Ultrasound offers gesture control.


The smartphone you control by gestures

Ultrasound technology that enables mobiles and tablets to be controlled by gesture could go into production as early as next year.

Norwegian start-up Elliptic Labs is in talks with Asian handset manufacturers to get the chip embedded in devices.

The technology works via an ultrasound chip that uses sound waves to interpret hand movements.

The move towards gesture control has gathered pace and there are now many such products on the market.

Big gestures

What sets Elliptic’s gesture-control system apart from others is its wide field of use, up to a metre away from the phone. It means it can identify mid-air gestures accurately.

Because it uses sound rather than sight, the sensor can recognise gestures from a 180-degree field. It also consumes less power and works in the dark.

By contrast Samsung’s Galaxy S4 uses an infrared sensor that can only interpret hand movements within a very small zone.

“The user needs to learn the exact spot to gesture to instead of having a large interactive space around the device,” said Erik Forsstrom, the user interface designer for Elliptic Labs.

The ultrasound system in action

Allowing users more freedom in how they gesture is vital if such products are to become mainstream, he thinks.

“With a small screen such as a phone or a tablet, the normal body language is not that precise. You need a large zone in which to gesture.”

If consumers can quickly see the effects their gestures have on screen, he thinks, “it is quite likely that this is the next step within mobile”.

The technology was recently shown off at Japanese tech show Ceatec.

In the demonstration, an Android smartphone was housed in a case containing the ultrasound transmitters.

But Elliptic Labs said it had formed partnerships with a number of Asian handset manufacturers who are looking at building the ultrasound chip into devices, as early as next year.

Mass market

“Start Quote

It is ideal if you have dirty or sweaty hands”

Ben Wood CCS Insight

Increasingly firms are experimenting with gesture control.

PrimeSense, the company that developed gesture control for Microsoft’s Kinect console, has also made strides towards bringing the technology to mobile.

By shrinking down the sensor used in the Kinect, the firm showed it working with a Nexus 10 at a Google developers‘ conference in May.

Meanwhile Disney is testing technology that allows users to “feel” the texture of objects on a flat touchscreen.

The technique involves sending tiny vibrations through the display that let people “feel” the shallow bumps, ridges and edges of an object.

Ben Wood, analyst with research firm CCS Insight thinks such devices could be ready for the mass market.

“Apple’s success has made gestures a part of everyday life. Now consumers understand they can manipulate a screen with a gesture or a swipe everyone is racing to find innovative ways to exploit this behaviour.

“Ultrasonic is particularly interesting as you don’t need to touch the screen which can be an almost magical experience.

“It is ideal if you have dirty or sweaty hands. A common example people use is flicking through a recipe when cooking. Other examples include transitioning through a slideshow of photos or flicking through music tracks or turning the page on an ebook,” he said.

“The big challenge that remains is how you make users aware of the capability.”

Advertisements

Researchers Identify Liver Cancer Progenitor Cells Before Tumors Become Visible.


Stained liver biopsy micrograph showing hepatocellular carcinoma cells with Mallory bodies (reds and blacks).
Stained liver biopsy micrograph showing hepatocellular carcinoma cells with Mallory bodies (reds and blacks).
For the first time, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have isolated and characterized the progenitor cells that eventually give rise to malignant hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) tumors – the most common form of liver cancer. The researchers found ways to identify and isolate the HCC progenitor cells (HcPC) long before actual tumors were apparent.

<p>Stained liver biopsy micrograph showing hepatocellular carcinoma cells with Mallory bodies (reds and blacks).</p>

Writing in the October 10, 2013 issue of the journal Cell, principal investigator Michael Karin, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and Pathology, and colleagues report that HcPC take form within dysplastic or abnormal lesions often found in damaged or cirrhotic livers. The liver damage can be due to viral infections like hepatitis or from chronic alcohol abuse.

“It was never established whether dysplastic lesions are just a regenerative (healing) response of the liver triggered by tissue damage or are actually pre-malignant lesions that harbor tumor progenitor cells,” said study co-author Debanjan Dhar, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in Karin’s lab. “Here we show that HcPC are likely derived from dysplastic lesions, can progress to malignant tumors and further demonstrate that the malignant progression of HcPC to full-blown liver cancer depends upon the microenvironment that surrounds them.”

