Inspirational Medicine

March 19, 2008

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Cancer is difficult.  In every sense of the word.  It is difficult to detect early(in some forms), it is difficult to treat, it is difficult to deal with.  Individuals and families are devastated by the effects of the disease and even by the treatment.  It is particularly heart wrenching to read stories about childhood cancers.  But it is important.  The things learned from the study of end stage cancer is often among the most cutting edge research.  People will be open to may treatment courses when the alternative is death.  While the vast majority of last minute experiments fail, and no magic cure is discovered, there are always exceptions.  Those exceptions are beautiful to read and I encourage you to read the following article.

Full Article

From a human stand point, it is always refreshing to see the triumphant story of an underdog that overcomes some great challenge.  From clinical stand point, the same holds.  Many of the greatest achievements and breakthroughs in science have been laughed at originally and dismissed too quickly.  While the antiangiogenic chemotherapy may or may not go on to play a significant role in the treatment of cancer in the future, its pioneers like Dr. Judah Folkman who change the course of history.  Taking a different approach, trying new combinations of existing medicines, and being innovative in the treatment of cancer Dr. Judah Folkman saved Melanie McDaniel.  The McDaniel family is sharing her story as a tribute to Dr. Folkman who passed away in January.


Parents as Protectors

February 29, 2008

America is obsessed with medical autonomy. Everyone feels entitled to make decisions about their own health. While I agree everyone should have control over their own bodies, there is a gray area. Children. The current standard gives parents great range in what they can have done or what they can decide to withhold in terms of health care. Vaccines always come up as a hot topic. While the majority of parents adhere to the accepted standards of immunization there is a small, but vocal minority who objects to vaccination.

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An advisory panel on Wednesday recommended all kids up to age 18 get the flu vaccine. Though the vaccine is already recommended for those 6 months to 5 years old, this new proposal is a huge expansion, affecting nearly 60 million kids. The expanded recommendation is an initiative by the CDC to protect the entire population. Children are one of the major sources of flu in the community. School aged children pick it up, pass it around, and then bring it home. Everyone has had the flu, and while it may have been terrible it was transient, so it is hard for people to take it seriously. But in reality, people die from the flu every year, children and the elderly are particularly susceptible. Vaccines, like all things, have risks. But they are very minimal and less severe than the flu. Obviously people with reactions to a previous flu vaccine, those with contraindicated disease state (GB syndrome), or certain allergies (for example eggs since the vaccine is grown in eggs) should not get the vaccine but in general it is a harmless vaccine.

With all the fear mongering of pseudo scientific studies (like the joke of a paper that tainted MMR by suggesting a correlation with autism), old world views of medicine, and popular misconceptions it can be tough for a parent to find the truth about a particular vaccine. So who really is better qualified to determine if your child needs a certain vaccine? The doctors that have years of training to understand the risks/benefits and wade through the abundance of misinformation or parents who may or may not be fully informed on the topic or who may be prejudiced by misinformation? To me the choice is obvious. I don’t want your 9 year old little Johnny vaccinated because I care if he gets sick, I want him vaccinated to protect the newborn he saw, the grandparent he hugged, the kid who’s toy he shared, and community he lives in.

When you decide to not vaccinate your child, you put everyone’s children at risk.

 


Cute and Good For Your Heart!!

February 27, 2008

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Came across this cute little article today on abc.com.

Owning a pet cat may help your heart

If you’re not allergic to them, having a cat might be great for your heart.

According to researchers at the University of Minnesota, people who don’t own a cat have about a 40 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease.

Scientists don’t know why, but say their best guess is that having a pet relieves stress and anxiety.

Sorry dog owners — researchers found no protective relationship between man and his so called “best friend.” However, that could be due to the limitations of the study, and not a conclusion about dogs specifically.


Breast Cancer Drug Approved

February 23, 2008

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In a controversial move, the FDA has approved Avastin for breast cancer.  The drug is already used in lung and colon cancer.  For the FDA to approve a late stage cancer drug it needs to either extend patient’s lives or import the quality of life.  Avastin has shown neither and so the advisory committe recommended against its use in breast cancer.  The FDA went against the recommendation of its advisory committee.  The drug does shrink tumors effectively, but there is a debate if that alone is reason to approve a drug.

