Medical Practice Gave 8000 Patients Cancer for Christmas

We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy heart failure

Does anyone really like it when places of business send out cards or messages for the holidays? A card from a truly small family business is one thing, but when you start getting emails from multibillion dollar corporations, it feels a bit dishonest. And that’s not even mentioning the potential blowback when things go wrong.

Now, you may wonder how a company could possibly mess up something so simple. “We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.” Not that difficult. Unless you’re Askern Medical Practice in Doncaster, England. Instead of expressing a simple expression of joy for the holiday season, Askern informed all 8,000 of its patients that they had aggressive lung cancer with metastases and they needed to fill out a DS1500 form, which entitles terminal patients to certain benefits.

It only took an hour for Askern to recognize its mistake and send a second text apologizing and adding in the appropriate season’s greetings, but obviously the damage was done. Presumably patients who were last at the doctor to have their cold treated were able to shrug off the text, or simply didn’t see it before the correction came through, but obviously many patients had concerns directly related to cancer and panicked. They called in but were by and large unable to reach anyone at the practice. Some patients close by even went to center itself to clear things up.

One patient, Mr. Carl Chegwin, raised an excellent point about the debacle: “What if that message was meant for someone, and then they are told it’s a Christmas message, then again told, ‘Oh no, that was actually meant for you?’ ” The old double backtrack into yes, you actually do have cancer has got to be a candidate for worst Christmas gift of all. Yes, even worse than socks.

Genes know it: You are when you eat

There’s been a lot of recent research on intermittent fasting and what it can and can’t do for one’s health. Much of it has focused on participants’ metabolic rates, but a study just published in Cell Metabolism shows how time-restricted feeding (TRF) has an impact on gene expression, the process through which genes are activated and respond to their environment by creating proteins.

The research conducted by Satchidananda Panda, PhD, of the Salk Institute and his team involved two groups of mice, one with free access to food and the other with a daily 9-hour feeding window. Analysis of tissue samples collected from 22 organ groups revealed that nearly 80% of mouse genes responded to TRF. Interestingly, 40% of the genes in the hypothalamus, adrenal gland, and pancreas, which handle hormone regulation, were affected, suggesting that TRF could potentially aid in diabetes and stress disorder management, the investigators said in a written statement.

The researchers also found that TRF aligned the circadian rhythms of multiple organs of the body, which brings sleep into the picture. “Time-restricted eating synchronized the circadian rhythms to have two major waves: one during fasting, and another just after eating. We suspect this allows the body to coordinate different processes,” said Dr. Panda, whose previous research looked at TRF in firefighters, who typically work on shift schedules.

Time-restricted eating, it appears, affects gene expression throughout the body and allows interconnected organ systems to work smoothly. It’s not just about eating. Go figure.

This group practice reduced stress for everyone

It’s been awhile since we checked in on the good folks at Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa — fictional home of the Fighting Transcendentalists [MAHARISHI RULES!] — but we just have to mention their long-term effort to reduce the national stress.

Way back in the year 2000, a group from MIU began practicing transcendental meditation. The size of the group increased over the next few years and eventually reached 1,725 in 2006. That number is important because it represents the square root of 1% of the U.S. population. When that “transition threshold was achieved,” the university explained in a written statement, “all stress indicators immediately started decreasing.”

By stress indicators they mean the U.S. stress index, the mean of eight variables – murder, rape, assault, robbery, infant mortality, drug deaths, vehicle fatalities, and child deaths by injuries – that the study investigators used to track the effectiveness of the meditation program, they said in the World Journal of Social Science.

After 2011, “when the size of the group size began to decline the rate of decrease in stress slowed and then it reversed and began to increase,” MIU reported.

Coauthor Dr. Kenneth Cavanaugh of MIU explained the process: “This study used state-of-the-art methods of time series regression analysis for eliminating potential alternative explanations due to intrinsic preexisting trends and fluctuations in the data. We carefully studied potential alternative explanations in terms of changes in economic conditions, political leadership, population demographics, and policing strategies. None of these factors could account for the results.”

Since we here at LOTME are serious professional journalists, the use of quotes means we are not making this up. Here’s one more thing in quotes: “A grant for 75 million dollars from the Howard and Alice Settle Foundation provided stipends for participants to be in the group and provided funding to bring several hundred visiting [meditation] experts from India to further augment the MIU group.”

Who needs to make up stuff? Not us.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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