Enormous effort, by many people, has helped us understand how important good evidence of correlations is in choosing medical treatments, and has characterised how to go about carefully and responsibly performing randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies on various populations of people. We are trying to do a similar job for understanding – and also explicitly characterising – how evidence of mechanisms helps choose medical treatments.
I’d originally planned to write something this week on the announcement that the Nobel prize in Physiology/Medicine has been awarded to Campbell, Ōmura and Tu. While there’s lots of possible interest here – the Neglected Tropical Disease angle, or the unusual military aspect to be found in the intellectual history of Tu’s work on artemisinin. However, I’ve been distracted by something that came out of S. Lochlann Jain’s excellent new-ish book Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us, which I’ve been avidly reading this week.