Happiness Declining Among Twitter Users.

A Review of Billions of Tweets Shows a Drop in Global Happiness, Scientists Claim.

Twitter users may be less happy than they used to be, say University of Vermont scientists.

They analyzed billions of tweets over nearly three years and found that happiness is on a downward slide.

It’s unusual for researchers to use Twitter to sense people’s moods, though another recent study did so.

In the new study, scientists analyzed the word content of more than 4 billion tweets posted by 63 million Twitter users worldwide. The tweets went out between September 2008 and mid-September 2011. The tweets offer almost an instant look over the “collective shoulder of society” in near-real time, researcher Peter Dodds, PhD, says in a news release. He is an associate professor at the college of engineering and mathematical sciences at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

Volunteers read the tweets and then rated the “happiness” quality of the words in those tweets, using a scale from one (saddest) to nine (most happy).

For example, the word “laughter” got an average rating of 8.5, “food” scored a 7.44, “greed” came in at 3.06, and “terrorist” at 1.30.

The research is published online in the journal PLoS ONE.

Happiness in 140 Characters or Less

Scientists applied this sad-to-happy word rating scale and other mathematical formulas to the billions of tweets they collected. They observed that for happiness, “after a gradual upward trend that ran from January to April 2009 … there was a gradual downward trend, accelerating somewhat over the first half of 2011,” the researchers write.

There were drops in happiness during the bailout of the U.S. financial system in 2008 and when the H1N1 flu pandemic hit in 2009. That same year, the death of singer Michael Jackson caused the largest single-day drop in happiness, while Osama bin Laden’s death in 2011 resulted in the study’s lowest happiness day.

The Twitter data provided other intriguing insights:

  • Happiest day of the week: Saturday, closely followed by Friday and Sunday.
  • Least happy day of the week: Tuesday.

The happiest hour of the day: 5-6 a.m. That’s when tweets contained more positive words and fewer negative ones. Happiness sharply dropped until noon, and then had a more gradual decline until the day’s average low point between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Even the use of curse words in tweets had a predictable daily cycle: Swearing reached its high point around 1 a.m. and a low between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.

“These patterns suggest a gradual, on-average, daily unraveling of the human mind,” the researchers write. At least among those who tweet.





The Role of RANK-Ligand Inhibition in Cancer: The Story of Denosumab.

The diagnosis of bone metastases is an event with certain consequences for the patient. They often mean pain and can also mean pathological fractures, hypercalcemia, and spinal cord compression, all synonymous with a diminished quality of life and often also hospitalization. Since the advent of the intravenous bisphosphonates, things began to look a bit brighter for patients with bone metastases—bone destruction was kept at bay a little longer. The next generation of bone metastasis treatments is well on its way in clinical development, and among them, the most advanced drug is denosumab. Denosumab is a fully human monoclonal antibody that inhibits osteoclast maturation, activation, and function by binding to receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa B ligand, with the final result being a reduced rate of bone resorption. In this review, we give an overview of relevant preclinical and clinical data regarding the use of denosumab in patients with solid tumors in general and prostate cancer in particular.

Source:The Oncologist.

Targeted Therapies for the Treatment of Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma: Clinical Evidence.

Although systemic therapy for patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) was once limited to the cytokines interleukin-2 and interferon (IFN)-α, in recent years several targeted therapies have become available for first- and second-line use. These include sorafenib, sunitinib, bevacizumab (plus IFN-α), temsirolimus, everolimus, and, most recently, pazopanib. This expanded list of treatment options arose from molecular biological research that revealed aberrant signal transduction activities in RCC, enabling the identification of specific molecular targets for therapy. Molecular-targeted therapies have better efficacy and tolerability than cytokine therapy, and many are administered orally. The superior outcomes achieved with molecular-targeted agents are prompting investigators to reconsider overall survival as a primary endpoint in clinical trials, given the inherent complications of a required long duration of follow-up, a required large population, and confounding caused by crossover trial designs or effects of subsequent therapy after progression on the agent of interest. In mRCC trials, progression-free survival has become a popular primary endpoint and has served as the basis of approval for several targeted therapies. In addition to the identification of new agents, current research is focused on the evaluation of combination therapy with targeted agents. As more information regarding mechanisms of disease and drug resistance becomes available, new targets, new targeted agents, and new combinations will be studied with the goal of providing maximal efficacy with minimal toxicity. This article reviews the clinical evidence supporting the benefits of targeted agents in mRCC treatment, discusses survival endpoints used in their pivotal clinical trials, and outlines future research directions.

