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1.  Diagnosis and biomarkers of predementia in Alzheimer's disease 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:89.
In view of the growing prevalence of Alzheimer's disease (AD) worldwide, there is an urgent need for the development of better diagnostic tools and more effective therapeutic interventions. At the earliest stages of AD, no significant cognitive or functional impairment is detected by conventional clinical methods. However, new technologies based on structural and functional neuroimaging, and on the biochemical analysis of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may reveal correlates of intracerebral pathology in individuals with mild, predementia symptoms. These putative correlates are commonly referred to as AD-related biomarkers. The relevance of the early diagnosis of AD relies on the hypothesis that pharmacological interventions with disease-modifying compounds are likely to produce clinically relevant benefits if started early enough in the continuum towards dementia. Here we review the clinical characteristics of the prodromal and transitional states from normal cognitive ageing to dementia in AD. We further address recent developments in biomarker research to support the early diagnosis and prediction of dementia, and point out the challenges and perspectives for the translation of research data into clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC3022870  PMID: 21176189
2.  A population-based case-control study of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and breast cancer: The impact of duration of use, cumulative dose and latency 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:90.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a popular class of antidepressants, may increase breast cancer risk by stimulating the secretion of prolactin, a potential tumour promoter. We evaluated the effects of duration of SSRI use, cumulative dose, and latency on the risk of breast cancer by conducting a population-based case-control study utilizing Saskatchewan health databases.
Cases included 1,701 women with primary invasive breast cancer diagnosed from 2003 to 2006, and controls consisted of 17,017 women, randomly selected from the population registry. Use of SSRIs was compiled using the Saskatchewan prescription database. Unconditional logistic regression was conducted to evaluate the impact of duration of combined SSRI use (total number of prescriptions dispensed), cumulative dose (total dosage received) and timing of use (two or more years, two to seven years and more than seven years prior to index date) on the risk of breast cancer.
Overall, SSRI use was not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer regardless of our definition of cumulative use (total number of prescriptions dispensed and total dosage). In addition, our results indicate that prolonged SSRI use does not have a latent effect on breast cancer risk. Also, our findings are not suggestive of an increased risk of breast cancer with the use of individual SSRIs.
Our study improved upon most previous studies by having a longer follow-up period, a larger sample size of long-term SSRI users and consideration of risk during specific exposure time windows that take latency into account. Given the potential health benefits of using SSRIs, our results suggest that the issue of breast cancer risk may no longer be a concern for women requiring long-term SSRIs.
PMCID: PMC3022871  PMID: 21176215
3.  Obesity related methylation changes in DNA of peripheral blood leukocytes 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:87.
Despite evidence linking obesity to impaired immune function, little is known about the specific mechanisms. Because of emerging evidence that immune responses are epigenetically regulated, we hypothesized that DNA methylation changes are involved in obesity induced immune dysfunction and aimed to identify these changes.
We conducted a genome wide methylation analysis on seven obese cases and seven lean controls aged 14 to 18 years from extreme ends of the obesity distribution and performed further validation of six CpG sites from six genes in 46 obese cases and 46 lean controls aged 14 to 30 years.
In comparison with the lean controls, we observed one CpG site in the UBASH3A gene showing higher methylation levels and one CpG site in the TRIM3 gene showing lower methylation levels in the obese cases in both the genome wide step (P = 5 × 10-6 and P = 2 × 10-5 for the UBASH3A and the TRIM3 gene respectively) and the validation step (P = 0.008 and P = 0.001 for the UBASH3A and the TRIM3 gene respectively).
Our results provide evidence that obesity is associated with methylation changes in blood leukocyte DNA. Further studies are warranted to determine the causal direction of this relationship as well as whether such methylation changes can lead to immune dysfunction.
See commentary:
PMCID: PMC3016263  PMID: 21176133
4.  Epigenetics and obesity: the devil is in the details 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:88.
Obesity is a complex disease with multiple well-defined risk factors. Nevertheless, susceptibility to obesity and its sequelae within obesogenic environments varies greatly from one person to the next, suggesting a role for gene × environment interactions in the etiology of the disorder. Epigenetic regulation of the human genome provides a putative mechanism by which specific environmental exposures convey risk for obesity and other human diseases and is one possible mechanism that underlies the gene × environment/treatment interactions observed in epidemiological studies and clinical trials. A study published in BMC Medicine this month by Wang et al. reports on an examination of DNA methylation in peripheral blood leukocytes of lean and obese adolescents, comparing methylation patterns between the two groups. The authors identified two genes that were differentially methylated, both of which have roles in immune function. Here we overview the findings from this study in the context of those emerging from other recent genetic and epigenetic studies, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the study and speculate on the future of epigenetics in chronic disease research.
