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Cancer

Study Reveals Whole-Genome Sequencing Can Improve Childhood Cancer Outcomes 

According to a pilot study performed by doctors in Cambridge, reading the full genetic code of childhood cancers can help doctors improve an overall diagnosis. The code can also help doctors learn about how tumors grow and how to find the most effective treatment therapies for specific tumors. 

In the study the doctors used whole-genome sequencing on 36 children with cancer. They found that the extra information they were provided changed four of the patients’ diagnoses and revealed new treatment options in seven cases. 

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Seeing the whole-genome sequence of the cancer’s DNA allows doctors to learn even more about the specific cancers that their patients are dealing with. Clinicians in the study were able to refine two of their previous diagnoses, learn more about the course of the disease in eight of the children, and found potential hereditary reasons for tumors in two of the subjects. 

“Our aim was to illustrate what can be achieved with whole-genome sequencing and to try and advertise its utility. Locally in Cambridge it was never really in question that this would add value,” said Dr Patrick Tarpey, lead scientist for solid cancer in the East Genomic Laboratory Hub based at Cambridge University hospitals NHS foundation trust.

The results are projected to be shared at the National Cancer Research Institute festival. NHS England has already discussed their plans of rolling out whole-genome sequencing for childhood cancers with the goal of making sequencing a normal part of treatment. This will allow doctors to continuously track specific aspects of their patients’ cancer to make adjustments in treatment for the best possible outcome. 

The 36 children involved in the study had 23 different tumor types. All participants endured a standard test to identify their cancer, and test their genome sequencing to see whether or not their current treatment was actually improving the condition or not. 

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According to the study, comparing the genetic makeup of a tumor versus healthy tissue within the same individual can help doctors identify the specific mutations that are driving the cancer, and potentially can reveal the tumor’s weakness. The work itself is no easy task, however, as it can take anywhere from two to three months to successfully and accurately interpret the genome sequence. 

Tarpey said “about three-quarters of the gene variants flagged up in the study came from whole-genome analysis rather than the standard cancer tests the children had. There are cases where the diagnosis was completely uncertain and we’ve been able to confirm it, and in doing so identify the mechanisms that impaired the genes.”

Sheona Scales is a pediatric leader at Cancer Research UK, who said that children with cancer often undergo grueling treatments, and even when they’re over the side-effects can last a lifetime, which is why studies like this are so important. 

“It is vital that we find ways to tailor treatments towards the individual and for this, whole-genome sequencing is a game-changer.” 

“Understanding more about the makeup of a child’s cancer can help doctors make the most informed treatment choices for their patients. The hope is that this will lead to better outcomes for children with cancer, not just in terms of survival, but also in the quality of the rest of their lives,” she explained.

Johnson & Johnson Claim Booster Shots Will Increase Immune Response 

Johnson & Johnson reported this week that booster doses of its one-shot Covid-19 vaccine generated a big spike in antibodies. Individuals who received a booster shot six to eight months after their initial J&J shots say their antibodies “increase nine-fold higher than 28 days after the first shot,” Johnson & Johnson said.

The data itself comes from two Phase 2 studies conducted in both the United States and Europe. J&J claim that around 2,000 individuals received a booster shot six months after their initial dose. 

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“New interim data from these studies demonstrate that a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine generated a rapid and robust increase in spike-binding antibodies, nine-fold higher than 28 days after the primary single-dose vaccination,” the company said in its statement.

“We have established that a single shot of our COVID-19 vaccine generates strong and robust immune responses. With this new data, we also see that a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine further increases antibody responses.”

J&J claimed that it’s currently in talks with the US Food and Drug Administration, US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, European Medicines Agency, World Health Organization, and other health authorities about offering a booster dose of the Janssen vaccine. 

“We look forward to discussing with public health officials a potential strategy for our Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, boosting eight months or longer after the primary single-dose vaccination,” Mammen added.

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According to the CDC around 14 million Americans have received the J&J vaccine. Dr. Dan Barouch is a vaccine researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School who has been studying the J&J vaccine.

