and organ transplantation, as well. “Much of this is the subject of ongoing research, as we’ve now built nanoparticles that target B cell malignancies [and] breast cancer, as well as more potent nanoparticles that carry not only paclitaxel as the chemotherapy payload but cisplatin as well,” says Mayo Clinic’s Svetomir N. Markovic, M.D., Ph.D., one of the world’s leading melanoma researchers. “By adding different chemo drugs into the nanoparticle we can make the chemo payload more effective for unique tumor targets.”

Dr. Markovic discovered this therapy’s potential three years ago while running a clinical trial. He noticed that a group of patients treated with two drugs given in a particular way had far better results than other patients enrolled. “The delivery method changed the way the drugs interacted,” he says. “We were able to get enough of the medication in the right place—the tumor—and not contaminate surrounding tissue.”

In this new trial’s first year, just a handful of patients are being enrolled. But if the drug is proven safe and effective, Dr. Markovic says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should give approval to expand to other patients and other drug combinations. Phase 1 is expected to be complete in the next 12–18 months, with the B cell malignancy targeting study to start in about 12 months.

Tags: Abraxane, anti-VEG-F antibodies, Markovic, Melanoma, metastatic melanoma, Paclitaxel, Svetomir Markovic

August 27th, 2015

Sequencing patient DNA to prevent adverse drug reactions and maximize drug efficacy

By Catherine Benson bensonca

photo1Mayo Clinic, in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine, is planning to sequence the DNA of 10,000 Mayo patients for 69 genes that can affect how the body metabolizes, transports and reacts to certain drugs. The gene variations observed that are known to influence drug response will be entered into each patient’s electronic health record and a drug alert will pop up when the prescription is written for a drug for which that patient might have an adverse reaction or require a special dose.

“All of us carry common variations in our genes that might mean we respond differently to drugs,” according to Richard Weinshilboum, M.D., Pharmacogenomics Program Director at Mayo Clinic’s Center for Individualized Medicine and the Mary Lou and John H. Dasburg Professor of Cancer Genomics. For example, most people express the CYP2D6 gene, which the body uses to metabolize codeine into morphine. However, some people don’t have the gene, which means codeine won’t reduce their pain. Other people have too many copies of the CYP2D6 gene and make too much morphine, which could lead to a life-threatening drug reaction that causes a patient’s breathing to become dangerously depressed.

Over the past four years, Mayo Clinic’s Center for Individualized Medicine photo2has been adding drug-gene alerts to its electronic health records, but they weren’t specific to a patient. Instead, if a clinician prescribed one of 20 specific drugs, an alert would pop up recommending the physician consider testing the patient for a genetic variation.

However, for the 10,000 patients in this study, the alert would say, “Your patient has the genetic variant”—no additional testing would be required. Mayo will be able to analyze the results to evaluate the potential value of having the genomic information pre-emptively. The theory is that this critical information will help prevent life-threatening drug reactions and reduce health care spending.

Dr. Weinshilboum hopes that the results of the study will help to determine the value—medically and financially—of pre-emptive pharmacogenomic testing. “The speed at which this is happening is astonishing,” Dr. Weinshilboum said. “This is the aspect of clinical genomics that will have the greatest potential impact, earliest, for the largest number of people.”

This study builds on foundational research and experience gained through funding from the Pharmacogenomics Research Network, funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health — and from experience obtained via eMERGE, a national network organized and funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute that combines DNA biorepositories with electronic medical record systems for large scale, high-throughput genetic research in support of implementing genomic medicine.

August 17th, 2015

First-year residents rethink daily labs, improve patient care

By Amy Olson amyeolson

Sometimes, it’s the simplest things that make the biggest differences in a patient’s care.

Fresh out of medical school at the University of North Dakota and weeks into his first year of residency, Joel Beachey, M.D., found himself contemplating a challenge from his attending physicians and chief residents: Just how frequently do hospital patients need certain blood tests?

Not as often as one might think.

Dr. Beachey and seven other residents – Drs. Urshila Durani, Elsie Mensah, Priya Joel Beachey, M.D.Vijayvargiya, Gaya Acharya, Kalie Kebed, Megha Prasad, and Matthew Thoendel – embarked on a quality improvement project to see if something as simple as talking through expectations could reduce two tests: Electrolyte panels and complete blood counts. Those tests are among those most commonly ordered, Beachey said.

“Dr. Beachey and the team looked at the literature and found close to 70 percent of lab tests done in the hospital on patients were unnecessary,” said Amy Oxentenko, M.D., director for the Internal Medicine Residency program.

The two tests – complete blood count and electrolyte panel – have important uses: Complete blood counts can help a physician assess whether a patient is fighting an infection or has internal bleeding. An electrolyte panel can help monitor for kidney function.

Having the tests may not change overall management of patients’ conditions. In some cases, it can harm patients, said Dr. John Ratelle, Internal Medicine, co-coordinator of the Quality Improvement curriculum during which Dr. Beachey and the team completed the project.

“We kind of assume if you’re in the hospital, you’ve got to have your blood drawn, right? That’s just something that needs to be done,” Dr. Ratelle said. “But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe things have been stable and it’s not really influencing day-to-day care.”

A number of factors play into physicians ordering the tests.

“A lot of it is lack of provider comfort and lack of knowledge what the cost of testing is,” Dr. Beachey said. “It’s also a lack of knowing what consultant expectations are for daily labs.”