The researchers were able to characterize HcPC based on several biomarkers that distinguish them from normal cells. They also identified cellular signaling pathways activated in HcPC that are critical “to their malignant potential,” said Dhar.

The findings may have profound implications for treating HCC which, while relatively rare in the United States compared to other types of cancer, is difficult to diagnose and treat, with poor prognoses for patients. HCC is usually fatal within three to six months of diagnosis, according to National Institutes of Health data. An estimated 30,000 new cases of liver cancer are diagnosed annually in the U.S., predominantly among men. More than 21,600 Americans die from liver cancer each year, a rate that has been rising slowly for several decades. In other parts of the world, HCC is a major cause of cancer-related deaths.

Most cancers are best detected and treated at the earliest possible stage. HCC is problematic because it develops slowly and frequently displays no symptoms. By the time it is detected, said Dhar, it is usually at an advanced stage with no effective therapy.

“Our findings can be translated into both early detection and therapeutic intervention,” he said. “Better understanding of HcPC cellular networks will provide us with new and effective therapeutic targets.”

For example, the researchers were able to detect “potential” malignant lesions in needle biopsies of a subset of patients infected with the hepatitis C virus, but who hadn’t yet developed HCC. Hepatitis C is a major risk factor for HCC development.

Dhar said identifying premalignant lesions in high-risk patients based on HcPC markers would allow for earlier detection and therapeutic interventions. “Furthermore, in future, therapies can be developed to specifically eliminate the HcPC even before a tumor has developed.”

Co-authors include Guobin He, Joan Font-Burgada, Yuhong Jiang and Shabnam Shalapour, Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction, Departments of Pharmacology and Pathology, UCSD; Hayato Nakagawa, Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction, Departments of Pharmacology and Pathology, UCSD and Department of Gastroenterology, University of Tokyo; Hisanobu Ogata, Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction, Departments of Pharmacology and Pathology, UCSD and Department of Medicine and Clinical Science, Kyushu University, Japan; Ekihiro Seki, Department of Medicine, UCSD; Shawn E. Yost, Bioinformatics Graduate Program and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and Department of Pediatrics, UCSD; Kristen Jepsen, Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and Department of Pediatrics, UCSD; Kelly A. Frazer, Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and Department of Pediatrics, UCSD, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, Clinical and Translational Research Institute, UCSD and Institute for Genomic Medicine, UCSD; Olivier Harismendy, Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and Department of Pediatrics, UCSD, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, Clinical and Translational Research Institute, UCSD; Maria Hatziapostolou and Dimitrios Iliopoulos, Center for Systems Biomedicine, Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA; Atsushi Suetsugu and Robert M. Hoffman, Department of Surgery, UCSD and Anticancer, Inc., San Diego; and Ryosuke Tateishi  and Kazuhiko Koike, Department of Gastroenterology, University of Tokyo.

Funding support for this research came, in part, from the Superfund Basic Research Program, the National Institutes of Health (CA118165 and CA155120), Wellcome Trust, American Diabetes Association, the Center for Translational Science, the National Center for Research Resources IMAT program, postdoctoral research fellowships from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the American Liver Foundation, Daiichi Sankyo Foundation of Life Science, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Stem Cell Training Grant II, Kanzawa Medical Research Foundation, the German Research Foundation and a Young Investigator Award from the National Childhood Cancer Foundation “CureSearch.”

<p>Stained liver biopsy micrograph showing hepatocellular carcinoma cells with Mallory bodies (reds and blacks).</p>
Stained liver biopsy micrograph showing hepatocellular carcinoma cells with Mallory bodies (reds and blacks).
For the first time, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have isolated and characterized the progenitor cells that eventually give rise to malignant hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) tumors – the most common form of liver cancer. The researchers found ways to identify and isolate the HCC progenitor cells (HcPC) long before actual tumors were apparent.

Writing in the October 10, 2013 issue of the journal Cell, principal investigator Michael Karin, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and Pathology, and colleagues report that HcPC take form within dysplastic or abnormal lesions often found in damaged or cirrhotic livers. The liver damage can be due to viral infections like hepatitis or from chronic alcohol abuse.