“The boost at six months is going to look very impressive and substantially greater than what has already been reported in terms of the two month boost, and that is significant because, in my opinion, the boost should not be at two months, but it really should be at six months or later.”

Neither of the studies have looked at real-world efficacy yet, meaning the company hasn’t yet determined if the booster shot will prevent severe disease, but researchers are confident that the antibody levels they’re seeing in their initial research indicated immune protection. 

“I’m quite certain that the FDA, CDC, NIH, White House will use these data to likely justify or recommend a booster for J&J-vaccinated people, probably with a second shot of J&J,” Barouch explained.

Bottled Water

Bottled Water Impacts The Environment ‘3,500 Times Greater Than Tap Water,’ Research Shows 

Scientists have found that the impact of bottled water on natural resources is 3,500 times higher than for tap water. 

The research specifically examined the impact of bottled water in Barcelona, where the demand for single-use bottled water has increased in popularity in recent years despite the city’s improvements to their tap water quality. 

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The Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) found that if the city’s entire population drank bottled water, the city would be paying 3,500 times more on resource extraction than if they all drank tap water; it costs about $83.9 million a year. 

The impact of bottled water on ecosystems is also 1,400 greater than tap water. 

The lead author of the study, the ISGlobal researcher Cristina Villanueva, said: “Health reasons don’t justify the wide use of bottled water. Yes, strictly speaking, drinking tap water is worse for local health, but when you weigh both, what you gain from drinking bottled water is minimal. 

“It’s quite obvious that the environmental impacts of bottled water are higher compared to tap water.”

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In the US, about 17 million barrels of oil are required to produce the plastic needed to meet the annual bottled water demand. Bottled water in the UK is also 500 times more expensive than tap water. 

“I think this study can help to reduce bottled water consumption, but we need more active policies to change that.”

“For example, in Barcelona, we could have more education campaigns to make the public aware that the health gains from drinking bottled water are minor compared to the environmental impacts. We need to improve access to public water, to public fountains, to public buildings where you can bring your own bottle and don’t need to buy one,” Villanueva explained. 

“We need to facilitate access to public water in public streets. People trust bottled water because advertisers have done a good job of convincing people it’s a good option, so we need the effort on the other side.”

Renting Clothes Is Less Sustainable Than Throwing Them Away, Study Finds

A recent study performed by the Finnish scientific journal Environmental Research Letters has shown that renting clothes is actually worse for the planet than just throwing them away. Before, renting clothes was thought to be one of the easier solutions when it comes to the sustainability issues the fashion industry has. 

The study specifically looked at the environmental impact of five different ways of owning and disposing of clothing; including renting, resale, and recycling. 

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The study found that “renting clothes had the highest climate impact of all. The hidden environmental cost was found to be delivery and packaging costs. Renting involves a large amount of transportation, taking the clothes back and forth between the warehouse and the renter. Dry cleaning is also harmful to the environment.”

Renting clothing was thought to be one of the more sustainable ways to lessen your impact on the fashion industry’s major sustainability issue. According to GlobalData, the rental clothing industry is expected to be valued at $2.3 billion by 2029. A report from the World Economic Forum suggested that the industry has already generated 5% of global emissions. 

Dana Thomas, author of ‘Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes’, wrote that instead of relying on rental clothing to solve fashion’s environmental crisis, the concept should just be completely recategorized. 

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“We should think of renting like second-hand shopping. It’s not something we do all the time, instead of buying our clothes and swapping out outfits nonstop, but on occasion, when the need arises, like proms or weddings.”

“Many rental brands misuse the term circular economy – the system where clothes are passed from person to person before being recycled – as a form of greenwashing. No executive wants to overhaul their business, and that’s what ‘going green’ will require, not tweaks but an entire overhaul. They are too focused on short-term gains to invest in long-term benefits,” Thomas explained. 

“Only regulation will solve that problem. No company, in any industry, will volunteer to take a loss for the sake of the planet. They’ll do so when it’s the law. The biggest obstacle is greed.”