Dr. Beachey and his team collaborated with other stakeholders across several departments and work areas. Based upon their analysis, they put together a short education session and then compared the number of the two tests ordered per patient for three days before the session and three days after the session. The number of tests ordered per patient per day dropped by 33 percent following the education session.

“We were kind of surprised that within that short period of time that we had that significant of a result,” Dr. Beachey said. “It really showed us that just a simple intervention, such as providing education and encouraging providers to think about their daily ordering, can make a really large difference.”

For Dr. Oxentenko, it highlighted the need for faculty to set clear expectations as well as a cultural shift in medicine.

“We need to give trainees permission to not order things. When I think back to when I was a resident, more was better. You felt that you were a better resident if you thought of everything and ordered all these laboratory tests while someone was in the hospital,” Dr. Oxentenko said. “The culture is completely different now.”

For Dr. Sara Bonnes, General Internal Medicine, the project demonstrates the power of small changes and the need to teach quality improvement methodology.

“It’s not necessarily the big things that make the greatest difference,” said Dr. Bonnes, co-coordinator of the Quality Improvement curriculum  in which Dr. Beachey and the team completed the project. “A lot of times, they like to focus on changing the electronic orders or other things. Sometimes, it’s just communication that is key.”

Dr. Bonnes said it’s important to share findings of quality improvement projects, both within and outside Mayo. In November, Dr. Beachey presented their findings at the Minnesota American College of Physicians meeting and won the quality improvement poster competition. In April, he was able to share their findings with a larger audience at the national American College of Physicians conference.

Dr. Beachey is interested in continuing the improvement efforts to see how the results might be sustained.

Watch Drs. Beachey, Bonnes, Oxentenko and Ratelle describe the project:

Tags: Amy Oxentenko, Hospital Care, Internal Medicine Residency Program, Joel Beachey, John Ratelle, MD, mayo clinic, quality improvement, reducing unnecessary laboratory testing, Sara Bonnes

August 13th, 2015

Mayo Clinic educates high schoolers about career options as U.S. faces shortage of health care workers

By Catherine Benson bensonca

The United States is facing a shortage of health care workers in the next few decades, as our population continues to grow and to age. The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a doctor shortage of 46,000 to 90,000 physicians by 2025, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the U.S. will need 526,800 more nurses by 2022. The BLS also projects that health care support occupations will increase 28.1 percent from 2012 to 2022, which represents the fastest growth of any major occupational group. This can include home health aides, medical technicians and medical assistants.

To address this health care shortage and prepare for the future, Mayo Clinic is reaching out to high school students and their teachers and counselors to educate them about the array of health care professions and to help students identify and prepare for career paths that are right for them.

“Our Career Awareness programs aimed at the high school level move from exploration to confirmation,” said Guy Finne, manager of recruitment strategies at Mayo Clinic. “They give students opportunities to confirm that this is what they want to do. We have a system of programs that start at the seventh through ninth grade levels with career exploration for the masses. We get preliminary information to as many students as we can. For example, we have a classroom speaker program to send our experts out to partnering schools. As we work with them, some of them raise their hands (as being) interested in careers.”

Students taking part in Career Awareness Day try their hands at a giant version of Operation.

Students taking part in Career Awareness Day try their hands at a giant version of Operation.

Finne said the efforts are critical for Mayo Clinic long-term.

“Mayo Clinic’s success is directly connected to the skill, knowledge, passion and efforts of our workforce,” Finne said. “We want to do our part in making sure our local and regional talent is well informed of the career opportunities in health care in order to ensure that our future applicant pools are diverse, talented and see Mayo Clinic as an employer of choice.”

According to the College Choice Report by ACT, which administers the ACT college readiness exam, 24 percent of 2014 high school graduates who were surveyed planned to major in the area of health sciences and technologies (e.g., physicians, nurses, physician assistants, dentists, EMTs and physical and mental therapists). Only 4 percent planned to major in health administration and assisting (e.g., health services administration and medical and dental assistants).

By their second years of college, however, high school students who planned a career in health care administration/assisting were among the most likely to switch majors. Only 7 percent of students who had planned to pursue these fields actually declared a major consistent with their stated plans. But many of the students stayed in the health care arena, with 43 percent intending to major in health care administration/assisting but majoring in health sciences/technologies instead. On the flip side, only 16 percent of those declaring a major in health care administration/assisting had planned to do so, while 53 percent had originally planned to major in health sciences/technologies.

“Research shows that counseling activities in high school designed to affect career choice, exploration and planning can be effective. In particular, effective interventions include things such as written exercises allowing for the comparison of occupational information and for setting goals and plans. There are tools out there, such as ACT Profile, that students can access without cost which may provide them personalized data and valuable information that will really help match them to the career that makes the most sense,” said Wayne Camara, senior vice president of research at ACT.

Mayo Clinic also has partnered with Rochester Public Schools and Rochester Community and Technical College to open and provide ongoing support for the Health Science Careers Center.

“All enrolled students start with the Introduction to Health Sciences and then have the chance to specialize in the second semester in one of four areas: nursing assistant, pharmacy technician, therapeutic medicine or biomedical science,” Finne explained. “We know that those students who’ve participated were prepared for college because of the experiences they’ve had with our programs. A number who take part in the Health Science Career Center program leave high school having their certified nursing assistant credentials, and some put themselves through college that way. Many end up at Mayo.”

Mayo Clinic programs for high schoolers
Mayo Clinic has developed or partnered with several programs to educate students about the many different careers available in health care. These programs include:

Exploring-Learning for Life— a partnership with the Boy Scouts of America, the program provides a learning experience for high schoolers revolving around the goals of career exploration, life skill development, service learning experiences, character education and leadership opportunities.