Source:The Oncologist.

Whole-genome sequencing may help fight triple-negative cancer.

Initial results from an ongoing clinical trial, the first designed to examine the utility of whole-genome sequencing for triple negative breast cancer, were reported this during the CRTC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

The results indicate activation of targets not previously associated with triple negative disease and could point toward new treatment strategies. Based on mutations uncovered by sequencing, physicians recommended the women enter treatment protocols for either existing drugs or new agents being evaluated in pharma-sponsored clinical trials.

Triple negative breast tumors, which make up nearly 20% of breast cancers, do not respond to treatment with targeted therapies such as Herceptin (trastuzumab).

Of eleven tumors sequenced to date, each was genomically unique, but commonalities were observed. Some patients displayed amplified genes in the RAS pathway; one patient had amplification of the BRAF oncogene, as well as activation of a growth pathway known as the MEK/AKT pathway. This patient displayed an impressive response to a MEK/AKT inhibitor currently in a phase I clinical study.

“Those results are quite striking considering that these are women with advanced disease,” said Joyce O’Shaughnessy, MD, who presented the data. “If MEK/AKT activation is found to be present in a substantial fraction of triple negative patients, inhibitors of this pathway could prove a significant tool in fighting this disease.”

O’Shaughnessy is medical director and co-chair of the Breast Cancer Research Committee, US Oncology Research; a practicing oncologist with Texas Oncology; and the Celebrating Women Chair of Breast Cancer Research at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center.

“This is among the largest studies of a single tumor type in which whole genome sequencing is being used to identify potential options for targeted treatment,” said John Carpten, PhD, director of the Integrated Cancer Genomics Division at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). “As the field of genomic medicine matures, this study is sure to provide key early insights into how sequencing can best be utilized in the clinic.”

The study, titled “Next Generation Sequencing Reveals Co-Activating Events in the MAPK and PI3K/AKT Pathways in Metastatic Triple Negative Breast Cancers,” is sponsored by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and US Oncology Research with support from Life Technologies Corporation. Whole-genome sequencing of tumors and normal tissue was performed on Life Technologies’ Applied Biosystems SOLiD platform, and results were validated in a CLIA-certified laboratory.

Source:Cancer letter.


Treatment in Melanoma: Current Status and Future Prospects.

The incidence of melanoma is increasing worldwide, and the prognosis for patients with high-risk or advanced metastatic melanoma remains poor despite advances in the field. Standard treatment for patients with thick (≥2.0 mm) primary melanoma with or without regional metastases to lymph nodes is surgery followed by adjuvant therapy or clinical trial enrollment. Adjuvant therapy with interferon-α and cancer vaccines is discussed in detail. Patients who progress to stage IV metastatic melanoma have a median survival of ≤1 year. Standard treatment with chemotherapy yields low response rates, of which few are durable. Cytokine therapy with IL-2 achieves durable benefits in a greater fraction, but it is accompanied by severe toxicities that require the patient to be hospitalized for support during treatment. A systematic literature review of treatments for advanced, metastatic disease was conducted to present the success of current treatments and the promise of those still in clinical development that may yield incremental improvements in the treatment of advanced, metastatic melanoma.

Source:The Oncologist.

Midlife Blood Pressure Predicts Future Heart Risk.

High Blood Pressure in Middle Age Linked to Later Heart Attack, Stroke.

Increases and decreases in blood pressure during middle age and even earlier in adulthood can significantly affect heart attack and stroke risk later in life, a new study shows.

The analysis of data from seven studies involving more than 61,000 people is one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted examining how changes in blood pressure during middle age affect lifetime risk of heart disease and stroke.

Researchers confirmed that people with normal blood pressure at age 55 had a relatively low lifetime risk for heart disease or stroke — between 22% and 41%.