The study concluded that if rental companies change their logistics to make the process in which they rent out clothes more environmentally friendly, then renting would be at the same level as reselling. 

Sleep Hygiene

Middle-Aged People Who Sleep Less Than 6 Hours A Night At Greater Risk Of Dementia 

According to a dementia study that used data from 10,000 volunteers, middle-aged people who regularly sleep six hours or less each night are more likely to develop dementia when compared to those in the same age group who get seven or more hours every night. 

The study found that those in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are at a 30% greater risk of developing dementia when they consistently have a short night’s sleep; regardless of other risk factors such as poor mental health, heart conditions, and genetics. 

The study obviously doesn’t work to prove that sleeping too little is a direct cause of dementia, but instead is something to be aware of for those who may be at a risk of developing the disease. Some scientists, however, have long believed that persistent poor sleep contributes to the neurodegenerative disease. 

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Dr Séverine Sabia, an author of the study at the University of Paris, claimed that while we “may not completely know whether improving sleep can reduce the risk of dementia, sleep is in general known to clear toxic waste from the brain. One hypothesis is that when people sleep less, this process becomes impaired. These findings suggest that sleep duration might be a risk factor for dementia in later life. I cannot tell you that sleep duration is a cause of dementia but it may contribute to its development.”

Sabia and the other researchers involved in the study reviewed data from the University College London’s Whitehall II study, which initially launched in 1985. Sabia and her colleagues focused on the 8,000 participants who self-reported their nightly sleep patterns, and throughout the past 25 years of follow up surveys, 521 participants developed dementia. 

Most of the individuals diagnosed were in their 70s, and the scientists described how “those who routinely got six hours of sleep or less each night in their 50s and 60s were 30% more likely to develop dementia than those who typically managed seven hours.”

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Smoking, heavy drinking, and obesity are thought to be the other major controllable risk factors that could lead to one developing dementia. The disease is estimated to affect one in 14 individuals over the age of 65, and one in six people over the age of 80. 

Dr Liz Coulthard, a consultant senior lecturer in dementia neurology at Bristol University, who was not involved in the study, spoke about how the results work to prove long-standing theories about sleep’s relationship to dementia. 

“It strengthens the evidence that poor sleep in middle age could cause or worsen dementia in later life. It makes sense to take measures to improve sleep such as going outside during daylight hours to help maintain the natural rhythms that promote good sleep, avoiding excess alcohol or caffeine, particularly before bed, and finding a bedtime routine that works for you.”

Robert Howard, professor of old age psychiatry at the University College of London, said: “We know that the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease appear in the brain 20 years before detectable cognitive impairment, so it is always possible that poor sleep might be a very early symptom of the condition, rather than a treatable risk factor. Insomniacs – who probably don’t need something else to ruminate about in bed – shouldn’t worry that they are heading for dementia unless they get off to sleep immediately. ”

Girl Vaping

Scientific Paper That Claimed Smokers Are Less Likely To Get Covid Retracted 

A scientific paper that claimed current smokers are 23% less likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19 when compared to non-smokers has been retracted by a medical journal after it was revealed that the studies authors had financial links to the tobacco industry.

The World Health Organization has warned the exact opposite, in fact, claiming that because smoking impairs lung function there is actually an increased risk of severe symptoms if one gets a respiratory infection, like the Covid-19 virus. 

The paper was initially published in July last year by the European Respiratory Journal, and it claimed to have “found that current smoking was not associated with adverse outcome in patients admitted to the hospital with Covid. Smokers are at a significantly lower risk of acquiring the virus.” 

The latest edition of the European Respiratory Journal published a retraction notice for the paper, stating: “It was brought to the editors’ attention that two of the authors had failed to disclose potential conflicts of interest at the time of the manuscript’s submission.” 

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That is, one of the authors (José M. Mier) at the time had a current and ongoing role in providing consultancy to the tobacco industry on tobacco harm reduction; and another (Konstantinos Poulas) at the time was a principal investigator for the Greek company NOSMOKE … a science and innovation hub that has received funding from the Foundation for a Smoke Free World (an organisation funded by the tobacco industry).”

