Play

Two very common types of blood pressure medicines, so called ACE inhibitors and ARBs, may improve survival for people with cancer of the pancreas, a new study finds. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, notes that this is an idea that’s been around for a while.

Nelson: What they found was if you take an angiotensin receptor blocker you had about a 20% lower risk for pancreatic cancer mortality. If you took an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor you had about a 13% decreased risk. Most of that was concentrated within the first three years of a diagnosis and then went away. The idea that these drugs might influence pancreatic cancer is a fairly longstanding one. Pancreas cancers have very high pressure inside them and it’s because of the secretions pancreatic cells make. Does this mean that these could be an interesting adjunct to the treatment you’re getting?    :32

Nelson says studies are underway to examine the role of blood pressure lowering medicines in the management of pancreas cancer. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

Play

Screening mammography for breast cancer gets better all the time, finding very small cancers that may be most amenable to cure. Also detected more often are cancers that would never have caused a problem but are treated anyway, so-called overdiagnosis. Now a new study suggests that doesn’t happen as often as we feared. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, explains.

Nelson: In total, about 15.4% of screened breast cancers, one in seven, were likely to be these cancers that were nonprogressive, this is age fifty to seventy-four. You were more likely to be diagnosed with a cancer that might progress but not fast enough to threaten your life because you have other considerations. People have been very concerned about this overdiagnosis. Are we doing mastectomies and these kinds of things, more aggressively than we need to? And I think that this is a little bit of a relief, does suggest that it does occur, but it gives you a hint not as common as people thought.  :34

At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

Play

Testing for Covid-19 has been a challenge throughout the pandemic, and unfortunately remains so for many. That’s according to infectious disease expert Lisa Maragakis at Johns Hopkins.

Maragakis: We still need testing. It wasn’t available at the beginning, we’ve struggled with it throughout the pandemic, and we still just don’t have widespread availability of rapid results tests that are good tests, and that’s one of the things that can empower individuals to make the right choices because we all have allergy symptoms or a little sore throat and you need to be able to test yourself frequently and say, is this Covid? And make choices about where you go, who you’re with, based on that information. And it’s just still too difficult to get a test.  :33

Maragakis encourages everyone with symptoms they suspect might be Covid to undergo whatever testing may be available to them and to choose actions that help protect others if they suspect they may have Covid. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

Play

If you’re resisting getting vaccinated against Covid because you think the vaccines were developed too quickly, here’s the real story, according to Sherita Golden, a physician at Johns Hopkins.

Golden: The technology that we are using in the mRNA vaccines in particular was developed over the course of ten or fifteen years specifically in case we ever found ourselves in the situation we’re in today, that they would be able to very quickly make a vaccine. And that’s what’s really key is that it was projected that this could happen. When it did we already had the technology in place. As the first phase of the trial looked promising they started the second, as the second looked promising they started the third, so it was really like putting money and investment up front.  :32

Golden notes that an uptick in Covid cases is once again being seen at various locations around the country, so if you need to begin the vaccine series the time to do so is now, since an immune response takes a couple of weeks to develop. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

Play

Used to be that moms would intentionally expose their children to chicken pox so they would develop immunity. Now some are wondering if they’ve already had Covid-19 or have had an immunization or two, would exposure ramp up their immune response? Johns Hopkins physician Sherita Golden answers emphatically no.

Golden: There is the question about, well, I’ve gotten Covid or I got my first two shots, but I haven’t gotten a booster. Should I just go and try and get Covid, and then I have like superimmunity. We don’t want to do that. There’s something called long Covid where people are still having trouble with breathing, trouble with their heart, trouble with their physical endurance and energy, months and months and months after getting Covid-19. If you have had Covid previously, a mild case, long Covid isn’t necessarily linked to how severe the case of Covid was.  :33

Golden says following vaccine recommendations is by far your best strategy. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

Play

Seems like we’ve barely made it through third doses of Covid vaccines for many, and now a fourth dose is in the offing for some groups of people. Lisa Maragakis, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins, explains why.

Maragakis: We’re not sure exactly how far out but a number of months later you’re going to be less protected than you were shortly after getting the vaccine, and that’s where the boosters come in, so I would encourage everyone who’s eligible to get a booster to get a booster, if you’ve gotten the two initial ones and a booster should you get another one? And that’s where some people, particularly those who are older individuals or who are at highest risk for severe disease, go for it if you’re in one of those higher risk groups.  :31

Maragakis notes that only the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were authorized as a fourth or booster dose of vaccine, for those 50 years of age or older or who have health conditions that may put them at higher risk for severe infection. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

Play

Even as some people continue to avoid vaccination against Covid-19 altogether, others are weighing whether they should have a fourth dose, as the FDA has recently said is okay for some groups of people. Johns Hopkins infectious disease expert Lisa Maragakis explains why a fourth dose may be a good idea.

Maragakis: This question about the fourth booster is a burning question that a lot of people have. Vaccines are incredibly helpful to protect people, even though sometimes you can still get the virus, what we do know is being vaccinated protects you from getting severe illness, from ending up in the hospital, and dying, unfortunately, as so many people have from this virus. The boosters come into play because we know that even though the vaccine teaches our immune system to fight the virus, that effect seems to go down or decline over time.  :35

Maragakis recommends asking your primary care doctor if you’re a candidate. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.