Dianthus Medical Blog Archive

Index of Clinical research

Peer review of stem cell research

I heard an interesting story on the radio this morning about stem cell research. It's also reported on the BBC news website, although strangely enough I couldn't find it reported anywhere else in the media.

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UK Biobank

I have just received an invitation to take part in the UK Biobank study. I have some serious concerns about their attitude to data protection, and I won't be participating. Continue reading→

Does Tamiflu prevent complications of flu?

There was a very strange story surrounding yesterday's publication of a systematic review of the role of drugs such as Tamiflu in treating flu. This made the lead story on yesterday's Channel 4 News. The story involved the Cochrane Collaboration, the British Medical Journal, and Roche (makers of Tamiflu), and I have to say I don't think any of them has emerged from the story with much credit.

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HIV vaccine results

Today's big health news story is a "breakthrough" in HIV vaccine research, as the results of a study done in Thailand are announced. At the end of a 3-year study, 74 of 8,198 subjects became infected with HIV in the placebo group compared with 51 of 8,197 in the vaccine group. That's a vaccine efficacy of about 31%, or if you prefer, a risk ratio of 0.69.

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Bugs in showerheads

A schoolboy error in one of the health news stories from the BBC today provides further evidence for a theory I've recently been developing.

The headline reads Taking showers 'can make you ill'. Once you read more, however, you realise that the research on which it's based provides no evidence whatever that taking showers can make you ill. All it shows is that various unpleasant bugs, such as Mycobacterium avium, can lurk in shower heads. Given that most people shower every day and seldom develop mycobacterial infections, I suspect that any risk from such infected shower heads must be pretty low. For the journalist to write a headline like that is an egregious example of extrapolating beyond your data.

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Conflicts of interest

We are no strangers to conflicts of interest in the world of medical writing. The best known case of this is when a pharmaceutical company has paid someone to write an article about one of their own drugs. The conflict of interest here is obvious. Because it is so obvious, however, journal editors are very well aware of the potential for bias in this situation, so such conflicts of interests are, in the main, transparent and well managed. That doesn't mean that some egregiously biased articles don't sometimes slip through the net, of course, but in my experience that doesn't happen often.

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One of the various roles I fulfil is sitting on a research ethics committee. For those unfamiliar with the system, all medical research involving human subjects needs to be reviewed and approved by a research ethics committee before it can take place. We make sure that subjects are not put at unnecessary risk and are properly informed about what they are letting themselves in for.

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Interesting new cancer research

There's an interesting story in the news today about some recent cancer research. The research, published in Cell, describes investigation of the ability of various molecules to kill cancer stem cells, and comes up with a promising candidate drug for future research, salinomycin.

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CDISC protocol representation model

Those of you who follow such things carefully will know that CDISC have recently released a draft of their new protocol representation model (PRM). The current model is only a draft version, and CDISC are keen to receive comments on the model from as wide a variety of potential users as possible. If you feel you have something to contribute, have a look at the model and let CDISC know what you think.

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Two more conferences

This seems to be a busy time of year for conferences, and I have a busy couple of weeks ahead. Continue reading→
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