Kaleidoscope #3: 2011 Wk 12

23 03 2011

It has been long since I have posted a Kaleidoscope post with a “kaleidoscope” of facts, findings, views and news gathered over the last 1-2 weeks. There have been only 2 editions: Kaleidoscope 1 (2009 wk 47) and 2 (2010 wk 31).

Here is some recommended reading from the previous two weeks. Benlysta (belimumab) approved by FDA for treatment of lupus.

Belimumab is the first new lupus drug approved in 56 years! Thus, potentially good news for patients suffering from the serious auto-immunity disease SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus).  Belimumab needs to be administered once monthly via the intravenous route. It is a fully human monoclonal antibody specifically designed to inhibit B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS™), thereby reducing the number of circulating B cells, and the produced ds-DNA antibodies (which are characteristic for lupus).
Two clinical trials showed that more patients experienced less disease activity when treated with belimumab compared to placebo. Data suggested that some patients had less severe flares, and some reduced their steroid doses (not an impressive difference using “eyeballing”). Patients were selected with signs of B-cell hyperactivity and with fairly stable, but active disease. Belimumab was ineffective in Blacks, which are hit hardest by the disease. The most serious side effect were infections: 3 deaths in the belimumab groups were due to infections.
Thus, overall the efficacy seems limited. Belimumab only benefits 35% of the patients with not the worst form of the disease. But for these patients it is a step forward.

  1. Press Announcement (fda.gov).
  2. Navarra SV, Guzmán RM, Gallacher AE, Hall S, Levy RA, Jimenez RE, Li EK,Thomas M, Kim HY, León MG, Tanasescu C, Nasonov E, Lan JL, Pineda L, Zhong ZJ, Freimuth W, Petri MA; BLISS-52 Study Group. Efficacy and safety of belimumab in patients with active systemic lupus erythematosus: a randomised, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trial. Lancet. 2011 Feb 26;377(9767):721-31. Epub 2011 Feb 4. PubMed PMID: 21296403.
  3. Belimumab: Anti-BLyS Monoclonal Antibody; Benlysta(TM); BmAb; LymphoStat-B. Drugs in R & D (Open Access): 28 May 2010 – Volume 10 – Issue 1 – pp 55-65 doi: 10.2165/11538300-000000000-00000 Adis R&D Profiles (adisonline.com)

Sleep-deprived subjects make risky gambling decisions.

Recent research has shown, that a single night of sleep deprivation alters decision making independent from a shift in attention: most volunteers moved from seeking to minimize the effect of the worst loss to seeking increased reward. This change towards risky decision making was correlated with an increased brain activity in brain regions that assess positive outcomes (ventromedial prefrontal activation) and a simultaneous decreased activation in the brain areas that process negative outcomes (anterior insula). This was assessed by functional MRI.

One co-author (Chee) noted that “casinos often take steps to encourage risk-seeking behavior — providing free alcohol, flashy lights and sounds, and converting money into abstractions like chips or electronic credits”

Interestingly, Chee also linked their findings to empirical evidence that long work hours for medical residents increased the number of accidents. Is a similar mechanism involved?

  1. Venkatraman V, Huettel SA, Chuah LY, Payne JW, Chee MW. Sleep deprivation biases the neural mechanisms underlying economic preferences.  J Neurosci. 2011 Mar 9;31(10):3712-8 (free full text)
  2. Sleep deprived people make risky decisions based on too much optimism (Duke Healthpress release)

Grand Rounds

Grand Rounds is up at Better Health. Volume 7, Number 26 is an “Emotional Edition” where posts are organized into emotion categories. My post about the hysteria and misinformation surrounding the recent Japanese earthquake is placed under Outrage.

There are many terrific posts included. A few posts I want to mention shortly.

First a post by a woman who diagnosed hers and her sons’ disease after numerous tests. Her sons’ pediatrician only tried to reassure, so it seems. (“don’t worry…”).