See research article:
PMCID: PMC3019199  PMID: 21176136
5.  Increased plasma soluble endoglin levels as an indicator of cardiovascular alterations in hypertensive and diabetic patients 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:86.
Endoglin is involved in the regulation of endothelial function, but there are no studies concerning its relation with hypertension- and diabetes-associated pathologies. Thus, we studied the relationship between plasma levels of soluble endoglin and cardiovascular alterations associated with hypertension and diabetes.
We analyzed 288 patients: 64 with type 2 diabetes, 159 with hypertension and 65 healthy patients. We assessed the relationship of soluble endoglin plasma levels measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with basal glycemia, glycosylated hemoglobin, blood pressure, endothelial dysfunction (assessed by pressure wave velocity), hypertensive retinopathy (by Keith-Wagener classification), left ventricular hypertrophy (by Cornell and Sokolow indexes), cardiovascular risk and target organ (heart, vascular, kidney) damage.
There are significant correlations between endoglin and glycemia, systolic blood pressure, pulse pressure, pressure wave velocity and electrocardiographically assessed left ventricular hypertrophy. Endoglin levels were significantly higher in patients with diabetes who had nondipper and extreme dipper circadian blood pressure patterns than in dipper circadian patterns, in patients with hypertension and diabetes who had riser pattern than in the other patients, and in patients with diabetes but not hypertension who had extreme dipper pattern than in dipper, nondipper and riser groups. There was also a significant correlation between plasma-soluble endoglin and lower levels of systolic night-day ratio. Higher endoglin levels were found in patients with diabetes who had retinopathy, in patients with diabetes who had a high probability of 10-year cardiovascular risk, and in patients with diabetes and hypertension who had three or more damaged target organs (heart, vessels, kidney) than in those with no organs affected.
This study shows that endoglin is an indicator of hypertension- and diabetes-associated vascular pathologies as endothelial dysfunction and cardiovascular damage.
PMCID: PMC3012013  PMID: 21171985
6.  Clinically significant changes in burden and depression among dementia caregivers following nursing home admission 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:85.
Although extensive research exists on informal long-term care, little work has examined the clinical significance of transitions in family caregiving due to a lack of established clinical cut-points on key measures. The objectives of this study were to determine whether clinically significant changes in symptoms of burden and depression occur among caregivers within 12 months of nursing home admission (NHA) of their relatives with dementia, and to identify key predictors of clinically persistent burden and depression in the first year after institutionalization.
Secondary longitudinal analysis of dementia caregivers were recruited from eight catchment areas in the United States with 6- and 12-month post-placement follow-up data. The sample included data on 1,610 dementia caregivers with pre- and six-month post-placement data and 1,116 with pre-placement, six-month, and 12-month post-placement data. Burden was measured with a modified version of the Zarit Burden Inventory. Depressive symptoms were assessed with the Geriatric Depression Scale.
Chi-square analyses found significant (P < .05) reductions in the number of caregivers who reported clinically significant burden and depressive symptoms after NHA compared to pre-placement. Logistic regression models revealed that wives and daughters were most likely to experience clinically persistent burden and husbands were most likely to experience clinically significant depression after NHA.
In addition to suggesting that clinically significant decreases in caregiver burden and depression are likely to occur following institutionalization, the results reveal particular subsets of caregivers who are at continued risk of distress. Such findings can facilitate development of screening processes to identify families at-risk following institutionalization.
PMCID: PMC3012012  PMID: 21167022
7.  Systematic review of the evidence relating FEV1 decline to giving up smoking 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:84.
The rate of forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) decline ("beta") is a marker of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease risk. The reduction in beta after quitting smoking is an upper limit for the reduction achievable from switching to novel nicotine delivery products. We review available evidence to estimate this reduction and quantify the relationship of smoking to beta.
