Shala Thomas, PhD

Medical Communications Specialist

        'Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.'
                                  -- Isaac Asmiov

More About Me

I earned my doctoral degree in Molecular and Systems Pharmacology, specializing in Cancer Pharmacology, from Emory University in 2009. In addition to 7 years of research experience, I also have worked directly in medical writing and medical liaison roles. Currently, I offer freelance medical writing services for medical animation agencies, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, scientific publishers, and healthcare marketing agencies.


bio-typing: a medical science blog

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bio-newsworthy [03.13.13]

Pertuzumab for breast cancer cleared for EU approval (
Study finds aspirin reduces risk of melanoma in women (
In US, even more DCIS is coming (
Brief reports from ASH, including new data in leukemia, lymphoma, and myelodysplastic syndrome (
New scientific strides in fighting inflammatory breast cancer (
Lymphoseek approved in US for breast cancer, melanoma for lymph node mapping (

PTEN: linking cancer and autism

In building this blog, I searched for my old medical science blog that I maintained in 2008, my last year or so of graduate school. Here is one of my posts I published back then that is still relevant…

Recently, the phosphatase and tension homolog (PTEN) gene has been linked to the developmental austism spectrum disorders (ASDs) including Cowden Syndrome (CS). Once only seen as a gene related to tumor development and progression, PTEN has been reported to have increased mutations in children with austim, mental retardation, and macrocephaly or enlarge head size.

Loss of the normal activity of the dual-specific phosphatase PTEN, which functions to negatively regulate the phosphoinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) pathway, frequently results in over-proliferation of cells and cancer progression. PTEN may also play a role in normal neurological development since it has been found to be important in neruonal survival outgrowth, learning, and memory. Subsequently, mutations or the partial or even total loss of the gene then results in abnormal neurological function. In particular, one de novo missense mutation (D326N) in exon 8 of the gene has been found to be fairly common. Published reports show that mutant mouse models for PTEN exhibit marcrocephaly, increased soma size, and axonal and dendritic hypertropy. Since, the discovery of mutations in children have prompted diagnosis of autism.

ASDs are typically developmental disorders with an onset in children by the age of 3. In most cases of autism, children will have decreased social interactions, impaired communication, and often times compulsive behavior and the need for repetition. Interestingly, another connection between cancer and autism since CS is characterized by the development of hamartomas and is associated with increased cancer risks.

Taken together, this data and other evidence show the potential of PTEN to be considered an etiological factor of autism.

bio-newsworthy (10.12.12)

President’s ethics panel urges new protections for whole genome data (
GSK to allow greater access to clinical trial data (
Meningitis outbreak: some questions, some answers (
Obesity linked to increased prescription drug use (
Comprehensive molecular portraits of human breast tumors (

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