The word cancer comes from the greek word for crab “karkinos,” so named by Hippocrates who visualized the tumor and its surrounding vessels looking like a crab, dug stubbornly into the sand with its legs. We know far more about cancer today than the ancient Greeks, but the vision of an entrenched opponent, almost impossible to extract whole, appears to be vividly prescient.
What we have realized over the last half century is that removal of the visible tumor is not enough. Even as we learned how to do bigger and more destructive surgeries, the cancer still managed to sneak back in, growing later at different locations. The crab’s legs are still embedded in the patient.
Thus the discovery that certain chemicals could extinguish these rogue cells opened the modern era of cancer therapy and led to the first “cures” from cancer. Many of these compounds were exquisitely toxic. Early experimenters even used nitrogen mustard, quite literally a poison, as Siddhartha Mukherjee tells in his excellent history of cancer, “The Emperor of All Maladies.”
To many, the battle looked grim. For the founder of CollabRx, who himself was living in the shadow of advanced melanoma, this was the signal to take his expertise in internet information technologies and apply it to cancer. Thus a “biomedical software company” was founded, with the mission:
…to save lives by using information technology to personalize cancer treatments and accelerate research.
The rapid proliferation of knowledge about the molecular underpinnings of different cancers, has brought hope for a new age of “targeted” therapies. These drugs are designed to find and destroy cells with aberrant biochemical pathways, while bypassing the normal body tissues. Immense hopes rest on them. Read more »
If you own a Nintendo Wii, have played World of Warcraft, or seen James Cameron’s cinematic spectacle, then you probably know what an avatar is. And because an avatar is simply a representation of yourself that you design, your avatar’s attributes could be as similar or different to you as you wish. [This editor’s avatar is 6′ 8″, has six-pack abs, wears only fine European clothing, and has the voice of YouTube sensation Ted Williams.]
Do online avatars have any influence on their real-world counterparts? Researchers at the new Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) at Stanford University think so. According to VHIL, while avatars tend to be idealized versions of their users, evidence has suggested one’s virtual avatar does indeed influence a person.
In one experiment, a female student’s avatar was shown losing weight by running and gaining weight when standing still. As a result, it motivated this student to exercise more over a 24-hour period. In another experiment, watching a student’s avatar progressively age caused him to want to save money instead of spending it on partying.
With advances in technology continually making the world more and more connected with itself, avatars will continue to evolve also. According to Jeremy Bailenson, creator of VHIL, “avatars will soon play an even bigger role in our lives online. How we shape our own avatars and how we interact with others could have profound influences on our behavior.”
Abraham Verghese is a professor of medicine at Stanford University and one of the most articulate physician-writers today. He recently wrote an op-ed highlighting primary care’s plight, and focuses on the scarcity of time:
The science of medicine has never been more potent – incredible advances and great benefits realized in the treatment of individual diseases – yet the public perception of us physicians is often one of a harried individual more interested in the virtual construct of the patient in the computer than in the living, breathing patient seated on the exam table.Time is the scarcest commodity of all. Patients, particularly when it comes to their routine, day-to-day care, want a physician who has time to understand them as people first, and then as patients.
There’s no easy answer, and worse, money isn’t even the root of the problem. Often left unaddressed is the burnout that primary care doctors face, practicing in unpalatable environments where the doctor-patient relationship is obstructed by bureaucracy and paperwork. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*
Why do some diets work better than others? Why can your best friend lose 10 pounds with a low-carb diet and your weight just hovers? Why can some people eat just about everything and still stay skinny?
It’s all in the genes.
Mindy Dopler Nelson, Ph.D., of Stanford University reported the results of her study at the American Heart Associate Conference. She found that a single nuceotide polymorphism caused women to loose five times as much weight on the Atkins diet compared with women who didn’t have the gene. Read more »
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