Social networks are vital to disaster response
Researchers have found social media and networking sites can help improve a country’s response to natural disasters and health epidemics.
They said websites such as Facebook and Twitter made way for “unprecedented” communications between the public and health officials who try to organisation preparations and responses.
This in turn enables more effective preventative actions to be put in place sooner, to minimise the spread of damage caused by such events.
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One specific example cited by the researchers was that of the swine flu epidemic that hit in 2009.
It is thought approximately one million people visited YouTube and iTunes after the US Department of Health released its ‘Mommycast’ video to advise people how to prevent the illness from spreading.
They also noted that regional health departments used Twitter and SMS messages to inform people about the availability of flu shots and jabs.
Impressively, after a period of just one year the number of followers of the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention's Twitter account, @CDCemergency, increased 20-fold.
Aside from social networking sites, text messages and mobile phone apps such as Foursquare and Loopt have also proved to be useful tools of communication during major happenings.
The study found after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, members of the public texted and tweeted pictures of wildlife covered in oil which helped to organise the clean-up process.
Dr Raina Merchant, an emergency medicine expert from the University of Pennsylvania and leader of the research said: “By sharing images, texting and tweeting, the public is already becoming part of a large response network, rather than remaining mere bystanders or casualties.”
It is thought that GPS-linked mobile phones and RSS feeds will be utilised in the future to aid disaster preparation.
The results of the research have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
NHS opens 8 clinical trial sites to assess cancer treatment
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) is opening eight clinical trial sites to assess patients' responses to personalised cancer therapy.
The trials will analyse how patients diagnosed with advanced melanoma or non-small cell lung cancer respond to immunotherapy, to help predict their response to treatment. They will be hosted at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust facilities.
Immunotherapy helps the body's own immune system fight cancer, but while it has achieved good results for some cancer patients, it is not successful for everyone. Finding ways to predict which people will respond to the treatment is a major area of research.
OncoHost, an oncology startup, will provide advanced machine learning technology to develop personalised strategies aiming to improve the success rate of the cancer therapy. The trials will contribute to OncoHost’s ongoing PROPHETIC study, which uses the company’s host response profiling platform, PROphet®.
“Immunotherapy has achieved excellent results in certain situations for several cancers, allowing patients to achieve longer control of their cancer with maintained quality of life and longer survival,” said Dr David Farrugia, Consultant Medical Oncologist at NHS, and chief investigator of all eight NHS clinical trial sites.
“However, success with immunotherapy is not guaranteed in every patient, so this PROPHETIC study is seeking to identify changes in proteins circulating in the blood which may help doctors to choose the best treatment for each patient."
"I am excited that Gloucestershire Oncology Centre and its research department have this opportunity to contribute to this growing field of research and I am determined that our centre will make a leading national contribution in patient recruitment.”
Previous studies in the US and Israel have shown that PROphet® has high accuracy in predicting how patients with cancer will respond to various therapies.