The New Terrapin Gazette
Number 202 25 April, 2011
Parents typically rear their children simply to get by in the contemporary world, however broken it may be. They should, however, rear them better, so that a better future condition might be brought forth.
An Example Of Questionable Medical Journalism
Here’s part of the intro to an article that explains what’s in store for cancer patients: “Sandia and UNM lead effort to destroy cancers: Boosting medicine with nanotechnology strengthens drug cocktail many times over.”
Ignore the sis-boom-bah boosterism and the local pride evident (the University of New Mexico is proud of what it does, which is fine with The New Terrapin). Go to the article and you find you have to pay to read it, and it’s not cheap (US $32). All right, fine; what concerns The New Terrapin is not the cost, but the way the article represents current research. Look again at that headline above, and this time note the words “destroy cancer.” The cancer sufferer reading that won’t be likely to ponder the fact that the headline does indeed not claim that Sandia and the university can “destroy” illness, thereby curing the disease. But that’s the impression left by the powerful metaphor.
Don’t agree? Go to the abstract of the article and note in particular the words and phrases The New Terrapin has placed in bold. They will be discussed in sequence below. Here’s the abstract in full:
Encapsulation of drugs within nanocarriers that selectively target malignant cells promises to mitigate side effects of conventional chemotherapy and to enable delivery of the unique drug combinations needed for personalized medicine. To realize this potential, however, targeted nanocarriers must simultaneously overcome multiple challenges, including specificity, stability and a high capacity for disparate cargos. Here we report porous nanoparticle-supported lipid bilayers (protocells) that synergistically combine properties of liposomes and nanoporous particles. Protocells modified with a targeting peptide that binds to human hepatocellular carcinoma exhibit a 10,000-fold greater affinity for human hepatocellular carcinoma than for hepatocytes, endothelial cells or immune cells. Furthermore, protocells can be loaded with combinations of therapeutic (drugs, small interfering RNA and toxins) and diagnostic (quantum dots) agents and modified to promote endosomal escape and nuclear accumulation of selected cargos. The enormous capacity of the high-surface-area nanoporous core combined with the enhanced targeting efficacy enabled by the fluid supported lipid bilayer enable a single protocell loaded with a drug cocktail to kill a drug-resistant human hepatocellular carcinoma cell, representing a 10-to-the-sixth fold improvement over comparable liposomes.
“Mitigate,” not “reduce.” How many persons in the US population know the definition of “mitigate,” and why was this word used instead of its synonym, “reduce”? Yes, you know what “mitigate” means, but you are not an average person, nor are you an average cancer sufferer. Many folks could be forgiven for thinking that they had just read that this new technology will eliminate the side effects of chemotherapy. Anything that misleads people about the benefits, whether it has to do with their degree or expected date of arrival, deserves intense criticism (and you know what the word “criticism” actually means).
Specificity, etc. This list of challenges is opaque. It may be impossible to deal with each challenge listed, and the overall effort may fail. But those facts are only gently suggested when they should be emphasized. That’s excessively optimistic reporting.
Porous, etc. Not mentioned: whether particles of this sort are commonly — or ever — used in cancer treatment. Also one can’t know whether these special particles can ever be widely used to deliver drugs to tumors. The reader can be forgiven for assuming a wide, if not universal, application for the technology; again, hopeful assumption can swamp facts, and probably will.
10,000-fold, etc. Impressive, eh? Unfortunately that’s a meaningless statistic, as the reader can’t judge whether a twofold improvement would be a huge gain, or a million-fold improvement might be inconsequential and meaningless for many reasons. Context is utterly absent, and the cancer sufferer can be forgiven for supplying information that gives him what may be empty hope.
Enable to kill…. Again, does this matter, and if so, to how many cancer patients? How common are “hepatocellular carcinoma cells,” anyway, and isn’t that phrase redundant? How much genuine information is being conveyed to the anxious layman in this report?
Improvement. Fine, it’s an improvement. Now it would be nice to know how relevant it is: how commonly are liposomes used in cancer therapy? How widespread will their use be if this new development proves effective? We are given no hint.
Look, medical journalists, you need to take The New Terrapin’s advice to heart. That begins with the maxim that compassion should prevail. Don’t distribute information that can mislead sick people into thinking that some huge breakthrough has been made, when in fact one tiny aspect of the whole has been improved to some as-yet not appreciated or measurable degree. Before you report anything, answer this question: is it useful (helpful, beneficial) for the public to have this information? Then consider stating in the first paragraph of the article and the first sentence of the abstract the fact that the process almost certainly can’t be adopted, even if it proves possible and helpful, for at least five years. Give the report some genuine context, in other words. End of advice.
The New Terrapin does not suggest that this tantalizing abstract was deliberately crafted to entice people to pay to read the original article. You, however, may be forgiven for coming to that cynical conclusion, Pilgrims.
You read this newsletter’s view of grammar and correct English in Nr. 194. Now have a look at some commentary that takes things a step further and explores the racial and social agendas of the nonprescriptive “teachers” of English. In short, their academic realm is a ‘gator-infested swamp that should have been drained ages ago.
Judges and prosecutors acting like idiots, Part 4,689,327: oh, good grief. Note: Wikipedia says sua sponte “describes an act of authority taken without formal prompting from another party”. Good, good.
This newsletter has made numerous efforts to understand and explain Barack Obama. In many ways, the man remains a mystery. Here’s a cogent interpretation of a deliberately enigmatic politician who, whatever else can be said about him, definitely aims to change the course of the USA.
One of the tactics of Islamic expansionism is the resort to the judicial and political systems of the West to advance “outreach,” “dialogue,” “interfaith understanding,” and “freedom of speech.” Those words belong in quotes because, in the mouths of Islamists, they are all lies and deceit. Multiculturalism plays into the hands of the Muslim missionaries, as this recent weblog post makes clear: “(Jew-hating bigots) will howl that they are being repressed if they are prevented from spreading hatred for Jews on university campuses. No question about it. But those who preach hatred for African-Americans could make the same argument.” Read the entire article. It provides evidence that the Obama administration can and does get some things right.
“Progressives” (in what The New Terrapin thinks of as their Scientological Avoid-Contrary-Evidence Mode) will not read this, and those not ensorceled by The One need not read it, but here it is anyway. A sample: “In short, in functional analysis, President Obama really acts to lessen the power of the US and its exertion and to increase the power and exertions of those opposed to the US and its allies.” There’s related cartoon fun here, passed along by GB, to whom goes a tip of the hat. Have a chuckle, Pilgrims.
The masthead includes a quote from the works of Immanuel Kant.
The staff of The New Terrapin Gazette expresses its sincere gratitude to the many people who have gifted the world with Arch Linux, Emacs, Screen, and Chromium.
Publisher: The Eagle Wing Palace of The Queen Chinee