In contrast, those who had already developed high blood pressure by this age had a higher lifetime risk of between 42% and 69%.

The findings highlight the importance of maintaining normal blood pressure throughout middle age and even earlier, says researcher Norrina Allen, PhD, of Chicago’s Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

More than 74 million adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, meaning that their systolic pressure (the top number) is 140 mmHg or higher and their diastolic pressure is 90 mmHg or above.

“People who maintained a low blood pressure of less than 120 over 80 had the lowest lifetime risk for [heart disease and stroke], and those who stayed above 140 over 90 had the highest,” Allen tells WebMD. “The longer people can delay the onset of hypertension, the better off they are.”

Middle-Age BP Predicts Heart, Stroke Risk

Using the data, the researchers were able to estimate lifetime risk for heart attack, stroke, and other heart-related events for white and African-American adults.

Starting with a first-time reading at an average age of 41, the researchers tracked blood pressure changes until age 55 and then continued to follow the study participants until the occurrence of a heart attack, stroke, or other medically similar event, or until death or age 95.

By their mid-50s, about one in four men and two in five women still had normal blood pressure, and about half of men and women had blood pressure that was above normal but not yet high enough to be considered high.

Women had greater increases in blood pressure during middle age than men did, and African-American men and African-American women had a higher lifetime risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke than white men and women.

Based on their analysis, the researchers predicted that:

  • More than two out of three (70%) men who developed high blood pressure in middle age will have a heart attack, stroke, or other such event by age 85.
  • Half of women who develop high blood pressure by their early 40s will develop heart disease or increase their stroke risk later in life.

The study will appear in the Jan. 3 issue of the American Heart Association (AHA) journal C The researchers were not able to examine the impact of drug treatments to control high blood pressure on lifetime heart attack and stroke risk.

That’s because drugs were not widely used to treat high blood pressure when the first blood pressure measurements were taken, Allen says.

American Heart Association president-elect Donna Arnett, PhD, says it is clear from clinical trials that drug treatments that control high blood pressure lower the lifetime risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from other similar causes.

Arnett, who chairs the department of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, tells WebMD that it is never too late to lower heart attack and stroke risk with lifestyle changes and drug treatments.

“This research shows that normal blood pressure in middle age is a good indicator of [heart and blood vessel] health later in life,” she says. “Remaining physically active, maintaining a healthy body weight, eating right, and drug treatments can all help people achieve this goal.”

Source :Circulation



Taste for Salt May Start in Infancy.

Babies Given Starchy Foods Too Soon May Develop Preference for Salty Foods.

Offering a baby a french fry, piece of bread, or even a handful of cereal may set him up for a lifelong affinity for salty foods and the health risks that go along with it.

A new study shows that babies fed starchy table foods, which often contain added salt, before 6 months of age show a preference for salt that persists through their preschool years.

Infants who had been introduced to starchy foods preferred a saltier drink and drank 55% more of the saltier drink during a test at 6 months of age.

By the time they were preschoolers, the same children were also more likely to lick the salt from foods and eat plain salt.

Researchers say the results suggest the ability to detect salty taste matures sometime between 2-6 months of age.

“There could be quite a bit of difference in how that taste for salt matures, depending on whether or not an infant is exposed to sodium during that period,” says researcher Leslie Stein, PhD, senior research associate at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

If confirmed by larger studies, experts say the findings suggest that early exposure to salty foods in the first few months of life could play an important role in setting flavor preferences for a lifetime.

How a Taste for Salt Starts..

Eating too much sodium, often in the form of salt, is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure.

Curbing salt intake has been a major public health goal for years, but researchers say efforts thus far have been largely unsuccessful, in part because people like the taste of salt.

In the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers tested a group of 61 infants at 2 months and 6 months of age for salt preference by measuring how much they drank from three different bottles. One bottle contained plain water, another contained a moderately salty concentration of sodium (about the saltiness of commercial chicken soup), and a third contained a higher concentration of sodium (which tastes extremely salty to adults).

Researchers found that 2-month-old infants were indifferent or rejected the salt solutions.

But at 6 months of age, the infants who were already eating starchy table foods preferred both salty solutions to water. The babies that had not yet been introduced to these foods were still indifferent or rejected the salt solutions.