“It was never established whether dysplastic lesions are just a regenerative (healing) response of the liver triggered by tissue damage or are actually pre-malignant lesions that harbor tumor progenitor cells,” said study co-author Debanjan Dhar, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in Karin’s lab. “Here we show that HcPC are likely derived from dysplastic lesions, can progress to malignant tumors and further demonstrate that the malignant progression of HcPC to full-blown liver cancer depends upon the microenvironment that surrounds them.”

The researchers were able to characterize HcPC based on several biomarkers that distinguish them from normal cells. They also identified cellular signaling pathways activated in HcPC that are critical “to their malignant potential,” said Dhar.

The findings may have profound implications for treating HCC which, while relatively rare in the United States compared to other types of cancer, is difficult to diagnose and treat, with poor prognoses for patients. HCC is usually fatal within three to six months of diagnosis, according to National Institutes of Health data. An estimated 30,000 new cases of liver cancer are diagnosed annually in the U.S., predominantly among men. More than 21,600 Americans die from liver cancer each year, a rate that has been rising slowly for several decades. In other parts of the world, HCC is a major cause of cancer-related deaths.

Most cancers are best detected and treated at the earliest possible stage. HCC is problematic because it develops slowly and frequently displays no symptoms. By the time it is detected, said Dhar, it is usually at an advanced stage with no effective therapy.

“Our findings can be translated into both early detection and therapeutic intervention,” he said. “Better understanding of HcPC cellular networks will provide us with new and effective therapeutic targets.”

For example, the researchers were able to detect “potential” malignant lesions in needle biopsies of a subset of patients infected with the hepatitis C virus, but who hadn’t yet developed HCC. Hepatitis C is a major risk factor for HCC development.

Dhar said identifying premalignant lesions in high-risk patients based on HcPC markers would allow for earlier detection and therapeutic interventions. “Furthermore, in future, therapies can be developed to specifically eliminate the HcPC even before a tumor has developed.”

Co-authors include Guobin He, Joan Font-Burgada, Yuhong Jiang and Shabnam Shalapour, Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction, Departments of Pharmacology and Pathology, UCSD; Hayato Nakagawa, Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction, Departments of Pharmacology and Pathology, UCSD and Department of Gastroenterology, University of Tokyo; Hisanobu Ogata, Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction, Departments of Pharmacology and Pathology, UCSD and Department of Medicine and Clinical Science, Kyushu University, Japan; Ekihiro Seki, Department of Medicine, UCSD; Shawn E. Yost, Bioinformatics Graduate Program and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and Department of Pediatrics, UCSD; Kristen Jepsen, Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and Department of Pediatrics, UCSD; Kelly A. Frazer, Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and Department of Pediatrics, UCSD, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, Clinical and Translational Research Institute, UCSD and Institute for Genomic Medicine, UCSD; Olivier Harismendy, Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and Department of Pediatrics, UCSD, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, Clinical and Translational Research Institute, UCSD; Maria Hatziapostolou and Dimitrios Iliopoulos, Center for Systems Biomedicine, Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA; Atsushi Suetsugu and Robert M. Hoffman, Department of Surgery, UCSD and Anticancer, Inc., San Diego; and Ryosuke Tateishi  and Kazuhiko Koike, Department of Gastroenterology, University of Tokyo.

Funding support for this research came, in part, from the Superfund Basic Research Program, the National Institutes of Health (CA118165 and CA155120), Wellcome Trust, American Diabetes Association, the Center for Translational Science, the National Center for Research Resources IMAT program, postdoctoral research fellowships from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the American Liver Foundation, Daiichi Sankyo Foundation of Life Science, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Stem Cell Training Grant II, Kanzawa Medical Research Foundation, the German Research Foundation and a Young Investigator Award from the National Childhood Cancer Foundation “CureSearch.”

The science behind positive thinking your way to success.


Psychology expert RIchard Boyatzis says there is strong evidence to suggest that regular physical or leisure activities throughout the day stokes compassion and creativity at work.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Activating our parasympathetic systems stokes compassion and creativity, say scientists
  • Positivity increases when workers are given more flexibility in their roles
  • Research shows chronic stress levels hinder professionals and those in leadership positions.

 

Editor’s note: “Thinking Business” focuses on the psychology of getting ahead in the workplace by exploring techniques to boost employee performance, increase creativity and productivity.

