Sunday, April 30, 2006

Carnival barking: Tar Heel Tavern #62 is live

I just wanted readers of Terra Sigillata to know of our local-interest blog carnival, Tar Heel Tavern, whose issue #62 has gone live at my sister blog, Bull City Bully Pulpit.

I mention this to our sci/medblog readers here because Bora of Science & Politics has, as usual, submitted a thoughtful and insightful post on the need for supporting science education as a central necessity for a fully-functioning democratic society:

As I wrote:
"While we're on the topic of education, I'd be preaching to the choir when I say that the state education system of North Carolina has been a national leader for decades. However, even our great success has not been enough to protect our educational system from being victimized by the cost-cutting and short-sightedness all too common in this political climate. Keeper of the THT and prolific blogger, Bora Zivkovic (Coturnix), posted a very nice overview of an essay on Nurturing Success in the Sciences by new NC State president, James Oblinger. Bora closes the post with an important paragraph that argues persuasively why better science education, not necessarily more scientists, is essential to an educated, critical-thinking democracy."

Consistent with this great scientific tradition, I should add that North Carolina has been home to a number of Nobel Prize winners including Gertrude Elion, George Hitchings, Martin Rodbell, Peter Agre, and even the high-profile, surfer-dude developer of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Kary Mullis who spent a large part of his childhood in Lenoir.

Thanks for taking a look at our postcard from home.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Medical information on the Web

I've had one of those blogger moments where a commenter states a case far better than I can.

anjou is a lymphoma survivor who monitors cancer patient information boards for flagrant, medically-incorrect posts or fraudulent product advertising. I've come to learn through a happy accident that in real-life, she and I have only one degree of separation.

From my previous post on Peter Frishauf's proposal for a medical wikipedia, anjou stated:
"For patients, the web opens the opportunity for ready access to good info and nonsense. Alt med folks, and lay folks who proclaim themselves as experts on diseases like cancer, often cherry pick abstracts and info on the web that supports their bias without real understanding of scientific method or real critical thinking, make wild claims and recommendations based on in vitro and in vivo data, often with rather unusual and bizarre interpretations of immune system functioning. They post these selected abstracts they find on the web (most often never reading the full article) and present their ideas as well researched and abuse the term "evidence based." Unfortunately, this is often very convincing to the lay public. On some patient support boards folks challenge this type of thinking, but its a never ending battle!"

"Thankfully there are blogs hosted by scientists and doctors as well as sites on medical journalism (,, that aid in the battle against the dangerous misinfo put out there. "

"So, thanks to all of you science bloggers who do what you do!!"

Well, thank you anjou for being so vigilant on behalf of the fellow cancer patients and survivors you represent. They are lucky to have such a thoughtful advocate.

From her comments, I can say that the most egregious offense is the cherry-picking of abstracts to support claims made by alt-med hucksters. Most often, I find in vitro, test-tube data being used to promote fraudulent dietary supplements for cancer. A very close examination of the actual, full-length paper itself reveals there is no evidence that a supplement would even achieve concentrations in the body needed to produce the effects observed in vitro on cancer cells grown in a plastic dish.

For readers who are cancer patients considering alternative therapies, I'd also like to point you to an excellent service of the US National Cancer Institute called the PDQ summaries (Physician Data Query). NCI has convened seven editorial boards of experts on various issues facing cancer patients, from screening and prevention to special issues of adult and pediatric cancers.

The NCI PDQ summaries on complementary and alternative medicine in cancer are reviewed by such outstanding scientists and physicians as Gordon Cragg (former director of the NCI Natural Products Branch), Norman Farnsworth (UIC), Debu Tripathy (UT-Southwestern Komen Center), and Kara Kelly (Columbia). The list of therapies covered continues to grow, but those listed have separate summaries for patients and more detailed summaries for health professional.

The NCI PDQ summaries are a very nice example of our tax dollars at work.

The 33rd Skeptics' Circle is up at Science & Politics

Bora's creativity never ceases to amaze me.

The best of biweekly baloney detection is now live at Science & Politics. Bora's format is that of a scientific paper, with some really great posts that my aggregator missed.