Studies were identified, in healthy individuals or patients with respiratory disease, that provided data on beta over at least 2 years of follow-up, separately for those who gave up smoking and other smoking groups. Publications to June 2010 were considered. Independent beta estimates were derived for four main smoking groups: never smokers, ex-smokers (before baseline), quitters (during follow-up) and continuing smokers. Unweighted and inverse variance-weighted regression analyses compared betas in the smoking groups, and in continuing smokers by amount smoked, and estimated whether beta or beta differences between smoking groups varied by age, sex and other factors.
Forty-seven studies had relevant data, 28 for both sexes and 19 for males. Sixteen studies started before 1970. Mean follow-up was 11 years. On the basis of weighted analysis of 303 betas for the four smoking groups, never smokers had a beta 10.8 mL/yr (95% confidence interval (CI), 8.9 to 12.8) less than continuing smokers. Betas for ex-smokers were 12.4 mL/yr (95% CI, 10.1 to 14.7) less than for continuing smokers, and for quitters, 8.5 mL/yr (95% CI, 5.6 to 11.4) less. These betas were similar to that for never smokers. In continuing smokers, beta increased 0.33 mL/yr per cigarette/day. Beta differences between continuing smokers and those who gave up were greater in patients with respiratory disease or with reduced baseline lung function, but were not clearly related to age or sex.
The available data have numerous limitations, but clearly show that continuing smokers have a beta that is dose-related and over 10 mL/yr greater than in never smokers, ex-smokers or quitters. The greater decline in those with respiratory disease or reduced lung function is consistent with some smokers having a more rapid rate of FEV1 decline. These results help in designing studies comparing continuing smokers of conventional cigarettes and switchers to novel products.
PMCID: PMC3017006  PMID: 21156048
8.  Advances in the field of nanooncology 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:83.
Nanooncology, the application of nanobiotechnology to the management of cancer, is currently the most important chapter of nanomedicine. Nanobiotechnology has refined and extended the limits of molecular diagnosis of cancer, for example, through the use of gold nanoparticles and quantum dots. Nanobiotechnology has also improved the discovery of cancer biomarkers, one such example being the sensitive detection of multiple protein biomarkers by nanobiosensors. Magnetic nanoparticles can capture circulating tumor cells in the bloodstream followed by rapid photoacoustic detection. Nanoparticles enable targeted drug delivery in cancer that increases efficacy and decreases adverse effects through reducing the dosage of anticancer drugs administered. Nanoparticulate anticancer drugs can cross some of the biological barriers and achieve therapeutic concentrations in tumor and spare the surrounding normal tissues from toxic effects. Nanoparticle constructs facilitate the delivery of various forms of energy for noninvasive thermal destruction of surgically inaccessible malignant tumors. Nanoparticle-based optical imaging of tumors as well as contrast agents to enhance detection of tumors by magnetic resonance imaging can be combined with delivery of therapeutic agents for cancer. Monoclonal antibody nanoparticle complexes are under investigation for diagnosis as well as targeted delivery of cancer therapy. Nanoparticle-based chemotherapeutic agents are already on the market, and several are in clinical trials. Personalization of cancer therapies is based on a better understanding of the disease at the molecular level, which is facilitated by nanobiotechnology. Nanobiotechnology will facilitate the combination of diagnostics with therapeutics, which is an important feature of a personalized medicine approach to cancer.
PMCID: PMC3018446  PMID: 21144040
9.  The promise and pitfalls of the internet for cognitive behavioral therapy 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:82.
Internet-administered cognitive behavior therapy is a promising new way to deliver psychological treatment. There are an increasing number of controlled trials in various fields such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders and health conditions such as headache and insomnia. Among the advantages for the field of cognitive behavior therapy is the dissemination of the treatment, being able to access treatment from a distance, and possibilities to tailor the interventions. To date, studies in which large effects have been obtained have included patient support from a clinician. Recent trials suggest that this support may come from non-clinicians and that therapist effects are minimal. Since studies also suggest that internet-delivered cognitive behavior therapy can be equally effective as face-to-face cognitive behavior therapy, this is a finding that may have implications for CBT practitioners. However, there are other aspects to consider for implementation, as while clinicians may hold positive attitudes towards internet-delivered CBT a recent study suggested that patients are more skeptical and may prefer face-to-face treatment. In the present work, I argue that internet-delivered CBT may help to increase adherence to treatment protocols, that training can be facilitated by means of internet support, and that research on internet interventions can lead to new insights regarding what happens in regular CBT. Moreover, I conclude that internet-delivered CBT works best when support is provided, leaving an important role for clinicians who can incorporate internet treatment in their services. However, I also warn against disseminating internet-delivered CBT to patients for whom it is not suitable, and that clinical skills may suffer if clinicians are trained and practice mainly using the internet.
