Articles of Interest This Week

riddle of humanity


A story on how the Ontario Cancer Institute, the research arm of Canada’s leading cancer centre, the Princess Margaret, is aiming to become a world leader in Armed with new cash, Ontario Cancer Institute to poach top researchers, a more brash and aggressive approach than previously.

An innovative approach to cancer research in Top technology gurus to design mobile phone game to speed up cancer cures, where cancer genetic data will be analysed by large numbers of people in the form of a smart phone game. Will be interesting to see how this works out; the game is scheduled to come up later this year – I look forward to trying it.

While some of the suggestions (cue cards, detailed logging) don’t work for me, the practical tips at the end are very sensible in CT and MRI scans: Tips for coping with stress. My favourite: aim for an early morning appointment to reduce the likelihood of delays and a longer wait.

Not surprisingly, Screening Decisions Are Better Informed When Risk Information Is Personalised demonstrates that the more doctors communicate the risk factors related to the individual patient, the more high risk patients will opt for screening while overall screening rates declined.

To finish off, another in a series of reflections on the terms we use in describing the cancer journey. The Problem with “Fighting” Cancer provides a good overview of the range of pieces on terminology, starting with Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor. For my own reflections, see What we call ourselves.

Health and Wellness

There has been a lot of coverage of Ben Goldacre’s book, Bad Pharma, and this review by the Globe and Mail provides a good summary in Ben Goldacre and big pharma’s big betrayal, with a sharp conclusion:

That wealth has enabled Big Pharma to employ some of the best minds in persuasion, marketing, psychology and yes, even medicine, to use every (mostly legal) means to create, harness and distort evidence in the service of increasing investor returns. When you see how clever they’ve been, so well documented in Bad Pharma, how slick, how focused, how Machiavellian those minds are, you can only sit back and say, Ooooh, they’re good. They’re damned good. Just not so good for the rest of us.

Some interesting discussion and debate about US health care costs in The Daily Dish (The Great Healthcare Scam (And The Future Of Journalism)), outlining the high price of medical services and drugs that contribute to the US having the highest cost health care system in the world. Short video as well (under 4 minutes).

Richard Thaler, one of the more interesting economists/behavioural scientists along with Kahneman, provides some suggestions to manage health care costs in Overcoming Obstacles to Better Health Care. Much is familiar but his approach to malpractice is one that I have not seen before:

When it comes to my health, I would rather my doctor base her decisions on science rather than what she, or some lawyer, thinks will stand up in court.

And further to the Michael Moss article last week, The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, Margaret Wente of the Globe, normally against government regulation, appears to be having second thoughts in Even I’m wondering if we should ban junk food:

Our puny willpower is no match for the mighty forces that Big Food can deploy to find your sweet/salty/fat spot. It’s no good to say we should just ban potato chips, because everything is junk food. Big Food has even corrupted healthy food like yogurt by adding tons of sugar. These highly processed foods are more convenient and often cheaper than what you can make yourself – if, that is, you still know how to cook. To many people, the processed versions are also tastier.


Wrapped up in a Book: The Role of Emotional Engagement in Reading, while not surprising, shows how our involvement with characters in a book can enhance our empathy. I expect the same effect would occur with film or theatre, as good fiction, theatre or movies engage our emotions.

For those of you who like good graphical ways to capture statistics and trends, the latest by Hans Rosling on infant mortality and development is a wonderful example (under 3 minutes):

Lastly, a lengthy but interesting article by Edward O. Wilson, Honorary Curator in Entomology and University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University, The Riddle of the Human Species, on what makes us human, and how evolution, at both the individual and group levels, has shaped us and continues to shape us. Well worth reading. Conclusion:

We will also, I believe, take a more serious look at our place in nature. Exalted we are indeed, risen to be the mind of the biosphere without a doubt, our spirits capable of awe and ever more breathtaking leaps of imagination. But we are still part of earth’s fauna and flora. We are bound to it by emotion, physiology, and not least, deep history. It is dangerous to think of this planet as a way station to a better world, or continue to convert it into a literal, human-engineered spaceship. Contrary to general opinion, demons and gods do not vie for our allegiance. We are self-made, independent, alone and fragile. Self-understanding is what counts for long-term survival, both for individuals and for the species.


One thought on “Articles of Interest This Week

  1. Pingback: Weekly Round-Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

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