The next Skeptics' Circle will be hosted halfway round the world by EoR at The Second Sight on 11 May 2006. Check the submission guidelines and send your best work to: AT gmail DOT com.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

In honor and memory of Dr Tom Ferguson

From the New York Times:
"Tom Ferguson, MD, who spent his life as a physician persuading people to take the reins of their own health care and to use the Internet as a powerful tool in that quest, died on April 14 in Little Rock, Ark. He was 62."

Tom's complete New York Times obituary can be found here (free registration required; photo credit: Austin American-Stateman).

Those of us medbloggers sometimes think that we are such trailblazers. But we stand on the shoulders of giants in this media, just like I do in my laboratory studies. Like Peter Frishauf and Joe and Terry Graedon of The People's Pharmacy, Tom Ferguson recognized very early the power of the Internet for patient self-education.

"He urged patients to educate themselves and share knowledge with one another, and urged doctors to collaborate with patients rather than command them. Predicting the Internet's potential for disseminating medical information long before it became a familiar conduit, he was an early proponent of its use, terming laymen who did so "e-patients."

Tom lived the last quarter of his life with a type of cancer called multiple myeloma.
"When he became ill 15 years ago, Dr. Ferguson began applying the principles he had fostered to himself. "Being a doctor, he was ahead of the game," Ms. Dreiss said. "He kept with the traditional party line and did what doctors told him he should do but tweaked their advice in his own way. He read widely, worked out his own doses and was not afraid to experiment; when he heard about a clinical trial involving thalidomide, he called the drug company and told them he wanted to be in on it. He lived far longer than most people with this disease do."

Here is just a sampling of his lifetime accomplishments:
"A prolific writer and speaker, Dr. Ferguson was the health and medical editor for the Whole Earth Catalog, the voluminous compendium of goods and ideas that unexpectedly became a best seller in the late 1960's and 1970's. He also became known for a journal he established called Medical Self Care and was its editor from 1975 to 1989. In 1998, he became editor and publisher of a newsletter called The Ferguson Report: The Newsletter of Consumer Health Informatics and Online Health."

"In addition, he was author or co-author of a dozen books, including "The No-Nag, No-Guilt, Do-It-Your-Own-Way Guide to Quitting Smoking," published by Ballantine, and "Health Online: How to Find Health Information, Support Groups and Self Help Communities in Cyberspace," published by Addison Wesley."

I never had the pleasure of meeting Tom but am told that he also had a tremendous sense of humor:
"He never had a private medical practice, telling his wife, "I've saved hundreds of lives by not practicing clinical medicine.""

We've lost a giant, my medblog friends.

For more information on Dr Tom Ferguson, his legacy, and what you can do to help educate patients, cancer patients in particular, and continue Tom's vision and mission, explore this special site set up at the Association of Cancer Online Resources.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Inaugural Pediatric Grand Rounds

Even we PhDs know that pediatric patients are not simply little adults.

As a relatively new parent, my hat has always gone off to Dr Clark Bartram of Unintelligent Design and other peds docs like Dr Flea, for taking care of our little people. In my mind, the only folks with better bleacher seats in heaven are pediatric oncologists.

Well, my compatriot over them thar mountains has asked quite kindly that I promote the inaugural Pediatric Grand Rounds. It's my pleasure to do so; in fact, I'm just glad that Clark asked me before he asked someone else.

I'd have taken to submitting my own fodder on the use and contraindications of herbal supplements in children but I just couldn't make the deadline. Hence, I encourage y'all to wander over to the good Dr Bartram's establishment to take in the best of pediatric medical blogging there is to be had.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Yet another case of political corruption of the scientific process

As I am currently reading a book on 40 years of scientific research on Cannabis sativa as a medicinal agent, I was appalled (but not surprised) to learn that the US FDA has overruled a 1999 Institute of Medicine report of the benefits of medical marijuana.

Does this latest decision have to do with the fact that the FDA is currently considering an application for a pharmaceutical grade marijuana-derived product sold in Europe and Canada?

The New York Times story concisely details yet another abomination of the scientifc process.

I'll have more to say later...