I was also moved by the South African surgeon, Bongi, who tells the tragic story of a missed diagnosis that still haunts him. “For every surgeon has a graveyard hidden away somewhere in the dark recesses of his mind…”

Bongi’s blog Other Things Amanzi is one of my favorites. Another blog that has become one of my favs is 33 Charts by Dr. Bryan Vartabedian. Included in this Grand Round is “And a child will lead them“. It is a beautiful post about the loss of a young patient:

….”And facing Cooper’s parents for the first time after his passing was strangely difficult for me.  When he was alive I always had a plan.  Every sign, symptom, and problem had a systematic approach.  But when faced with the most inconceivable process, I found myself awkwardly at odds with how to handle the dialog”….

Other Medical Blogs

Another of my recent fav blogs is the blog of cardiologist, dr. Wes. Two recent posts I would especially like to recommend.

The first asks a seemingly simple question: “So which set of guidelines should doctors use?” The answer, however,  may surprise you.

In another post dr Wes describes the retraction of an online-before-print case report entitled “Spontaneous explosion of implantable cardioverter-defibrillator” with dramatic pictures of an “exploded ICD” .(here is the PDF of the cache). This retraction took place after dr. Wes reported the case at his blog. Strange enough the article was republished this February, with another title, “Case report of out-of-hospital heat dissipation of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.” (no explosion anymore) and no shocking photos. Food for thought….  The main conclusion of dr Wes? Independent scientific peer-reviewed journals might not be so independent after all. Library matter

Sorry, but I had to laugh about David Rothman’s Common Sense Librarianship: An Ordered List Manifesto. As put it so well by Kathryn Greenhill at her blog Librarians Matter: “It is a hot knife of reason through the butterpat of weighty bullshit that often presses down as soon as we open our mouths to talk about our profession.”

Oh, and a big congrats to Aaron Tay for his  Library Journal moversShakers award. Please read why he deserves this award. What impresses me the most is the way he involves users and converts unhappy users “into strong supporters of the library”. I would recommend all librarians to follow him on Twitter (@aarontay) and to regularly read his blog Musings about Librarianship. Web 2.0

The iPad 2 is here. A very positive review can be found at Techcrunch. The iPad 2 has a camera, is thinner, lighter, and has a much more powerful dual-core chip. Still many people on Twitter complain about the reflective screen. Furthermore the cover is stylish but  not very protective as this blogger noticed 2 days after purchase.
Want to read further: You might like “iPad 2: Thoughts from a first time tablet use” (via @drVes)

It has been five years since Twitter was launched when one of its founders, Jack Dorsey, tweeted “just setting up my twttr’. Now Twitter nearly has 200 million users who now post more than a billion tweets every week. (see Twitter Blog)

Just the other week  Twitter has told developers to stop building apps. It is not exactly clear what this will mean. According to The Next Web it is to prevent confusion of consumers third-party Twitter clients and because of privacy issues. According to i-programmer the decision is mainly driven by the desire of Twitter to be in control of its API and the data that its users create (as to maximize its -future- revenue). I hope it won’t affect Twitter-clients like Tweetdeck and Seesmic, which perform much better (in my view) than Twitter.com.

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Kaleidoscope 2: 2010 wk 31

8 08 2010

Almost a year ago I started a new series Kaleidoscope, with a “kaleidoscope” of facts, findings, views and news gathered over the last 1-2 weeks.
It never got beyond the first edition. Perhaps the introduction of this Kaleidoscope was to overwhelming & dazzling: lets say it was very rich in content. Or as
Andrew Spong tweeted: “Part cornucopia, part cabinet of wonders, it’s @laikas Kaleidoscope 2009 wk 47”

This is  a reprise in a (somewhat) “shorter” format. Lets see how it turns out.

This edition will concentrate on Social Media (Blogging, Twitter Google Wave). I fear that I won’t keep my promise, if I deal with more topics.

Medical Grand Rounds and News from the Blogosphere

Life in the Fast Lane is the host of this weeks Grand Rounds. This edition is truly terrific, if not terrifying. Not only does it contain “killer posts”, each medblogger has also been coupled to its preferred deadly Aussie critter.
Want to know how a full time ER-doctor/educator/textbook author/blogger/editor /health search engine director manages to complete work-related tasks …when the kids are either at school or asleep(!), then read this recent interview with Mike Cadogan, the founder of Life in the Fast Lane.

Don’t forget to submit your medical blog post to next weeks Grand Rounds over at Dispatch From Second Base. Instructions and theme details can be found on the post “You are invited to Grand Rounds!“ (update here).