NOSMOKE is based in Greece and develops vaping products as well as promotes e-cigarette research from the tobacco industry. In the paper itself, Mier, Poulas and their co-authors claimed they had no conflict of interest when it came to their role in the study. 

The retraction notice also claimed that the authors of the original study did not agree with the decision. “While failure to disclose a potential conflict of interest was not normally sufficient grounds for retraction, the editors felt the decision was justified based on the nature of the undisclosed relationship, and in the context of the sensitive subject matter presented”.

“The editors also acknowledge that at no point was there a question of any scientific misconduct on the part of any of the authors, aside from the failure of two contributing authors to disclose their conflicts of interest relating to the tobacco industry.”

Konstantinos Farsalinos is the senior author of the original paper who released a statement in which he claimed that the conflicts of interest were “irrelevant to the study’s main aims and objectives.” 

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“Additionally, I proposed to publicly release the full dataset and the statistical script so that all findings could be independently verified. The editors declined. I requested my proposal to be mentioned in the retraction letter, but that was also rejected by the editors. I disagree with the retraction and I consider it unfair and unsubstantiated.”

Dr. Sarah White, who is also the director of the Quit Victoria program, disagreed, claiming that the retraction was the right decision. 

“We really rely on research in being able to take a dispassionate look at the data but also the interpretation of that data. The reader needs to know that the authors have some potential or actual conflict of interest, or they’ve actually been involved with the industry. There was no strong evidence to support the claim that smokers are less likely to get Covid. 

The review of the original study found that “In the context of smoking and Covid-19, poor data collection can lead to several erroneous conclusions. If patients with missing smoking data are not eliminated from the total pool, smokers may be wrongly underrepresented. Furthermore, it is difficult to get accurate history from patients who are either intubated or in respiratory failure.

“If data from these patients are missing, and these patients are not removed from the denominator, it can give a false impression that smokers are less likely to develop severe disease. Second, it must be noted that most published studies have not reported the duration (years) or frequency (number of cigarettes) of smoking, hence these cannot be accounted for.”

Children Drinking Juice Box

Manchester Schools To Perform Study On Children’s Wellbeing Post-Pandemic 

A multitude of school districts in Manchester are participating in a study that’s looking into the wellbeing of children and their emotional responses to reentering the world as the pandemic reaches its eventual end. Two-thirds of parents believe that mental health should be prioritized over academic attainment in the coming school year. 

The Greater Manchester Young People’s Wellbeing Program will be running the study that will be gathering data from tens of thousands of young students across 250 secondary schools in the city of Manchester. This is the first study of its kind in the UK, and it will begin collecting data this fall. Initially, the program will attempt to learn young people’s feelings and concerns over returning to school, as well as their physical activity. 

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Research is also being conducted for the University of Manchester in association with the Anna Freud Center, the Youth Sports Trust, and the Greater Manchester combined authority. This major collaborative effort shows that Manchester authorities and educators are greatly concerned that students won’t be able to learn as successfully due to the amount of adjustments they’ve had to make within the past year. 

David Gregson is a philanthropist who first brought up the idea of performing this study. Gregson argues that “the UK has neglected the wellbeing and physical health of children in favor of academic attainment, to the detriment of their actual development.” 

The Youth Sports Trust also recently performed a survey that suggested parents agree with Gregson’s argument. The survey found that “65% of parents believed wellbeing was a key factor in choosing a child’s secondary school, while only 48% said the same of exam results. Meanwhile, 70% of parents with children between the ages of 11 and 16 said their children’s wellbeing had suffered during the pandemic.”

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“I first took this idea to Greater Manchester in 2019 and all Covid has done, as the tide has gone out, is expose the pebbles we knew existed. For me, our education system has become too focused on attainment. A necessary but insufficient assessment,” Gregson said. 