Science blogging and publishing: the medical wikipedia concept of Peter Frishauf

This week has seen very active discussion in the blogosphere on the concept, intent, and goals of science and medical blogging. My colleague, Bora/Coturnix, started this iteration on defining science blogging over at Science & Politics. Much of the ensuing discussion has focused on presenting data and hypotheses for open consumption, with several arguments that doing so might create an environment for a young investigator and/or small laboratory to be "scooped" by some larger group. Bill Hooker was most vocal in Bora's comments and in a separate post at his own Open Reading Frame on how "scoopers" should be shunned by the scientific community.

Our little discussion here caught the attention of Medscape founder and medical communications pioneer, Peter Frishauf. For those of you not registered with Medscape, it is well worth the time to go through the free-access process if for nothing else than to read Peter's account of the first 5 years of Medscape. I've had the honor of meeting Peter in person and am amazed at his continuing vision of the internet as a communication and lifestyle vehicle.

Peter's comment on my recent post linked to his editorial earlier this year on medical wikipedias and the possibility for conventional medical publishing to become obsolete (free registration required).

It's a rare opportunity to have a discussion with one of the visionaries of our time, so I thank Peter for coming over and commenting. My personal feeling, and one admittedly vested as a practicing scientist, is that a medical wikipedia is a great idea for topics normally covered in conventional scientific reviews.

But I do have some questions about completely replacing the peer-review process with complete open-access and open-editing, particularly given the anti-science and anti-intellectual climate that operates in some areas of the ether. It is clear that this sentiment is now metastasizing into the medical and scientific realm.

For example, Orac's part 4 of his medicine and evolution series recently led to a contentious comment thread and follow-up post on medical students or MDs who lack critical thinking skills, promote untested alternative therapies, or deny evolution in favor of intelligent design. I've also seen enough anti-vaccination crusaders and mercury-autism advocates use the internet to promote flawed science to make me concerned about editing of medical wikipedia entries by anyone with an internet connection. Some of the information I've read on cancer patient support sites regarding alternative medicine is downright dangerous - I could immediately see medical liability problems in hosting a medical wikipedia

There are also practical questions regarding promotion and tenure in academia as it is very tightly linked to one's ability to demonstrate independent scientific contributions through first-author, peer-reviewed, original research publications. How does one quantify if you have made a seminal contribution to a wikipedia since there is no attribution in this medium.

Science blogging at least offers an opportunity for attribution of ideas and their popularity via hit counts or links by fellow scientists. I foresee a time in the very near future where academics will get some credit for their blogging activities in their annual performance reviews and reports of scholarly activities often required by chairpersons and deans. For example, I try to use Terra Sigillata to raise public awareness and critical thinking about drug, herb, and alternative medicine issues - I view these activities as consistent with my academic mission.

Most of those I have met in the blogosphere aren't writing for credit or career advancement. Instead, most write out of a love for science and a return to a time where civil scientific discussion was central to the academic life, a sharp contrast to much of today's backstabbing intensified by the increasingly competitive funding climate. In fact, I believe I commented somewhere on Prof Janet Stemwedel's Adventures in Ethics and Science that I hope the civility and camaraderie I have encountered among science bloggers is not replaced by the harshness and cynicism of modern academic life; Bill Hooker responded that his hope is for the tone and sense of community among science blogs to return the real-life side of science back to where it was years ago.

But I digress,

This weblog newbie is humble enough to admit that I may not recognize the many strengths that might be offered by development of a medical wikipedia - and am certainly humble enough to want to have a discussion with my friend and medical communications visionary together with other interested readers.

I am eager to learn more about Peter Frishauf's vision for a medical wikipedia and the benefits and shortcomings that I might not yet see.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Formerly proprietary natural products research database released in web version

Folks in my research field have been waiting for this day for many years. Members of the American Society of Pharmacognosy learned last week that Professor Norman R. Farnsworth of the University of Illinois at Chicago will release his group's NAPRALERT database this week to open access.

Previously a clanky version of PubMed/ScienceDirect for natural products, NAPRALERT has previously been the gold-standard for searching peer-reviewed, published literature for chemicals derived from natural sources and information on their biological activity. Among the most important features of NAPRALERT is that database entries are included from a great many foreign journals not commonly available in the US UK, or Australia.

