Friday, March 25, 2011

Best Post of October '10 -- Army General on Blood Test for Concussion: "This is huge"

The next in our Best of the Month series is from October 15, 2011:

USA Today ran a story today about a simple blood test that the US Army has developed which may objectively test for the presence of concussion.   The Army collaborated with Banyan Biomarkers, a Florida-based company, to develop the test. In checking Banyan's website, it looks as though the test consists of a panel of immunoassays which include SBDP145, SBDP120, UCH-L1, MAP-2, GFAP. If this test turns out to be as good as the Army is implying, the implications for those on the battlefield (and on the football playing field, I might add) are enormous. If it pans out, I would agree with Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army vice chief of staff, who is quoted in the article as saying: "This is huge."

Thanks to Dr. Doug Shevlin for alerting me to this news story.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Unique Pediatric Neuropathology Mentorship Opportunity Announced

Dr. Christopher Pierson today asked me to post the following recruitment letter for early-career neuropathologists. If you are a more senior neuropathologist, please pass this announcement on to your junior colleagues:

Dear Neuropathologist,

The Children’s Oncology Group Young Investigator (COG-YI) mentor/mentee program is currently soliciting applications for potential mentees. The purpose of this program is to provide an avenue for younger members of the COG with a defined interest in a specific pediatric tumor, such as brain tumors, to get involved with research. The program identifies mentors from the pathology discipline already involved in research with the defined tumor of interest. Limited travel funds support the ability for mentors and mentees to meet at yearly COG meetings, and for YI mentees to present progress in their research at the yearly fall meeting. The program does not fund specific research projects, but can help direct individuals to other funding sources if needed.

Requirements for potential mentee:         
1.         Children’s Oncology Group (COG) Member
2.         Less than 10 years from completion of fellowship/residency           
3.         Precise area of interest within a specific pediatric tumor
4.         Completed application (see below). 

An optimal mentee is an individual with a defined focus in a specific pediatric tumor. Mentees should submit a project proposal related to this area of interest that utilizes resources unique to the COG, such as H+E slides, paraffin sections, tissue microarrays, and in some cases frozen samples.  Mentees will be paired with a COG pathology mentor active in the disease discipline of interest to further develop and carry out the project. Some pairings may mature to a young investigator mentee becoming a tertiary reviewer for that disease discipline.

This three-year program is aimed to provide guidance to COG young investigators who have matured in their career to a level of interest in one particular pediatric tumor.  Those who are still exploring or examining various subjects within pediatric tumors should not apply. Interested applicants must apply by June 10th, 2011 to meet at the Fall 2011 meeting in Atlanta. Specifically, for the pathology mentees, limited funding is available from the COG Pathology Committee for travel to accomplish a specified project.  According to the COG policies, the travel funding is set at a maximum of $1000.

To apply for the COG YI pathology mentorship program, please prepare the following:
1.      Project proposal (1-2 pages with brief description of background, hypothesis, proposed methods, with brief references).
2.            Curriculum vitae
3.            Letter of support from Department Chair
4.            Documentation of COG membership (can be obtained at the COG website)

Completed applications should be sent to:

Chris Pierson, M.D., Ph.D
COG Pathology Committee YI Liaison

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dawson Fingers: A Cocktail-Party Term Worth Knowing

Dawson Fingers (in box)
One of the nice things about teaching is that you frequently learn a lot from your students and residents. I had never heard of a radiological finding in multiple sclerosis known as "Dawson Fingers" until I was informed of it by Southern Illinois University second-year medical student Joshua Billington and neurology resident Laxmi Prasad Dhakal. "Dawson Fingers" are a purely radiological finding, which may be why the term is not found in neuropathology textbooks (at least not in the indices of eight different neuropathology textbooks that I consulted). Here's what Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology (9th edition, page 889) has to say on the subject: "Especially diagnostic are oval or linear regions of demyelination, oriented perpendicularly to the ventricular surface; they correspond to the radially oriented fiber bundles of the white matter and periventricular veins. When viewed in sagittal images, they extend outward from the corpus callosum in a fimbriated pattern and have been termed 'Dawson Fingers'. These areas may extend into the centrum semiovale and may reach the convolutional white matter. Even one highly characteristic lesion is sometimes enough to confirm the diagnosis in the proper clinical circumstances; multiple lesions are more convincing. The presence of such lesions in the corpus callosum is diagnostically useful, as this structure is spared in many other disorders."  See the image above (from Adams and Victor, page 876) depicting Dawson Fingers on sagittal T2-weighted FLAIR MRI. The irony here is that this finding was named after a neuropathologist, James Walker Dawson (1870-1927), despite the fact that many neuropathologists are unfamiliar with the term (well, OK, maybe just me). Thanks to Dr. Dhakal and Pre-Dr. Billington for informing me of this eponymous finding -- one that neuropathologists should probably be able to throw around at any neuroscience cocktail party.