“We’ve got ourselves into the position where we think that attainment is the be-all and end-all and I don’t agree with that. I want to change that dialogue and I want to improve the wellbeing of young people in Greater Manchester to prove that point.”

Gregson claims that all the data collected in this program will be shared with local authorities and government leaders so that they can recognize, and hopefully change, areas of need within the education system. 

“My 10-year plan is to add a second leg to the assessment of young people in Britain that we don’t just think of them as people who get GCSE results,” Gregson said. 

“That we think about another equally important part of their makeup, which is their wellbeing, their sense of self-esteem, their sense of optimism. We’ll need all of that. We needed it pre-Covid and we’ll certainly need it after Covid.”

Coronavirus Vaccine in Bottles

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Proven To Reduce Symptomatic Covid-19 In Real World

Researchers in Israel this week announced that Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine has appeared to reduce symptomatic coronavirus infections by more than 90% in the real world now that more and more populations are receiving their doses. 

The preliminary findings suggest that the vaccine itself has remained as successful as researchers initially proved in their vaccine trials. Within a clinical vaccine trial the conditions are greatly controlled to monitor the actual effectiveness of the shot, however, that monitoring already eliminates a slew of other risks that exist within the real world that could impact the vaccine’s efficacy. 

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Luckily, nothing of the sort has occurred, and the vaccine is still wildly successful. The Clalit Research Institute is a major part of Israel’s healthcare system, and they’re the ones who analyzed data on 1.2 million individuals; half of which received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The researchers wanted to compare patients who had received the vaccine and individuals with similar immune systems who hadn’t.

The researchers wanted to analyze the rate in which symptomatic Covid-19 was spreading with the release of this vaccine; meaning they looked at individuals who contracted the virus and actually felt sick. Symptomatic Covid-19 was proven to decrease by 94% among individuals who have received their two doses of the vaccine, according to a press release from Clalit. The rate of serious illness caused by the virus decreased by 92%. 

The research has yet to be published by the Institute because they’re still waiting for it to be peer-reviewed so that the results are as accurate as possible. However, the results are already consistent with the data that Pfizer initially released to prove their vaccine would be effective. 

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Pfizer’s initial data from their vaccine trial showed that their Covid-19 vaccine was 95% effective against symptomatic coronavirus. In the trial itself, participants were either given the actual vaccine or a placebo. They then observed how many people from each group got infected after the fact. 

Pfizer’s clinical study was considered to be the “golden standard in clinical research” according to the Institute due to the fact that it was a randomized and controlled trial. The studies from Israel are now observational, meaning researchers aren’t randomly picking individuals who got the vaccine or not already.

Observational studies can skew the data in this case, however, due to the fact that different individuals who choose to be vaccinated are likely going to take less or more steps towards protecting themselves from potential infection. 

While the observational aspect of this study may not be as effective as a controlled trial, the combination of these new results with the results that came from Pfizer and BioNTech themselves shows the world that the vaccine is just as effective as anticipated, and we should all continue to do our parts to protect each other and bring this pandemic to an end.

FDA Claims A Covid-19 Vaccine Needs To Be 50% Effective To Be Distributed 

This past summer the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that in order for a Covid-19 vaccine to be approved for federal regulation and distribution it would need to be safe and “prevent disease or decrease its severity in at least 50% of people who are vaccinated.” 

No vaccine is 100% effective, however, some do work better than others depending on how high that percentage is. For example, one of the most successful vaccine’s out there is the treatment for measles, which after two doses works to be 97% effective in preventing the disease. Dr. Jeff Kwong is a professor of public health and family medicine and interim director of the Center for Vaccine Preventable Diseases at the University of Toronto, who recently spoke with the media about this percentage.

“I know that 50 percent does sound low but that is still some protection, and some protection is better than no protection.”

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The FDA set this percentage to be relatively low through their emergency use authorizations, which can speed up the process in which a vaccine or drug treatment is distributed to the public if the danger is imminent enough. This means, however, that a vaccine could become available that will only help half of the people receiving it. It could also impact people differently, some might become fully immune from it, and some may just have a reduced case should they be infected. 