As detailed in the announcement:
"NAPRALERT is a relational database of all natural products, including ethnomedical information, pharmacological/biochemical information of extracts of organisms in vitro, in situ, in vivo, in humans (case reports, non-clinical trials) and clinical studies. Similar information is available for secondary metabolites from natural sources."

"In 1975 the system began a systematic search of the literature by examining every journal pertinent to natural products in our UIC Health Science Library, as well as viewing the Table of Contents of a large number of journals from the Internet on a regular (monthly) basis. These journals were selected from a list of journals that historically we knew contained pertinent data for the system. In addition pertinent sections of Chemical Abstracts, particularly the Biochemistry Section, was examined for articles not found in our Library sources and original articles were obtained via Interlibrary Loans. We are fortunate also to have many foreign journals in which articles are rarely found through the aforementioned sources."

"To date more than 200,000 scientific papers and reviews are included in NAPRALERT representing organisms from all countries of the world, including marine organisms, including the geographic origin from where the organisms were obtained."

Most shocking to me is that Prof Farnsworth's group was unable to secure funding from NIH's NCCAM or even the US Library of Congress to keep the database going after 2003.

"We believe that our coverage of the literature is comprehensive from at least 1975 through and including 2003. Due to budget problems we only include ca. 15% of the literature from 2004 and 2005, but articles are being collected and eventually we hope to be up-to-date."

"About 25% of the database is derived from abstracts and 75% from original articles. In the past we have had the occasion to acquire complete literature on ca. 250 genera of plants and these data appear in NAPRALERT. The earliest papers date in the late 1800's."

Our coverage of the literature in the following areas is quite comprehensive:

* Clinical studies of natural products (including safety)
* Natural products that affect sugar metabolism
* Natural products that affect mammalian reproduction
* Extracts and compounds that affect cancer growth
* Natural products and antiviral (including HIV/AIDS) activity
* Natural products and antitubercular activity
* Natural products and tropical diseases
* Ethnomedical information on more than 20,000 species of plants
* Metabolism and pharmacokinetics
* Natural products that affect plant growth
* Biosynthesis of natural products
* Review articles on organisms at the genus and/or species levels
and reviews of secondary metabolites (Citations only)
* Chemoprevention with natural products
* Natural insecticides
* Antiinflammatory activity of natural products
* Analgesic activity of natural products

"Caution: When seeking information on biological activity categories, there are many closely related biological targets that might relate to a single endpoint . If you cannot retrieve biological data on an activity that you desire, please contact us by e-mail ( and we will attempt to assist you."

Finally, for all the grad students in the audience: Prof Farnsworth is in his mid-70s yet continues to be active not only in research, but in graduate education as well. When receiving an award 5 years ago for his personal research accomplishments, he cited all of his current graduate trainees present as the future of natural products research and asked them all to stand to the applause of all gathered.

What we need now in all fields are mentors who think more of their trainees than they do of themselves. I'll smoke a cigar with Prof Farnsworth any day.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Could science blogs become part of scientific publishing?

As a fabulous Easter visit with my family and a looming grant deadline has made it difficult to get off a real post, Bora Zivkovic (the famous Coturnix) at Science & Politics gets me off the hook with his treatise on what science blogs are.

Most interesting are his comments on how he has taken to posting some of his own hypotheses and unpublished data:

"What does publishing a hypothesis mean? I guess there are two possibilities:
A) "This is my hypothesis and I am staking the territory here. I intend to test this hypothesis in the near future and you BETTER NOT try to scoop me!"
B) "This is my hypothesis, but I have no intention to follow it up with actual research. However, I'd love to see it tested. Please someone test it! And if you do, you will have to cite me in the list of references as your source for this hypothesis""

One of my more popular posts on a hypothesis whereby a fatality might have resulted from hallucinogen use, usually quite rare, meets most of Bora's definition of part B.

I don't work in this field but I used to teach about it. Therefore, I'd be interested if a real CNS pharmacology lab were to test my hypothesis on the potential for food-drug interactions with an herbal concoction used by the Uniao do Vegetal religious group if ingested while also taking an antidepressant drug capable of inhibiting the CYP2D6 drug-metabolizing enzyme.

