Broadcaster: BBC One
Review by Ella Yabsley
A study published on the Lancet Oncology website in January 2016 reported that proton beam therapy was as effective as traditional photon radiotherapy for the treatment of paediatric medulloblastoma (a childhood brain cancer). The paper also suggests proton radiotherapy reduces toxicity towards normal tissues (compared to photon radiotherapy) and could improve long-term health outcomes for children with malignant brain cancer. At the present time, the NHS are paying for eligible patients to receive proton treatment abroad. From 2019, two new NHS proton beam therapy facilities will be opened in London and Manchester (more by private institutions).
This video file (11 mins), a combination of several shorter pieces from Breakfast News, gives background to the development including an interview with a paediatric oncologist who explains what the study does, and does not, show. It is a (relatively) large study but the observations appear not to be a surprise to those working in the field; the interest may be linked to the controversy surrounding the Ashya King case. Continue reading
The first film in the re-launched franchise is rich in ethical dilemmas
Broadcaster: Film 4
Year: 2014 (cinema release 2011)
Genre: Film, Fiction, Science Fiction
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the first of the re-launched film series (followed by the vastly inferior Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). The film is a veritable feast of bioethics issues. To find out more please take a visit to our sister site Bioethicsbytes (follow this link). The IMDb page for the film can be found via this link.
More details about the potential uses of this film for teaching can be found at Bioethicsbytes
Dr Stanislaw Burzynski promotes his antineoplastin treatment for cancer
A 30 minute episode of the current affairs Panorama series, focusing on the controversial “antineoplastins” cancer therapy promoted by Texan doctor Stanislaw Burzynski. His work gets celebrity endorsement but he has never published peer-reviewed data on his procedure (although he has contributed to a movie about his treatments). Might be useful in a discussion on the nature of scientific evidence.
Disclaimer: listing of the programme here is not an endorsement of the procedure represented.
This is a useful teaching tool, precisely because it demonstrates a poorly designed experiment
Genre: Popular Science, Edutainment
The maverick series Brainiac: Science abuse originally ran on Sky One between 2003 and 2008. This clip (2.5 mins) within Box of Broadcasts is taken from a 2014 repeat shown on Challenge.
Not famed for the rigour of their research methodology, it might seem an odd choice to use a clip from this series for University-level teaching. It is in fact the poor design of the chosen experiment that proves useful (see below).
In the clip, the Brainiacs are investigating the question “Can you Smell Fear?” To do so they get an unfortunate female team member to sniff the armpits of three men – one has been relaxing, one has been running and the third (alleged to have a fear of heights) has been on a high crane platform.
Educational use of this clip: I have used this clip in a first year module looking at experimental design. The students are told before watching the video to keep an eye out for features of the experiment that have been conducted well and those that are less than ideal. This then leads into reflection on how they might investigate the same question (can you smell fear?) in a better way. Finally we talk through the approach that was used in a paper examining the same issue, from the journal PLoS ONE, published in 2009. This exercise has been written up in the Journal of Biological Education.