Career Observation Program—intended to help confirm interest in health care career paths. Students receive information for career decision-making and insight into Mayo Clinic careers and Mayo Clinic as a potential employer.

High School Mentorship—brings students to Mayo Clinic to work with a mentor on an identified, specific project for a minimum of 60 hours. The program is intended for high academic performers to introduce them to career opportunities in a wide variety of biomedical science fields.

Health Occupation Students of America—a national career and technical student organization endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education. Nationally, there are more than 66,000 members. Mayo Clinic works with local chapters and supports them with classroom resources, on-campus tours and more.

Mayo Clinic Health Care Career Festival— offers high school students in Southeastern Minnesota the opportunity each October to explore a wide range of exciting career opportunities in a festive, engaging atmosphere. More than 900 students from 45 area schools (who apply to attend) participate each year.

Youth Apprenticeship—a paid experience in which a student works at Mayo Clinic for 400 hours in the summer between his or her high school junior and senior years and 400 hours during the student’s senior year. The opportunity is open to students enrolled in the Health Science Careers Center in Rochester, Minn.

Teacher Externship—a continuing education graduate credit course for five secondary career educators, health occupations educators and counselors for 40 hours over the summer. They work as a cohort, and the experience is hands-on. In the health care industry, Mayo Clinic realizes many students who express interest in health care careers are poorly informed about the variety of opportunities available. This program helps educators learn more so they can guide students.

Tags: ACT, career, doctor shortage, health care occupations, high school, teacher externship, career awareness, health care careers

August 12th, 2015

Mayo Clinic THINK BIG Challenge to offer entrepreneurs $100,000 start-up funds, expert guidance

By Catherine Benson bensonca

Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation, Mayo Clinic Ventures and AVIA have issued the Mayo Clinic THINK BIG Challenge, a national competition offering awards totaling $100,000 for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to transform the future of health and health care.

Entrepreneurs can apply for one of two $50,000 THINK BIG challenge awards in these categories:

Got Health?
This challenge will focus on healthy people staying healthy and explore areas such as eating healthy, enhancing well-being, monitoring risk factors and engaging in daily exercise.

I Am Not My Disease
This challenge will tackle the presumption that people are defined by their disease and explore areas such as access to health data, health literacy and behavior modification.

In addition, Mayo Clinic experts will guide winners for a year as they develop their concepts for market. Apply for the Mayo Clinic THINK BIG Challenge by Saturday, Aug. 15, at

The THINK BIG competition will culminate on Thursday, Oct. 1, in Rochester, Minnesota, at the Transform 2015 conference, a gathering of industry leaders exploring the future of health and health care. Finalists will compete on stage in a live presentation. A panel of judges will select the winners with input from the Transform audience using smartphone technology.

Tags: AVIA, CFI, Entrepreneur, Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation, Mayo Clinic Ventures, Think Big Challenge

July 29th, 2015

Mayo Medical School takes on bold new initiatives to improve medical education

By Amy Olson amyeolson

Mayo Medical School is at the forefront of a major transformation in medical education.

The school is expanding to Arizona and Florida to become one of the first national medical schools in the United States, offering a single curriculum across three campuses. In addition, Mayo will be among the first medical schools in the nation to offer a Science of Health Care Delivery curriculum, providing future physicians and researchers with innovative approaches to improve the quality and value of patient care.

The system of medical education has not changed much in 100 years. The first two years of medical school traditionally focus on the biological sciences, while the second two focus on the clinical sciences. But Mayo Medical School is expanding on that notion to include a “third science” of health care delivery, which will be integrated throughout the students’ four years.

Michele Halyard, M.D., interim dean of the Mayo Medical School

Michele Halyard, M.D., interim dean of the Mayo Medical School

“At Mayo Medical School, we are working to provide our students with the knowledge and skills to heal not only the patient, but the health care system as well,” said Michele Halyard, M.D., interim dean of the school.

Currently, Mayo Medical School receives nearly 5,000 applications each year for its 54 student slots. Expanding the medical school will nearly double the enrollment and allow the school to offer unparalleled medical education to 50 additional incoming students a year on the four-year Arizona campus, beginning in 2017. The total student body for the school will surpass 400 medical students by 2021.

Mayo Medical School is also launching a 2 + 2 program in 2016, allowing up to eight students each year who have completed their first two years of training on the Rochester, Minnesota, campus to complete their third and fourth year on the Florida campus. In addition, students in the M.D.-Ph.D. program will also have the opportunity to complete their Ph.D. training on the Florida campus.

The expansion of Mayo’s medical school and its unique collaborations with other health care organizations across its sites will offer students access to diverse patient populations across multiple care settings. In Florida, for example, which is known for its Transplant, Cancer and Neuroscience programs, students can expand their training by also doing rotations at neighboring health care organizations with high volumes of Medicaid or pediatric cases.

Mayo Medical School receives AMA grant to develop innovative curriculum

Mayo Medical School’s bold new advances in medical education and its dynamic, personalized learning environment set the bar high for medical education. The new Science of Health Care Delivery curriculum, which is being jointly developed with Arizona State University, is supported through an American Medical Association grant called Accelerating Change in Medical Education. Mayo—which was one of only 11 medical schools in the nation awarded the grant—will receive $1 million over five years to develop this transformative curriculum.