Revisiting my post on this topic makes me realize how lengthy and convoluted my discussion reads. However, this is my most highly-read post out of the 50 or so I've done to date. Perhaps I'll come back to this with a more concise and clear post after my current deadlines.

In the meantime, Bora's excellent analysis makes engaging and thought-provoking reading for anyone who writes or reads science blogs.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Health-care infrastructure in post-Katrina New Orleans

[We're heading to points north today to visit family for the Easter holiday. I love the southern US, but the forecast here for Sunday is sunny and 91F/33C - that just ain't right, especially for the Easter Bunny. As I'll be AWOL for a spell, here's a lengthy post with a lot of great links, particularly for docs and other health-related folks. Best wishes to all for Passover, Easter, and whatever PZ Myers is celebrating this time of year.]

This week's New England Journal of Medicine (13 April 2006) has two outstanding lead articles on the challenges facing health care delivery in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I applaud NEJM for making these two articles available here and here as free full-text. The first even includes a podcast interview with the two co-authors (see right sidebar on NEJM page).

(In an unrelated but relevant topic, the post-Katrina articles are followed by another free full text article that ironically discusses the challenges of free public access to the medical literature.)
The content of the two post-Katrina articles can be summed up by this passage and quote:

Reflecting recently on the vast scope of the rebuilding effort, Fred Lopez, vice chair for education at Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Medicine, observed, "The desperate week we spent inside Charity after Katrina is the one that everybody saw on CNN, but that was the easiest week of the last six months."
In my mind, the personal sacrifices of physicians, nurses, and all allied members of the medical team in New Orleans and elsewhere to care for the sick and impovershed has been nothing short of amazing. Katrina has also spawned one of my new favorite medbloggers, Dr Michael Hebert and Doctor Hebert's Medical Gumbo. Here's just a simple post of his on the problems faced by those of means following the hurricane - his earlier posts immediately following Katrina are truly fabulous and listed under his "Very Best Essays." I was particularly moved by this and this.

I bring up the two new NEJM articles because I promised in my earlier post on the need to study rare cancers that I'd someday speak about two of my colleagues from my old institution, Dr Tyler Curiel and Dr Ruth Berggren. I guess timing is everything: as it turns out, Tyler and Ruth wrote the main NEJM article and Ruth wrote the inset article that describes how "two outpatient clinics serving the disenfrachised have adapted in creative ways to deliver community-based care to New Orleans." One is these is Common Ground, a grassroots clinic recently featured in articles like this one by Peter Eichenberger. As of March, Ruth reports that Common Ground has provided 10,000 free patient visits. So, if you have a couple of extra bucks and are looking for a good cause, dial up on the ol' internet.

A Remarkable Couple
These two physician-scientists are now affiliated with Tulane University. Ruth is an infectious disease specialist and primary care provider at the Charity HIV Outpatient Clinic and is an associate professor in Tulane's Section of Adult Infectious Diseases. Tyler is a full professor and chief of Tulane's Section of Hematology and Medical Oncology who also holds a MPH. Both are also incredible distance runners and Tyler is a 7-time finisher of Colorado's HardRock 100 ultramarathon. As if that's not enough, Tyler shattered the former Guinness record for distance ran in 24 hrs while dribbling a basketball (108.41 miles vs. previous record of 97.47 miles). Tyler undertook the effort in raising over $40,000 to support a sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma (SNUC) research project for his late medical student, Andy Martin, who was afflicted with this rare cancer.

Erika Check wrote a nice article on the two of them in Nature following their evacuation from N.O. after a week of caring for patients in the middle of and the aftermath of the storm. You may have seen one or both of them on CNN with Sanjay Gupta. Ruth wrote a terrific essay in NEJM last October (also free full text) chronicling the acute issues during their week following the hurricane, such as trying to evacuate patients while being shot at by a sniper.

My family just happened to be visiting Colorado in September while Tyler, Ruth, and their kids were bunking with her parents outside of Denver through January or so. I had been trying to find out how they were doing via e-mail and between me and Wall Street Journal writer, Amy Dockser Marcus, we hunted them down and found that they were all safe. Foolishly, I made a trail running date with them early one morning near Red Rocks Amphitheatre Park, home to immortal concerts by U2 and the Dave Matthews Band, among others. It's also where I proposed to PharmGirl, MD, before an R.E.M. concert in 1999 (full disclosure: actually, she sort of said, "Wouldn't this be a great place to propose to me?")

