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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Outliers – Looking Back to Past “Extreme Responders” to Understand More About Canc

Outliers. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book about things one can learn by looking at outliers.  The point here is to highlight that outliers can matter in both cancer research and litigation, if and when people stop to look and understand.  Today, for example, outliers are useful to disease researchers trying to understand more about how cancer works by looking at the genomes of persons who were “extreme responders” in clinical trials.  Yesterday’s outlier extreme responders are studied today because now researchers can use new and/or far less expensive investigative tools compared to last year or five years ago. So, now, when tissues and/or fluids have been preserved,  the researchers  can go back and seek to find out why 1 person out of x people had a complete remission during a clinical trial, but the others did not.

The same retrospective perspective and tools could be applied to most any kind of toxic tort litigation with many claimants, when tissues have been preserved.  Consider, for example, outliers in asbestos litigation. Why did that one person with mesothelioma survive for 10 years? Was it really mesothelioma?  Did she or have true mesothelioma and a unique sets of genes or RNA or …? The lessons then could be applied prospectively. But will anyone bother to invest in looking at the outlier persons in asbestos litigation?

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