Livin' on the MDedge

Medical practice gave 8,000 patients cancer for Christmas


We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy heart failure

Does anyone really like it when places of business send out cards or messages for the holidays? A card from a truly small family business is one thing, but when you start getting emails from multibillion dollar corporations, it feels a bit dishonest. And that’s not even mentioning the potential blowback when things go wrong.

Petr Kratochvil

Now, you may wonder how a company could possibly mess up something so simple. “We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.” Not that difficult. Unless you’re Askern Medical Practice in Doncaster, England. Instead of expressing a simple expression of joy for the holiday season, Askern informed all 8,000 of its patients that they had aggressive lung cancer with metastases and they needed to fill out a DS1500 form, which entitles terminal patients to certain benefits.

It only took an hour for Askern to recognize its mistake and send a second text apologizing and adding in the appropriate season’s greetings, but obviously the damage was done. Presumably patients who were last at the doctor to have their cold treated were able to shrug off the text, or simply didn’t see it before the correction came through, but obviously many patients had concerns directly related to cancer and panicked. They called in but were by and large unable to reach anyone at the practice. Some patients close by even went to center itself to clear things up.

One patient, Mr. Carl Chegwin, raised an excellent point about the debacle: “What if that message was meant for someone, and then they are told it’s a Christmas message, then again told, ‘Oh no, that was actually meant for you?’ ” The old double backtrack into yes, you actually do have cancer has got to be a candidate for worst Christmas gift of all. Yes, even worse than socks.

Genes know it: You are when you eat

There’s been a lot of recent research on intermittent fasting and what it can and can’t do for one’s health. Much of it has focused on participants’ metabolic rates, but a study just published in Cell Metabolism shows how time-restricted feeding (TRF) has an impact on gene expression, the process through which genes are activated and respond to their environment by creating proteins.

Ferris wheel displays the interconnected organ systems working smoothly during time-restricted eating Salk Institute

The research conducted by Satchidananda Panda, PhD, of the Salk Institute and his team involved two groups of mice, one with free access to food and the other with a daily 9-hour feeding window. Analysis of tissue samples collected from 22 organ groups revealed that nearly 80% of mouse genes responded to TRF. Interestingly, 40% of the genes in the hypothalamus, adrenal gland, and pancreas, which handle hormone regulation, were affected, suggesting that TRF could potentially aid in diabetes and stress disorder management, the investigators said in a written statement.

The researchers also found that TRF aligned the circadian rhythms of multiple organs of the body, which brings sleep into the picture. “Time-restricted eating synchronized the circadian rhythms to have two major waves: one during fasting, and another just after eating. We suspect this allows the body to coordinate different processes,” said Dr. Panda, whose previous research looked at TRF in firefighters, who typically work on shift schedules.

Time-restricted eating, it appears, affects gene expression throughout the body and allows interconnected organ systems to work smoothly. It’s not just about eating. Go figure.


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