On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Hope for Alzheimer’s treatments
Patient safety reporter Karen Weintraub explains why there’s optimism. Plus, it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day amid a fresh voting rights fight, hostages are free after a Texas synagogue attack, breaking news reporter Claire Thornton talks about disparities in cancer deaths and the Australian Open begins without Novak Djokovic.
Podcasts:True crime, in-depth interviews and more USA TODAY podcasts right here.
Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.
Good morning, I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Monday the 17th of January, 2022. Today, hope in the fight to treat Alzheimer’s. Plus, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and more.
Here are some of the top headlines:
- Winter weather continues to slam the US. More than 7,000 flights were canceled or delayed yesterday and some 250,000 homes and businesses are without power across the South during ice storms.
- Cleanup continues in the Pacific island country of Tonga after an undersea volcanic eruption there. The country has been almost completely isolated by the incident with flights unable to enter or leave and communications down.
- And France has passed a law banning people who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 from participating in huge parts of French society. That includes no entrance to restaurants, sports arenas, and other venues.
There’s a new movement to treat Alzheimer’s in a variety of different ways. That includes repurposing therapies previously used for other ailments like stroke or even erectile dysfunction. And as Patient Safety Reporter Karen Weintraub tells us, experts have never felt more optimistic about treating Alzheimer’s.
There is a tremendous amount of work in Alzheimer’s right now. There had been a really strong focus almost an obsession with trying to get rid of beta amyloid, amyloid plaques. And then, well, maybe it’s tau tangles, both different proteins that clump up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. And now the thought is, and people thought, well, if we go earlier in the disease, maybe we’ll have an effect. That hasn’t really proven itself out. So now people are looking at different ways earlier in the disease, things that can stop maybe the progression of Alzheimer’s, things like inflammation. Maybe you got a virus that triggered something, that triggered something else that led to this buildup of proteins. So they’re looking further back at that inflammation among other things.
Some of them are repurposing other drugs. So this one researcher did a huge search of drugs and found that actually Viagra, the erectile dysfunction drug, might have some effect. So now he’s going to testing that in patients and see if it has a benefit. There are other drugs like certain stroke drugs, preventing strokes might help also prevent this cascade of events that leads to Alzheimer’s.
And another approach that I find really interesting is a researcher at MIT is testing light and sound, certain LED flashes of light and very deep resonant tones that you can barely hear they’re so low, but she’s found that exposing mice to these lights and sounds helps avoid the buildup of these plaques and tangles in the brain. And very, very early studies in humans are suggesting promise in people as well. So that’s sort of a long term thing, but it’s pretty cool if it works.
For Karen’s full piece, check out today’s episode description.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The federal holiday honors the civil rights leader who drove to end racial segregation in America. The day is celebrated on the third Monday every January, and comes on or around King’s birthday of January 15th. US stock markets, many federal and state offices, and most banks will be closed. Today’s MLK Day comes amid a new push for fresh voting rights legislation. The House passed legislation to set minimum federal standards on early voting and vote by mail options, and to restore the Justice Department’s ability to review election law changes in states with a history of discrimination. But advancement in the Senate is less clear and Arizona Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema last week rejected President Joe Biden’s push to change a Senate filibuster rule so Democrats could pass voting rights legislation without any Republican votes in the split Senate. Biden, last week, was pessimistic about the Senate vote.
President Joe Biden:
I hope we can get this done. The honest to God answer is, I don’t know whether we can get this done. One thing for certain, like every other major civil rights bill that came along, if we miss the first time, we can come back and try it a second time. We missed this time. We missed this time and the state legislative bodies continue to change the law, not as to who can vote, but who gets to count the vote.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had originally said that if Republicans did not help them pass voting rights legislation, there would be a vote by today to change Senate filibuster rules. The filibuster requires 60 votes to start debate on a bill.
Hostages are now safe after they were taken by a man inside a Texas synagogue on Saturday. The FBI yesterday identified British citizen Malik Faisal Akram as the person who took the hostages, and two teenagers have also been arrested in Britain in connection to the hostage situation. None of the four hostages at congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville outside Dallas were injured. The attacker Akram died while victims were freed, though officials have not confirmed how exactly that happened. It’s still not entirely clear what motive or motives Akram had to take Jewish worshiper’s hostage, but a law enforcement official anonymously told USA TODAY that he demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist serving 86 years in a Texas prison for attempting to kill Americans in Afghanistan. He’s suspected of having ties to Al-Qaeda. Saturday’s standoff ended when an FBI SWAT team stormed the synagogue. For more on the aftermath of this developing story, stay with USATODAY.com.
Some 3.5 million deaths from cancer have been prevented in recent decades, but a new report says that disparities along racial and other lines are alarming. Breaking news reporter and former 5 Things producer, Claire Thornton has more.
So this report cancer statistics 2022, it’s part of the American Cancer Society’s annual report. And one of the experts I spoke to, one cancer expert, said that for oncologists this is like their Bible, these statistics that come out every year about rates of cancer and cancer death deaths. So millions of cancer deaths have been prevented in recent decades and declines in lung cancer deaths lead the way. That’s because far less people are smoking and because treatments for lung cancer have improved dramatically over just the last couple of years. There are a couple of other big pieces of news from last Wednesday’s report.
One, we know that the pandemic has negatively impacted folks getting their routine cancer screenings, and that means folks aren’t getting diagnosed as much. But we won’t know the full impact of this for several years. Right now it’s just a big unknown. Another expert I spoke to said that oncologists are all on tender hooks waiting to see what this report is going to look like about two years from now in 2024.
For years and years, the mortality rate, the death rate for cancer has been going down, down, down, down, down. If we see that curve start to not go down as much, one expert said that is going to be a manifestation of this pandemic. And she said she’s really the most worried about the most lethal cancers like larynx, pancreatic and liver cancer. Because if people aren’t getting diagnosed with those right now, it could be really dangerous, and even lung cancer.
So the other big takeaway from this report is that across the 50 US states, cancer mortality rates, those death rates, they can be so different. There are stark racial disparities in who dies from cancer in this country. When we talk about death rates, it’s per 100,000 people. So the death rate for breast cancer in Mississippi is almost 23, but in Connecticut and Hawaii, it’s around 17. For men with lung cancer in Alabama, the mortality rate is over 62. In Kentucky, it’s over 71. But in Utah, where far less people smoke, it’s 21. Three times as many men in Kentucky are dying from lung cancer compared to Utah. That’s a huge difference.
And so the bottom line with this is that 30 years ago, that’s when cancer deaths in the US were at their peak. Even though things have been getting better, the place where we still really need to move the needle is outcomes based on race and place.
You can keep up with all of Claire’s work on Twitter at Claire_thornto.
The Australian Open began earlier today in Melbourne. The tennis tournament begins without maybe the sports biggest name, Novak Djokovic. The men’s singles star has won the Aussie nine times and three times in a row, but he spent the past week in immigration limbo after his visa was revoked, then reinstated, then revoked again, since he arrived in the country without getting vaccinated for COVID-19. Yesterday, federal court judges unanimously upheld the decision made by immigration minister, Alex Hawk, to cancel the visa. And Djokovic was then deported. For a full list of scores and schedules at the Australian Open, stick with USA TODAY Sports.
And you can find new episodes of 5 Things seven mornings a week wherever you get your audio. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.