Monthly Archives: November 2012

Mind the (Smoking) Gap: Those Who Want to Quit and Those Who Actually Do

By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD

For those who have traveled London’s Underground, or Tube, the term “Mind the Gap” will be familiar. It’s the warning for riders to be aware that there is a gap of several inches between the station platform and the train cars. In the public health community, we also have a gap: the gap between the number of smokers who want to quit and those who actually succeed. The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout, held this year on November 15, is an opportunity to remind us that we also need to “mind the gap.”

In the United States, this gap is very wide. Nearly 70% of the country’s 43.8 million smokers say they would like to quit smoking; 52% report making at least one serious attempt to quit each year; but a disappointingly low 4% are actually successful in doing so. [more]

How can the Smokeout help us “mind the gap?” In the event’s 37 year history – going all the way back to just after the smoke-laden “Mad Men” era – we have learned a great deal about helping smokers move from wanting to quit to actually doing so. For instance, we now know that nicotine is a highly addictive drug – nearly as powerful as heroin and cocaine – and that smoking is both physically addictive (due to the pull of nicotine) and psychologically addictive (due to the rituals we build around smoking), making quitting a challenge for most smokers.… Continue reading →

The Reflected Light of Steve Jobs: A Brighter Future for Pancreatic Cancer

By William C. Phelps, PhD

 

Back in May something amazing happened.  A 15-year-old high school freshman from Crownsville, MD, Jack Andraka, won the National Intel Science Fair for creating a more sensitive and much less expensive device to detect pancreatic cancer. This is a remarkable achievement for a high school freshman and could be a game-changing discovery for a deadly cancer if it proves successful in future clinical testing, expected to be a number of years away. Only a few months before that, 17-year-old Angela Zhang from Cupertino, CA, won the Siemens Prize for creating laser-activated nanoparticles which kill cancer cells.  Clearly, a bright light of innovation is growing in our next generation of young scientists.

Among the hundreds of different cancers that affect people today, perhaps none is more dreadful than pancreatic cancer. Doctors cannot easily detect it, nor are there effective treatments available for the majority of patients. We don’t fully understand what causes pancreatic cancer and we know very little about how it can be prevented. The disease is frighteningly aggressive in its growth, with patients often living less than a year after they’re diagnosed. Why has progress been so frustratingly slow for pancreatic cancer when compared with other forms of cancer?  In general, cancer is considered a very complex collection of diseases, and among cancers, pancreatic cancer is one of the more complicated.  It has been an unusually slow process to unravel the biological picture of pancreatic cancer.… Continue reading →