Monday, January 9, 2012

An inverse relationship between cancer (certain forms) and neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease, etc)

1. This study was conducted by a group of medical professionals (physicians, scientists, medical scientists, and epidemiologists) at Washington University School of Medicine.

2. Research was funded by several institutions - major institutions include NIH (National Institutes of Health), the National Heart/Lung/and Blood Institute, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

3. The implications of this finding are immense. At the macroscopic level there are two extremes: certain forms of cancer at one end, and neurodegenerative diseases (ND) at the other. At the microscopic level, this would suggest certain forms of cancer and ND share a common pathway. Too far one way results in cancer, too far the other way results in ND. Such statistical information provides a foundation for scientific research. Scientists can look for a common mechanism in the pathogenesis of cancer and neurodegeneration. This information would also be beneficial to pharmaceutical companies (the opportunity to treat two diseases with one drug target), the American Medical Association, government, and insurance companies, as the incidence of these diseases are expected to increase with the aging U.S. population and improved life expectancy.

4. Methods:

  • Used population-based sampling to avoid convince sampling from a particular area.

  • Avoided reporting error by using hospital records

  • Sample size = 3,020

  • Demographics – patients were separated by race

  • Used a different form of dementia (vascular dementia - VaD) that is not neurodegenerative. It was found that VaD does not protect against cancer. This suggests certain forms of cancer are associated with neurodegeneration, not dementia per se. Additionally VaD was used as a control to ensure people with cancer were not reported as free of Alzheimer’s because physicians neglected to look for Alzheimer’s (since people with cancer were reported as having dementia, non neurodegenerative in origin, the inverse association between certain forms of cancer and Alzheimer’s holds).

5. Easy to understand stats for the news paper article. For the scientific study, results are a bit difficult to interpret without a background in statistics or epidemiology.
6. No graphs provided.

News article:

Scientific study:

Roe CM, Fitzpatrick AL, Xiong C, Sieh W, Kuller L, Miller JP, Williams MM, Kopan R, Behrens MI, Morris JC. 2010. Cancer linked to Alzheimer disease but not vascular dementia. Neurology. 74 (2):106-112

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