Friday, March 30, 2012

My Dear Watson

Last year, the supercomputer known as Watson was introduced to the world when it (he?) played three games of Jeopardy against a couple of human champions, kicking their butts and causing lots of people to stop kicking their office photocopiers, so when computers take over the world, the machine overlords will take pity on them.

Watson has been put to good use since then, competing against members of Congress in another Jeopardy match, before retiring from the trivia business, and then going to work at Citigroup (probably as a lobbyist, like most other retired Congresspeople).

So now, Watson is ready for some real work.

As reported by Mashable, Watson is going to help oncologists at Sloan-Kettering in New York by analyzing its extensive database of cancer patients' histories, and recommending ideal treatments.  The computer's extensive files will look at previous treatment results and current medical literature and then suggest a course of action.

The plan seems to be to hook up Watson to the internet, and allow doctors to access it/him remotely.

I'm not sure it will replace the face-to-face, hands-on subtleties that a real doctor can notice, but it will provide another perspective to the medical team (ideally).

Nice, soothing voice on Watson, but it's nothing compared to my nurse Sue when she checked in on me during Rituxan infusions....

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Just a Little More Bragging

I bragged about Peter's music a couple of weeks ago, so now I need to give John and Catherine their due.

Both of them were selected to play in this year's All-State Band concert, which took place last weekend.

John was first chair in oboe for the All-State Symphonic Band. (OK, he was the only oboe -- but even that's impressive, because it shows how hard an instrument it is. Three hundred kids in the state program, and he's the only one who plays oboe.)

Here's the Symphonic Band playing "The Dream Catcher," a funky, percussion-heavy piece (including the kids tapping their pencils on their music stands), written especially for middle school bands. John's hard to see -- he's in the second row from the front, on the left hand side, to the left of the flutes, but his music stand is mostly covering his face. But you can see him at the end, anyway, behind the conductor as he bows.

Catherine was selected to play in the All-State Concert Band. She's a little easier to see than John was, since she was the only girl in the trumpet section (again -- very impressive). This piece, a medley called "Processional Hymns of Faith," begins with the trumpet section standing and playing, so you can get a good look at her. (She's the short one.)

We thought they all sounded great. As always, we're very proud of our kids. And I'm especially impressed -- being a  fourth-rate guitarist myself, I know how hard it is to perform as well as they do. If they were nervous, you'd never know it.

We always said we wanted a house full of music, and our kids are giving it to us, which makes us very happy indeed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Earlier this month, the LA Times ran an article about immunotherapy --  the group of treatments that seek to use the body's immune system against its cancer.

The article cites a whole bunch of immunotherapy treatments for cancers such as melanoma, sarcoma, and ovarian cancer. The article calls immunotherapy "one of medicine's most promising — and most problematic — approaches to cancer treatment." Indeed it is: when it works, it works wonders. But trying to get it to work is not easy: cancer has a way of evading attempts to kill it off -- especially attempts by its own host.

The article doesn't address  NHL specifically, but immunotherapy of all different types is in the pipeline for lymphoma. Vaccines -- which have had mixed success for NHL -- fit this category, and most use T cells, as the LA Times article discusses.

Speaking of T cells, also about a month ago, a researcher at Cambridge University filmed a T cell attacking a cancer cell. Very cool stuff:

Obviously, immunotherapy is something we'll be keeping an eye on.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dressing Up

This first popped up the in the news about a week or so ago:

In 2003, a photographer named Bob Carey put on a pink tutu and took a picture of himself, as a way of helping to raise money for a ballet company. About six months later, his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. As she went through treatment, he found that one thing that made her laugh was the sight of him in the tutu.

Since then, he has taken over 100 pictures of himself in the tutu, in all sorts of settings: in the desert, in Times Square, in a snow storm, in a subway station. Here's a sample of his work:

He's planning on putting all of the photos into a book, to be published in the fall. For now, he's selling prints of individual photos, as well as t-shirts, with all of the money going to organizations that help breast cancer patients, including and the Beth Israel Hospital Department of Integrative Medicine.

Certainly a worthy cause worth supporting. The Tutu Project website can be found here.

It's such a wonderful thing, being able to use his talent and humor to help others.

And for him, on a more personal level, it says a lot about him to be willing to dress up like that just to make his spouse laugh. It takes a pretty special person to dress up in a silly way just to make a spouse with cancer a little happier....Yup...pretty special....