And certainly don’t forget to submit your post related to medical information to the MedLibs Round (about medical information) here. More details can be found at Laika’s MedLibLog and at Highlight Health, the host of the upcoming Edition.
(sorry, writing this post took longer than I thought: you have one day left for submission)

Dr Shock of the blog with the same name advises us to submit good quality, easy-to-understand posts dealing with science, environment or medicine to Scientia Pro Publica via the blog carnival submission form.

There is a new on-line science blogging community – Scientopia, till now mostly consisting of bloggers who left Scienceblogs after (but not because of) Pepsigate. New members can only be added to the collective by invitation (?). Obviously, pepsi-researchers will not be invited, but it remains to be seen who will…  Hopefully it doesn’t become an elitist club.
Virginia Heffernan (NY-Times) has an outspoken opinion about the (ex-) sciencebloggers, illustrated by this one-liner

“ScienceBlogs has become Fox News for the religion-baiting, peak-oil crowd.”

Although I don’t appreciate the ranting-style of some of the blogs myself (the sub-“South Park” blasphemy style of PZ Myers, as Virginia puts it). I don’t think most Scienceblogs deserve to be labelled as “preoccupied with trivia, name-calling and saber rattling”.
See balanced responses at: NeurodojoNeuron Culture & Neuroanthropology (anything with neuro– makes sense, I guess).
Want to understand more about ScienceBlogs and why it was such a terrific community, then read Bora Z’s (rather long) ScienceBlog farewell post.

Oh.. and there is yet another new science blogging platform: http://www.labspaces.net/, that has evolved from a science news aggregator . It looks slick.

Social Media

Speaking about Twitter, did you know that  Twitter reached its 20 billionth tweet over the weekend, a milestone that came just a few months after hitting the 10 billion tweet mark!? (read more in the Guardian)

Well and if you have no idea WHAT THE FUCK IS MY SOCIAL MEDIA “STRATEGY”? you might click the link to get some (new) ideas. You probably need to refresh the site a couple of times to find the right answer.

First-year medical school and master’s of medicine students of Stanford University will receive an i-pad at the start of the year. The extremely tech-savvy Students do appreciate the gift:

“Especially in medicine, we’re using so many different resources, including all the syllabuses and slides. I’m able to pull them up and search them whenever I need to. It’s a fantastic idea.”

Good news for Facebook friends: VoIP giant Vonage has just introduced a new iPhone, iPod touch and Android app that allows users to call their Facebook friends for free (Mashable).

It was a shock – or wasn’t it – that Google pulled the plug on Google Wave (RRW), after being available to the general public for only 78 days?  The unparalleled tool that “could change the web”, but was too complex to be understood. Here are some thoughts why Google wave failed.  Since much of the Code is open source, ambitious developers may pick up where Google left.

Votes down for the social media site Digg.com: an undercover investigation has exposed that a group of influential conservative members were involved in censorship, deliberately trying to ban progressives, by “burying them” (voting down), which effectively means these progressives don’t get enough “digs” to reach the front page where most users spend their time.

Votes up for Healthcare Social Media Europe (#HCSMEU), which just celebrated its first birthday.

Miscellanous

A very strange move: a journal has changed a previously stated conclusion of a previously published paper after a Reuters Health story about serious shortcomings in the report. Read more about it at Gary Schwitzer’s HealthNewsReview Blog.

Finally for the EBM-addicts among us: The Center of Evidence Based Medicine released a new (downloadable) Levels of Evidence Table. At the CEBM-blog they stress that hierarchies of evidence have been somewhat inflexibly used, but are essentially a heuristic, or short-cut to finding the likely best evidence. At first sight the new Table looks simpler, and more easy to use.

Are you a Twitter user? Tweet this!





Kaleidoscope 2009 wk 47

19 11 2009

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Kaleidoscope is a new series, with a “kaleidoscope” of facts, findings, views and news gathered over the last 1-2 weeks.

Most items originate from Twitter, my Google Reader (RSS) and sometimes real articles (yeah!).

I read a lot, I bookmark a lot, but only some of those things end op in a post. Since tweets have a half-life of less than a week, I thought it would be nice to safeguard some of the tweets in a post. For me to keep, for you to read.