Exposure to other types of table foods, such as fruits and vegetables, was not associated with an increased preference for salt.

Years later, the mothers of the 26 children returned for questioning about their child’s eating habits as preschoolers between ages 3 and 4.

Researchers found that 12 preschoolers who were introduced to starchy foods before 6 months of age were more likely to lick salt from foods like pretzels and crackers and were also slightly more likely to eat plain salt.

“What our study shows is that babies’ taste system is very malleable,” Stein tells WebMD. “If early exposure to salt increases the preference and taste for salt of an individual, then one might imply that down the road it might be harder to eat lower-salt food and enjoy it.”

Nutrition experts say the results emphasize the importance of starting healthy eating habits as early as possible.

“This study helps us appreciate that what we do in the first year of life is so important to how kids eat, how well they eat, how varied they eat, and what their food preferences are,” says pediatric nutritionist Jill Castle, RD.

Castle says that between 6 months and 8 months of age, babies should only be just starting to be exposed to starchy table foods like bread, crackers, and ready-to-eat cereals in small amounts. The bulk of their daily calories should still come from breast milk or formula, iron-fortified baby cereal, fruit, and vegetables.

Experts say many parents aren’t aware that ready-to-eat cereals, bread, crackers, and other starchy foods marketed to children contain sodium, which can add up over the course of the day if the child is eating a variety of these foods.

“There seems to be an increased preponderance of parents trying to choose those types of foods for their kids,” says pediatrician Christine Wood, MD. “These foods are being marketed as being appropriate for children, but I really try to focus in on parents trying to have the focus on a lot of fresh foods, fruits, and vegetables being the most important things.”

Aside from increasing the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease down the road, Wood says there are also more immediate health risks associated with children developing a taste for salty foods.

“We know that starchier foods in general are more calorie-dense foods,” says Wood, who is also the author of How to Get Kids to Eat Great and Love It! That may lead to a higher risk of childhood obesity.

Ways to Introduce Good Eats

Wood and Castle agree that the best advice for parents introducing their child to healthy foods is to keep food as wholesome and fresh as possible.

Their tips include:

  • Keep fresh fruit and vegetables cut up and front and center in the refrigerator for easy access.
  • Make whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce rather than macaroni and cheese out of a box.
  • Introduce starchy foods like bread when age appropriate for your child (usually between 6-8 months of age).
  • Choose less processed foods whenever possible.

The fewer foods that come out of a packaged box the better, Wood says. “Then you can control the amount of salt.”



Very Early Experiences May Stick in Memory.

Some Children Remembered Events That Happened When They Were 2 Years Old


close up of toddler's eyes

The ability to remember our earliest childhood experiences may be in place sooner than experts thought, according to new research.

Some children who played a unique game when they were just 2 years old were able to remember it six years later, the researchers found.

Other researchers who have focused on early memories, however, have said that adults’ earliest memories usually start from when they were about 3 1/2 years old.

“We’ve got relatively objective evidence that people can recall things that happened as young as age 2,” says researcher Fiona Jack, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago in New Zealand. “It’s not common but [the study] shows it can happen.”

The new findings may have implications for the theory of memory development. The new research may also help in legal settings, where it can be important to know if a memory is genuine.

The research is published in the journal Child Development.

Early Experiences & Early Memories Study

Jack and her colleagues report on 46 children who were ages 27 months to a little over 4 years. When they were ages 2 to 4, they all played a unique game called the Magic Shrinking Machine. The researchers watched them play.

The game includes a large black box designed just for the lab research. To make the machine work, the child turns it on by pulling a yellow lever, selecting a toy from an open suitcase, and putting it in a hole in the top of the box. Next, they turn a green handle on the side. When a bell rings, the child opens a red door in the front of the box to retrieve a smaller but identical version of the toy.

Jack and her colleagues interviewed the children and their parents six years later to figure out how well they recalled playing that game.

Only one-fifth of the kids recalled the event. Those who remembered included two children who were  under age 3 when they played. About half the parents recalled the game.

Both the parents and the children who had the early memories gave the researchers very similar reports.