Mayo Medical School, the other 10 medical schools and the AMA will work through a consortium to rapidly spread innovations and best practices for innovative medical education. “The beauty of the consortium is that the schools are sharing their knowledge across the consortium, and hopefully we’ll share this unique focus to other medical schools across the country,” Dr. Halyard said.

The science of health care curriculum will have six domains:

  1. High-value care
  2. Population-centered care
  3. Teamwork
  4. Leadership
  5. Person-centered care
  6. Health policy, economics and technology

The curriculum will focus on modern-day lessons that are not traditionally taught during medical school but are critical for future physicians to be well-versed in. These issues might include spiraling health care costs; changing payment structures; new technology, such as electronic health records; medical simulations and team-based care; and caring for the whole patient, not simply treating the disease.

“Besides training students in the Mayo Model of care, we will help students become well-rounded and understand the complexities of the health care system and have the abilities to address those complexities,” Dr. Halyard said.

The curriculum will also have an additional component focusing on wellness and resiliency that has already been implemented at the Rochester campus. “At Mayo Medical School, we really take seriously the well-being of our students and want to help them be equipped to manage their own well-being,” Dr. Halyard said.

With the development of a national medical school and an innovative new curriculum, Mayo Medical School will continue to be a leader in the forefront of medical education.

July 24th, 2015

U.S. Department of Labor features Mayo employee who founded employee resource group for those with disabilities

By Amy Olson amyeolson

When Gretl Kruse saw a need, she jumped into action. In 2014, the Mayo Clinic project manager formed Mayo Clinic’s disABILITY employee resource group with several other colleagues.

Kruse said they started the group to improve the experience of Mayo Clinic’s patients and employees with disabilities.

Kruse and the group’s efforts are featured by the U.S. Department of Labor on its website, commemorating of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Signed into law in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act is civil rights legislation that works to increase inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of community life, including the workforce.

“The group is formed of Mayo employees with disabilities and colleague allies who, together, work to connect employees and patients with needed resources. Together, we advocate for positive change,” Kruse told the Department of Labor. Gretl Kruse, project manager at Mayo Clinic, helped found the disABILITY employee resource group at Mayo Clinic.

For example, the employee resource group regularly consults with Mayo Clinic care teams to help them better understand and respond to the needs of people with disabilities, whether they are patients or employees.

Open to all employees, Mayo Employee Resource Groups – or MERGs – are groups of employees formed around shared characteristics or life experiences. Ninety percent of Fortune 500 companies use employee resource groups. Each MERG now has a strategic focus that supports one or more of Mayo Clinic’s diversity and inclusion goals. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion provides financial and administrative support.

Diversity and inclusion are central to Mayo Clinic’s mission to provide excellent, culturally relevant care in a welcoming environment to patients from a variety of backgrounds. Diversity and inclusion also are important to creating a work environment where differences are valued, allowing Mayo Clinic’s staff members to achieve their fullest potential. Since 2011, Mayo Clinic has been recognized by Diversity Inc. as a Top Hospital and Health System.

To read the profile on Kruse and the Employee Resource Group, go to the U.S. Department of Labor’s site and scroll down the page.

Tags: Americans with Disabilities Act, Disability Employee Resource Group, Employee Resource Groups, Gretl Kruse, mayo clinic, US Department of Labor

July 21st, 2015

Mayo Clinic among top hospitals in U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll

By Amy Olson amyeolson

Mayo Clinic today has been named one of the best hospitals nationwide by U.S. News and World Report. Mayo Clinic earned more No. 1 rankings in individual specialties than any other provider based on reputation, services and volumes, safety and clinical outcomes.

“This ranking underscores our long-standing commitment to provide the highest-quality care that best meets our patients’ needs,” says John Noseworthy, M.D., president and CEO, Mayo MSS_571426Clinic. “Mayo Clinic is fortunate to be ranked No. 1 in more specialties than any other hospital in the nation. We owe our success to staff members who dedicate themselves daily to this shared mission.”

Mayo Clinic was second overall on U.S. News & World
 2015-2016 Best Hospitals list and earned a No. 1 ranking in eight specialties:

Read the full article on the Mayo Clinic News Network.

Tags: Best Hospitals, US News and World Report

July 17th, 2015

Repairing mitochondrial disease

By Amy Olson amyeolson

A multidisciplinary team has successfully eliminated fatal mitochondrial DNA mutations in stem cells from patients with mitochondrial diseases. The study is published in the journal Nature as a collaboration between some of the top research institutions and Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine.

Mitochondrial diseases are a particular struggle for patients and their families as treatment options are limited, something made even more dire as many of those affected are children. Andre Terzic, M.D., Ph.D., director of Mayo Clinic’s Center

Andre Terzic, M.D., director, Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine

Andre Terzic, M.D., director, Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine

for Regenerative Medicine, explains: “These are life threatening conditions where standard care is limited to alleviating symptoms of disease. Our proof-of-concept study shows that functionally corrected stem cells can be generated from these patients, providing initial steps towards regenerative therapy for mitochondrial disease.”

Read the full post on the Center for Regenerative Medicine’s blog.

Tags: DNA mutations, Mitochondrial Disease

July 10th, 2015

Balancing quality and cost of care

By Amy Olson amyeolson

Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy, M.D. recently took part in an interview with the Wall Street Journal and joined MSNBC’s Morning Joe. He took both opportunities to talk about the trend toward forming contracts with large corporations for certain types of specialty care. MSS_0001253077

Mayo Clinic has had a relationship with Walmart for 18 years in which Walmart associates needing organ transplants are sent to one of the Mayo Clinic for evaluation and care. That relationship has expanded and now patients facing breast, colorectal and lung cancers are sent to Mayo Clinic for evaluation and treatment.