PMCID: PMC3004806  PMID: 21138574
10.  The potential interaction between clopidogrel and proton pump inhibitors: a systematic review 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:81.
Recently, several publications have investigated a possible drug interaction between clopidogrel and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and regulatory agencies have issued warnings despite discordant study results. In an attempt to clarify the situation, we performed a systematic review with a critical analysis of study methodologies to determine whether varying study quality (that is, bias) could explain the discordant results.
A systematic review of all studies reporting clinical outcomes was performed using an electronic literature search of the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases, abstracts from the major cardiology conferences and a hand-search of bibliographies from identified articles. Each study was evaluated for its risk of bias according to a prespecified quality measure scale.
A total of 18 studies were identified. Ten of 13 studies judged to be of low scientific quality reported a statistically positive interaction between clopidogrel and the general class of PPIs, and each concluded this was likely a clinically meaningful effect. None of the five studies judged to be of moderate or high quality reported a statistically significant association. Multiple sources of heterogeneity (that is, different populations, outcomes assessed, drug exposure methods and study quality) prevented a formal quantitative analysis of all studies. An increased risk of bias was observed in the positive studies, resulting in an inverse correlation between study quality and a reported statistically positive interaction (10/13 versus 0/5; P = p = 0.007). There was also no clinical evidence for a positive interaction according to specific PPIs.
The observed association between clopidogrel and PPIs is found uniquely in studies judged to be of low quality and with an increased risk of bias. High-quality evidence supporting a clinically significant clopidogrel/PPI interaction is presently lacking.
PMCID: PMC3016262  PMID: 21134261
11.  Dyskinesias after neural transplantation in Parkinson's disease: what do we know and what is next? 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:80.
Since the 1980 s, when cell transplantation into the brain as a cure for Parkinson's disease hit the headlines, several patients with Parkinson's disease have received transplantation of cells from aborted fetuses with the aim of replacing the dopamine cells destroyed by the disease. The results in human studies were unpredictable and raised controversy. Some patients showed remarkable improvement, but many of the patients who underwent transplantation experienced serious disabling adverse reactions, putting an end to human trials since the late 1990 s. These side effects consisted of patients' developing troublesome involuntary, uncontrolled movements in the absence of dopaminergic medication, so-called off-phase, graft-induced dyskinesias. Notwithstanding the several mechanisms having been proposed, the pathogenesis of this type of dyskinesias remained unclear and there was no effective treatment. It has been suggested that graft-induced dyskinesias could be related to fiber outgrowth from the graft causing increased dopamine release, that could be related to the failure of grafts to restore a precise distribution of dopaminergic synaptic contacts on host neurons or may also be induced by inflammatory and immune responses around the graft. A recent study, however, hypothesized that an important factor for the development of graft-induced dyskinesias could include the composition of the cell suspension and specifically that a high proportion of serotonergic neurons cografted in these transplants engage in nonphysiological properties such as false transmitter release. The findings from this study showed serotonergic hyperinnervation in the grafted striatum of two patients with Parkinson's disease who exhibited major motor recovery after transplantation with fetal mesencephalic tissue but later developed graft-induced dyskinesias. Moreover, the dyskinesias were significantly attenuated by administration of a serotonin agonist, which activates the inhibitory serotonin autoreceptors and attenuates transmitter release from serotonergic neurons, indicating that graft-induced dyskinesias were caused by the dense serotonergic innervation engaging in false transmitter release. Here the implications of the recent findings for the development of new human trials testing the safety and efficacy of cell transplantation in patients with Parkinson's disease are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3003184  PMID: 21126348
12.  Can depression be a menopause-associated risk? 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:79.
There is little doubt that women experience a heightened psychiatric morbidity compared to men. A growing body of evidence suggests that, for some women, the menopausal transition and early postmenopausal years may represent a period of vulnerability associated with an increased risk of experiencing symptoms of depression, or for the development of an episode of major depressive disorder. Recent research has begun to shed some light on potential mechanisms that influence this vulnerability. At the same time, a number of studies and clinical trials conducted over the past decade have provided important data regarding efficacy and safety of preventative measures and treatment strategies for midlife women; some of these studies have caused a shift in the current thinking of how menopausal symptoms should be appropriately managed.