“We know they are recalling the event accurately,” Jack tells WebMD. “We were there.”

What may have helped some children remember? Talking about the game to the children soon after it occurred may have helped preserve the memory, the researchers say.

Bottom line? The basic capacity of remembering our experiences may be in place for some of us by age 2, Jack says. However, she says, this autobiographical memory is not fully developed at that age. That takes time.

Early Memories: Upsetting Events Even More Likely to Be Recalled?

Others who research early memories say the new finding fits in with their own recent conclusions. “These findings contribute to an emerging body of evidence showing that many children can reliably recall events many years later from when they had been only 2 and 3 years of age,” says Carole Peterson, PhD, a professor of  psychology and university research professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada.

In her research, Peterson interviewed children soon after they had been injured seriously enough to need emergency room treatment. They had broken bones or serious cuts, for instance. “Five years later all of the children could recall a lot about these injuries, and most of it was accurate,” she tells WebMD.

She compared the kids’ memories with interviews of adult witnesses to the injuries. The adult interviews were done shortly after the incidents.

“The children who were at least 28 months of age all remembered accurately,” she says.

She has also found in another study that children recalled events from when they were just 2 years old.

While fun events like the magic game can be remembered by some children long-term, highly upsetting or stressful events such as the emergency room visit are even more likely to be recalled, Peterson says.

The new findings confirm that at least a few children can recall some experiences that happened when they were just 2 years old, says Robyn Fivush, PhD, professor of psychology at Emory University, and another expert in the field.

However, she also points out that some children, not all, recalled the game. “It was only nine children, 20%, which means that 80% could not recall it,” she says.

Take-Home for Parents

Parents who want their child to remember certain early activities should talk about it after it happens, the experts agree. “Talking with children about [important] events increases the likelihood that the event will be remembered later in their lives,” Peterson says.

According to Fivush, “Memories which are talked about within the family are better recalled as children grow older, so if there are special memories that you want your child to cherish, bring them up in conversation and reminisce with your child about these events.”

Unique experiences are likely to be remembered best, she says: “Think of all your childhood birthday parties. If you recall a single one, it is probably because it was different in some distinctive way from the others.”



Men Who Step Lively May Outpace Grim Reaper.

Tongue-in-Cheek Study Determines the Reaper’s Walking Speed

Older men who walk at least 3 miles an hour need not fear the Reaper. They stay ahead of him and tend to outlive guys who move along at a slower pace, new research reveals.

In the study, published in the Christmas issue of the journal BMJ, Australian scientists attempted to nail down the Grim Reaper’s walking speed. (The usually straitlaced journal loosens up this time of year with offbeat scientific papers like this one.)

While the Grim Reaper is a fictitious symbol of death, other studies have shown that how fast older people walk helps predict how long they may expect to live. Slower walking speeds in older age have been linked to a greater risk of death, while swifter strides have been associated with a longer life.

Older men and women who can pick up the pace are likely healthier and fitter than adults who move more slowly.

So the Concord Hospital research team in Sydney set out to predict the pace of the skeletal figure in the long black robe. By knowing this, they reasoned, they’ll find out how fast men need to hoof it to stay out of the Reaper’s grasp.

To do this, they looked at data from more than 1,700 healthy Australian men who were 70 or older. Roughly half of them were born in Australia, about 20% were Italian, and the rest came from other countries.

Each man was asked to walk at their usual pace for about 20 feet. They were clocked twice over this distance with their best time recorded.

During the five-year study, 266 men died. When the researchers looked at the walking speeds of these men, they were able to estimate the pace of the cloak-shrouded Reaper.

They suspect he’s likely to catch up to those fellows who amble along at about 1.8 miles an hour or less.

“We predict that this is the likely speed at which the Grim Reaper prefers to [walk] under working conditions,” write the researchers.

Their results also found that older men who could walk faster than 2 miles an hour were 1.23 times less likely to meet up with death.

But the men who had the biggest leg up on the Reaper were those with the quickest steps. All 22 of the men who walked at a pace of at least 3 miles an hour were still alive five years later.

“The faster speeds are protective against mortality because fast walkers can maintain a safe distance from the Grim Reaper,” say the researchers in a news release.