“If you are an employee at Wal-Mart and you unfortunately get one of these conditions, Wal-Mart will pay for an evaluation at Mayo Clinic, and all treatments and evaluations necessary including traveling to Mayo Clinic with a caretaker,” Dr. Noseworthy told the Wall Street Journal.

“It is an extraordinary benefit but it makes sense for Wal-Mart because the diagnosis will be accurate, the care will be as safe as it can be, and cutting-edge as it can be and the patient can get back to work. They’ve recognized that the avoided cost for complex care in a highly engineered system like Mayo saves them money,” he added.

These kinds of relationships likely will grow in health care.

“This is a trend. There are a number of groups that do this,” Dr. Noseworthy explained during the Morning Joe segment. “Complex health care is very expensive, and it’s important to get it right the first time.”

Watch an excerpt of the WSJ CEO Forum interview.

Watch the MSNBC Morning Joe segment.

Tags: John Noseworthy MD, mayo clinic, MSNBC Morning Joe, Wall Street Journal

July 9th, 2015

Multiple myeloma research and possible cures highlighted as Tom Brokaw writes about his experience

By Amy Olson amyeolson

When a well-known person faces a serious medical situation, it brings attention to the illness and treatments.

This is what happened when legendary NBC News anchorman Tom Brokaw was Tom Brokawdiagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer, at the Mayo Clinic. He has since written about his experiences in an inspiring new book, “A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope.”

Brokaw, a member of the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees, had been suffering from persistent back pain. His doctor visits close to home didn’t yield any answers, so he eventually made an appointment when he was in Rochester to see a Mayo orthopedist and then his internist.

Brokaw’s case was particularly tricky as nothing was spotted during the initial exam. His internist, Dr. Andrew Majka, wanted to look a little deeper. He ordered blood tests because he was concerned Brokaw had a hematoma from two unexpected falls he’d had while fishing.

After examining the blood results, Dr. Majka and Dr. Morie Gertz, chair of internal medicine, confirmed the diagnosis of multiple myeloma. “In my 30 years of work on multiple myeloma, I have seen a 200 to 300 percent improvement in survival rates. It used to be uniformly fatal,” says Gertz.

The cause of multiple myeloma is unknown, but that is the subject of active research at Mayo, as are the searches for cures. Others who have suffered from the disease have included ABC News anchorman Frank Reynolds and Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run for U.S. vice president

“The future of patients who have been stricken with multiple myeloma is very, very positive. There are new drug trials that we are leading. There is rapid development of new diagnostic tools, brand new therapeutic classes of drugs and new biological agents. All of these can be combined to maximize outcomes and minimize any adverse effects and allow patients to lead a completely normal life,” says Gertz.

He says multiple myeloma will continue to be heavily researched, and Mayo will be an important partner in new treatments based on the understanding of the biology of the disease.

Brokaw writes that even before he became a Mayo trustee, he shared a “Midwestern pride” in the clinic as “one of the world’s greatest healthcare facilities, known for its expert, coordinated care and patient efficiency.

Brokaw ends the book with, “It is not enough to ‘rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ It is also a time to quietly savor the advantages of a lucky life and use them to fill every waking moment with emotional and intellectual pursuits worthy of the precious time we have. Life, what’s left. Bring it on.”

Watch a video of Morie Gertz, M.D., describe how Mayo Clinic is advancing diagnosis and treatment of multiple myeloma.


Tags: Andrew Majka MD, Future of Health Care, mayo clinic, Morie Gertz MD, multiple myeloma, Tom Brokaw

June 18th, 2015

Studying surgical outcomes to improve patient care

By Amy Olson amyeolson

Dr. Charles H.  Mayo

Dr. Charles H. Mayo

For nearly 100 years, Mayo Clinic has been dedicated to evaluating surgical outcomes in order to improve patient care and reduce risks associated from surgery.

Dr. Charles H. Mayo said in 1930, “A surgical procedure should be planned so that the patient, with the least possible risk and loss of time, will receive the greatest benefit possible.”

This focus on improvement and better care continues today with the Surgical Care Improvement Project, which aims to evaluate the care of surgical patients at Mayo Clinic and determine the percentage who receive timely and effective care. The project focuses specifically on four types of surgical complications: surgical site infections, adverse cardiac events, deep vein thrombosis and postoperative pneumonia.

Mayo's continuous quality improvement efforts include a focus on reducing surgical site infections, adverse cardiac events, deep vein thrombosis and post-operative pneumonia.

Mayo's continuous quality improvement efforts include a focus on reducing surgical site infections, adverse cardiac events, deep vein thrombosis and post-operative pneumonia.

As Dr. Mayo also said, “In the conquering of serious diseases by surgical measures, it is important that the operation itself be as free from mortality as possible.”

The work continues through the Surgical Outcomes Program, which was founded in 2005 within the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery. For example, Mayo’s research showed 96 percent of breast cancer patients needing lumpectomy avoid a second procedure within a month because a technique called frozen section analysis ensures surgeons remove cancerous tissues the first time.

Learn more about the program’s research findings and how they are improving patient care in this Mayo Clinic Advancing the Science blog post.

Tags: quality improvement, surgical care, surgical outcomes

June 10th, 2015

1,000 liver transplants and the future of health care

By Amy Olson amyeolson

What’s in a milestone? For patients, perhaps everything.

