Personalized Medicine

UVA computational biologist Jae Lee and UVA oncologist Dan Theodorescu have pioneered a new calculation method for cancer patients—specifically, an algorithm that can predict success rates for different treatment options. Given that many cancer patients endure several different therapies before finding one that is effective against their particular type of tumor, this system could have enormous value. Their work involved collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, GeneLogic Inc. and UVA’s computer sciences department. Results of their study appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Using a panel of 60 diverse human cancer cell lines from the National Cancer Institute, the researchers devised and tested an algorithm designed to match the best potential treatment for a particular tumor in a particular patient.

Zilch on Zinc

Got a cold? Better ditch the Cold-Eeze. An analysis of the effectiveness of zinc lozenges found fault with 10 of 14 studies done in the past 20 years. Of the remaining four studies, three reported no therapeutic effect from zinc lozenges or nasal spray and one study reported positive results from zinc nasal gel.

“The best scientific evidence available indicates that zinc lozenges are not effective in treating colds,” says Jack M. Gwaltney, a professor emeritus in UVA’s department of medicine. For the study, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, the authors sorted through 105 studies of zinc and the common cold and extracted the 14 randomized, placebo-controlled studies, the type of study that might provide the strongest evidence for or against zinc’s usefulness in relieving colds.

Distracted Drivers

Young drivers may be easily distracted, but for young drivers with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the distraction of a cell phone or radio can lead to a car crash. As a group, young ADHD drivers are two to four times more likely to have an accident than non-ADHD drivers. Daniel Cox, a UVA professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, is researching ways to improve those odds. One completed study has shown that young ADHD drivers fare better when driving cars with manual transmissions rather than automatic. His team’s newest study is examining the effects of methylphenidate, a controlled-release stimulant, on young ADHD drivers and whether it reduces the number of mishaps on the road.

Questionable Antioxidant

An antioxidant used in some nutritional and bodybuilding supplements may actually prove injurious, according to research by UVA pediatricians Ben Gaston and Lisa Palmer. High doses of N-acetylcysteine trick blood vessels into thinking they’re not getting enough oxygen, which leads to pulmonary arterial hypertension—a potentially fatal condition. Results of their research appeared in the September issue of Journal of Clinical Investigation.