I don’t have the time and the discipline to post daily about health news and social media as Ves Dimov does. It looks more like the compilation at blogs of dr Shock’s (see example),  dr Bates shout-outs, Health Highlights of Highlight HEALTH and Rachel Walden’s Womens health News Round-ups, but less on one subject and less structured. It will just be a mix of old and new, Social Media and science, just a kaleidoscope. Or a potpourri  if you like.

I don’t know if this kaleidoscope will live a long live. I already wrote 2 3 4 5 6 editions, but didn’t have the time to finish them. Well, we will see, just enjoy this one.

Ooh and the beautiful kaleidoscope is made by RevBean and is called: Eyeballs divide like cells. Looks very much like the eyeball-bubblewrap of a previous post but that is thus coincidence. Here is the link (Flickr, CC)

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Medical Grand Rounds

Louise Norris at Colorado Health Insurance Insider is this week’s host of Grand Rounds.(see here). There are many interesting posts again. As a mother of two teens I especially liked the insight Nancy Brown of Teen Health 411 brings us into what teens want when it comes to their relationships with their parents and the “would you rather…?” story that Amy Tenderich of Diabetes Mine shares with us. The punch line is great. Her 9 year old melts my heart.

At InsureBlog’s Hank Stern brings us an article about a British hospital that will no longer admit expectant mothers with a BMI of more than 34, because the hospital’s labor and delivery unit is not equipped to handle complicated births. Hank concludes: “Fear not, though, portly preggies have to travel but 20 miles to the next closest facility. Assuming, of course, that they can make it that far when contractions are minutes apart.”

Dr Charles of the The Examining Room wrote an in depth article about a cheerleader who was supposedly stricken with dystonia following a seasonal flu vaccine in August. Dr Charles not only highlights why (specialists) think it is not dystonia, but gives also background information about the efficacy of vaccins.

Recent editions of the Grand Rounds were at CREGRL, flight nurse (link), NonClinicalJobs (link) and Codeblog, tales of a nurse (link). You can always find previous and upcoming hosts at the Grand Rounds Archive at Blogborygmi.

3621322354_4bc3bb115e Breast cancer screening

The update of the 2002 USPSTF recommendation statement on screening for breast cancer in the general population, published in the November issue of The Annals of Internal Medicine has led to heated discussions in the mainstream media (i.e. New York Times and MedPage Today). Based on current evidence, partly based on 2 other articles in the same journal (comparison screening schedules and an systematic review) the guidelines advise scaling back of the screening. The USPSTF recommends:

  • against routine screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years
  • against routine screening mammography of women 75 years or older.
  • biennial (instead of annual) screening mammography for women between the ages of 50 and 74 years.
  • against teaching breast self-examination (BSE).
  • against either digital mammography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) instead of film mammography as screening modalities.

The two articles published in Ann Intern Med add to the evidence that the propagation of breast cancer self exam doesn’t save lives (see Cochrane review discussed in a previous post) and that the benefits of routine mammography in the young (<50) or old (>75) do not outweigh the harm (also covered by a  Cochrane review before). Indeed, as put forward by Gary Schwitzer at Schwitzer health news blog this is NOT a new debate. He refers to Slate who republishes a five-year old piece of Amanda Schaffer that does a good job of explaining the potential harms of screening. However it is difficult for women (and some doctors) to understand that “When it comes to cancer screening, more isn’t always better.” Indeed -as Kevin Pho at Kevin MD states, the question is whether “patients will accept the new, evidence-based, breast cancer screening guidelines”.

In the Netherlands it is already practice to start biannual routine mammography at the age of 50. The official breast cancer screening site of the RIVM even states that the US is now going to follow the Dutch guidelines 😉 (one of assessed guidelines in one the Ann Intern Med papers is Dutch). But people still find the  long established guidelines difficult to accept: coincidentally I saw tweets today asking to sign a petition to advance the age of screening ‘because breast cancer is more and more frequently observed at young age…(??)’ Young, well educated, women are very willing to sign…

No time to read the full articles, but interested to know more, then listen to the podcast of this Ann Intern Med edition:

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Systematic Reviews, pharma sponsored trials and other publishing news

Cochrane reviews are regarded as scientifically rigorous, yet a review’s time to publication can be affected by factors such as the statistical significance of the findings. A study published in Open Medicine examined the factors associated with the time to publication of Cochrane reviews. A change in authors and updated reviews were predictive factors, but the favorability of the results was not.