Essentially, most women will progress from premenopausal into postmenopausal years without developing significant depressive symptoms. However, those with prior history of depression may face a re-emergence of depression during this transition while others may experience a first episode of depression in their lives. Here I provide an overview of what is known about risk factors for depression and the risk posed by the menopausal transition, its associated symptoms, and the underlying changes in the reproductive hormonal milieu, discussing the evidence for the occurrence of mood symptoms in midlife women and the challenges that face clinicians and health professionals who care for this population.
PMCID: PMC3003619  PMID: 21122126
13.  MRI plaque imaging and its role in population-based studies 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:78.
Noninvasive direct vessel wall (plaque) imaging may provide a good opportunity to study unique aspects of atherosclerotic lesions in different populations. The article published by Esposito et al. provides new insights into our understanding of diabetic atherosclerotic vascular disease by using direct plaque imaging techniques. The findings from this article call for attention to more in vivo imaging to understand the nature of high-risk atherosclerosis, especially in prospective studies in diabetic patients.
See research article:
PMCID: PMC3002295  PMID: 21118507
14.  Advances in drug therapy for systemic lupus erythematosus 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:77.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disorder that afflicts 500,000 people in the United States. There has not been a new SLE drug approved in the United States since 1958. However, a guidance document issued by the Food and Drug Administration in 2005 provided a roadmap for investigators which spawned numerous ongoing clinical trials. Among these, Belimumab, a monoclonal antibody to soluble B lymphocyte stimulator, met its primary endpoints in two large trials and will probably obtain FDA approval soon. Other promising agents targeting a variety of mechanisms of action are currently in development. This minireview highlights the latest therapies under investigation in SLE and gives an overview of the pathways that are specifically being targeted.
PMCID: PMC3009611  PMID: 21114845
15.  Topical insulin-like growth factor 1 treatment using gelatin hydrogels for glucocorticoid-resistant sudden sensorineural hearing loss: a prospective clinical trial 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:76.
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) is a common condition in which patients lose the hearing in one ear within 3 days. Systemic glucocorticoid treatments have been used as standard therapy for SSHL; however, about 20% of patients do not respond. We tested the safety and efficacy of topical insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) application using gelatin hydrogels as a treatment for SSHL.
Patients with SSHL that showed no recovery to systemic glucocorticoid administration were recruited. We applied gelatin hydrogels, impregnated with recombinant human IGF1, into the middle ear. The primary outcome measure was the proportion of patients showing hearing improvement 12 weeks after the test treatment. The secondary outcome measures were the proportion of patients showing improvement at 24 weeks and the incidence of adverse events. The null hypothesis was that 33% of patients would show hearing improvement, as was reported for a historical control after hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
In total, 25 patients received the test treatment at a median of 23 days (range 15-32) after the onset of SSHL, between 2007 and 2009. At 12 weeks after the test treatment, 48% (95% CI 28% to 69%; P = 0.086) of patients showed hearing improvement, and the proportion increased to 56% (95% CI 35% to 76%; P = 0.015) at 24 weeks. No serious adverse events were observed.
Topical IGF1 application using gelatin hydrogels is well tolerated and may be efficacious for hearing recovery in patients with SSHL that is resistant to systemic glucocorticoids.
PMCID: PMC3000370  PMID: 21108784
16.  How large are the nonspecific effects of acupuncture? A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:75.
While several recent large randomized trials found clinically relevant effects of acupuncture over no treatment or routine care, blinded trials comparing acupuncture to sham interventions often reported only minor or no differences. This raises the question whether (sham) acupuncture is associated with particularly potent nonspecific effects. We aimed to investigate the size of nonspecific effects associated with acupuncture interventions.
MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Clinical Trials and reference lists were searched up to April 2010 to identify randomized trials of acupuncture for any condition, including both sham and no acupuncture control groups. Data were extracted by one reviewer and verified by a second. Pooled standardized mean differences were calculated using a random effects model with the inverse variance method.
Thirty-seven trials with a total of 5754 patients met the inclusion criteria. The included studies varied strongly regarding patients, interventions, outcome measures, methodological quality and effect sizes reported. Among the 32 trials reporting a continuous outcome measure, the random effects standardized mean difference between sham acupuncture and no acupuncture groups was -0.45 (95% confidence interval, -0.57, -0.34; I2 = 54%; Egger's test for funnel plot asymmetry, P = 0.25). Trials with larger effects of sham over no acupuncture reported smaller effects of acupuncture over sham intervention than trials with smaller nonspecific effects (β = -0.39, P = 0.029).
