Today, Google announced the launch of Calico, a new company that will "focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases."
Former Genentech CEO Arthur D. Levinson, who is Chairman of the Board at both Genentech and Apple, is CEO and a founding investor of the new Google spinoff venture.
Noted Google+ user Larry Page posts this morning:
OK … so you’re probably thinking wow! That’s a lot different from what Google does today. And you’re right. But as we explained in our first letter to shareholders, there’s tremendous potential for technology more generally to improve people’s lives. So don’t be surprised if we invest in projects that seem strange or speculative compared with our existing Internet businesses. And please remember that new investments like this are very small by comparison to our core business. Art and I are excited about tackling aging and illness. These issues affect us all—from the decreased mobility and mental agility that comes with age, to life-threatening diseases that exact a terrible physical and emotional toll on individuals and families. And while this is clearly a longer-term bet, we believe we can make good progress within reasonable timescales with the right goals and the right people.Hey, none of this health and wellness stuff should come as a surprise to internet old-timers who recall when the "web crawler" was named "BackRub."
Time has an exclusive, in this week's cover story at the magazine. The short version: "the company behind YouTube and Google+ is gearing up to seriously attempt to extend human lifespan."
Kentucky man shoots wife with late-stage breast cancer, reportedly at her request "to end her suffering"
"I shot her," Ernest Chris Chumbley, 48, told a local television news program from jail in Laurel County, KY Wednesday. He was speaking about his wife, who had late-stage metastatic breast cancer. "She died from my shots, but it's not murder."
As Maggie wrote here last week, it's a complicated story that strikes at the heart of medical experimentation ethics, and how difficult treatment options are for patients with aggressive cancers. Read the rest
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The Sacramento Bee is reporting on a complicated story about last-ditch treatments and the ethics of human experimentation.
Glioblastomas are incredibly deadly brain cancers that usually kill the people diagnosed with them within 15 months. Two neurosurgeons at UC Davis ran across anecdotal evidence suggesting that glioblastoma patients who accidentally picked up infections after surgery sometimes lived much longer — one of the surgeons claims that a patient he knew of survived another 20 years.
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Janet says, "Despite what the official statistics say, metastatic (stage IV) lung cancer is NOT an automatic death sentence. Newer therapies and personalized medicine now offer such patients months or even years of quality time to spend enjoying family, friends, hobbies, even travel and work. Yet insurance companies and doomsday doctors still tell many patients there's no point in pursuing further treatment. I'm an engineer, a writer, and a stage IV lung cancer patient, and I received a letter from my insurance company [ed: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois] saying there was no need for me to have another biopsy because I was going to die anyway. This blog post is my response to that letter."
I was lucky to have enough slides from a 2011 biopsy to have the University of Colorado test my tumor for the relatively new ROS1 genetic mutation in my tumor tissue. Because I tested positive for ROS1, I was able to enter a clinical trial for the targeted therapy crizotinib, a drug which inhibits my ROS1-driven cancer. The trial treatment eliminated both nodules and has given me No Evidence of Disease Status for five months. I am once again able to enjoy traveling, writing, and doing things with my family. If I had not had leftover biopsy slides, an EMN biopsy would have been my only opportunity to obtain enough tissue to test for ROS1. Without that ROS1 trial and crizotinib, I might be dead by now.
Doctors who don’t keep current on new treatment options and then decide a biopsy “is not going to affect long-term health outcomes” for metastatic lung cancer patients are insuring those patients will die sooner rather than later.
That’s not the kind of health insurance I want. Do you?
I snapped this photo of a popular medical marijuana dispensary storefront in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles last week. To me, it represents everything bone-headed about the way LA area pot shops (which operate in a legal gray zone in a conflicting patchwork of federal, state, and local laws) market themselves.
Last week, I told you about the US Supreme Court ruling that made it illegal to patent naturally occurring DNA. In that article, I talked briefly about the fact that the new ruling doesn't cover all DNA. It's still perfectly legal to patent synthetic DNA, and the court documents referred specifically to complementary DNA (aka cDNA).
