Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Cancer treatment: On target. The personalisation of cancer treatments is leading to better outcomes for patients.

Cancer treatment

On target

The personalisation of cancer treatments is leading to better outcomes for patients. It will also pave the way to cures

Jun 11th 2016 | CHICAGO | From the print edition

“CURE” is not a word much used by oncologists. The best they normally talk of is “remission”. But the past five years have begun to change that. More than 70 new drugs have come to market, and describing the consequences of some of them as revolutionary is not hyperbole—at least for those patients lucky enough to respond positively to them. Being given a diagnosis of advanced melanoma, for example, was once tantamount to being handed a death warrant. Median life expectancy after such news was six to nine months. But recently developed “immuno-oncology” drugs, which co-opt the immune system to fight tumours, are so effective that, in around a fifth of cases, there is talk among experts that the patients involved have actually been cured.

This sort of upbeat news is reinvigorating the study of cancer. At this year’s meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), held this week in Chicago, doctors had a spring in their step. Not only do they have new drugs to deploy, they are also developing better ways of using existing ones. They are getting better at diagnosis, too, finding methods to study the weak spots of cancers in parts of the body conventional biopsies cannot reach, and also to pin down tumours that were previously unlocatable. The upshot is that they are beginning to be able to tailor treatments to the needs of individual patients, an approach called personalised medicine. [More...]

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Banged up. The science of concussion.

This week's edition of The Economist features my story about the science of concussion, and how growing understanding of what is going on in the brain. Paired with this piece is an op-ed at the front of the mag, a joint effort.

Bang to rights 

Science is taking big steps toward understanding the impact of concussion 

Mar 5th 2016 | From the print edition

FRED McNEILL, an American-football player, died in November at the age of 63. Between 1974 and 1985 he appeared for the Minnesota Vikings. After leaving them he became a lawyer but in later years suffered from dementia and was told that he had signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease. His recent death has become a milestone in the understanding of brain disorders, for post-mortem examination has confirmed this diagnosis—retrospectively making him the first person to be so diagnosed while alive. [More...]

Schools and hard knocks 

Children need protection from high-impact sports such as rugby and American football 

Mar 5th 2016 | From the print edition

IMAGINE being asked to take part in an activity that gives you somewhere between a 1-in-5 and 1-in-20 chance of a serious head injury over a four-month period. That could lead to weeks of impaired mental performance and headaches, and, especially if the blows are repeated, the danger of longer-term mental-health problems. Now imagine that your child is the one taking that risk.

 Such are the dangers associated with playing American football. The risks of concussion are higher still in rugby, one of the world’s fastest-growing sports. These concerns have already prompted some changes. Rugby has introduced “head-injury assessment” rules, enabling players who have suspected concussions to be substituted temporarily so that they can be checked by medical staff. All 50 of America’s states have adopted “return to play” laws that require medical clearance before younger athletes who have sustained a concussion can take to the field again. [More...]

Friday, February 19, 2016

Some classic Michael Hanlon pieces at the Daily Mail...

A dear friend, Michael Hanlon, passed away recently. He was a great writer. Here follows some excerpts, with links, to a few of his greatest hits at the DM.


The lion on the loose in Essex. 
"It’s always a tabby cat. That’s the rule. Or, sometimes, a spaniel. Often there is no animal at all, just the fevered imaginations of mass hysteria. The science of phantom cats is a very strange one indeed and while it says nothing about cats it does say an awful lot about humans."....

... and...

"In Essex, van driver Rich Baker came out with the brilliant quote “It was one million per cent a lion. It was a tan colour with a big mane, it was fully grown, it was definitely a lion. It was just standing there, it seemed to be enjoying itself.”  [More...]

Inside the strange world of the lunar hoaxers.

"They walk among us. From the outside they appear to be normal human beings. They speak our language, appear outwardly intelligent – well-read, even with university degrees. The way their move their limbs, the gait – they have got it all off to a tee. And yet underneath that fa├žade of normality lurks a terrible, sinister secret. These are not People Like Us (well, not like me anyway).

No, I am not talking about the Illuminati or David Icke’s Lizard-people, nor about reclothed Roswell aliens, but about that strange subset of humanity known as the Apollo Deniers or Lunar Hoaxers. I have long ceased to be interested in what these people believe. Refuting their simple-minded claims is so embarrassingly easy it is like using dynamite to catch trout in a fish farm." [More...]

Ahead of his time

The great diesel con exposed.

At last, someone is talking sense about the Great Diesel Con. Diesel cars, I have been saying for years, are expensive, inefficient, dirty and unreliable compared to their petrol equivalents. This contradicts just about every piece of received wisdom concerning motor fuels.

People buy diesels because they think they are more fuel efficient than petrol cars. As a new Which? Report out this week confirms, while this is (marginally) true, overall the economics are mostly in favour of gasoline. This is because - believe it or not, and even in the era of the £6 gallon - slight differences in fuel efficiency really are not a big factor in the overall cost of motoring. [More...]

Why car makers lie about fuel consumption

There are lies, damn lies, statistics – and official EU car fuel consumption figures. I and others have been banging on about this for years; the figures quoted by manufacturers in their ads usually (but, interestingly not always) bears absolutely no relation whatsoever to what happens in the real world.

This scandal has been highlighted in a What Car Report which this week looked at some of the claims made for the most allegedly economical cars sold in Britain and compared them to real-world consumption figures. [More....]

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Usual Breakfast: I'm a worm.

Hi folks. I'm calling the new cartoon strip, The Usual Breakfast. Today's strip is one of a series. Come and visit again soon for the next installment. If you like the work, please share it and I might do more of it.