Three Boston scientists are among 13 nationally receiving grants for innovative cancer research that are designed to get new treatments to patients faster, a private fund-raising group announced today.
The researchers will each receive up to $750,000 over three years for their work, according to Stand Up to Cancer, a consortium of film and media industry leaders who have staged two global television fund-raisers to support cancer research.
The Boston recipients include scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center, and Massachusetts General Hospital.FULL ENTRY
Serious concerns have been raised about a second paper co-authored by a leading Harvard stem cell biologist and a researcher who worked in her laboratory.
Today, the journal Blood posted a "notice of concern" regarding a 2008 paper in which the lead author is Shane R. Mayack, a postdoctoral scientist who worked in the lab of Amy Wagers, an investigator at Joslin Diabetes Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
"As a result of an internal review by the corresponding author [Wagers], serious concerns with some of the reported data were raised," the notice states. "This matter is currently under further review."
According to a Joslin research website, Mayack worked there from March 1, 2005 until October 1 of this year.
The notice of concern follows the retraction of a high-profile paper in the journal Nature in which Mayack and Wagers are coauthors. Mayack did not sign the retraction.
The retraction and the notice of concern do not specify whether the concerns with the data were due to a mistake, a case of possible research misconduct, or another issue. It also did not specify who, if anyone, was at fault.
In a statement yesterday, Wagers said when her confidence in the scientific conclusions was undermined, she immediately contacted the Joslin, Harvard Medical School, and the journal. She also said that she is working with colleagues to redo the experiments.
"My primary concern has always been to ensure the integrity of the scientific process and my research," Wagers wrote.
Voicemail and e-mail messages to Mayack were not returned.
Leslie Berg, a professor in the pathology department at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, said that she was Mayack's graduate adviser and that the retraction came as a surprise. While specifics about what was wrong with the papers were not available, Berg said there had never been concerns about the work Mayack did in her lab. The results Mayack produced have been replicated by other lab members, Berg said.
"Iíve never had any indication there was a problem with anything she did in the lab," Berg said.
A scientific study co-authored by a Harvard scientist who is a rising star in the field of stem cell biology has been retracted from a top journal because of doubts about the reliability of the research.
The paper, published in January in Nature, examined aging of blood stem cells. The retraction, published today, was signed by Amy Wagers, a stem cell biologist at the Joslin Diabetes Center and two of her co-authors, but was not signed by the lead author of the article, who was a postdoctoral researcher in Wagers' laboratory.
"Three of the authors ... wish to retract this Article after a re-examination of the publication raised serious concerns with some of the reported data. These concerns have undermined the authors' confidence in the support for the scientific conclusions reported," the retraction states. "Although this matter is under further review, these authors wish to retract the paper in its entirety ... . The retraction has not been signed by Shane R. Mayack, who maintains that the results are still valid."FULL ENTRY
A low-cost drug known since the time of the Pharaohs improved diabetes symptoms in a Boston study being published tomorrow, and its success supports an entirely new way of understanding the disease.
The drug, called salsalate, is also being studied as a potential treatment for repeat heart attacks and to stall the development of Type 2 diabetes.
Itís too early to know whether the medication, commonly used to treat arthritis, can fulfill all this potential. But the new study of 108 patients, from researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center, found that patients with Type 2 diabetes were better able to process sugar when they added the medicine to their drug regimen. It was the first major study designed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of salsalate for diabetics.
Type 2 diabetes, which affects more than 20 million Americans, generally strikes as people gain weight with age. Scientists have long struggled to understand the connection between weight gain and diabetes. The success of salsalate, which is known to have anti-inflammatory properties, suggests that the extra pounds cause chronic inflammation, triggering a cascade of problems from diabetes to heart disease to eye troubles.FULL ENTRY
A Boston ophthalmologist has won a prestigious international prize for preventing blindness in diabetes patients.
Dr. Lloyd M. Aiello, a professor at Harvard Medical School and physician at Joslin Diabetes Center, will receive the 2008/2009 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize on Sept. 29, Harvard announced yesterday. The honor has been a precursor for seven Nobel Prizes.
The $200,000 award recognizes pioneering treatments Aiello developed in 1967 with his father-in-law, the late William P. Beetham, to halt a complication of diabetes that at the time led to vision loss in 95 percent of patients. In diabetes, weak blood vessels proliferate in the retina, causing hemorrhages that leave the patient blind.
