Spontaneous remission of cancer, drugs from bugs, what do these two recent news articles published on the same day have in common? Outliers. Finding extraordinary health results in the ordinary and natural. My colleague Eric Nelson from northern California explores this topic in an article published in Communities Digital News April 14, 2014. In the Wisconsin State Journal on April 14, 2014 health reporter David Wahlberg tells about UW Madison researcher Cameron Currie and colleagues receiving a $16 million grant to discover what bugs may offer in treating drug-resistant infections. Both stories suggest outliers may carry the key to better health. An excerpt from Nelson’s article is found below. Click at the bottom for a link to Eric’s full article.
By Eric Nelson — When asked during a recent AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) interview on Reddit what he thought about spontaneous remission of cancer, David Agus, M.D., was quick to respond: “We need to focus on outliers. The physics world has learned the most by explaining the outliers. We have ignored them unfortunately.”
Outliers – in medical parlance, something that stands apart from the rest, as in the physical recovery from disease or injury that is effected through unexpected or unexplainable means – are at once good news and bad news for people who study these kinds of things. Good news because it’s always nice to see someone get better, regardless of how it happens. Bad news because they force us, often reluctantly, to give up the old for the new as it relates to our perception of how the body heals, which may explain why such data are often ignored.
Unfortunately, this tendency to deny the potential significance of even the smallest bit of evidence could very well be what’s keeping us from making greater headway in the treatment of disease. When asked how cancer research is progressing, for instance, Agus, author of The End of Illness and co-founder of Navigenics, a personalized medicine company, didn’t mince words: “Not well enough!”