In May, Mayo Clinic transplant surgeon Charles Rosen, M.D. completed his 1,000th liver transplant surgery.

Dr. Charles Rosen, Mayo Clinic transplant surgeon

Dr. Charles Rosen, Mayo Clinic transplant surgeon

Rosen is among a small handful of liver transplant surgeons to have reached that personal milestone. But Rosen would be the first to say that transplant surgery emulates Mayo Clinic’s model of collaborative, team-based medicine.

“This is hardly something a person does alone," Rosen told the (Rochester, Minnesota) Post-Bulletin, adding that the surgery itself “takes four hands” in addition to a broad surgical support team and other medical professionals. Dr. Rosen thanked his transplant center colleagues, the organ procurement organization LifeSource, and “1,000 patients with real need.”

Mayo Clinic in Rochester performed 104 liver transplants in 2014 from both deceased and living donors, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the organization that governs organ donation. Since UNOS began keeping records in 1988, Mayo Clinic has performed 2,478 liver transplants. (Mayo Clinic in Rochester’s program began in 1985, with Mayo Clinic in Florida following in 1998 and Mayo Clinic in Arizona opening its program in 1999.) More than 6,000 liver transplants are performed each year throughout the United States, according to the American Liver Foundation.

Each transplant surgery represents a milestone for patients facing life-threatening illnesses such as Hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver and autoimmune disease that give patients the chances to enjoy the kinds of milestones many healthy people take for granted Nearly 90 percent of Mayo Clinic Rochester liver transplant patients survive three years after transplant, according to data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. The national average is 81 percent. The percentages of patients receiving liver transplants at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and Mayo Clinic in Florida surviving three years post-transplant exceed national averages as well.

Dr. Charles Rosen is presented with a shirt commemorating his 1,000th liver transplant.

Dr. Charles Rosen is presented with a shirt commemorating his 1,000th liver transplant.

Research shows that centers that perform large volumes of transplant surgeries gain efficiencies and expertise that helps all patients receiving organ transplants fare better than those who receive transplants at medical centers with lower volumes. Mayo Clinic’s experience and continuous improvement in transplant medicine led to Walmart to choose Mayo Clinic as a Center of Excellence in 1996.

Sadly, there is a shortage of organs nationwide. Regenerative medicine holds the promise of creating bioartificial livers and patient-specific liver cell transplants to meet patients’ needs. For more than 50 years, Mayo Clinic has been at the leading edge of clinical and basic transplant research. Recently, Mayo Clinic researchers found livers donated after cardiac death were safe for use in patients fighting liver cancer.

With the exception of two positions briefly held elsewhere, Dr. Rosen, 55, has been on staff at Mayo Clinic since 1991.

“Dr. Rosen would be the first to tell you that liver transplant is a team sport,” Dr. Brooks Edwards, executive director of the transplant program, told the Post-Bulletin. “That said, Chuck Rosen is a singularly inspiring individual to watch. Every patient is an individual to him, and he cares for every patient like a member of his own family. He lives the Mayo creed, that the needs of the patient are the only needs to be considered. He's first in to the office in the morning and the last one out at night.”

Tags: Charles Rosen MD, liver transplant

June 4th, 2015

Creating the Future of Health Care, one patient at a time

By Amy Olson amyeolson

Dustin Bennett’s mom calls it a miracle; his doctors at Mayo Clinic know it as an example of what the future of health care holds for all of us.

Dustin, a 23-year-old from Pearson, Georgia, had suffered most of his life from extreme jerking that would mysteriously start and stop. Doctors at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Jacksonville, Florida, found the problem that other tests had missed. They sequenced his entire exome and found he has a variant of a very rare form of a neurological disease.

Dustin Bennett, from Pearson, Georgia, found answers at Mayo Clinic.

Dustin Bennett, from Pearson, Georgia, found answers at Mayo Clinic.

Dustin now is on medication that is changing his life; he can attend school and play basketball. His successful treatment shows how the promise of genomic science can lead to the actual practice of genomic medicine.

Mayo Clinic is proud of its history in helping pioneer genomic and regenerative medicine that helps prevent, predict and treat disease.

Other patients also are benefiting from similar scientific advances. Clinicians are using stem cells to help re-grow bone for patients with knee problems.

Still other patients are benefiting from new approaches. For example, sarcoma patients benefit from tumor boards. These boards are comprised of Mayo Clinic cancer specialists and Mayo Clinic Care Network member sites across the nation. These specialists use technology to connect weekly to advise on treatment plans for patients with the toughest cancers.

Intensive care unit patients now are monitored by a doctor’s “second brain,” a system launched by a company Mayo Clinic helped create. It’s called AWARE. It continuously surveys the patient’s condition and provider actions, uses data trends and compares these data to a database to predict changes in the patient’s condition. It then gives physicians the information needed to make critical early decisions that save lives.

Mayo Clinic envisions the future of health care as one where it helps 200 million patients by 2020. Mayo will accomplish this by applying innovative science and data to study the quality, safety and value of health care. It also involves scaling Mayo Clinic’s knowledge and partnering with others to determine how health care providers can deliver the best patient care.

Watch a video of Dustin.

December 11th, 2014

The Future of Health Care and Cardiac Regenerative Medicine


This post originally appeared in the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative blog.

Medical illustration showing how Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered a novel way to repair a damaged heart by regenerating heart tissue.Since 2007, Mayo Clinic and Cardio3 BioSciences, a biotechnology company based in Mont-Saint-Guibert, Belgium, have collaborated to advance our knowledge of disease in order to provide new solutions for patients and innovative delivery of quality care in the area of cardiac regeneration. Cardiac regenerative medicine uses reparative tools to restore damaged tissue and restitute function caused by heart disease.

