Quick Hits: Cancer Biologics May Have Heart Risks and Energy Drink Overload May Damage Liver

A class of biologic drugs that are among the newest and most potent in fighting various types of cancer in rare cases may cause severe heart damage. The medications currently on the market, Yervoy (ipilimumab), Opdivo (nivolumab), Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Tecentriq (atezolizumab) are known as checkpoint inhibitors and are a form of immunotherapy. They work by stimulating the body’s immune system – in particular, a type of white blood cells known as T-cells — to fight cancer cells. An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine describes two patients who both had one treatment of Opdivo and Yervoy, developed heart problems, and died within weeks of the intravenous injection. They both had the skin cancer melanoma but didn’t have a history of heart troubles. Autopsies showed the patients’ immune system ended up damaging their hearts. Some hospitals are now giving people taking 2 or more checkpoint inhibitors cardiac testing for any signs of heart problems after the biologics are taken. Posted November 2, 2016. Via The New York Times.

Drinking multiple energy drinks every day may lead to kidney damage, according to a case study in BMJ Case Reports. A 50-year-old man developed vomiting, yellowing of the skin and abdominal pain. Lab tests indicated that the man had high levels of liver enzymes known transaminases, which is a symptom of liver damage. Although previously diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C, He told doctors that the only changes in diet and lifestyle recently was several weeks prior he started drinking 4 to 5 energy drinks per work day. The symptoms went away after he stopped the energy drinks. Energy drinks contain high levels of many vitamins and nutrients, such as niacin, which can be toxic to the liver. Doctors suggest limiting, if not completely eliminating, energy drink usage. Posted November 3, 2016. Via BBC.

Jonathan Block

Jonathan Block is a freelance writer and former MedShadow content editor. He has been an editor and writer for multiple pharmaceutical, health and medical publications, including BioCentury, The Pink Sheet, Modern Healthcare, Health Plan Week and Psychiatry Advisor. He holds a BA from Tufts University and is earning an MPH with a focus on health policy from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.

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