If you still die in the same amount of time in the same painful way was having smaller tumors  worth whatever adverse effects or side effects come from the medicine?  There are pros and cons to the decision.  The pros are the approval will stimulate even more research and development into tumor shrinking medicines.  The decision will also be good for business, stimulating development and growth.  But there are also cons.  First there is the obvious problem if a drug does not extend life or improve quality of life what is the purpose.  Tumor shrinking is important, but only as a part of the overall picture of improving health.  But what I find to be a more glaring problem is, the advisory committees are designed to have more knowledge and to have looked at a topic more carefully to give the FDA an intelligent recommendation.  Why have them if you don’t listen to the recommendation?  I think that sets bad precedent.

Hopefully the next large study of Avastin will show marked improvement in combination with  other drugs in the treatment of breast cancer.


Big Boobs, Big Diabetes?

February 9, 2008

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal (and by recently I mean I recently found my January 31 edition). The point of the article was women with larger breasts have increase risk of adult diabetes (more properly Type II since it is increasing occurring in children and adolescents). That is an of itself is not shocking nor news, since the biggest predictor is obesity and with big bodies often come big boobs. What I found crazy is that the increased risk of diabetes occurs when the study controlled for waist size and BMI. Although, as far as I know, they did not take into consider past size or BMI.  Overweight and obese women may develop breasts earlier and to a greater extend due to increased estrogen levels, so larger breasts in some instances may correlate to a larger size person who has lost weight.

Wall Street Journal health blog

On a less serious note, let me explain the big women, big boobs phenomenon.  Fat women have large breasts, very skinny women have small breasts.  Now that doesn’t always hold, we all know lucky bitches who are skinny and have big boobs, and sadly we all know a couple unfortunate ladies who are big but small chested.  But in general we understand, boobs are made of fat, fat people have fat, and therefore there is going to be a relationship.  Now some may say this is merely the science of fat distribution, but I know the truth.  It is proof there is some sort of just force or God governing the world.  Most men are looking for a skinny woman, and that to them is more important than breast size.  But there is also a chunk of self proclaimed “breast men”.     The “breast men” will pursue larger women knowing there will be larger breasts.  This is the mate distribution system.   Otherwise only skinny women could ever find men.  By giving overweight women bigger breasts the playing field is leveled.


“Seinfeld”, Science, and Snacks

February 1, 2008

 

    Forget Temple Pharmacy School, I should have gone to Clemson University.  I could have worked on my degree with Prof. Dawson, a food microbiologist.  He conducted a study inspired by an episode of “Seinfeld”.  Any loyal “Seinfel” fans will recall the episode where George double dips his chip at a funeral reception and is caught.  The episode is credited with being the first major popular use of the term “double dipping”.  They guy freaks out and tells George, “That’s like putting your whole mouth right in the dip!”.  Well Professor Dawson set out to investigate if that charge is true.  He was skeptical that bacteria could be transfered from mouth to chip to mouth initially.  But the research indicates that 50 -100 bacteria would be transfered from one mouth to another in each bite, if there was a cup that was exposed to “sporadic double dipping.”  GROSS.  The study will be published in the Journal of Food Safety later this year.

    Professor Dawson published a paper last year on the five-second rule.  While his findings indicate that the rule is not true and food should not be eaten from the floor even if it is there for less than five seconds, my findings differ.  (Well at least my findings of tasty food on floors).

Full Article


I’ll take the 10,000 Calorie Appetizer Please

January 23, 2008

New York City’s Board of Health is revisiting regulations in an effort to stem the obesity problem.  The board is trying to get a measure passed where people would have better access to the nutritional information of the food they consume.

 Under the rules, which officials rewrote after a federal judge struck down similar provisions in September, any chain that operates at least 15 outlets nationwide would have to display calorie content on their menu boards, menus or food tags — essentially wherever the restaurant lists the information that customers use to make their choices.

The proposal will likely be challenged in court, due to implementation problems and restaurant’s hesitation to  publish the data.  I personally support the measure.  It makes sense, you should have access to information about something you are putting in your body.  Many will argue the people choosing between the Big Mac and the Bacon-ater are not the calorie counting type, but that isn’t necessarily true.  If a person likes both, but knows one is a little better (although terrible) for them, they can make an informed choice.

More to the point it is often confusing or surprising the calorie content of meals.  People hear terrible things about places like McDonald’s but then may not associate sit down restaurants for being as bad as they are.  I know personally I feel worse when I go to a fast food drive through then if a group of us go out to a nice restaurant.

Did you know for the calories in Olive Garden’s Stuffed Chicken Marsala entree (which is not the worst food at Olive Garden) you could have a Big Mac, a Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, and a Taco Bell Quesadilla?