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The Cost Of Health Care, BioMed Jobs, And Other Health News

health care costs, Rob Stein, NPR, reporting on health, medical ethicsHealth Costs: In an unusual stance, a leading doctor’s group has issued ethical guidelines that include taking cost into account when recommending medical treatments for patients, Rob Stein reports for NPR’s Shots blog.

BioMed Jobs: A Texas biomedical research center that was supposed to create 5,000 jobs with a $50 million state grant has fallen far short of those goals, and the private company that received 70 percent of the money has pulled out of the project, Matthew Watkins reports for The Eagle.

Health Reform: What’s happening in health reform this year? Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post lays out some key dates for 2012.

Medicare: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Reporting on Health - The Reporting on Health Daily Briefing*

Analyzing Pseudoscience Can Aid In Improving Legitimate Scientific Research

While we frequently on SBM target the worst abuses of science in medicine, it’s important to recognize that doing rigorous science is complex and mainstream scientists often fall short of the ideal. In fact, one of the advantages of exploring pseudoscience in medicine is developing a sensitive detector for errors in logic, method, and analysis. Many of the errors we point out in so-called “alternative” medicine also crop up elsewhere in medicine – although usually to a much less degree.

It is not uncommon, for example, for a paper to fail to adjust for multiple analysis – if you compare many variables you have to take that into consideration when doing the statistical analysis, otherwise the probability of a chance correlation will be increased.

I discussed just last week on NeuroLogica the misapplication of meta-analysis – in this case to the question of whether or not CCSVI correlates with multiple sclerosis. I find this very common in the literature, essentially a failure to Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Detecting Circulating Tumor Cells With Gold Nanoparticles

Our modern armamentarium for treating cancer is impressive, but sometimes despite our best treatments, tumor cells continue to lurk in the bloodstream, seeding metastases throughout the body. Researchers at Emory have developed a way to monitor for these circulating tumor cells using gold nanoparticles.

This technique has been used before, but difficulty was encountered because white blood cells are close to the same size as some tumor cells, so they would both be tagged, necessitating a laborious multi-antibody staining process.

“The key technological advance here is our finding that polymer-coated gold nanoparticles that are conjugated with low molecular weight peptides such as EGF are much less sticky than particles conjugated to whole antibodies,” says Shuming Nie, Ph.D., a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “This effect has led to a major improvement in discriminating tumor cells from non-tumor cells in the blood.”

Once these tumor cells are tagged with the gold nanoparticles, laser illumination reveals which cells are tumors in the bloodstream. This technique was tested on 19 patients with head and neck cancer, and showed excellent correlation with previous techniques. If this method can be validated in larger studies, it shows promise as a faster, more economical method to detect circulating tumor cells.

Full story: Nanoparticles May Enhance Circulating Tumor Cell Detection …

Abstract in Cancer Research : Quantification of circulating tumor cells in peripheral blood using EGFR-targeting gold nanoparticles

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Help Fight The NIH Budget Cuts

Many of my regular readers may know that biomedical research in the United States is largely funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Please see this message from Dr. William Talman, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), about proposed spending cuts to the NIH budget. Grant funding from the NIH is already hard to come by, and the proposed budget cuts will make it even harder.

Whether you are a scientist, a student, or a member of the public interested in the future of science and medicine, I join with Dr. Talman in asking you to call your congressional representatives and ask them to oppose HR1. Also, if you have a blog I’d ask you to repost Dr. Talman’s call to action so that your readers can join in.

Dear Colleague,

For months the new House leadership has been promising to cut billions in federal funding in fiscal year (FY) 2011. Later this week the House will try to make the rhetoric a reality by voting on HR 1, a “continuing resolution” (CR) that would cut NIH funding by $1.6 billion (5.2%) BELOW the current level – reducing the budget for medical research to $29.4 billion!

We must rally everyone – researchers, trainees, lab personnel – in the scientific community to protest these draconian cuts. Please go to this FASEB link for instructions on how to call your Representative’s Washington, DC office today! Urge him/her to oppose the cuts to NIH and vote against HR 1. Once you’ve made the call, let us know how it went by sending a short email to the address provided in the call instructions and forward the alert link to your colleagues. We must explain to our Representatives how cuts to NIH will have a devastating impact on their constituents!


William T. Talman, MD
FASEB President

*This blog post was originally published at The Brain Confounds Everything*

In The News: Political Doctors, Antibiotic Resistance, And Stem Cell Research

Medical organizations are donating heavily to doctors running for the U.S. House. Dentists, ophthalmologists, radiologists, surgeons, neurologists and ENTs have contributed heavily. The goal is to get doctors onto committees where they can have the most impact. So far, the candidates have trended heavily Republican and have, in at least one campaign, vowed to overturn healthcare reform. The stakes are high if opposing legislators succeed, because they could underfund or block portions of reform to the point that it works poorly or not at all. (Politico, New England Journal of Medicine)

Spurred by antibiotic resistance seen in almost every drug class, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, FACP, is turning the agency’s attention toward animal feed. With little to no development of new antibiotics in the pipeline, the agency is discussing regulations for animal feed and guidelines for human use. (Wall Street Journal)

Scientists should be able to use stem cells for biomedical research, according to a recent Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll. Almost three quarters of adults surveyed are in favor of using embryonic stem cells left over from in-vitro fertilization. These poll results remain consistent with a similar survey released in 2005. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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