Research Roundup is a brief recap of recent research news from investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Chronic Health Problems Common After Addiction Recovery
Investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital’s Recovery Research Institute found that a third of individuals in recovery from substance use disorder continue to suffer from chronic physical diseases that have been exacerbated by their substance use.
In a study of 2,000 individuals in recovery from drug or alcohol use disorders, researchers found 37 percent had been diagnosed with one or more of nine alcohol- and drug-exacerbated diseases and health conditions: liver disease, tuberculosis (TB), HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), cancer, hepatitis C, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and diabetes.
The presence of these diseases was shown to be associated with significant reductions in participants’ quality of life, and all are known to reduce life expectancy.
“Earlier and more assertive intervention is needed for individuals with alcohol and other drug problems to help prevent these other diseases,” says David Eddie, PhD, the lead author of the study.
“In addition, addiction treatment needs to be more seamlessly integrated with primary health care, and more research is needed to explore the complex relationships between alcohol and other drug use and physical disease.”
Oxytocin Weakens the Brain’s Reward Signals for Food
Previous research studies have shown that oxytocin—a naturally occurring hormone that is known for promoting bonding—acts on brain pathways related to eating behavior and may be a promising treatment for obesity. But how exactly does it work?
Researchers from Mass General’s Department of Endocrinology found that oxytocin reduces the communication between different brain areas involved in the cognitive, sensory and emotional processing of food cues that people with obesity demonstrate when they look at high-calorie foods.
“Knowing how the drug exerts its effects is a critical step toward establishing oxytocin as a drug treatment for overeating and obesity,” said the study’s lead investigator, Liya Kerem, MD, MSc.
Older Women Benefit Significantly When Screened with 3-D Mammography
Breast cancer is the most common cancer and the second most common cause of death from cancer among women in the United States.
In the new study, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) sought to learn more about the performance of 2D mammography and 3D mammography in older women (mean age of 72 years).
They compared screening mammograms from more than 15,000 women who underwent 2D mammography with those of more than 20,000 women who underwent the 3D screening.
Both approaches were highly effective at detecting cancer, but 3D mammography had some advantages over the 2D approach, including a reduction in false-positive examinations.
3D screenings also had a higher positive predictive value, the probability that women with a positive screening result will have breast cancer, and higher specificity, or the ability to distinguish cancer from benign findings.
“We’ve shown that screening mammography performs well in older women, with high cancer detection rates and low false-positives, and that tomosynthesis (3D screening) leads to even better performance than conventional 2D mammography,” said study lead author Manisha Bahl, MD, MPH.