UMass doc comments on pediatricians statement re: plastic food containers

Umass doc weights in on this. Also see research from Silent Spring Institute.

AAP release here.

NIH photo


From Times: “Because hormones act at low concentrations in our blood, it is not surprising that even low-level exposures to endocrine disrupters can contribute to disease,” said Laura N. Vandenberg, an assistant professor in the department of environmental health sciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s School of Public Health, who spoke on behalf of the Endocrine Society.



Make your own #pharmaceuticals Thursday at the #CambSciFest

Probably not, but you never know. Maybe someone will get lucky.

Also know that today’s (Thursday) cancer mini-golf tournament is rescheduled

2012 File photo

to Friday.

Be a Medicine Hunter

April 19 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Novartis22 Windsor St. Cambridge USA 

Novartis scientists are hunting for new medicines that will change the practice of medicine and improve patients’ lives.

Meet our scientists on a self-guided journey where you will explore authentic laboratory tools and innovative scientific methods on your quest to discover new medicines. Collect stamps in your passport for each location visited along your discovery path and receive a completion badge at the end of your journey.

Making Medicines with Amgen

April 19 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Amgen360 Binney Street
Cambridge, MA 02141 United States 
+ Google Map

Have you ever wondered how medicines are actually made? Come visit Amgen and make a batch yourself! Walk through a mock version of Amgen’s biologics manufacturing process, as you thaw and culture “cells”, purify and test them, and lastly, walk away with your final product—a “medicine” that can change the life of a patient in need. To ensure you have the best experience making medicines with Amgen, please pre-register for a time between 1:00 – 3:30 PM 

Neurodegenerative Diseases & Nanocapsules at Biogen Community Lab

April 19 @ 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Biogen Community Lab225 Binney St. Cambridge USA + Google Map

Biogen’s Community Lab will be hosting teens (and their parent or guardian) to adventure with us on two awesome rotating events. Event 1: Understanding Multiple Sclerosis, a devistating neurodegenerative diseases and how it affects patients all over the world, and how Biogen combats this diseases. Event 2: Ever wonder how nanocapsules are made, and how medicine delivery happens in your body. Well come join us here in the Community Lab and maybe we’ll answer some of those lingering questions about medicines and the drug…

TALK: Toward Early Detection and Treatment of Ovarian Cancer

4 p.m: “New Approaches for Finding Tiny Tumors: Towards Early Detection and Treatment of Ovarian Cancer.”   Angela Belcher.   Dana Farber:  Jimmy Fund Auditorium, 35 Binney St.   Details.Capture


Could the decline in #prostatecancer diagnoses usher in an increase in death rates? #cancer screening

CaptureThere are a lot of problems with cancer screening. Explaining and understanding the calculus behind the tests is not easy.  Suffice to say that early detection is generally not the life saver we thought it would be.

Now comes a steep decline in prostate cancer diagnoses. Harvard’s Meir Stampfer asks where that’s good news or bad news. Writing mostly behind the pay wall in JAMA Oncology he notes:

Prostate cancer rates in the United States are down—sharply… a decline of 53% since 1992, when prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening became widespread. This decrease is likely attributable to 2 factors. First, after more than 3 decades of widespread PSA screening to detect prostate cancer, there are few men with high PSA levels that haven’t already been diagnosed. Second, and perhaps more important, PSA screening is now becoming less common.In 2008, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) advised against PSA screening for men older than 75 years. Screening then declined in all age groups.

He cites a study release this past fall, that found screening reduces mortality. It follows another study that found no reduction.

The questions is, he ask –will drop in mortality stop or reverse as screening declines?

Stampfer note that here is a lot of undiagnosed prostate cancer out there. Most cases, he writes, will never cause harm. Some will, but the PSA test is not specific enough to sort out the lethal cases. Watch at wait is one response. But, if the cases are never diagnosed, no one will be watching.

So, good or bad news? He’ll address that question on Wednesday, January 10, at the Harvard School of Public Health.  Details here. 

Worth noting that, according to Health News Review, a recent study “confirms what we already know about the PSA test — that it involves trade-offs including financial costs and long-term harms from screening in exchange for what appears to be very few numbers of lives saved. It is in knowing and understanding these trade-offs that men can be sure that they are going into a PSA test with their eyes wide open.”

Two babies, two rattles, one heart. The complicated decision to separate conjoined twins when only one will survive

by Nora Valdez. Used by Permission.