Roy Poses of the Health Care Renewal Blog starts this blogpost as follows: “Woe to those of us who have been advocates for evidence-based medicine”. He mainly refers to a study published in the NEJM, that identified selective outcome reporting for trials of off-label use of gabapentin: for 8 of the 12 published trials, there was a disagreement between the definition of the primary outcome in the protocol and that in the published report. This seriously threatens the validity of evidence for the effectiveness of off-label interventions. Roy was surprised that the article didn’t generate much media attention. The reason may be that we have been overwhelmed by manipulation of data, ghostwriting and by the fact that pharma-sponsored trials rarely produce results that are unfavorable to the companies’ product (see previous posts about Ghostwriting (Merck/Elsevier, Conflict of Interest in Cancer Studies and David Tovey about Cochrane Reviews). At least two authors of the NEJM review (Bero and Dickersin) have repeatedly this to be the case [e.g. see here for an overview, and papers of Lisa Bero]. It is some relief that at least 3 of the 4 NEJM authors are also members of the Cochrane Collaboration. Indirectly better control of reporting, i.e. by clinical trials registries, can improve the reliability of pharma sponsored trials and thus systematic reviews summarizing them. As a matter of fact Cochrane authors always have to check these registries.

At Highlight Health Walter Jessen writes about Medical Journal Conflict of Interest Disclosure and Other Issues, which also discusses how money can taint objectivity in scientific publishing. Half of the post discusses the book The Trouble with Medical Journals, written in 2007 by Richard Smith, the former editor of the BMJ.
By the way, Walter just hosted MedLibs Round with the theme “Finding Credible Health Information Online”.

Good news in the Netherlands: right after international Open Access week and the launching of the Dutch Open Access website (www.openaccess.nl), the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) has announced that it is in favor of Open Access. (via PLOS-facebook).

The open access nature of PLOS itself gets out of hand: they even peer-review T-shirts (according to Bora Zivkovic of a Blog around the Clock, see here)

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Other Health & Science News:

Medline Plus summarizes an article in the Journal of Nutrition, that states that Selenium supplements, may pose a heart risk.

Even Folic Acid and vitamin B12, when taken in large doses, have been reported to Increase Cancer Risk (WebMD)

Luckily WebMD also reports that dark chocolate seems to help against stress, that is it reduced stress hormones in the blood. However @evidencematters and @NHSChoices cast doubt on that“Chocolate cuts stress, says newspaper. Does the study really say that? And who paid for the study?…”

Scientists made the unexpected discovery (published in Molecular Cell) that BRAF, which is linked to around 70 per cent of melanomas and seven per cent of all cancers, is in fact controlled by a gene from the same RAF family called CRAF – which has also been linked to the disease. For the first time it is shown “how two genes from the same ‘family’ can interact with each other to stop cancer in its tracks” (Source: Info Cancer Research UK)

For the first time, scientists have successfully used exome sequencing to quickly discover a previously unknown gene responsible for Miller syndrome, a rare disorder. The finding demonstrates the usefulness of exome sequencing in studying rare genetic disorders. The exome is enriched for coding (thus functional) DNA, it is only 1% of the total DNA, but contains 85% of the mutations (Published in , source: PhysOrg.com)

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Web 2.0
For information regarding the FDA hearings on internet and social media see #FDASM: http://www.fdasm.com.

Read Write Web summarizes the new numbers released by analytics firm Postrank that indicate that reader engagement with blogs has changed dramatically over the last three years, primarily because of the rise of online social networks.

Twitter has began to relaunch the new retweet feature, although not without controversy. What do you think about the newest feature?

The Next Web gives an overview of which Twitter application is hot and which is not.

And Finally: Top 100 tools for learning, compiled by Jane Hart from the contributions of 278 learning professionals worldwide. You can see the lists here (HT: http://blogs.netedu.info/?p=1005)

The web 2.0 part is relatively short, but it is time to conclude this edition. Till next time!

  • MEDLIB’s ROUND 1.6 (laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)
  • Tool Talk: quick links re Facebook, GReader and GWave (socialfish.org)
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