Fortunately, only Tyler showed up to humiliate me as Ruth had to take care of the kids - not only am I now a flatlander but I'm also 20 lbs/9 kg heavier than during my Colorado running days. While we ran and I tried to keep my lungs from exploding (the trails around Red Rocks are at over 6000 ft/1830 m altitude), Tyler told me how his laboratory group was now scattered at three or four other universities and he was in the process of writing new IRB and IACUC protocols for his projects at each institution. He was going from our run directly to the University of Colorado Medical Center to give a seminar on his work with regulatory T cells and cancer immunotherapy.

Would you return to New Orleans?
But what struck me once the hypoxia resolved was how fiercely proud he and Ruth were of what they have built at Tulane. Tyler has mentored several junior faculty members, MD and PhD, to garner their own independent funding and has put together a fabulous hematology/oncology division. I'm less familiar with Ruth's work, but it is clear from her writing that teaching and caring for HIV patients in New Orleans is more of a mission than the already-demanding career of an ID physician.

Moreover, Tyler and Ruth could really go anywhere else and start over, with better resources and far less hassle. Who would really blame them if they left their labs in the ruins of the flood and move on to another institution? Instead, they are admirably dedicated to their patients and institution and have returned to N.O. to rebuild, quite possibly bigger and better than before. Amazingly, they are not outliers: they report in yesterday's NEJM that Tulane's internal-medicine program has lost only 6 of its 90 residents. Other programs were not as fortunate as 11 of 24 medicine-pediatrics residents have not returned.

I wonder if I would have the fortitude and strength of character to do what Tyler and Ruth have done and continue to do in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I'll be certain to reflect on them and their example the next time I complain about a grant not being funded or some administrator denying a request for new laboratory equipment. I hope you take the time this weekend to read the two current NEJM articles to understand how the US government has deserted the people of New Orleans. (Again, the articles are here and here.)

The heart and soul of medicine is still alive, and can be found south of I-10.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Skeptics' Circle and other worthy carnivalia

As I am bogged down with yet more grant-writing, late manuscript reviews, and volunteer teaching, I'd like to draw your attention to several superb blog carnivals.

First is The 32nd Meeting of The Skeptics' Circle over at Pooflingers Anonymous. As the previous host, I intentionally did not submit anything out of respect for Matt's time and the growing success of the Circle, due in no small part to Orac's move of Respectful Insolence over to ScienceBlogs.

Bora also reminded me in the comments yesterday that I overlooked promoting the Carnival of Education over at his superb educational blog, The Magic School Bus.

Finally, PZ Myers is hosting Carnival of the Liberals at Pharyngula.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Grand Rounds and last call for Skeptics' Circle

Grand Rounds vol. 2 no. 29, the best of this week's medblogging is up at Anxiety, Addiction, and Depression Treatments. A huge collection of great topics very nicely hosted with short descriptions of each post instead of the diatribes common to some carnival hosts.

Also, you have until this evening (10 PM MDT on 12 April; 0500 GMT 13 Apr) to submit your best critical writing to The Skeptics' Circle hosted by the Pooflinger, Matt, at Pooflingers Anonymous.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Relocation of some content to experimental blog

Being a scientist, I'm trying an experiment. I've moved some of my more personal and local-flavored posts to a new blog called Bull City Booster.

I don't want to dilute the science content here, but I also like to muse about things going on in my real-life community. Since Blogger doesn't easily support categories, I thought I'd take a lesson from one of my blogging mentors, Coturnix/Bora Zivkovic, and start another blog. Coturnix is host to the wildly-popular Science & Politics, a research-based scholarly blog on chronobiology, Circadiana, and the lower-traffic but very useful biology teaching blog, The Magic School Bus, among others. I barely have time to read all three, much less author them all in addition to his multitude of others.

I have nowhere near the breadth of knowledge of Bora, but after talking with some folks I figured that people like JM O'Donnell of Immunoblogging in New Zealand might not care much about my family's passion for Duke women's hoops and the surprise-a-day lacrosse scandal. Or, who knows, Joseph may actually be quite interested.

