Students win IG Nobel Prize for research into use-cream and cancer

24.06.2021. Professor Wiesław W. Jędrzejczak. PAP/Marcin Obara
24.06.2021. Professor Wiesław W. Jędrzejczak. PAP/Marcin Obara

Medical students from the Medical University of Warsaw have been awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for their research into how ice-cream can help cancer patients.

The Ig Nobel Prize is a satiric equivalent of the Nobel Prize, awarded for peculiar scientific work to 'honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think' and for discoveries that 'that cannot, or should not, be reproduced'. 

The 2022 Ig Nobel Medicine Prize went to Polish researchers: Marcin Jasiński, Martyna Maciejewska, Anna Brodziak, Michał Górka, Kamila Skwierawska, Professor Wiesław Jędrzejczak, Agnieszka Tomaszewska, Grzegorz Basak and Emilian Snarski from the Medical University of Warsaw. 

They showed that that when patients undergo sme forms of toxic chemotherapy, they suffer fewer harmful side effects when ice cream replaces one traditional component of the procedure. The Polish researchers' study was published in Scientific Reports in November 2021.

“The idea to conduct this research came from medical students. My merit is that I did not shoot it down,” said former head of the Department of Hematology, Transplantation and Internal Medicine of the Medical University of Warsaw, Professor Wiesław W. Jędrzejczak. 

The students from this department performed research awarded with Ig Nobel. Currently, the head of the department is Professor Grzegorz W. Basak, one of the co -authors of the study.

Professor Jędrzejczak said that the idea was to help patients receiving a drug called melphalan, administered before bone marrow transplantation. This drug inhibits cell multiplication and is used in cancer treatment, but has causes numerous side effects, such as inflammation and mucositis. After administration of this drug, patients often develop very severe oral mucositis.

He said: “To reduce the severity of oral mucositis patients treated with melphalan were given ordinary ice cubes. My young colleagues came up with the idea to make it more pleasant and instead of ice cubes give patients ice cream.”

He added that the study was randomised, and therefore met the criteria of scientific research. As part of the study, some patients ate ice cream, while others only received ice cubes. 

Jędrzejczak said: “It turned out that the administration of flavoured ice also helped - it reduced the toxicity of this chemotherapy in the mouth and soothed mucositis.

“The research was sponsored by the Medical University of Warsaw hospital restaurant that provided ice cream free of charge. Therefore, it was not expensive, but it is practical and useful.”

The Ig Nobels were awarded for the 32nd time. The event was organized by the Annals of Improbable Research.

PAP - Science in Poland,  Zbigniew Wojtasiński

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