Sham acupuncture interventions are often associated with moderately large nonspecific effects which could make it difficult to detect small additional specific effects. Compared to inert placebo interventions, effects associated with sham acupuncture might be larger, which would have considerable implications for the design and interpretation of clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3001416  PMID: 21092261
17.  One life ends, another begins: Management of a brain-dead pregnant mother-A systematic review- 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:74.
An accident or a catastrophic disease may occasionally lead to brain death (BD) during pregnancy. Management of brain-dead pregnant patients needs to follow special strategies to support the mother in a way that she can deliver a viable and healthy child and, whenever possible, also be an organ donor. This review discusses the management of brain-dead mothers and gives an overview of recommendations concerning the organ supporting therapy.
To obtain information on brain-dead pregnant women, we performed a systematic review of Medline, EMBASE and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL). The collected data included the age of the mother, the cause of brain death, maternal medical complications, gestational age at BD, duration of extended life support, gestational age at delivery, indication of delivery, neonatal outcome, organ donation of the mothers and patient and graft outcome.
In our search of the literature, we found 30 cases reported between1982 and 2010. A nontraumatic brain injury was the cause of BD in 26 of 30 mothers. The maternal mean age at the time of BD was 26.5 years. The mean gestational age at the time of BD and the mean gestational age at delivery were 22 and 29.5 weeks, respectively. Twelve viable infants were born and survived the neonatal period.
The management of a brain-dead pregnant woman requires a multidisciplinary team which should follow available standards, guidelines and recommendations both for a nontraumatic therapy of the fetus and for an organ-preserving treatment of the potential donor.
PMCID: PMC3002294  PMID: 21087498
18.  Can metabolomics in addition to genomics add to prognostic and predictive information in breast cancer? 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:73.
Genomic data from breast cancers provide additional prognostic and predictive information that is beginning to be used for patient management. The question arises whether additional information derived from other 'omic' approaches such as metabolomics can provide additional information. In an article published this month in BMC Cancer, Borgan et al. add metabolomic information to genomic measures in breast tumours and demonstrate, for the first time, that it may be possible to further define subgroups of patients which could be of value clinically.
See research article:
PMCID: PMC2995773  PMID: 21080936
19.  Notch signaling in glioblastoma: a developmental drug target? 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:72.
Malignant gliomas are among the most devastating tumors for which conventional therapies have not significantly improved patient outcome. Despite advances in imaging, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, survival is still less than 2 years from diagnosis and more targeted therapies are urgently needed. Notch signaling is central to the normal and neoplastic development of the central nervous system, playing important roles in proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis and cancer stem cell regulation. Notch is also involved in the regulation response to hypoxia and angiogenesis, which are typical tumor and more specifically glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) features. Targeting Notch signaling is therefore a promising strategy for developing future therapies for the treatment of GBM. In this review we give an overview of the mechanisms of Notch signaling, its networking pathways in gliomas, and discuss its potential for designing novel therapeutic approaches.
PMCID: PMC2996337  PMID: 21078177
20.  Analysis of sex and gender-specific research reveals a common increase in publications and marked differences between disciplines 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:70.
The incorporation of sex and gender-specific analysis in medical research is increasing due to pressure from public agencies, funding bodies, and the clinical and research community. However, generations of knowledge and publication trends in this discipline are currently spread over distinct specialties and are difficult to analyze comparatively.
Using a text-mining approach, we have analysed sex and gender aspects in research within nine clinical subspecialties - Cardiology, Pulmonology, Nephrology, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, Haematology, Oncology, Rheumatology, Neurology - using six paradigmatic diseases in each one. Articles have been classified into five pre-determined research categories - Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, Clinical research, Management and Outcomes. Additional information has been collected on the type of study (human/animal) and the number of subjects included. Of the 8,836 articles initially retrieved, 3,466 (39%) included sex and gender-specific research and have been further analysed.
Literature incorporating sex/gender analysis increased over time and displays a stronger trend if compared to overall publication increase. All disciplines, but cardiology (22%), demonstrated an underrepresentation of research about gender differences in management, which ranges from 3 to 14%. While the use of animal models for identification of sex differences in basic research varies greatly among disciplines, studies involving human subjects are frequently conducted in large cohorts with more than 1,000 patients (24% of all human studies).
