Happy World Cancer Day!

Today marks the release of the 2014 World Cancer Report and World Cancer Day!

Via CNN:

“[Most striking from the report is the prediction that] new cancer cases will rise from an estimated 14 million annually in 2012 to 22 million within two decades. Over the same period, cancer deaths are predicted to rise from 8.2 million a year to 13 million.

[Attributable factors include greater life expectancy and an increase in the aging population, but also lifestyle choices like smoking and obesity.]

[Per Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer]: “We cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem…More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in cancer burden globally.”

The report said about half of all cancers were preventable and could have been avoided if current medical knowledge was acted upon. The disease could be tackled by addressing lifestyle factors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and exercise; adopting screening programs; or, in the case of infection-triggered cancers such as cervical and liver cancers, through vaccines.

Lung cancer remained the most commonly diagnosed cancer (1.8 million cases a year, or 13% of total cancer diagnoses) and the deadliest, accounting for about one-fifth (1.6 million) of all cancer deaths worldwide…the next two most common diagnoses were for breast (1.7 million, 11.9%) and large bowel cancer (1.4 million, 9.7%). Liver (800,000 or 9.1%) and stomach cancer (700,000 or 8.8%) were responsible for the most deaths after lung cancer.”

Also, apparently “The International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) today announced that it has made available to the scientific community data from more than 10,000 cancer genomes. The data can be used by cancer researchers around the world to better understand the genomic basis of cancer, accelerate cancer research and aid in the development of more targeted treatments.” <–this is HUGE!!

Exciting times lie ahead for cancer research… 😀


oh, science (and the public)

First off, my nerdy side continues to be in heaven here at the NIH. Second of all, I just posted up this article on fb yesterday with dismal opinions of the food in general, when I attended another talk today that presented this AMAZING article:

and then came across these lovely reviews of the article:
and public report by The Washington Post
As the conclusions in the abstract by Schoenfeld and Ioannidis report: 

“Associations with cancer risk or benefits have been claimed for most food ingredients. Many single studies highlight implausibly large effects, even though evidence is weak. Effect sizes shrink in meta-analyses.”

From SBM:

“though…there are lots of studies out there that claim to find a link, either for increased risk or a protective effect, between this food or that ingredient and cancer, [and] very few of them actually provide convincing support for their hypothesis…We must resist the temptation to go too far in the opposite direction and reflexively dismiss even the possibility of such risks as the ACSH is wont to do, most famously with pesticides and other chemicals.” 

Bottom line:

“there are at least a few foods that are reliably linked to cancer. For instance, alcohol consumption is positively linked with several cancers, including pancreatic, esophageal, and head and neck cancers, among others….When you boil it all down, it’s probably far less important what individual foods one eats than that one eats a varied diet that is relatively low in red meat and high in vegetables and fruits and that one is not obese.” 

From Brown et al:

Important steps to improve the fidelity of research reporting include the following: Increased use and improvement of clinical trial and observational study registries; making raw data publicly available; making supporting documentation such as protocols, consent forms, and analytic plans publicly available; and mandating the publication of results from human (or animal) research supported by taxpayer funds...comprehensive approaches to improve reporting of nutrient-disease outcomes could go a long way toward decreasing repeated sensational reports of the effects of foods on health. However, none of these debiasing solutions address the fundamental human need to perceive control over feared events…the public is always the final audience. It is therefore imperative that we spend less time repeating weak correlations and invest the resources to vigorously investigate nutrient-cancer and other disease associations with stronger methodology, so that we give the public lightning rods instead of sending them up the bell tower.”


Probiotics lecture (on this study) Q&A:
Q: One could say mice have shared microbiomes because they eat each other’s poop. Now in reference to humans, do you think there is an application?
A1: Well, I must reference the study on the microbiome of households with dogs that show increased homogeneity within these households vs non-dog households…
A2: There is a proposal that improper hand washing may play a role…heh heh

^__^’ That’s sort of gross. But also sort of fascinating.

