LabBook June 1, 2012

Welcome to LabBook, our new weekly roundup of University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences research news from around campus and the world wide web. Each Friday, LabBook will recap the week on the blog, link to news stories about our faculty and studies, and briefly summarize a handful of recent publications by our researchers.


Sharing the data from large-scale genomic studies speeds up efforts to understand the relationship between genes and disease. But can the results of genome-wide association studies be exploited to reveal medical information about study participants? Hae Kyung Im, research associate (assistant professor) of Biostatistics, found that even statistically disguised data is vulnerable to privacy breaches, and offers a compromise solution to allow genomic data-sharing to continue.


If you’re looking for a little good karma on your tax returns next year, you might be able to contribute to pediatric cancer research thanks to the hard work of a Comer Children’s Hospital physician and patient. John Cunningham, chief of pediatric hematology/oncology, testified before an Illinois House panel about adding a checkbox to tax returns that allows taxpayers to designate some of their money for pediatric cancer research. Cunningham was joined by four-year-old cancer survivor Atia Lutarewych and her mother, Laura, who wrote about the experience at her ChicagoNow blog. “The scientists in Illinois who focus on pediatric cancers know that we can develop better and smarter therapies, if we have the appropriate resources,” Cunningham told the legislators.

A study of the most common healthcare accommodations requested by America Muslims found that such patients most desire gender-concordant care (i.e. female physicians for female patients), halal hospital food, and prayer space. Lead author Aasim Padela, assistant professor of medicine, spoke to Michigan Public Radio about health care providers can address these concerns for their Muslim patients. Some of Padela’s research was included in a report covered on ScienceLife last year.

The University of Chicago Medicine will be one of ten centers participating in a trial of a new immune-based treatment for advanced melanoma, The Oregonian reported. Yervoy, a synthetic antibody that prompts the immune system to attack tumor cells, is the first treatment shown to improve survival in patients with metastatic melanoma.


Every year, a graduating class of medical residents is replaced by an incoming class. What happens to the patients that those graduates leave behind? A Journal of General Internal Medicine study led by Amber Pincavage and Vineet Arora of the Department of Medicine looked at the retention rate for patients designated as “high-risk” by outgoing residents, finding that one in five were lost to follow-up six months after the switch. Some of the efforts to patch up this leakage were discussed recently in our summary of the Pritzker Senior Scientific Sessions.

Actin is the LEGO of the cell, forming essential structures for support, transport, and cell division. A new study in Nature Communications from the laboratories of David Kovar and Margaret Gardel looks at actin’s architecture, specifically how the protein combines into complex bundles and frameworks “similar to those formed by physical gels and glasses.”

Which groups of men — if any — should be screened with the PSA test for prostate cancer has once again been a popular news topic over the last couple weeks. With excellent timing, our chief of geriatrics & palliative medicine William Dale has a commentary this week in Nature Reviews Urology on the subject, applying ideas from behavioral economics to the “disconcerting” evidence about how the test is used. “Within a medical system that tends towards overtreating patients, it can be difficult to keep the principles of population-based screening firmly in mind when facing an individual screening decision for a specific person,” Dale writes.

About Rob Mitchum (525 Articles)
Rob Mitchum is communications manager at the Computation Institute, a joint initiative between The University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.
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