 Whether it’s infuriating colleagues, inept management or a lack of appreciation, the modern day workplace can be a positivity free zone.

Sometimes counting to ten or daydreaming of a desert island just won’t purge the everyday monotony of office life and it’s common to become trapped in a spiral of negativity.

But regular coffee breaks, yoga and even praying to a loving god could change all that.

Are we wired to be optimistic?

Leading the doodle revolution

Brain science behind One Direction fans

According to psychology expert Richard Boyatzis, these simple exercises can engage the parasympathetic nervous system — the function responsible for relaxation and slowing the heart rate — resulting in renewed optimism and improvements in working relationships.

Boyatzis, psychology and cognitive science professor at Case Western Reserve University, said there is strong neurological evidence supporting the theory that engaging our parasympathetic systems — through regular physical or leisure activities — stokes compassion and creativity.

Read more: Don’t get stuck in your own success

“Strain causes a person to be cognitively, perceptually and emotionally impaired,” he said, “if you’re under pressure and stress at work, then you can’t think outside the box because you can’t see the box.”

Boyatzis maintains that chronic stress levels hinder professionals and those in leadership positions from performing to their best. He argues that while we need stress to function and adapt, too much can cause the body to defend itself by closing down.

“You have to engage your parasympathetic nervous system so that you change your hormonal flow,” Boyatzis told CNN, adding that mood and positivity can be “infectious” in the workplace, particularly in positions of leadership.

He added: “If you’re having a horrible marriage, or your teenage kids are dissing you right and left, you get to work and it’s very likely that you are just a bummer.”

Read more: Training the brain to stress less

Evidence shows that positivity increases when workers are given increased flexibility in their roles and more work-life balance, according to a report on well-being and success produced by the World Economic Forum [WEF].

[When] people enter a more positive space they become more willing to take risks and make comments.”
Sarah Lewis, chartered organizational psychologist.

Meanwhile, the report showed bad management and bullying in the workplace can have a damaging effect on employees’ physical and mental health.

Can positivity and happiness lead to success?

A recent study by the University of California entitled ‘Does Happiness Promote Career Success,’ professors concluded that ‘happy people’ are more satisfied with their jobs and report having greater autonomy in their duties.

Additionally, they perform better than their less happy peers and receive more support from coworkers.

Finally, positive individuals are less likely to be unemployed and more likely to be physically healthier and live longer.

And the debate over happiness and work goes way back in history. Ancient Greek philosopher Galen said employment is “nature’s physician, essential to human happiness.”

Read more: ‘Power naps’ may boost right-brain activity

Sarah Lewis, chartered organizational psychologist, told CNN that when people are positive at work it can lead to opportunities because they are more engaged and resilient:

“[When] people enter a more positive space they become more willing to take risks and make comments,” she said “they go into the more difficult conversations and they’re more productive.”

But in a study entitled ‘Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?’ the results concluded that positive attitudes can sometimes lead to poor problem solving.

If you want to instigate behavioral change you need to engage the implicit system which operates in the subconscious realm.”
Reut Schwartz-Hebron, founder of the Key Change Institute

The study also stated that the evidence to suggest happy people are more popular and have superior coping abilities is “almost non-existent.”

Reut Schwartz-Hebron, founder of the Key Change Institute — an organization that focuses on workplace behavior — believes that a constant state of positivity in the workplace can be “dangerous.”

“There’s certain things that have to be challenged,” she said, “certain things that have to be improved you can’t just constantly think that everything is going to be fine and positive.”

Schwartz-Hebron — a former Israeli military lieutenant — said to improve working life, it is first necessary “to rewire your brain” by creating new experiences and engaging two different cerebral systems; the explicit and the implicit memory.

The explicit is responsible for storing information and facts while the implicit memory relies on previous experiences to perform a task and is associated with the subconscious.

“If you want to instigate behavioral change you need to engage the implicit system which operates in the subconscious realm,” said Schwartz-Hebron, who runs workshops for Fortune 500 companies.

She added: “We typically work in very, very negative environments because our expertise is actually in difficult change.”

“[The people we work with] don’t see the need for the change; they don’t feel the problem is being defined correctly or they don’t believe that the solution is correct.”

The study by the University of California concludes that while positive emotions are particularly important to encourage optimal success at work, it is important for employees and those in positions of leadership to experience both positive and negative feelings in day to day routine.