For those unfamiliar with the microbiome, which has been BLOWING UP science news:
NYT: Say Hello to the 100 trillion bacteria that make up your microbiome

Nice collection of recent NPR articles

IPV…a huge issue

Found this in one of my email drafts: I’ve been meaning to post it up, but wanted to write a bit more…but then other things got in the way. I think this alone speaks for itself:

from NEJM —

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a comprehensive report on the prevalence of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate-partner violence (IPV) in the United States.1 The report relays the alarming findings that 35.6% of women in this country are raped, assaulted, or stalked by intimate partners at some point during their lives, and approximately 6% experience these events in any given year. Men are also at risk for IPV victimization: 28.5% report having been victimized at some time during their lifetime, and 5% report victimization within the past year. But the forms and consequences of IPV experienced by women and men are not the same. Women are more than twice as likely as men to experience sexual coercion in their intimate relationships (17% vs. 8%) and are twice as likely to experience severe forms of physical assault by an intimate partner, such as being choked, hit with a fist, or kicked (24.3% vs. 13.8%). The most striking differences relate to the consequences: very few men (5.2%) report ever being fearful of their intimate partners, in contrast to 28.8% of women, and women are almost four times as likely as men to be injured by a partner (14.8% vs. 4.0%).

One THIRD of women. Aka, one in THREE. One in three women you will ever meet in your life either will have already experienced, or will experience, intimate partner violence.

realities of science

So much goes into how you phrase things, how data is cherry picked, how bias plays a role…it goes back to that quote: “Luck happens when preparation meets opportunity”, or some similar variation. Or, you could even say it is analogous to “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Just replace beauty with evidence, haha.

Lesson? (I think my dad for encouraging this in me): NEVER take things at face value. ALWAYS be critical. PRIMARY sources are paramount.

Case in point:

As reviewed by the NYT. A hugely popular book, considered the vegan bible by many
Trusty ol’ Wikipedia’s article <–I say this very tongue-in-cheek-ly, but I do like the ease of wikipedia to at least put things in a general context 😛

Some more links on the China Study:

A Google Books Preview
More detail from the author
Amazon link — look at those rave reviews!

 Sounds awesome right? But then…

Critical Review from Science Based Medicine (from a group of physicians)

In summary, Dr. Hall’s conclusions:

“It would be wonderful if we could prevent cancer and all those other diseases by avoiding animal protein. It would have the extra added benefit to the environment of increasing the productivity of agricultural land and reducing the greenhouse effects of gassy cows. I look forward to future well-designed studies investigating the effects of very low protein and animal-protein-free diets. Meanwhile, The China Study makes a good case, but the case isn’t quite good enough

 Another criticism, THOUGH to be fair, from also a questionable, very biased source. Quote: (one of the commentators on the SBM link:

“Weston A Price is deemed a questionable dentist and the Weston A Price Foundation is deemed a questionable resource of health information by Quackwatch.

Their agenda is to propagate, among other things, the claim that a high-fat diet with plenty of full-fat, pastured-fed muscle and organ meats and lots and lots of raw, full-fat dairy will produce optimal health and cure many chronic diseases.

Keeping their agenda in mind, it’s no wonder that they have an article vociferously arguing against the China Study, which purports the same outcome as their advocated diet, but in a somewhat diametrical manner.”

However, I stand by the SBM Critical Review, because it does seem to come from a less-biased source.Still, just look at all the contradictions within contradictions! Basically, again, PRIMARY SOURCES. I am at fault for not citing primary sources in my criticism articles, but then again they are meant to just prove a point that information can be skewed so many ways.

PS: From my limited 10 minutes spent reading this, the reports from SBM seem reasonable. However, I have not actually LOOKED for a criticism of this site so I’ll just put this here to look back on later


nerdiness cont. :)

Ok this is really true testament of my science dorkiness–I am seriously in love with the things people are doing at the NIH! So many crazy talented people, so much AWESOME science being conducted…absolutely amazing.

Had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Dunbar today and if I could clone myself, I would TOTALLY work with her (or maybe Dr. Childs). Both are incredible mentors; both are extremely brilliant; both do stuff that can use ALL my research experience and makes things come in full circle…how cool would that be!? I think in the future, once I get a computational background and learn programming and more vigorous statistics this year, I want to take another year and do research with them. Extremely, extremely awesome projects they both have going on, particularly this paper.

Tracking HPSC’s with confocal microscopy!! 😀

Sadly, I can only work with one person this year 😦 Or can I?

No, that would be suicide. Ok Sharon, lets focus here.

