Common Words, Phrases, and Ideas in this Blog

The page is still a little "clunky", but better than nothing.

This page describes various words, phrases and ideas that get used over and over again in my blog:

Scientific, Medical, or Research Theories

Majority (or Dominant) Theory.    Consensus Belief.
These terms refer to the most commonly held theory.  This is sometimes called "the scientific main stream" or something like that. 

Minority Theory
This is a scientific theory which has support from some researchers, but most researchers do not believe it.

Fringe Theory
This is a scientific theory which has very little research support, or maybe no support at all.  It is typically believed by one person, or possibly a very small group of people.

Quack Theory
This is a scientific theory which has been disproven or is obviously wrong, but is still believed in by a small group of people or maybe just one very vocal person.

Trials and Experiments 

Completed Enrollment

Why is this important? For two reasons.  First, because it is now possible to predict when they will finish collecting data.  (This study runs for DURATION, so they should have data collected by DATE.)  Second, because much of the uncertainty that surrounds clinical trials, is involved with recruiting participants.  It is often unclear how hard it will be to recruite people, and long it will take.   But that this point, all that cunertainty is behind the researchers.  From now on, it is just gather data, then analize data, and then publish data.  Researchers have a lot more control over those later stages, then over recruiting people in the first place.

Placebo vs. Control vs. Comparison Group

I use these terms to mean three different things:

  • A placebo group gets a "sham" treatment of some kind, so the patients in that group don't know if they got the real treatment or not.  In general, placebo groups (or placebo control groups) are the best type of comparison.
  • A control group is a group that does not get the experimental treatment.  A control group is the same as the treated group, except they don't get the treatment
  • A comparison group is any group that is compared to the treated group.  It starts out different from a control group.  

The best studies have placebo control groups (often shortened to placebo groups).  The worse have not comparison group of any kind.  Control groups are better than comparison groups, but not as good as placebo groups.

Everything Else

Off Label Use

In the USA once a drug or device is approved, a doctor can prescribe it in situations different than it was originally approved for.  As an example, a doctor may prescribe it for a different disease, at a different dose, or for a different type of person than it has been approved for.  In the world of type-1 treatments, drugs or devices that have been approved for use on adults are often prescribed for children.  This is a classic "off label" use.  Off label use is based on the professional opinion of a doctor, and consent of the patient.  Therefore safety data (such as from this study) can make doctors more willing to prescribe "off label", and patients more interested in trying it.

Case Study

A case study is the presentation of something very unusual that happened to one person.  Occasionally a case study will motivate a researcher to run a clinical trial.  Case studies are part of the scientific literature, but they are not clinical trials; rather they occur before clinical trials in the scheme of things.


This leads into discussion of the symposium's magic word: "platform".  You might think that a platform is a wooden box that you stand on.  I'm a software engineer, and we use "platform" to mean a bunch of software that helps develop new software and can be used over and over again for that purpose.  The pharma guys use the word in much the same way that software guys do.  A pharma "platform" is a way to speed the development of multiple drugs.  Everyone who is working on a drug, talks about their platform.  They hope that their development can be used again and again to develop multiple different cures for different diseases.   The word "platform" represents the unbridled optimism common to researchers; and the funding opportunity that every venture capitalist, pharma company, and non-profit is looking for.  They haven't even started a clinical trial, and are already talking about how they will cure multiple diseases in the future. "Platform" is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

To be a little more specific, two types of platforms were discussed.  The first was a common collection of ingredients that you can customize to cure different diseases.  Consider this bread analogy: you have a recipe for pecan bread.  You try replacing the pecans with almonds, now you have almond bread.  You replace them with blueberries and now you have blueberry bread.  Your bread is what the pharma guys would call a "platform".  You drop in one new ingredient to create a new bread.  If your bread recipe is good at this sort of flexibility, then a commercial bakery would be very interested in it, as well as all the "specialty" bread recipes.

Bayhills has exactly this kind of platform:  it is a ring structure of several chemicals, one of which is specific to type-1 diabetes.  That drug is called BHT-3021 and is targeted at type-1 diabetes.  But if you take the same basic ring, and replace the type-1 chemical with a different one aimed at multiple sclerosis, then the drug is called BHT-3009 and is aimed at MS.  And so on....

Another kind of platform is a method to find drugs, which you can use again and again on different diseases.  Again, to use a cooking analogy, let's say you are looking for a dinner recipe and so you grab a can of chicken soup and pour it over chicken meat and bake it.  A week later you grab mushroom soup, pour it over beef and bake that.  You now have a "platform" for making recipes.  The platform is this: pour a can of soup over a meat and bake it.  None of the ingredients are reused (as they are above), but the basic technique is reused.    There were a couple of different researchers with this kind of platform at the meeting.  Including Apitope and Dr. Mannie (neither in clinical trials as yet).

The second most important word at the symposium was "bio-marker".  A bio-marker is a way to do an experiment for cheap.  For example, lets say you have a drug and you think it cures type-1 diabetes.  Running an experiment to see if it does will take years: you need to make sure type-1 doesn't come back.  However, if you had some blood test that told you the person no longer had type-1, then you would not need to follow them for years.  You would just need to do the blood test.  That blood test would be for a "bio-marker".  Something that showed you the drug had worked, but was cheaper, quicker, and easier than seeing if it had really worked.  Finding a bio-marker for a disease speeds up ALL research aimed at curing that disease, and it attracts research money to that disease, since research there is less risky.

C-peptide is such a bio-marker for type-1 diabetes, but the pharma guys are always wishing that there were more.  It makes research, cheaper, quicker, less risky, and less unknown.  It is especially important that the government regulators agree to the use of the bio-marker.  If they do, then you can get government approval that the drug is useful, based on the bio-marker: quicker, cheaper, less risky, and you know approval will be granted.

Each person has to decide for themselves which results excite them, and which don't.  For my part, in honeymoon trials, results where the C-peptide numbers go up (after a year) excite me.  Results where they stay constant are unexciting.  And, results where they go down are disappointing.  Here the average went down.