Scientists find ‘lonely’ floating planet without a star.


Reuters / Russell Cheyne

Reuters / Russell Cheyne

“We have never before seen an object free-floating in space that looks like this. It has all the characteristics of young planets found around other stars, but it is drifting out there all alone,” said Michael Liu, research team leader at the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

The planet, now known as PSO J318.5-22 has a mass roughly six times that of Jupiter and was formed only 12 million years ago. While that sounds ancient, in planetary terms it is considered a mere infant. 

“I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist, and now we know they do,” Liu said. 

During the past decade, extrasolar planets have been discovered at an incredible pace, with about a thousand found by indirect methods such as wobbling or dimming of their host stars induced by the planet. However, only a handful of planets have been directly imaged, all of which are around young stars (less than 200 million years old). PSO J318.5-22 is one of the lowest-mass free-floating objects known, perhaps the very lowest. 

Hundreds of extrasolar planets have been discovered since the mid-1990s. However, they are usually detected through indirect methods that rely on them orbiting a sun – the techniques measure a drop in the transmission of light as a planet passes in front of its star. Only a handful of them were directly imaged. 

AFP Photo / Ye Aung Thu

AFP Photo / Ye Aung Thu

However, this ‘lonely planet’ was accidently mapped as the team searched for brown dwarfs – a type of ‘sub-stellar’ object which emits a faint orangey-red glow to the human eye. The team was using the Pan-STARRS 1 wide-field survey telescope located on the Haleakala volcano of Hawaii’s Maui island. 

The study was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. Observations showed that while the planet indeed has similar attributes to that of a gas giant orbiting a star, it lacked its own. It further confirmed that it was not a brown dwarf, but a young planet, which will greatly benefit those seeking to observe it; as most planets with the same properties orbit young stars (less than 200 million years old) which tend to be extremely bright. 

Its most unique aspect is its similar mass, color, and energy output to directly imaged planets, the press release on the university’s website says.

Eat More, Weigh Less: Worm Study Provides Clues to Better Fat-Loss Therapies for Humans


Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered key details of a brain-to-body signaling circuit that enables roundworms to lose weight independently of food intake. The weight-loss circuit is activated by combined signals from the worm versions of the neurotransmitters serotonin and adrenaline, and there are reasons to suspect that it exists in a similar form in humans and other mammals.

“Boosting serotonin signaling has been seen as a viable strategy for weight loss in people, but our results hint that boosting serotonin plus adrenaline should produce more potent effects—and there is already some evidence that that’s the case,” said TSRI Assistant Professor Supriya Srinivasan, who was principal investigator for the study, published online before print on October 10, 2013 by the journal Cell Metabolism.

Serotonin signaling, which can be increased artificially by some diet and antidepressant drugs, has long been known to reduce weight. Until recently, scientists assumed that it does so largely by suppressing appetite and food intake. However, Srinivasan reported in 2008—while she was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco—that serotonin changes food intake and fat levels via separate signaling pathways. “We could make the animals we studied lose fat even as they ate more,” she said. Her experiments were conducted on C. elegansroundworms, whose short lifespans and well-characterized nervous systems make them a preferred species for quick-turnaround lab studies. Indeed, other researchers soon found that serotonin’s food-intake-suppressing and weight-loss effects are separable in mammals, too.

Now with her own laboratory at TSRI, Srinivasan has been examining the C. elegans weight loss circuitry in more detail. In the new study, Srinivasan and her colleagues, first author Research Assistant Tallie Noble and graduate student Jonathan Stieglitz, used a series of gene-blocking experiments to identify some of the circuit’s key elements.

Their most surprising discovery was that serotonin isn’t the sole driver of this weight-loss pathway, but works in concert with another neurotransmitter, octopamine—the C. elegans version of adrenaline (also called epinephrine) in mammals. “That was a very interesting finding, especially since other studies suggest that these two neurotransmitters tend to oppose each other’s functions,” said Noble.