I know, I know, what the world needs now is another blog like I need a hole in my head (hat tip: Cracker). But for my homeboys and girls, mosey on over to Bull City Booster.

Regardless of your geographical location or interests, let me know, positive or negative, what you think of the experiment of separating content in this manner.

As Bartles and Jaymes used to say, "Thank you for your support."

Monday, April 10, 2006

US Natl Cancer Institute Videocast - Traditional Chinese Medicine in Cancer

This is not woo - this is a symposium sponsored by the complementary and alternative medicine branch of the US National Cancer Institute with the goal of interrogating the scientific basis of the best of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in the Western treatment of cancer.

The NCI's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) is sponsoring a conference titled Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Cancer Research: Fostering Collaborations; Advancing the Science from April 10-12, 2006. This conference is by invitation only. However; you are invited to watch the conference via live videocast on April 10th and 12th beginning at 8:30 am (EDT; 1330 GMT). Several researchers from the United States and China will be presenting at this conference. Information about the videocast can be found on the OCCAM website. For further inquires please contact Tai Baker on +1 (301) 451 6009.

It sounds as though RealPlayer is required to view the videocast so if you depend on some other video viewer, fire up RP before the symposium.

I will follow later with a post making the very important distinction between NCI's reputable OCCAM branch and the much-maligned NCCAM. This is a crucial distinction in that NCI has responded to criticisms made of NCCAM to focus on the special needs of cancer patients and evaluating other therapies that may complement conventional surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. OCCAM is led by a board-certified medical oncologist from the NCI intramural program and his staff has focused on culling the best of alternative cancer treatments to evaluate their scientific validity.

There are also US companies boasting highly-regarded scientists and clinicians who have some TCM compounds and plant extracts in clinical trials. The application of the scientific method and collaboration of Chinese and English-speaking researchers stands to maximize the application of ethnobotany from Asian cultures to the worldwide treatment of cancer.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Duke men's lacrosse debacle sadly overshadows fabulous women's hoops team; Glitter Pony comes to the rescue

This post has been moved to my new local interest blog, Bull City Booster.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

They're all just numbers, right?

I've finally made it home from what was supposed to be a 24 hr trip to the AACR meeting to write this post at a chronological anomaly in time. At 1:02 am and 3 seconds today, the ethnocentric American digital clock reads 01-02-03-04-05-06. For much of the rest of this world, the anomaly won't occur until 4 May, for obvious reasons.

The reason I care or even mention this is that it was pointed out to me in an airport bar yesterday by a guy whose birthday is 5 April. Turns out that yours truly is also one year older on this very same day, striking the non-descript milestone of 42.

How in the hell did this happen???

I still see myself as this 25-year-old kid playing guitar and bass, being totally hip to the latest music, running and cycling, spending 14 hours a day in lab, and partying like I'd never get old.

Instead, I am 42.

42, with greying hair. Even my allegedly hip attempt at growing a goatee is undermined with grey.

42, with an extra 20 pounds I put on during my wife's pregnancy.

42, with my first MRI of a major joint (my shoulder) last month because of constant pain I incurred as the 25-year-old spiking a volleyball in grad school.

42, not even a prime number, like last year's 41.

As I lamented the marking of being one year closer to my death, the director of PharmPreSchooler's parent/childcare co-op mentioned to me that, hey, 42 is the Answer to The Ultimate Question Of Life, the Universe and Everything. Ah yes, the Douglas Adams book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - surely, I could find some cosmic comfort in achieving the age that represents one of the coolest and mysterious numbers from a book of my generation.

Well, I fired up the old Wikipedia entry and learned:

"Douglas Adams was asked many times during his career why he chose the number forty-two. Many theories were proposed, but he rejected them all. On November 2, 1993, he gave an answer on"

"The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought '42 will do' I typed it out. End of story."

Nope, nothing special about being 42...until I walked upstairs bleary-eyed early this morning from yet another delayed plane flight to see a cake baked in my honor and a card that reads, "Happy Birthday, Daddy."

Indeed, I guess 42 will do.