Discovered: Winged dinosaurs arrived earlier than thought; too much trust in chemotherapy; don't let your toddlers drink eyedrops; a study that studies studies which boast "very large effects."
Winged dinosaurs date back farther than previously thought. Birds' ancestors go back further than scientists previously thought, according to fossils recently reexamined in Canada. That's a strange place to find flying dinosaur bones, considering that most fossils of microraptors, maniraptors, and other winged dinos are found in present-day China. A team of geoscientists, led by the University of Calgary's Darla Zelenitsky, took a new look at three Ornithomimus edmontonicus kept at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, Canada. Using a tool called an air scribe, Zelenitsky found traces of feather filaments and evidence of pennibrachium forelimbs that could have been used as wings. "Our specimens are currently the most primitive dinosaur to show winglike structures," Zelenitsky boasts. Theories about why dinosaurs evolved these wings range from the possibility that they attracted potential mates to the notion that they may have been used to shield hatching babies from the elements. [ScienceNow]
Many cancer patients place too much faith in chemo. Chemotherapy can stall the growth of cancer, and in the best possible scenario can even make malignant tumors go into remission. But it is definitely not a guaranteed cure. Which is why this survey conducted by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers is so heartbreaking. Sixty-nine percent of patients with advanced lung cancer and 81 percent of patients with advanced colorectal cancer believed that chemotherapy could potentially cure their disease. Over 1,200 patients were surveyed at clinics, hospitals and treatment centers around the country. "If patients do not know whether a treatment offers a realistic possibility of cure, their ability to make informed treatment decisions that are consistent with their preferences may be compromised," says lead author Dr. Jane Weeks. "This misunderstanding may pose obstacles to optimal end-of-life planning." [Dana-Farber Cancer Institute]
Studies with over-hyped results are often wrong. Every researcher wants to conduct research that passes peer review, but also makes everyone go "oooh." But papers that try to play up that "oooh" factor too much are often wrong, according to a new meta-analysis from Stanford University's John Ioannidis. He took 230,000 trials into account, and found that results claiming a "very large effect" were usually not able to be recreated. "The effects largely go away; they become much smaller," he says. "It's likely that most interventions that are effective have modest effects." Some of the reasons these over-hyped studies were flawed included small sample size and a narrow focus on intermediate effects. The meta-analysis singles out particular experiments on the drug Avastin. Early clinical trials breathlessly announced the possibility of doubling the life spans of women suffering from breast cancer, but time and follow-up studies have shown no such effect. [Los Angeles Times]
Don't let your toddlers near eyedrops. This should be a no-brainer for adults. Don't put liquid medicine that's supposed to go in your eyes in your mouth! But unattended children have been known to eat and drink way crazier things than eyedrops, so the FDA would like to remind you that over-the-counter eye drops and nasal sprays should not be consumed as a beverage. Over the last two decades, 96 cases of serious illness have been reported in connection with accidental ingestion of products containing tetrahydrozoline, oxymetazoline, or naphazoline. Fifty-three of those cases led to hospitalizations, but so far there have been no deaths. Brands to look out for include Visine, Opcon-A, Naphcon, Afrin, Dristan, Mucinex and Sudafed. [FDA]