Cardio3 BioSciences has successfully developed Mayo Clinic innovation leading to completion of a phase II trial on cardiopoetic stem cells in patients with heart failure. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently cleared the way for the Belgian company and Mayo Clinic to launch a phase III clinical trial of its stem cell therapy based on Mayo Clinic regenerative medicine research later this year.

Clinical application of regenerative biologics has emerged as a next generation tool that can be tailored to augment existing therapeutic strategies for otherwise incurable diseases, including heart failure. By leveraging research collaborations, such as with Cardio3 BioSciences, Mayo Clinic is positioned to transform the way we treat patients with heart disease.

Clinical Trials

In collaboration with Cardio3 BioSciences, Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered a novel way to repair a damaged heart by regenerating heart tissue.

In Mayo Clinic's breakthrough process, stem cells are harvested from a patient's bone marrow. The stem cells undergo a laboratory treatment that guides them into becoming cardiac cells. The treated cells are then injected into the patient's heart in an effort to grow healthy heart tissue.

“In regenerative medicine, the step between lab tests and clinical trials is a big one and the interaction with Cardio3 is crucial to driving Mayo Clinic's technology forward," says Atta Behfar, M.D., Ph.D., who spent several months in Belgium working with Cardio3 BioSciences. Dr. Behfar, a heart failure and transplant specialist, leads the Cardiac Program in the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine.

Product Development

In late 2013, Mayo Clinic researchers and Cardio3 BioSciences developed a specialized catheter for transplanting stem cells into the beating heart. The novel cardiac catheter is able to dramatically improve stem cell retention in the heart. The device includes a curved needle and graded openings along the needle shaft, allowing for increased distribution of cells. The result is maximized retention of stem cells to repair the heart. The findings appear in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Interventions.

This new catheter is being used in the European CHART-1 clinical trials, now underway. This is the first Phase III trial to regenerate hearts of patients who have suffered heart attack damage. The studies are the outcome of years of basic science research at Mayo Clinic and earlier clinical studies with Cardio3 BioSciences and Cardiovascular Centre in Aalst, Belgium.

Watch the video below to see how stem cells are being used to treat people with heart failure.

Preferred Access Agreement

Most recently, Mayo Clinic and Cardio3 BioSciences entered into an extended collaboration agreement. It builds on a long established and productive relationship of licensing and research in the area of cardiac regeneration. The mutual hope for this work is that together Mayo and Cardio3 BioSciences can accelerate Mayo discoveries toward clinical application.

Under the Preferred Access Agreement, the parties have agreed to regular periodic meetings to review Mayo’s regenerative medicine portfolio to identify areas and projects of mutual interest. The results of these conversations could potentially lead to cooperative research projects, license agreements or introductions to third parties to further the technology.

“We are excited for the opportunity to expand our collaboration with Cardio3 and accelerate the delivery of novel therapies to patients”, says Clark Otley, M.D., Medical Director of Mayo Clinic Ventures, which works to commercialize Mayo Clinic technologies for the benefit of patients worldwide.

The Center for Regenerative Medicine continues to explore strategic relationships with academic, biotechnology/industry, government and professional associations at the local, regional, national, and international level.

For more information, visit the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative website or email

Tags: #futureofhealthcare, Cardio3 BioSciences, future of healthcare, regenerative medicine

October 7th, 2014

The Future of Health Care and Genomic Medicine


This modified post originally appeared in the Center for Individualized Medicine blog.

Individualizing Medicine conference 2014Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, took to the stage Monday morning to welcome nearly 500 attendees to the Individualizing Medicine 2014 Conference.  This third annual genomics conference promises a practical approach to helping medical professionals discover and integrate genomics technology into routine patient care.

“We know we need to incorporate genomics into patient care. We have a moral obligation to bring genomics to the practice, and we have a moral obligation to do it right.”

—Gianrico Farrugia, M.D.

Clifford Hudis, M.D., immediate past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), delivered the keynote address by challenging the participants to reexamine how we define value in cancer care. If the practitioners don’t, others will. He highlighted how the current way cancer drugs are developed and priced is not sustainable and that there is no relationship between cost and value.  Dr. Hudis predicted that changes are coming.

“Whether we’re for or against it, pressure is building in U.S. policy circles for the federal government to take action regulating the cost of drugs and technologies. Increasing access is crucial, yet thwarting innovation is a real concern.”

—Clifford Hudis, M.D.

Several informative presentations followed. Geoffrey GinsburgM.D., Ph.D., Duke University, offered a look at the future of genomics and how we now have the opportunity to use genomics throughout the lifetime of a patient, in effect, from womb to tomb. Noninvasive Prenatal Tests (NIPT) is a success story in genomic medicine. Diana W. Bianchi, M.D., Tufts Medical Center, discussed how genomic testing has revolutionized prenatal screening for aneuploidy in a very short time.

Patrick GeraghtyCEO and Chairman of the Board of Florida Blue, outlined the innovative policies that Florida Blue is bringing to the health care community. He challenged the attendees to rethink the future of health care as a means to package the right answer in a way that meets people where they are and how they want to receive it.

The afternoon brought a number of breakout sessions, including a lively conversation on the current state of reimbursement for genomic testing, trends in ethical and social issues for genomic research, and personalized medicine for hematological cancers. Gloria Petersen, Ph.D., a researcher and a biobank manager at Mayo Clinic, talked about the goals, challenges and obligations of running a biobank.