Heterogeneity characterizes sex and gender-specific research. Although large cohorts are often analysed, sex and gender differences in clinical management are insufficiently investigated leading to potential inequalities in health provision and outcomes.
PMCID: PMC2993643  PMID: 21067576
21.  Caesarean section without medical indications is associated with an increased risk of adverse short-term maternal outcomes: the 2004-2008 WHO Global Survey on Maternal and Perinatal Health 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:71.
There is worldwide debate about the appropriateness of caesarean sections performed without medical indications. In this analysis, we aim to further investigate the relationship between caesarean section without medical indication and severe maternal outcomes.
This is a multicountry, facility-based survey that used a stratified multistage cluster sampling design to obtain a sample of countries and health institutions worldwide. A total of 24 countries and 373 health facilities participated in this study. Data collection took place during 2004 and 2005 in Africa and the Americas and during 2007 and 2008 in Asia. All women giving birth at the facility during the study period were included and had their medical records reviewed before discharge from the hospital. Univariate and multilevel analysis were performed to study the association between each group's mode of delivery and the severe maternal and perinatal outcome.
A total of 286,565 deliveries were analysed. The overall caesarean section rate was 25.7% and a total of 1.0 percent of all deliveries were caesarean sections without medical indications, either due to maternal request or in the absence of other recorded indications. Compared to spontaneous vaginal delivery, all other modes of delivery presented an association with the increased risk of death, admission to ICU, blood transfusion and hysterectomy, including antepartum caesarean section without medical indications (Adjusted Odds Ratio (Adj OR), 5.93, 95% Confidence Interval (95% CI), 3.88 to 9.05) and intrapartum caesarean section without medical indications (Adj OR, 14.29, 95% CI, 10.91 to 18.72). In addition, this association is stronger in Africa, compared to Asia and Latin America.
Caesarean sections were associated with an intrinsic risk of increased severe maternal outcomes. We conclude that caesarean sections should be performed when a clear benefit is anticipated, a benefit that might compensate for the higher costs and additional risks associated with this operation.
PMCID: PMC2993644  PMID: 21067593
22.  The endogenous soluble VEGF receptor-2 isoform suppresses lymph node metastasis in a mouse immunocompetent mammary cancer model 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:69.
Cancer metastasis contributes significantly to cancer mortality and is facilitated by lymphangiogenesis and angiogenesis. A new splicing variant, endogenous soluble vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (esVEGFR-2) that we recently identified is an endogenous selective inhibitor of lymphangiogenesis. To evaluate the antimetastatic potential of esVEGFR-2, gene therapy with vector expressing esVEGFR-2 (pesVEGFR-2) or endostatin (pEndo) as a positive control was conducted on murine metastatic mammary cancer.
Syngeneic inoculated metastatic mammary cancers received direct intratumoral injection of pesVEGFR-2, pEndo or pVec as control, once a week for six weeks. In vivo gene electrotransfer was performed on the tumors after each injection.
Deaths from metastasis were much lower in the pesVEGFR-2 and pEndo groups than in those of the pVec. Tumor volume was significantly lower in the pesVEGFR-2 and the pEndo groups throughout the study. Multiplicity of lymph node and lung metastatic nodules was significantly suppressed in the pesVEGFR-2 and pEndo groups. Moreover, the total number of overall metastasis including the other organs was also decreased in these groups. However, pesVEGFR-2 was not able to decrease the number of lungs, ovaries, kidneys and adrenals with metastasis as counted by unilateral or bilateral metastasis. The number of CD34+/Lyve-1- blood microvessels was significantly decreased in the pEndo group, while the number of CD34-/Lyve-1+ lymphatic vessels was significantly decreased in the pesVEGFR-2 and pEndo groups. In addition, a significant reduction in the number of dilated lymphatic vessels containing intraluminal cancer cells was observed in the pesVEGFR-2 and pEndo groups. Levels of apoptosis were significantly increased in the pEndo group, whereas the rates of cell proliferation were significantly decreased in the pesVEGFR-2 and pEndo groups.
Our data demonstrate that esVEGFR-2 can inhibit mainly lymph node metastasis. The antimetastatic activity of esVEGFR-2 may be of high clinical significance in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer because lymph node involvement is a most important prognostic factor in cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC2989928  PMID: 21047425
23.  Unresponsive wakefulness syndrome: a new name for the vegetative state or apallic syndrome 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:68.
