Of heroes and teams

August 14, 2008

Two virtual soccer clubs -- Predator F.C. and F50 -- would seem to have markedly different approaches to success. The Predator players focus on teamwork, determination, and precision. F50 players favor flair, flamboyance, and speed.

Two virtual soccer clubs -- Predator F.C. and F50 -- would seem to have markedly different approaches to success. The Predator players focus on teamwork, determination, and precision. F50 players favor flair, flamboyance, and speed.

Last year, Adidas leveraged the mottos of these two teams as part of a marketing campaign that urges kids aged 15 to 17 to open their wallets to voice their loyalties to either club. Earlier this year, I bought an Adidas shirt printed with both mottos. Not knowing the history, I saw the two mottos as different sides of the same coin, a reminder that personal excellence and cooperation are both critically necessary to succeed.At the International Conference on Head and Neck Cancer in San Francisco last month, researchers at Saint Louis University came to the same conclusion, albeit in a different venue than sports. They found that accuracy dramatically improves when nuclear medicine clinicians and attending physicians interpret PET/CT scans together. The increased precision reduced the need for biopsies, according to Dr. Mark Varvares, the study's lead author and a professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery of Saint Louis University.It makes sense. The more relevant information you can include in the decision-making process, the stronger the basis you'll have for making a good decision. In the case of the Saint Louis University research, Varvares and his colleagues studied PET/CT scans of 180 head and neck cancer patients. When only the results of PET/CT scans were considered, interpretations had a false-positive rate of 65% and a false-negative rate of 8%. When clinical information was included, the false-positive rate dropped to 14% and the false-negative rate dropped to 2%. Sometimes it's good to have statistics to make sure common sense makes sense. But, when you think about it, the outcome of the Saint Louis research really isn't all that surprising. PET/CT provides the evidence for what may be subtle signs and indicators of cancer. Knowing the clinical circumstances of a patient provides the context in which to interpret that evidence.In sports, the combination of power and finesse is the hallmark of greatness. Teamwork channels these individual performances into a coherent force. The future of personalized medicine may depend on migrating this concept to medicine.