Oscar J. Benavidez, MD, the MGH pediatric cardiologist  involved in a difficult separation of conjoined twin girls, remembers a painful moment on the day of surgery. When the joined babies were rolled into the OR, each was holding a rattle.

He and the others knew: only one of them would leave the operating room alive. And even that wasn’t certain.

Benavidez and two others recalled the case at a Tuesday gathering of members of the Association of Health Care Journalists. It was a case the described rather clinically in an article behind the paywall in  The New England Journal of Medicine  and more conversationally in STAT. The Globe’s sister health site hosted the event in their new downtown offices.

The twins had separate brains, lung and hearts, but only one heart was functioning.


Ethicist Brian M. Cummings, MD,  was also at the event  along with pediatric surgeon Allan M. Goldstein. In Cummings’ contribution to the NEJM article, he noted  “In this case, to do nothing would most likely result in the death of both girls but to intervene could save only one child. Can observation of both of their deaths be defended? Can an interventional killing be rationalized?”

The decision was left to the parents, a couple from rural Africa.  Their voices, in English, come in at the  end of the NEJM article. Life for them had been “very unpleasant. Conjoined twins are not seen frequently, and because of the stigma associated with this condition, it was very difficult to seek treatment or even just to go out in public.”

They agreed to the surgery and, as expected, one twin survived.

Writing in Stat — The Boston Globe’s sister health news site  — Cummings described how he felt after the surgery.

“…Twin B arrived in the intensive care unit. I felt a profound mixture of relief and sadness, suddenly feeling the burden of facilitating this emotional process. Even though it had become clear what we needed to do, it had been harder than I thought. I had only a few moments to say my own goodbye to Twin A and I could not hold back my tears. I wasn’t alone.”


Selkoe to discuss #amyloid and #Alzheimer’s in wake of another disappointing drug study

A recent story in The Atlantic asks “Is the Leading Theory About Alzheimer’s Wrong?

1905: Research at McLean

For years, scientist have been arguing about whether amyloid protein in the brain is a cause,or just a symptom of condition.  Pharma has been confident — or desperate — enough in the science to bet on amyloid clearing drugs, but they haven’t turned out to be very good bets. So far, none has proved effective.

On Tuesday morning, one of the chief proponents of the theory, Harvard’s Dennis Selkoe, will give a talk at McLean Hospital, the storied psychiatric facility in Belmont.  Entitled  “New Insights into the Protein Biology of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases,” it takes place at 11 am in room 132 of at the hospital’s de Marneffe Building.

And, if those in audience have read the Atlantic piece — in which Selkoe is quoted — they may have questions about Merck’s recent decision to abandon test on what was once considering a promising treatment. .



After Merck’s announcement last week, one neurologist told Bloomberg that “there is mounting evidence—of which this is another piece—that removing amyloid once people have established dementia is closing the barn door after the cows have left.” An advisor to a life-sciences venture-capital firm tweeted, “I’ve been a long-term adherent of the amyloid hypothesis, but starting to feel like this”: “This” was a gif of the Black Knight from Monty Python, arms missing but still adamant he had suffered nothing worse than a flesh wound.

And well, the amyloid hypothesis is not dead yet. Large clinical trials targeting amyloid are still underway—either using new, potentially more powerful anti-amyloid drugs or trying out the previously failed drugs in patients with less advanced Alzheimer’s. These trials will likely affirm the amyloid hypothesis or kill it for good.

Tonight! Meet the #STATnews team at The Burren pub in Somerville #science

Science in the News was started by Harvard students who wanted to help explain complex issues to the public. The group has expanded beyond that to events like:

Tonight! Science by the Pint with The STAT Team

The (sometimes messy) science of communicating sciencesbtp_spring2017_1pg

Monday, January 9, 6:30-8:30pm at The Burren (247 Elm Street, Somerville) (directions)

Are you interested in learning more about what the field of science journalism looks like from the inside? Panelists from the Boston-based publication STAT will discuss what led them to a career in health and science journalism, as well as the challenges and value of investigating and reporting in this field. Small group discussions will follow the panel, so you’ll have a chance to ask questions and bring up topics you want to discuss. Members of the panel will represent a broad range of careers within science journalism, including reporting, editing, social media, marketing, multimedia, and graphic design.

About STAT (from STAT is a new national publication focused on finding and telling compelling stories about health, medicine, and scientific discovery. We produce daily news, investigative articles, and narrative projects in addition to multimedia features. We tell our stories from the places that matter to our readers – research labs, hospitals, executive suites, and political campaigns.