The team mapped out a self-reinforcing network of serotonin and octopamine-producing neurons in the worms that send the lose-weight signal to the body. This network includes a set of serotonin-sensitive neurons known as URX neurons, which have access to the worm circulatory system and apparently release a still-to-be-identified signaling molecule. The downstream result of this signal, the researchers found, is a boost in the production of a key enzyme in the worm intestine. The enzyme, known as adipocyte triglyceride lipase 1 (ATGL-1), literally cuts fat molecules in a way that leads to their further metabolic breakdown. ATGL-1 also has a very similar counterpart in mammals.

Srinivasan and her colleagues plan in future work to identify the long-range molecular signal that boosts ATGL-1 production and to better delineate the serotonin-octopamine network that produces the signal. Eventually, they would like to map out the corresponding fat-loss network in a closer evolutionary relative of humans, such as the mouse.

However, Srinivasan noted that the human experience with weight-loss drugs already hints that mammals may have such a fat-loss circuit. Serotonin-plus-adrenaline boosting therapies, the most prominent of which was fenfluramine-phentermine (“fen-phen”), have tended to do better at cutting weight than serotonin-boosting therapies alone. Unfortunately, the serotonin-boosting elements of these compounds have often been blamed for cardiovascular side effects—fenfluramine, for example, was banned by the FDA in 1997—but in principle, future combination therapies could be designed to avoid producing such side effects.

“We wonder if boosting not just serotonin but serotonin plus a little bit of adrenaline is the real key to more potent weight loss,” Srinivasan said.

Death row inmates now executed with drug cocktail used to euthanize animals.


San Quentin Prison execution chamber, US (AFP Photo)

Compounding pharmacies, which create specialized pharmaceutical product meant to fit the needs of a patient, have begun producing the drugs for state authorities.

But because of the lack of transparency around the production process – one compounding pharmacy was responsible for a fatal meningitis outbreak in 2012 because of poor hygiene – prisoners argue that risky drug cocktails put them at risk of being subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is prohibited under the US Constitution.

Earlier this month three Texas-based death row prisoners filed a lawsuit arguing this type of pharmacy is “not subject to stringent FDA regulations” and is “one of the leading sources for counterfeit drugs entering the US,” the lawsuit reads, as quoted by AFP.

“There is a significant chance that [the pentobarbital] could be contaminated, creating a grave likelihood that the lethal injection process could be extremely painful, or harm or handicap plaintiffs without actually killing them,” it adds.

“Nobody really knows the quality of the drugs, because of the lack of oversight,” Denno told AFP.

Michael Yowell, who was convicted of murdering his parents 15 years ago, was executed in Texas Wednesday. He became the first inmate to be executed in Texas with pentobarbital since European nations halted production for this purpose. His lawyers unsuccessfully tried to stop him from being killed, saying the compounded factors in pentobarbital make the drug unpredictable and there have not been enough trials to guarantee the death is painless.

The states in question may find an applicable replacement for the short-term but, Denno argued, this development could be an indication that capital punishment is on the wane.

“How many times in this country can they change the way they execute?” she said. “There were more changes in lethal injections in the last 5 years than in the 25 preceding years.”

Targeting Triple-Negative Breast Cancer.


Breast cancer may develop in one part of the body, but it’s not just one disease. In fact, oncologists think of breast cancer as at least three different types of diseases.

Erica Mayer M.D

Erica Mayer, MD, MPH

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) describes breast cancer cells that do not have estrogen, progesterone, or HER2receptors. It makes up approximately 15 percent of all breast cancers and is typically more aggressive than the other two types,estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer and HER2-positive breast cancer.

“It may be the smallest group, but TNBC still represents thousands of women with breast cancer, so it is a very important group for us,” says Erica Mayer, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers.

The Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers organized a live webcast with Mayer earlier this year titled, “Targeting Advanced Triple Negative Breast Cancer.” Mayer spoke about the improvedchemotherapy options and clinical trials available for TNBC patients.

“TNBC is a very active area of research,” Mayer says. “We have many new, exciting agents in the pipeline.”

Thyroid Cancer: Five Things You Need to Know.


Thyroid cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland. Found more often in women, the National Cancer Instituteestimates 60,022 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2013.

Like most forms of cancer, thyroid cancer can be broken down into several different types or subgroups, says Jochen Lorch, MD, an oncologist with Dana-Farber’sHead and Neck Cancer Treatment Center. Most types of thyroid cancer are treatable and in some cases, curable, Lorch says.

