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Latest Posts

Breaking Oncology News: Can It Spread Socially?

I [recently] received a press release from a friend in the Bay Area. Investigators at UCSF have published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that less chemotherapy can be effective at treating some childhood cancers.

The paper was the result of an eight-year clinical study in children with neuroblastoma. In this particular population, researchers were able to reduce chemotherapy exposure by 40 percent while maintaining a 90 percent survival rate. You can read about it here.

The press release sparked a brief email exchange between me and my friend: Who might be interested in writing about this study and is there any way to get it to spread?  What would make it sticky in the eyes of the public?

Here are a few ideas:

Figure out who cares. Sure it’s niche news, but there are people who would think this is pretty darn important. Think organizations centered on parents of children with cancer, adult survivors of childhood cancer, pediatric hematology-oncology physicians, pediatricians and allied professionals in pediatric medicine like nurse practitioners and hematology-oncology nurses. Networks form around these groups. Find them and seed them.

Make a video. Offer powerful, visual content beyond a press release. A four-minute clip with the principal investigator, Dr. Matthay, would be simple and offer dimension to what is now something restricted to print. The Mayo Clinic has done this really well. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

More On The False Claims Of A Cancer Researcher At Duke

This is not good. Not good at all.

Recently Paul Goldberg of The Cancer Letter reported on an investigation into Duke cancer researcher Anil Potti, M.D., and claims made that he was a Rhodes Scholar in Australia. The misrepresentation was made on grant applications to National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Cancer Society (ACS).

The Cancer Letter, a $375 per year go-to newsletter on cancer research, funding, and drug development, has made this issue free at this PDF link.

News & Observer higher education reporter Eric Ferreri has a nice overview of the situation. Potti has been placed on administrative leave by Duke, and the ACS has suspended payments on his grant and initiated their own investigation. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

A Science-Based View Of The Complexity Of Cancer

[Recently] I participated in a panel discussion at the Northeast Conference of Science and Skepticism (NECSS) with John Snyder, Kimball Atwood, and Steve Novella, who also reported on the conference. What I mentioned to some of the attendees is that I had managed to combine NECSS with a yearly ritual that I seldom miss, namely the yearly meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) meeting.

There are two huge cancer meetings every year — AACR and the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO). AACR is the meeting dedicated to basic and translational research. ASCO, as the word “clinical” in its name implies, is devoted mainly to clinical research.

Personally, being a translational researcher myself and a surgeon, I tend to prefer the AACR meeting over ASCO, not because ASCO isn’t valuable, but mainly because ASCO tends to be devoted mostly to medical oncology and chemotherapy, which are not what I do as a surgeon. Each meeting draws between 10,000 to 15,000 or even more clinicians and researchers dedicated to the eradication of cancer. Read more »

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

The Case Of The Accidental Chemo Burn

One of the great things of being in a group practice is meeting and taking care of patients who may not necessarily be on your own personal patient panel. Walking into the room, I hear the patient say, “Doc, you gotta help me.” I see a red right forearm and on the “complaint” section, the nurse wrote “burn.”

So, I ask, “Well how did you burn your arm?” “Well, doc, I got cancer.” Hmm, that’s interesting. I didn’t make the connection until the next sentence. “It was my last treatment with chemotherapy about 2 weeks ago and for some reason, the needle slipped and the stuff went all over my arm. The cancer doc prescribed these pills, but they don’t seem to be helping. I asked the pharmacist about some salves and this is what they said.” He showed me a handful of creams and ointments purchased at the pharmacy.

Since I didn’t know this patient at all, I was leafing through a very thick paper chart to try to catch up. “Yeah, I’ve been coming to see Doc [name] for a long time now. I’m glad you were able to see me today since his schedule was full.” This very pleasant patient then told me about how they diagnosed his cancer – a tear came to his eye – it’s like he was re-living that moment again. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Doctor Anonymous*

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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