MON AM News: Study highlights Exact Sciences’ blood test for liver cancer; MCW getting $2.7 million grant for research effort

— A recent scientific study found Exact Sciences’ test for the most common form of liver cancer was more sensitive than the current diagnostic standard. 

The study was published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. It detailed the performance of the blood-based Oncoguard Liver test for patients who fit the testing recommendation for hepatocellular carcinoma. 

Exact Sciences is a Madison-based company developing a number of diagnostic and screening tools for various forms of cancer. 

Under current guidelines, the standard of care for testing is visual monitoring through an ultrasound, with or without a specific blood test of certain liver proteins, according to the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. That test is known as an alpha-fetoprotein blood test, or AFP blood test. 

The study found Exact Sciences’ liver test has an 82 percent sensitivity rate for early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma. That’s compared to 40 percent for the AFP blood test alone, 47 percent for the ultrasound alone, and 63 percent for the ultrasound and the AFP test together. 

“We have been working for years to build a simple, high-performing blood test for HCC surveillance, and these results indicate that the Oncoguard Liver test is poised to be the major advancement our patients deserve and need,” said Dr. Naga Chalasani, lead author of the study and interim chair of Indiana University’s Department of Medicine. 

Dr. Lewis Roberts of the Mayo Clinic, who helped develop the test, says it was created in hopes of detecting liver cancer earlier, which can help patients survive longer. A release from the company notes that five-year survival rates for hepatocellular carcinoma can improve from under 12 percent to over 70 percent when the disease is detected in its earlier stages. 

See the release: 

See the full study here:

— The Medical College of Wisconsin is getting a $2.7 million grant to explore options for preventing vascular damage resulting from certain cancer treatments. 

The research project aims to understand why African American women are “disproportionately affected by cardiovascular complications” after breast cancer. Previous research has shown that heart disease can be a complication of breast cancer treatment and that this issue can arise more often in African American women. 

Researchers will look at the effect of cancer treatment on blood vessels, as well as the influence of physical activity and strength-building exercises on vascular damage, a release shows. 

“We know exercise can improve cardiovascular fitness and quality of life among cancer patients undergoing treatments,” said Melinda Stolley, associate director of MCW’s Cancer Center. “However, most studies have predominantly white patient samples and are not focused on assessing outcomes for women of color.” 

Funding for the research comes from the American Heart Association. Stolley will be working with Dr. David Gutterman, a professor of cardiovascular sciences and senior associate director of MCW’s Cardiovascular Center. 

In a statement, Gutterman says the project is ultimately meant to improve patient care as well as “stretch how we think about cancer disparities.” 

See more on the research effort in a release: 

— State agencies will host a number of COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Madison during August and September, with walk-in vaccinations available for state employees and the general public. 

The clinics, run by AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, will be open to anyone 12 and older with no appointment necessary. The Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be available. 

The Hill Farms State Office Building will host clinics from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 18 and Sept. 8. The Department of Revenue building will have clinics from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 24 and Sept. 14, offering both walk-in and drive-through vaccinations. 

And the Department of Corrections building will have clinics from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Aug. 26 and Sept. 16, also offering walk-in and drive-through options. 

During a call with reporters last week, Gov. Tony Evers said a decision will be coming this week on whether or not state employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

“We’re looking at all alternatives as it relates to our state employees, and we will be making that decision within the next week, sometime next week,” he said Thursday. “So we’re looking at all options. Clearly, as an employer of many thousands of people, we want to make sure that we’re doing our part to get shots in arms.” 

See details in a release: 

— A spokeswoman for Gov. Tony Evers vowed the guv would veto legislation that would allow anyone fired for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine to still collect unemployment.

State law generally prohibits those who quit a job or are fired from collecting unemployment. There are some narrow exceptions for those who quit a job.

Four GOP lawmakers began circulating the bill last week that would allow those who are fired for refusing to get the vaccine or show proof of vaccination as well as those who quit over similar demands to still qualify for unemployment.

The group includes: Reps. Robert Brooks, R-Saukville, Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, Rick Gundrum, R-Village of Slinger, and Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville. They circulated LRB-4392/1 and LRB-4414/1 to allow other lawmakers to sign on in support of the measures. 

Brooks in the co-sponsorship memo said rules that require employees to get vaccinated infringe on individual rights and abandon informed consent. 

“Individuals are better able to determine their personal healthcare needs than government bureaucrats, elected officials, or employers,” Brooks said. “Protecting those rights is of paramount importance.” 

— Cargo shipments at the Port of Green Bay over the first seven months of this year are 14 percent lower than at the same point last year, a release shows. 

But the amount of foreign petroleum product imports has skyrocketed compared to 2020, with more than 108,700 tons of foreign petroleum imports so far this year. That’s compared to 6,615 tons at the same time last year. 

Meanwhile, cement imports at the port have reached nearly 200,000 tons so far this year, which is about 8 percent higher than the comparable number from 2020. 

“We have certainly seen some fluctuation in the number of ships visiting the port and amount of cargo imported and exported,” said Dean Haen, director of the Port of Green Bay. “Supply chain challenges continue to be a factor, but we are hopeful that the second half of the shipping season will be good, particularly with salt and limestone shipments expected to pick up.”

See the release: 


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