Below, Lorch provides some more information about the disease:

  • Jochen Lorch, MD

    Jochen Lorch, MD

    Papillary – This is the most common type of thyroid cancers and is classified as a “differentiated” thyroid cancer. Papillary thyroid cancer is a slow-growing cancer that forms into small, finger-like shapes.

  • Follicular – A slow-growing thyroid cancer that forms in the follicular cells of the thyroid. It is also classified as a differentiated thyroid cancer.
    • Poorly differentiated thyroid cancer – A sub-type of papillary and follicular thyroid cancer that is frequently also classified as differentiated thyroid cancer.
  • Anaplastic – A rare, aggressive type of thyroid cancer categorized as an“undifferentiated” thyroid cancer. The malignant cells in this type of cancer look very different from normal thyroid cells. 

2. What are the risk factors for thyroid cancer?

Typically, thyroid cancer is found more often in women. Of the estimated 60,022 new cases diagnosed in 2013, 45,000 will be women. Some inherited syndromes can also predispose people to thyroid cancer, including multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A and type 2B. Other risk factors include radiation exposure and having a history of goiters.

3. What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?

In most cases, a lump in the neck is detected by a physician during a routine physical exam. Other problems that could be signs of thyroid cancer include trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, or hoarseness.

4. How do doctors test for thyroid cancer?

If a lump is found, patients are sent to an endocrinologist where an ultrasound is done. The endocrinologist will also use a small needle to remove some tissue or fluid from the thyroid to examine it for cancer cells.

5. What are the treatment options for thyroid cancer?

The primary treatment for thyroid cancer is surgery. This can involve removing part of or the entire thyroid. If the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, alymphadenectomy may be done as well. Subsequent surgeries can be done to remove cancer cells that return.

After surgery, a doctor may use radioactive iodine therapy for differentiated thyroid cancers (papillary and follicular).  With these treatments, the cure rate for differentiated thyroid cancers is around 90 percent

There are also a limited number of chemotherapy options available for recurrent or aggressive forms of thyroid cancer. Patients with these forms of thyroid cancer may also consider taking part in a clinical trial.

New mosquito repellent is ultra-effective – Australian Geographic


A new vapour developed in the USA renders humans virtually undetectable to mozzies.

SCIENTISTS HAVE CREATED WHAT might be the most effective insect repellent ever.

While the majority of existing repellents create an odour that is unpleasant for mosquitos, using a yellow oil known as DEET, this new blend of chemicals renders the insect senseless.

“These chemicals make you invisible,” says Dr Ulrich Bernier, a research chemist at the United States Department of Agriculture research service, and creator of the new formula.

Most effective mosquito repellent?

With over 5000 reported cases of mosquito-borne Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses in Australia every year, this new formula could prove to be invaluable for Australians in rural and urban areas.

Mosquitoes find humans by honing in on various chemicals and bacteria on the skin. In 2000, while studying this process, Ulrich created a repellent consisting of several chemicals, all of which are found in low doses in the human body. The resulting repellent was somewhat effective.

Years later, Ulrich added additional chemicals to the formula, including homopiperazine and 1-methylhomopiperazine, similar to those found in the human body, which acted to mask the scent of humans. He was amazed by the results.

“We took a cage of mosquitoes and gave them two ports to fly into: one with human hands inserted into them, and the other one with nothing.” At first, Ulrich explains, the mosquitoes were attracted to the container with the human hands. After the repellent was sprayed, however, they approached the containers with equal interest.

Researchers are keeping close guard over the ingredients of the formula, which was patented last year.

Repellent in vapour form

Significantly, this new repellent will be sprayed into the air, as opposed to directly on the skin.

Dr Cameron Webb, a medical entomologist at Sydney University, says that while DEET-based sprays have proven to be adequate in preventing mosquito bites, this new development represents an important next-step in insect-borne disease control.

“When applying lotions or sprays onto the skin, one can easily miss a spot,” says Cameron. “Air-based repellents solve that issue.”

The new repellent will take the form of a vapour which will work to create a protective bubble. While DEET has been accepted as a safe means of repellent, Ulrich says it’s always safer to have chemicals further away from humans.

Commercial availability is still a ways off, however: Ulrich says more field tests and toxicology tests are necessary to ensure the product is completely safe before it can hit the market.