This seems like a good time for a linkage post, since most people are still probably off enjoying the holidays. And if you aren’t busy having holiday cheer somewhere, it will give you some awesome reading material to pass the time!
I unfortunately didn’t think to keep track of where I owe the hat tips for these links, but primary purveyors of awesome include sites like Not Exactly Rocket Science, Slashdot, Racialicious, Bad Astronomy, and Neuroskeptic.
First, the sciency ones! You knew there would be sciency ones.
Is the Cure for Cancer Inside You? gave me the shakes, because holy crap, it sounds like this could actually lead to a cure for cancer. Like, for real. And the personal story of Dr. Steinman’s life and ultimate death from the disease he was researching inside his own body is wrenchingly compelling:
In the long struggle that was to come, Steinman would try anything and everything that might extend his life, but he placed his greatest hope in a field he helped create, one based on discoveries for which he would earn his Nobel Prize. He hoped to reprogram his immune cells to defeat his cancer — to concoct a set of treatments from his body’s own ingredients, which could take over from his chemotherapy and form a customized, dynamic treatment for his disease. These would be as far from off-the-shelf as medicines can get: vaccines designed for the tumor in his gut, made from the products of his plasma, that could only ever work for him.
Steinman would be the only patient in this makeshift trial, but the personalized approach for which he would serve as both visionary and guinea pig has implications for the rest of us. It is known as cancer immunotherapy, and its offshoots have just now begun to make their way into the clinic, and treatments have been approved for tumors of the skin and of the prostate. For his last experiment, conducted with no control group, Steinman would try to make his life into a useful anecdote — a test of how the treatments he assembled might be put to work. “Once he got diagnosed with cancer, he really started talking about changing the paradigm of cancer treatment,” his daughter Alexis says. “That’s all he knew how to do. He knew how to be a scientist.”