A good reminder to do a future post: the lure of academia vs the pull of the heart

the vitamin/antioxidant paradox


Wish this came out before I started interviewing with mentors…at least 3 of them work on this and I had no idea! Also, fascinating read about the rise and fall of Dr. Linus Pauling

From the Atlantic: The Vitamin Myth

In other news:
Mom: Wow, the people in your lab are international? You should get to know them so when you travel, you can live with them!

LOL. ❤ you mom. Too bad I won’t be working with them BUT God is so good…working with my dream mentor!!! super excited for this year :D!

and the search continues…


“Finding a mentor is a lot like dating…you wouldn’t respond to a super long message from a stranger, right?”   -P

Haha…these past two weeks have proven that statement to be a very accurate analogy. Like my methods towards dating, in my search for a mentor:

1. I’m open. I’m willing to listen and give people chances
2. Chemistry is important. Sounds weird putting it in this context, but it really is. Also, the ‘chemistry’ in the lab also is important…get it? HAHA sorry too tempting to pass up 😉
3. Future prospects matter…a little bit. Though less in dating than here. Or is it vice versa ???
4. Connections are vital–they make or break who you might be able to meet, and can open so many doors!!
5. I’m still too nice. Need to be more effective at communication. Need to be FIRM when I do NOT want to work with someone. No but’s…you can’t have everything!
6. I like knowing everything about a person, so in a mentor search pubmed, the NIH website and the interwebs is basically the ‘fb’ of each investigator.  haha
7. First impressions are very important.
8. At the end of the day, you just need to take a leap of faith and COMMIT!!

Unfortunately though, unlike in dating, a ‘date’ or meeting that doesn’t end up working out doesn’t mean a new friend…that’s a whole area of lost connections. Yikes.

 These past two weeks have been initially stressful, because I was in a rush to identify a mentor or at least get SOME leads…but while I would really like to identify a mentor soon (so I can start working!! and also stop wasting people’s time) I actually sort of enjoy this process. It is a lot like attending mini-seminars at an umbrella of a ‘conference’ of my research interests…it is very awesome learning about each individual team’s work, questions, and variations in methodology! I’ve learned so much in this past week…particularly because the people I talk with are so brilliant and accomplished, and have so much experience ;__; I wish I could work with everyone (maybe that’s not impossible? hmm…particularly if I do microbiome stuff?? (reality check…no))

Need to remember proper etiquette in my correspondence during this time. Particularly:

-Just like in medicine, each person you talk with is an individual who demands your individual attention, and frankly doesn’t know nor could care less about the many other people you are in correspondence with. So, RESPECT. Respond to emails in a time manner, because their time is just as important as yours. 

-Take the time to craft a well thought out, well executed email. These people, again, are at the top of their field, have years of experience, and are (amazingly) willing to give you their time! Though you are no where near their level, respect!!

-Calling someone by their first name still does NOT make them your peer. Need to get used to this. It took me a year and a half to finally get on terms with calling K by his first name, just because it was so hard for me to give him the respect I thought he deserved as my mentor otherwise. But EVERYONE does it in research. ^__^’ OK FINE, first name basis it is, but KEEP THAT RESPECT

-At the same time, don’t discount yourself. I feel almost inferior compared to the brilliance of the people here, but apparently I guess getting into the program counts for something huh? And apparently people are impressed my CV, which IS who I am, so I guess all this hard work does pay off?

I am really blessed to be accepted to a program that does recognize hard work paying off. Again, am so fortunate to have this amazing opportunity.

Also, while this is technically a ‘year off’ from med school, it is NOT a ‘year off’. Made that mistake my first summer…not going to let something as incredible as this go to waste. Already my schedule is booked for the weekend and summers…hopefully things will calm down later this year ^__^’

Cancer in China


Awesome article, confirming all my mom’s comments about cancer care in China:

NYT: As Cancer Rates Rise in China, Trust Remains Low

Notable quote:

“Our Western physicians take difficult cases as challenges, whereas Chinese physicians first assess risk to themselves and hesitate in helping patients.” 

“Hospitals are reluctant to have patients die on their premises. Lack of hospices for dying patients” is a problem, the authors wrote.

Original article: Practicing Western Oncology in Shanghai, China: One Group’s Experience, from the Journal of Oncology Practice

Also relevant: China’s Cancer Village Phenomenon