Exact Sciences employees, Scarlett Lee and Xavier Robinson, holding samples. Photography: Lyndon French

Colon cancer screening should begin at age 45, new guidelines say. During a pandemic, this at-home poop test has emerged as a key solution.

As the number of Covid-19 cases began to explode in the U.S. in March and April, Americans retreated to their homes and put routine medical care on the backburner. Not getting Covid-19 — and protecting health care workers against the disease — became the collective goal. Traditional doctor visits plunged, elective procedures were canceled, and any other care deemed nonessential — including cancer screenings — essentially came to a halt. Specifically, the number of colonoscopies, the bedrock of colon cancer screening, fell nationally by 90%.

The disruption at Exact Sciences was almost immediate. The company is the maker of a…

Compassionate use allows very sick people to get access to treatments that might help Covid-19 — but it’s complicated.

A photo of a bottle of Remdesivir.
A photo of a bottle of Remdesivir.
One vial of the drug remdesivir. Photo: Ulrich Perrey/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

Eleven days after the first confirmed Covid-19 patient in the United States reported symptoms, he was treated with an experimental antiviral drug called remdesivir.

The 35-year-old man had recently returned to Washington from visiting family in Wuhan, China, where the virus originated. He was admitted to Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington, a few days after he developed a dry cough, fever, and — just before admission — nausea, according to a case report published March 5 in the New England Journal of Medicine. During the first five days of his hospital stay, the man was generally stable. But…

A new theory for Alzheimer’s disease is emerging, and at least one company is taking advantage of the new thinking with drugs in human trials

Illustration by Alexis Beauclair

The mood among the more than 3,000 researchers who gathered in Lisbon, Portugal, at the end of March for the 14th International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases was downbeat. Just a few days earlier, Biogen, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company, and Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai Co had jointly announced the shuttering of two major trials of their Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab. The announcement marked yet another failure in the decades-long effort to find a drug to halt the devastating course of the terminal, memory-robbing disease.

“There was a sort of pall over the meeting,” says Ron Petersen, director of the…

In a new book, a prominent cardiologist argues that A.I. could fix our broken health system — if we get it right

Credit: Menno van Dijk/Getty Images

Technology has helped cardiologist Eric Topol save lives. While on an airplane several years ago, a flight attendant asked if there was a doctor on board—a man was suffering from chest pain at 30,000 feet. Topol was able to obtain an electrocardiogram from the man by using a heart activity–reading gadget that attached to his smartphone, made by the medical device company AliveCor.

“It turned out to be a big anterior heart attack I could see right on my smartphone,” says Topol, director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego. “I had to tell the folks…

Liquid biopsies could transform cancer care as we know it

Illustration: Eric Petersen

Five years ago, a team of researchers pored over the results of a prenatal genetic test given to more than 125,000 healthy pregnant women and made a stunning discovery. The blood test, marketed by gene-sequencing giant Illumina, was designed to detect chromosome anomalies associated with conditions such as Down syndrome by analyzing fragments of fetal DNA circulating in the mother’s blood.

In 3,757 of the tests, the scientists found at least one abnormality. But in 10 of those cases, further analysis revealed that the fetuses were in fact normal.

“In every one of those 10 cases, it turned out there…

Ron Winslow

Medical and science journalist now living in Mount Washington Valley, NH, after 33+ year-career as a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal.

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