Aiello and Beetham noticed that patients whose retinas had scarring from other conditions fared better than other patients with retinal bleeding, Harvard said. The doctors mimicked the scarring with laser treatments that are still used today, when the proportion of diabetic patients who lose their vision has fallen to 5 percent.
"We've come an incredible distance, but now we need to work toward preserving vision with a pill so that we can retire the lasers," Aiello said in a statement released by Harvard. "My son, Lloyd P. Aiello, is tackling this project, and I think he has a good chance of succeeding in 10 to 20 years."
People with type 1 diabetes who stick to a strict regimen to keep their blood sugar levels near normal can reduce their risk of serious complications, according to a large study that followed patients who had the disease for 30 years. The trial is the longest and largest to track such tight control since it became the standard of care in 1993.
In type 1 diabetes, which accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all diabetes, the body no longer makes insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Patients, who must inject insulin daily to stay alive, are more vulnerable than other people to kidney failure, vision loss, heart disease, and nerve damage that sometimes leads to amputation.
A landmark study that appeared in 1993 showed that closely monitoring blood sugar levels, injecting insulin at least three times a day, and carefully calibrating insulin doses to match diet and activity could substantially cut the risk of these serious conditions. Conventional therapy until then called for one or two insulin injections a day and a daily blood or urine test for blood sugar.
Dr. David M. Nathan, director of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that study is widely viewed as the most important since the introduction of insulin. He is the lead author of the new study in today's Archives of Internal Medicine that builds on that work to show what modern therapies based on tight control mean for people with type 1 diabetes.
Boston hospitals made a strong showing in the newest US News & World Report rankings.
Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital both scored high on the honor roll for hospitals with top scores in at least six of the 16 specialties rated. Mass. General was fifth and the Brigham was 10th on the 21-member list.
The rankings are based on patient outcomes, reputation, and care-related measures. Out of 4,861 hospitals in the country, 174 scored high enough to be included on the specialty lists.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center made the top 50 in eight specialties and Boston Medical Center was ranked in three.FULL ENTRY
Joslin Diabetes Center has opened a new center in Dubai.
The Joslin Diabetes Center Affiliate at the Dubai Health Authority, on the campus of Al Wasl Hospital, will treat adults with diabetes. A pediatric unit is planned. Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates, which is experiencing an increase in type 2 diabetes related to growing obesity.
Joslin's other international center is in Canada.
Other Boston healthcare entities with a presence in the region include Partners Harvard Medical International and Boston University Institute of Dental Research and Education in Dubai and Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Ras al Khaimah, another of the United Arab Emirates.
Keeping a healthy weight means balancing how much food you take in with how much energy you put out. Eat too much and the excess is stored as fat. Exercise more and that fat melts away.
But what if fat itself could help burn calories?
New research reported in tomorrow's New England Journal of Medicine adds to growing knowledge about brown fat, the "good" fat that has been studied in mice for its connection to body weight and metabolism.
Babies are born with brown fat deposits that help keep them warm by burning calories instead of storing them, but scientists believed that brown fat disappeared or lay in dormant islands by adulthood. A team led by Dr. Aaron Cypess of the Joslin Diabetes Center has found that brown fat persists in adults and remains active. And in a correlation with potential implications for treating obesity, the researchers found that the more brown fat people had, the lower their body-mass index was, especially in older people.
"There really is a meaningful amount of brown fat in adult human beings and it is functional," Cypess said in an interview. While much remains to be learned, "this now is an entirely new approach to treating obesity."FULL ENTRY
Massachusetts ranks first in the number of early-career scientists to win prestigious grants in a national program designed to encourage innovation when research dollars are scarce.
Ten researchers -- from Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT, and University of Massachusetts Medical School -- are among 50 scientists who have won six-year appointments to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. California ranked second, with eight winners.
The $200 million Early Career Scientist program pays the salaries of the scientists and gives them each $1.5 million to fund their research.
The program was created last year to help scientists establish their own research programs amid a tighter funding climate that was harsh for people at the start of their independent careers. Candidates must have led their own laboratories for two to six years. A total of 2,000 applicants sought the appointments, which support the scientists at their home institutions.FULL ENTRY
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor
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