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Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2015

Cleveland Clinic’s annual picks inspire hope for patients

By Laine Bergeson

Physicians and scientists at Cleveland Clinic have announced their 9th annual list of top medical innovations for improving patient care in the upcoming year.

Cleveland Clinic is a top-rated nonprofit academic medical center that combines clinical and hospital care with research and education.

Here are the new technologies that are on its radar — and that you might encounter soon at a hospital near you. Each is linked to a video clip.

(MORE: 9 Things Your Doctor Wants to Tell You)

1. Mobile Stroke Unit

High-tech ambulances bring the emergency department straight to the patient with stroke symptoms. In-hospital stroke neurologists interpret symptoms via broadband video link, while an onboard paramedic, critical care nurse and CT technologist perform neurological evaluation, providing faster, effective treatment.

2. Dengue Fever Vaccine

One mosquito bite is all it takes. Fifty to 100 million people in more than 100 countries contract the dengue virus each year. The world’s first vaccine has been developed and tested and is expected to be submitted to regulatory groups in 2015, with commercialization expected later next year.

3. Cost-effective, Fast, Painless Blood-Testing

Have the days of needles and vials come to an end? A new technique uses a drop of blood drawn from the fingertip in a virtually painless procedure, and it is estimated to cost as little as 10 percent of the traditional Medicare reimbursement.

4. PCSK9 Inhibitors for Cholesterol Reduction

Effective statin medications have been used to reduce cholesterol in heart disease patients for over two decades, but some people can’t tolerate them. Several PCSK9 inhibitors, or injectable cholesterol-lowering drugs, are in development for those who don’t benefit from statins. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to approve the first PCSK9 in 2015 for its ability to significantly lower LDL cholesterol.

(MORE: The Case Against Statins)

5. Antibody-Drug Conjugates

Chemotherapy, the only form of treatment available for some cancers, destroys cancer cells and harms healthy cells at the same time. A promising new approach for advanced cancer selectively delivers cytotoxic agents to tumor cells while avoiding normal, healthy tissue.

6. Checkpoint Inhibitors


Cancer is notoriously difficult to treat. Immune checkpoint inhibitors have allowed physicians to make more progress against advanced cancer than they’ve achieved in decades. Combined with traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatment, the novel drugs boost the immune system and offer significant, long-term cancer remissions for patients with metastatic melanoma. And increasing evidence shows they may also work on other types of malignancies.

7. Leadless Cardiac Pacemaker

Since 1958, the technology involved in cardiac pacemakers hasn’t changed much. A silver-dollar-sized pulse generator and a thin wire, or lead, inserted through the vein keeps the heart beating at a steady pace. Leads, though, can break and crack, and become infection sites in 2 percent of cases. Now, vitamin-sized wireless cardiac pacemakers can be implanted directly in the heart without surgery and eliminate malfunction complications and restriction of daily physical activities.

8. New Drugs for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

Nearly 80,000 American adults with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) may breathe easier in 2015 with the recent FDA-approval of two new experimental drugs. Pirfenidone and nintedanib slow the disease progress of the lethal lung disease, which causes scarring of the air sacs. Prior to these developments, there was no known treatment for IPF, in which life expectancy after diagnosis is just three to five years.

9. Single-Dose Intra-Operative Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer

Finding and treating breast cancer in its earliest stages can often lead to remission. For many women with early-stage breast cancer, a lumpectomy is performed, followed by weeks of radiation therapy to reduce the likelihood of recurrence. Intra-operative radiation therapy, or IORT, focuses the radiation on the tumor during surgery as a single-dose and has proven as effective as whole breast radiation.

(MORE: Beware Direct-to-Consumer Breast Cancer Tests)

10. New Drug for Heart Failure

Angiotensin-receptor neprilysin inhibitor, or ARNI, has been granted “fast-track status” by the FDA because of its impressive survival advantage over the ACE inhibitor enalapril, the current “gold standard” for treating patients with heart failure. The unique drug compound represents a paradigm shift in heart failure therapy.

Laine Bergesonhas researched and written about health for the past 15 years, covering everything from the nutritional benefits of rhubarb to the proper way to swing a kettlebell. Read More
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