A 50% effective Covid-19 vaccine, however, is way better than no vaccine, according to the FDA. Experts used the flu vaccine as an example, claiming that its effectiveness can vary year to year based on how severe the actual flu season is. Within the past decade alone the flu vaccine has fluctuated between 20% and 60% in terms of effectiveness, however, it always reduces the amount of illness, hospitalizations and influenza caused deaths, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Gregory Poland is the director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group who recently discussed the substantial impact a 50% effective Covid-19 vaccine could actually have on the nation.

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“If you had a 60 or 70 percent effective vaccine and everybody took it, you might actually be reaching toward herd immunity and potentially then dampen down this pandemic.”

Right now, however, researchers still don’t know how effective each experimental vaccine is because the trials are ongoing. Poland explained that most of the clinical trials occurring are focusing on how much the vaccine actually prevents the disease. Once the studies are completed it will be revealed who benefited the most from vaccination. 

Researchers are focusing on different demographics to get a greater understanding over how this virus may impact certain individuals differently. For example, some studies are focusing on how a vaccine may affect a man versus a woman, individuals of different age groups, or individuals with underlying health conditions. 

Once a vaccine is one the market it’s still going to take a while for the pandemic to come to a close, as vaccinating millions of people takes time, so policies such as facial coverings, social distancing and hand washing will continue to exist in our world for quite some time. 

Happy Halloween

This Halloween Watch The Scariest Movie Ever Filmed, According To Science

Halloween is the perfect time of year to embrace your inner scary movie lover. When it comes to the scariest movie we’ve ever seen, it’s safe to say we all likely have different answers; as that’s a subjective question. However, what if there was a study that could scientifically measure how scary movies are based on physical and emotional reaction? 

Luckily, the company broadbandchoices had the same exact curiosities, and decided to perform a study so they could finally get to the bottom of what the scariest movie ever created was. The platform called the study the “Science of Scare Project,” during which they tracked the reactions of 50 people of various ages as they watched over 100 hours of scary movies. 

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Beyond just observing emotional reactions to what the participants were viewing on screen, researchers also monitored the volunteers’ heart rates to really gage how their bodies were reacting to the movies as well. By the end of the study the company created a list of what they scientifically believe to be the 35 scariest movies ever made. 

It’s important to note that with a study like this obviously there’s a lot of determining factors that could skew the results. Observing 50 individuals isn’t typically a large enough sample size to get a concrete conclusion, however, in terms of entertainment and “being scared,” the smaller sample size didn’t really matter. 

When participants arrived for the study, they would be fitted to a heart rate monitor to measure how much their heart rates would increase above their resting heart rate throughout the 100 hours of film. All of the data was averaged for each film, and by the end one movie came out superior based on those results. Daniel Clifford, who created the study, recently spoke with the media about the results. 

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“With more people than ever facing a Halloween at home, our Science of Scare study was designed to help people find the most scientifically scary films ever made, to save them the time of searching through thousands of titles across streaming services.”

According to the heart rates of all the participants, the movie that scared everyone the most was Sinister, the 2012 psychological horror/thriller movie starring Ethan Hawke as a true crime writer who investigates a gruesome string of family murders. 

The average resting heart rate of each participant was around 65 beats per minute (BPM). During Sinister, however, the average heart rate rose to 86 BPM; a 32% increase. That marked the highest rise in BPM of any movie watched throughout the 100 hours. Obviously the study wasn’t able to show every single horror movie out there, however, 100 hours allowed the researchers to show enough movies that hit all the major horror categories (slasher, paranormal, psychological, etc.).

Other results showed that the biggest jump scare came from the movie Insidious, which had a scene in it that caused heart rates to jump all the way up to 133 BPM. Insidious overall was rated second right behind Sinister in terms of overall scariness. The remaining eight movies that filled up the top ten scariest movies of all time were, in this order,  The Conjuring, Hereditary, Paranormal Activity, It Follows, The Conjuring 2, The Babadook, The Descent and The Visit.