All posts by James Coyne

Dr. Coyne is Emeritus Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was also Director of Behavioral Oncology, Abramson Cancer Center and Senior Fellow Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. He also served as Professor of Health Psychology at University Medical Center, Groningen, the Netherlands where he taught scientific writing and critical thinking and coached a number of successful ERC, international, and Dutch grants. He was the 2015 Carnegie Centenary Visiting Professor at Stirling University, Scotland. Jim has written over 400 papers and chapters. In 2001, he was designated by Clarivate Analytics as one of the most cited researchers in the world. More recently, he was designated one of the 200 most eminent psychologists of the second half of the 20th century. Besides blogging at Science-Based Medicine, he blogs at Mind the Brain at CoyneoftheRealm.com and teaches a popular workshop, How to Write High Impact Papers and What to Do When Your Manuscript Is Rejected.

Debunking the magical power of the placebo effect for chronic pain (yet again)

The opioid crisis and growing awareness of the dangers of addiction to pain medication are prompting renewed calls for the use of pill placebos in place of active treatments, backed by familiar claims about the magical powers of the placebo.

/ October 10, 2018

Skeptic’s Guide to Debunking Claims about Telomeres in the Scientific and Pseudoscientific Literature

The New Year starts with telomeres as the trendiest of trendy biomarkers. As seen in Time, telomeres are the means to monitor our well-being so we can protect ourselves from all sorts from threats, including early death. A skeptic needs to do considerable homework in order to muster the evidence needed to counter the latest exaggerated, premature, and outright pseudoscientific claims about...

/ January 11, 2015

Eminent Harvard psychologist, mother of positive psychology, New Age quack?

Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas. – Marie Curie’s advice to journalists Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer was on CBS This Morning News explaining plans for a psychosocial intervention study with women with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. The project would attempt to shrink women’s tumors by shifting their mental perspective back to before they were diagnosed. Seeing her...

/ November 16, 2014

A formal request for retraction of a Cancer article

I am formally requesting that Cancer retract an article claiming that psychotherapy delays recurrence and extends survival time for breast cancer patients. Regardless of whether I succeed in getting a retraction, I hope I will prompt other efforts to retract such articles. My letter appears later in this post. In seeking retraction, I cite the standards of the Committee on Publication Ethics...

/ May 12, 2014

“Postnatal depression blood test breakthrough” or Churnalism?

“Postnatal depression blood test breakthrough” proclaimed the headline. The UK Guardian article then declared: British doctors reveal ‘extremely important’ research that could help tens of thousands of women at risk. Here it comes. Readers were going to be fed a press release generated by the study’s authors and forwarded undigested by the media but disguised as writings of a journalist.  If only...

/ August 2, 2013

Is acupuncture as effective as antidepressants? Part 2. Blinding readers who try to get an answer

This is the second blog post about a recent PLOS One review claiming that alternative therapies such as acupuncture are as effective as antidepressants and psychotherapy for depression. The article gives a message to depressed consumers that they should consider alternative therapies as a treatment option because they are just as effective as conventional treatments. It gives promoters of alternative therapies  a...

/ January 27, 2013

Systematic Review claims acupuncture as effective as antidepressants: Part 1: Checking the past literature

A recent systematic review in PLOS One raised the question whether acupuncture and other alternative therapies are as effective as antidepressants and psychotherapy for depression. The authors concluded  differences were not seen with psychotherapy compared to antidepressants, alternative therapies [and notably acupuncture] or active intervention controls or put it differently, antidepressants alone and psychotherapy alone are not significantly different from alternative therapies...

/ January 18, 2013

Journal of Clinical Oncology editorial: “Compelling” evidence acupuncture “may be” effective for cancer related fatigue

Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) is a high impact journal (JIF > 16)  that advertises itself as a “must read” for oncologists. Some cutting edge RCTs evaluating chemo and hormonal therapies have appeared there. But a past blog post gave dramatic examples of pseudoscience and plain nonsense to be found in JCO concerning psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) and, increasingly, integrative medicine and even integrations...

/ November 28, 2012

NIH funds training in behavioral intervention to slow progression of cancer by improving the immune system

Editor’s note: Because of Dr. Gorski’s appearance at CSICon over the weekend, he will be taking this Monday off. Fortunately, Dr. Coyne will more than ably substitute. Enjoy!     NIH is funding free training in the delivery of the Cancer to Health (C2H) intervention package, billed as “the first evidence-based behavioral intervention designed to patients newly diagnosed with cancer that is...

/ October 29, 2012

Frightening Breast Cancer Patients with Bad Science

No Time to Waste: Avoidant Coping Style Scrambles Circadian Rhythms in Breast Cancer Patients, warned the headline of an article in Clinical Psychiatry News. The article went on to claim Even in the earliest days following a diagnosis of breast cancer, maladaptive coping styles are associated with a disruption in circadian rhythms –which are proven in metastatic disease to be a prognostic...

/ September 28, 2012