Monday, November 23, 2009

Media direction of Research Dollars.

I'm not a vascular person or an MS person, but this story in the Globe and Mail irks me. I read the original news article on Saturday, thought it was interesting and was looking forward to how the MS treatments would eventually change. I will note, that as I read the original newspaper article, I noticed there was no mention of the studying being published. I thought this was odd as normally news stories will make a big splash and state which science/medical journal would be publishing the study. I was impressed with the caution and restraint that the not-for-profit MS Societies were showing.

Now it appears that the MS research focus may change and significant dollars will go into what may or may not be a valid research avenue. I say may or may not because I have no experience with MS research, I know nothing of about the validity of the original paper. I have not read it. I do not know what is the basis of the methodology was, what are the peer reviews saying? How was the recovery defined? How long were patients followed?

What I find interesting is that the MS Society is putting money into this avenue, not because it can answer those questions or because a push by the MS research community but because of hype from a investigate news journal and a newspaper.

I'm all for open access to research; a researcher must be able to example to the lay public what is going on. However, I do believe that science policy needs to remain above public opinion. There is a reason why good policy does not make good politics. Good policy can be a bitter pill to swallow. Which is not to say this guy might not be on to something. He may, but the treatment needs to be well studied, repeated etc.

6 comments:

biochem belle said...

Hmm. My interpretation is a little different. It seems to me that the Globe and Mail is spinning the story to generate more publicity for themselves. An "Oh look what we did" kind of thing.

The way I read it is the MS Societies were skeptical before the article... and remain skeptical today.They are just making their viewpoint public and spinning it in a way to maintain public support.

ScientistMother said...

Welcome to the blog biochem belle! I think I am annoyed because I do not trust the W5 piece. I will admit I have not watched it, but it was this statement:

Ashton Embry, founder of the Direct-MS, a Calgary-based consumer group that emphasizes the importance of good nutrition for the control of MS symptoms, said in a Web posting that “CCSVI has the potential to completely change how we see MS and how to treat it.”

He predicted, however, that “it will be a long, hard fight to get the treatment of CCSVI from the laboratory to the clinic,” because drug companies stand to lose a lot if a surgical treatment becomes the norm.


It worries me that the article ended on that note. If people actually believe that we researcher would not pursue a viable avenue of treatment because of drug companies. That is just bad journalism to end on that note. Its smacks of conspiracy theorism.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Well, it looks like they're going to issue a call for proposals. I believe the MS Society's grant competitions are usually peer-reviewed (not my field either, but I have a couple of friends who work for the Society and I've volunteered / fund raised for them from time to time, and picked things up). It's a little unusual to respond to public interest in this way - but the results certainly do look interesting!

ScientistMother said...

I've talked to some friends that are MS researchers, and they are excited by the possibilities. Like myself they are frustrated with the way its being reported. It is not a cure, but a treatment. Has there been an emphasis on neural research? Yes but there have been people who've believed MS could be similar to allergic response.

The MS Society is supposed to be peer-reviewed. I just wouldn't want research direction driven by public opinion vs actual science...Not say this paper isn't good science. I have no opinion on that.

biochem belle said...

“it will be a long, hard fight to get the treatment of CCSVI from the laboratory to the clinic,” because drug companies stand to lose a lot if a surgical treatment becomes the norm.

*facepalm*

I agree. That is too much. Is he trying to spin it, or is he like most of the public and does not know what it takes to make a drug or procedure widely useful in the clinic? I actually did a Pubmed search this morning for the paper mentioned. There are very few that have published papers investigating vascular abnormalities as a cause of MS. Neurodegenerative disorders are tricky b/c underlying mechanisms are enigmatic.

I sometimes wonder if scientists could do a better job of communicating what it takes to move something from the lab to the clinic, to help the public understand. Or if the public would just claim conspiracy again.

Maggie May said...

so interesting.