We list the most incredible medical breakthroughs made this year, and each of them is a gift that will save millions of lives.
1. Another step closer to an insomnia cure
In America, about one in three adults struggles to get enough sleep, which is linked to overeating, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and problems on the job.
Our sleep cycles are tied to an internal body clock (circadian rhythm)—and now scientists have discovered not only a gene that controls our normal daily biological rhythm, but also the mechanism by which that gene operates.
Because of the importance of sleep to health and well-being, these discoveries are expected to have vast implications for human health and well-being.
2. Hep C treatment
This year, a groundbreaking study revealed a single receptor cell in the human body that can recognize Hepatitis C, a viral disease that can lead to diminished liver function, liver failure, and/or death, and from which an estimated 2.7 to 3.9 billion Americans suffer, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That single cell may be a key step in developing a vaccine and/or cure for Hepatitis C. But that’s not the biggest news on the Hep C front. The bigger news is that in late August, the FDA approved a new drug for the treatment of Hep C. in the U.S.
The new drug, called “Mavyret” (generic name: glecaprevir and pibrentasvir), is an eight-week treatment for patients with or without cirrhosis, and with or without moderate to severe kidney disease (both of which are Hep C complications).
“This approval provides a shorter treatment duration for many patients, and also a treatment option for certain patients,” says Edward Cox, MD, director of the Office of Antimicrobial Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research
3. Nerlynx to treat breast cancer
Last year, researchers from the UK discovered that a novel combination of two existing cancer-treating drugs—Herceptin (generic name: trastuzumab) and Tyverb (generic name: lapatinib)—dramatically reduce the size of tumors caused by a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer.
This year, the FDA approved a new drug for that same form of breast cancer.
Called Nerlynx (generic name: neratinib), it’s been approved for patients with early-stage disease after an initial regimen that includes the drug Herceptin.
Its purpose is to further lower the risk of the cancer recurring.
“HER2-positive breast cancers are aggressive tumors and can spread to other parts of the body, making this additional therapy an important part of the treatment plan,” said Richard Pazdur, MD, director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence and acting director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research in a press release.
“Now, these patients have an option after initial treatment that may help keep the cancer from coming back.”