Articles of Interest This Week

junk food scienceCancer

As Josh Duhamel shills for the Burzynski Clinic, Eric Merola prepares to carpet bomb the blogosphere with nonsense provides another detailed critique of Stanislaw Burzynski and his claims of cancer cures. As usual in Respectful Insolence articles, a bit long and over detailed, but when Hollywood stars (and other celebrities) get involved in shilling, generally good to be sceptical.

An update on chemo brain research by Barbara Collins of the Ottawa Hospital – the new terminology is “cancer- or cancer-therapy related cognitive change.” in Chemo Fog talk for Lymphoma Support Group. Also, another possible explanation for chemo brain in A Smart Immune System, linked to the loss of T-cells during chemotherapy.

For those of us with mantle cell lymphoma, a number of updates this week. Ibrutinib Receives Breakthrough Designations for Mantle Cell Lymphoma and Waldenström’s Macroglobulinemia which accelerates the roll-out of Ibrutinib given promising early results (see also Highest response rate ever reported’ in relapsed mantle cell lymphoma). Also some encouraging results in Bendamustine (Levact®) Plus Rituximab More Effective Than CHOP-R In Treating Patients With Indolent Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma And Mantle Cell Lymphoma. Lastly, a recent Update: Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation for Lymphoma and Myeloma (I found the transcript more useful than the slides).

A good example of the advantages of interdisciplinary work in Astronomy Algorithms Help Diagnose Aggressive Tumors, where some of the analytical techniques in astronomy are being applied to tumor pathology.

And some nice reflections by Dr. Susan Love, the well-known breast cancer author and advocate, on her own cancer (acute myelogenous leukemia) and allo stem cell treatment, and how that has changed her focus, both professionally (more focus on prevention) and personally (‘I drink the expensive wine now’) in Susan Love’s Illness Gives New Focus to Her Cause.

Health and Wellness

When doing nothing makes the most sense and is the least risky option introduces a new term to replace watchful waiting, Masterful Inactivity Coupled with Cat-like Observation (MICCO). Not a bad way to describe doing nothing and doing no harm, while being alert for when treatment may be required.

“Heads they win, tails we lose”: the corruption of science provides compelling evidence of some of the dubious practices linked to research (e.g., ghostwriting of research articles by company scientists) or just plain ethical lapses (e.g., The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry accepting money from Coca Cola and then changing its position on the link between soft drinks and cavities).

A good post by David Lee Scher on Five Ways of Achieving Patient Engagement: Part 2: WITH Technology, noting that technology is the helper, not the end in itself.

From the ever reliable James Salwitz, Too busy too die, starts off with a bit of a rant on how our hectic lives preclude time for reflection, and the need to set aside some time to share one’s health priorities with those closest to us should one be struck with a health (or other) crisis.

Not surprising, but The Benefits of Exercising Outdoors makes the case that outdoor exercise is better, on both the physical and psychological levels. The biking example was particularly striking, given the role wind resistance plays in increasing effort.

Fat taxes like ‘shooting rabbits with nuclear weapons,’ Denmark warns continues the debate over fat taxes. What is lacking from the various industry groups against such initiatives is other options, regulatory and otherwise, if taxation is hard to get right (wider range of goods than in the case of tobacco).

Indicating what consumers are up against, the detailed (and frightening)  The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food provides good examples of how food ‘science’ and marketing are entwined to entrench poor eating habits. General rule: avoid or minimize processed and snack foods.


Back Where I Belong is Rod Dreher’s take on the importance of family and community in helping us through life, and that our mobile and dispersed life makes us more vulnerable given the difference that family support can make during times of need. Not everyone can move back to his hometown as he did (and most of our hometowns have changed) but a good reflection nevertheless.

Some good reflections by David Brooks on What Data Can’t Do, highlighting some of the limitations of data-based approaches (dealing with the social, understanding context, creating bigger haystacks, dealing with big problems, favouring memes over masterpieces). While I value data as helping make more informed discussion and decisions, these limitations, in addition to the all important that data sets and analysis can hide some of the values behind the selection and/or weighting of data. Quote:

Data obscures values. I recently saw an academic book with the excellent title, “ ‘Raw Data’ Is an Oxymoron.” One of the points was that data is never raw; it’s always structured according to somebody’s predispositions and values. The end result looks disinterested, but, in reality, there are value choices all the way through, from construction to interpretation.

This is not to argue that big data isn’t a great tool. It’s just that, like any tool, it’s good at some things and not at others. As the Yale professor Edward Tufte has said, “The world is much more interesting than any one discipline.”

Why We Love Beautiful Things provides the latest science behind design, whether colour, natural light, or proportions. While individual genius plays a part (think Dieter Rams of Braun, Jony Ive of Apple), a more systematic approach to understanding how we respond to design should result in better products and environments.


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