Paul J. Hergenrother, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, offered a detailed look at procaspace-3 activation for pet therapy, and how this relates to a forthcoming human clinical trials. Hergenrother confirmed that the dogs were veterinary patients in need of aggressive cancer treatment, not lab animals.

The 2014 Individualized Medicine Conference runs through October 8 and promises to be an informative and exciting look at the present and future of genomic medicine. If you’re unable to attend, follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #cimcon14 .

Tags: #futureofhealthcare, ASCO, Dr Gianrico Farrugia, Future of Health Care, genomics, Individualized Medicine, Matthew Clark PhD

September 24th, 2014

Opening Bell Interview with John Noseworthy, M.D.


Dr. John Noseworthy's appearance on Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo, September, 24, 2014John Noseworthy, M.D., CEO and president of Mayo Clinic, recently shared his perspective on three issues related to the future of health care on Opening Bell. Dr. Noseworthy discussed:

  • The importance of a global effort to contain the Ebola virus which requires a disciplined effort to protect health care workers and citizens.
  • How Cologuard, a noninvasive stool DNA screening test, is helping to identify colon cancer in patients without having to undergo a colonoscopy.
  • The use of Watson, the IBM cognitive computer, to match patients more quickly with appropriate clinical trials, beginning with research studies in cancer.

Watch the entire interview in the following video!

Tags: #futureofhealthcare, Dr John Noseworthy, Future of Health Care, health care, patient care

September 18th, 2014

Google's Zeitgeist Minds and the Future of Health Care


Dr. Noseworthy and Tom Brokaw at Google Zeitgeist conference 2014John Noseworthy, M.D., CEO and president of Mayo Clinic, and Tom Brokaw discussed the future of health care at this year's Google Zeitgeist conference in Paradise Valley, Ariz. Zeitgeist Minds brings together the top global thinkers and leaders across a wide spectrum including social, economic, political and cultural disciplines.

Tom Brokaw began the discussion "Facilitating Cooperative Efforts Towards Affordable Health Care for All", by stating how "nothing has an impact on society, and the welfare of society, more than health care". He then asked Dr. Noseworthy several questions related to the:

  • Current challenges faced by both non-profit and for-profit health care organizations
  • Impact of the Affordable Care Act on the health care system
  • Role of technology, innovation and research in improving patient care and reducing cost
  • Importance of investing in the future of health care

Watch the entire interview below to hear Dr. Noseworthy's responses and more!

Tags: #futureofhealthcare, Dr John Noseworthy, Future of Health Care, Google, Tom Brokaw, Zeitgeist

September 11th, 2014

Four New Partner Organizations Join Optum Labs Research Collaborative


Optum Labs logoOptum Labs, the collaborative research and innovation center co-founded by Optum and Mayo Clinic, announced the addition of four new partners committed to improving the quality and value of patient care. These new partner organizations, which represent a cross-section of health care stakeholders, are:

Optum Labs, with the largest, de-identified patient database in health care, is the first open, collaborative research and innovation center designed to accelerate health care innovation, leading to improved patient care and patient value. Read more…

Tags: Future of Health Care, Matthew Clark PhD, Optum Labs

September 8th, 2014

Transform 2014: Streaming the Experience


This post originally appeared in the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation blog. Transform Streaming The Mayo Clinic Transform symposium is a multidisciplinary conference for thought-provoking, inspiring ideas hosted by the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation and takes place Sept. 7–9. View the entire schedule of renowned speakers on the Transform website. If you can’t be there in person, you can watch the Transform live webcast via an external link. You're encouraged to participate digitally and virtually, in the many TweetChats. Feel free to share with your peers outside of Mayo Clinic. See webcast schedule for these digital times that have been built into the webcast — when normally the stage is “dark” during several networking times. This year, Transform has attendees from more than 14 countries and 30 states. For the first time ever, Mayo Clinic patients can watch and participate in Transform by tuning into patient channel 10. Watch this video of TXFM 2013 to hear participants try to sum up Transform in one word. Once again, journalist and commentator John Hockenberry will moderate the symposium discussions that include the following speakers:

  • Elisabeth Rosenthal, M.D., The New York Times, whose influential series Paying Till it Hurts examines the price of health care through the lens of patients, physicians and economists.
  • Mark Bertolini, CEO and president of Aetna Inc., will share powerful personal stories that have inspired him to set a new vision and create emerging, new insurance models.
  • David L. Katz, M.D., Yale Prevention Research Center, will discuss chronic disease prevention and health promotion, while busting the myth about healthy food being less affordable than fast food.
  • Lauren Taylor, co-author of The American Health Care Paradox, will share how a better coordination of social services, education, housing, job policy, nutrition and environmental protection improve health of individuals and communities.
  • Shirley Franklin, former mayor of Atlanta, will share her experiences addressing policy challenges, urban planning, economic development and infrastructure changes that contributed to the city’s unprecedented growth while she was mayor.
  • Amit Sood, M.D., General Internal Medicine, will share innovative approaches toward stress management and resiliency that incorporate neuroscience, psychology, philosophy and spirituality.

To keep in touch with the growing transform community, join TransForum, the Center for Innovation’s online community with over 1,000 members working to transform the experience and delivery of health and health care. This online social media platform allows people to connect, create discussion groups throughout the year. The Center for Innovation is planning to bring presentations and discussion to TransForum throughout the year to keep the conversations going.

Tags: John Hockenberry, Transform symposium

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