This is where things get murky. Complementary DNA is a thing that can be both natural and synthetic. And, as a laboratory creation, it's an important step in a common method of replicating naturally occurring DNA. All of which leaves some holes in the idea that the Supreme Court ruling is a simple "win" for open-access science, patent activists, and patients. After all, if you can't patent a gene, but you can patent the laboratory copy of the gene, what's that mean? It's sort of like not being able to patent a novel, but being able to patent a copy of its contents that's had all the white space removed. It seems like everybody is a bit confused by this. So I wanted to take a moment to at least clarify what cDNA is and what some people, on different sides of the science/law/biotech divides, are thinking about it.
It starts with some stuff you learned back in junior high — how information from your DNA gets turned into actual working proteins.
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Ad agency JWT Brazil created a "Superformula" to fight cancer. Here's a video explaining the project. They worked with the A.C. Camargo Cancer Center in Brazil and another agency client, Warner Bros., to transform chemotherapy into "superformula" with hopes of changing child patients' negative perception of the treatment.
As someone who has gone through the hell that is chemotherapy as an adult, I love this idea and wish I'd had some myself.
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Like many of my fellow breast cancer patients, the treatment I received (and am still receiving) places me at high risk for a condition called lymphedema that can cause painful and permanent swelling in the arms.
To help prevent lymphedema or control the swelling if it does happen, many doctors recommend we use compression sleeves. It used to be that the only kind of sleeves available looked like big ugly bandages, but LympheDIVAs, a company started by two women with breast cancer in Philadelphia, was one of the first to change that. LympheDIVAs creates sleeves and gauntlets so funky and pretty, you could imagine wearing them just because they look cool. I wear their product regularly, and have found them to be pretty great.
When I put on my "Lotus Dragon" one, people think I have an actual sleeve tattoo, which cracks me up. When I first started wearing it , I tweeted that it would also be fun to see Diesel Sweeties comic creator R. Stevens, who designs fun patterns for socks, gloves, and other wearables, create some stuff for LympheDIVAs. I am thrilled to learn that this happened! R. Stevens has designed four sleeve/gauntlet products for LympheDIVAs, and they all look great.
I had testicular cancer in the spring of 2009. The cancer wasn't really the hard part, it was mostly the depression, combined with all the dumb shit that people had to say about it. I told this story at The Moth on February 13th, 2013 - the theme was "Love Hurts." A version of this was published in a cool book illustrated by Arthur Jones called "The Post-It Note Diaries," but this is pretty different. If you want to see more stories, art, or information about where else I might be performing, check out my blog at andiamnotlying.com.
Last month, on her Facebook page, she wrote about the experience of being a breast cancer patient since 2010:
"Unfortunately the last 18 months have been a real challenge for me having breast cancer and MS and all the new places that will take you. You become sadly a patient in a world of waiting rooms, waiting sometimes hours for a result or an appointment. You spend a lot time in cold machines... hospital beds, on your knees praying for miracles, operating rooms, tests after tests, looking at healthy people skip down the street like you once did and you took it all for granted and now wish you could do that. I have not stopped singing throughout all this in my dreams and to be once again performing and doing what I love to do."
When is setting aside money with which to retire at a happy old age a potentially recklessly optimistic decision? When you have cancer.
Librarian, freelance writer, and mom Virginia C. McGuire writes in the New York Times how during the worst of it, her anxiety was sometimes "all about money," and she worried about what would happen if and when her cancer returned. "Nobody pays freelancers for sick time."
"Sometimes I find it easier to fret about money than to worry about big things like cancer," she writes. "It seemed crazy to keep saving for retirement when my chances of living that long were so uncertain."
Stanislaw Burzynski vs. regulations protecting human research subjects, revisited: Orac on Cancer quackery
Arijit "Poop Strong" Guha (Twitter), a really sweet guy who took on a dirty rotten insurance company and stood up to TSA "Flying While Brown" bullying (while wearing a t-shirt designed by Boing Boing's own Cory Doctorow) has died.
He was 31, and had metastatic colon cancer.