Some patients awaken from coma (that is, open the eyes) but remain unresponsive (that is, only showing reflex movements without response to command). This syndrome has been coined vegetative state. We here present a new name for this challenging neurological condition: unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (abbreviated UWS).
Many clinicians feel uncomfortable when referring to patients as vegetative. Indeed, to most of the lay public and media vegetative state has a pejorative connotation and seems inappropriately to refer to these patients as being vegetable-like. Some political and religious groups have hence felt the need to emphasize these vulnerable patients' rights as human beings. Moreover, since its first description over 35 years ago, an increasing number of functional neuroimaging and cognitive evoked potential studies have shown that physicians should be cautious to make strong claims about awareness in some patients without behavioral responses to command. Given these concerns regarding the negative associations intrinsic to the term vegetative state as well as the diagnostic errors and their potential effect on the treatment and care for these patients (who sometimes never recover behavioral signs of consciousness but often recover to what was recently coined a minimally conscious state) we here propose to replace the name.
Since after 35 years the medical community has been unsuccessful in changing the pejorative image associated with the words vegetative state, we think it would be better to change the term itself. We here offer physicians the possibility to refer to this condition as unresponsive wakefulness syndrome or UWS. As this neutral descriptive term indicates, it refers to patients showing a number of clinical signs (hence syndrome) of unresponsiveness (that is, without response to commands) in the presence of wakefulness (that is, eye opening).
PMCID: PMC2987895  PMID: 21040571
24.  Control of neglected tropical diseases needs a long-term commitment 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:67.
Neglected tropical diseases are widespread, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, affecting over 2 billion individuals. Control of these diseases has gathered pace in recent years, with increased levels of funding from a number of governmental or non-governmental donors. Focus has currently been on five major 'tool-ready' neglected tropical diseases (lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis and trachoma), using a package of integrated drug delivery according to the World Health Organization guidelines for preventive chemotherapy.
Success in controlling these neglected tropical diseases has been achieved in a number of countries in recent history. Experience from these successes suggests that long-term sustainable control of these diseases requires: (1) a long-term commitment from a wider range of donors and from governments of endemic countries; (2) close partnerships of donors, World Health Organization, pharmaceutical industries, governments of endemic countries, communities, and non-governmental developmental organisations; (3) concerted action from more donor countries to provide the necessary funds, and from the endemic countries to work together to prevent cross-border disease transmission; (4) comprehensive control measures for certain diseases; and (5) strengthened primary healthcare systems as platforms for the national control programmes and capacity building through implementation of the programmes.
The current level of funding for the control of neglected tropical diseases has never been seen before, but it is still not enough to scale up to the 2 billion people in all endemic countries. While more donors are sought, the stakeholders must work in a coordinated and harmonised way to identify the priority areas and the best delivery approaches to use the current funds to the maximum effect. Case management and other necessary control measures should be supported through the current major funding streams in order to achieve the objectives of the control of these diseases. For a long-term and sustainable effort, control of neglected tropical diseases should also be integrated into national primary healthcare systems.
PMCID: PMC2987894  PMID: 21034473
25.  What should be done with antisocial personality disorder in the new edition of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-V)? 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:66.
Antisocial personality disorder, psychopathy, dissocial personality disorder and sociopathy are constructs that have generally been used to predict recidivism and dangerousness, alongside being used to exclude patients from treatment services. However, 'antisocial personality disorder' has recently begun to emerge as a treatment diagnosis, a development reflected within cognitive behaviour therapy and mentalisation-based psychotherapy. Many of the behaviour characteristics of antisocial personality disorder are, at the same time, being targeted by interventions at criminal justice settings. A significantly higher proportion of published articles focusing on antisocial personality concern treatment when compared to articles on psychopathy. Currently, the proposal for antisocial personality disorder for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, suggests a major change in the criteria for this disorder. While the present definition focuses mainly on observable behaviours, the proposed revision stresses interpersonal and emotional aspects of the disorder drawing on the concept of psychopathy. The present commentary suggests that developments leading to improvement in the diagnosis of this type of disorder should, rather than focusing exclusively on elements such as dangerousness and risk assessment, point us to ways in which patients can be treated for their problems.
PMCID: PMC2984452  PMID: 20979622

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