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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"An acquaintance once asked me how I felt about cancer, now that it’s 'all over,' now that I know I was destined to survive. Aren’t I glad it happened? Didn’t I learn something? Didn’t good things come out of cancer? Let’s see…scars, missing body parts, permanent damage to nerves, lowered cognitive ability, fear that never really goes away. So, no."--Donna Trussell, "The ghosts of ovarian cancer
." [Washington Post, HT: @lanisia
] — Xeni
25-year old Rachel Wolf isn't married, but hopes to be one day, when she finds the right guy. Her father, Dr. James Wolf, is dying of metastatic pancreatic cancer. Dad and daughter planned a "last dance," complete with wedding gown, makeup, and guests. They created and recorded their father/daughter dance, so she can play it back after he is gone. Watch it here
, and a local TV news account is here
. (via Lani)
MelaFind is a new device that helps doctors identify melanoma skin cancers. In many places, it's being reported as the greatest breakthrough in skin cancer prevention to come along in decades. But, notes Gary Schwitzer at Health News Review, those pieces leave out the fact that MelaFind is actually fairly controversial
. A lot of cancer researchers and docs are worried that it will give patients and doctors a false sense of security — a big issue considering the fact that MelaFind is only designed to identify small melanomas. It could turn up false negatives (or false positives) with non-melanoma skin cancers or melanomas that don't fall into a narrow type range. — Maggie
Researchers at Imperial College London have invented an electric surgical knife that comes equipped with a built-in mass spectrometer
. Electric knives cauterize wounds as they cut, which produces smoke. The iKnife will be able to analyze the chemistry of that smoke to determine, for instance, whether the tissue that was just cut was cancerous or not — allowing doctors to make decisions in the OR that would, today, require them to take samples, send those samples to a lab, and maybe schedule a second surgery. — Maggie
Air pollution, most notably from traffic exhaust fumes in urban areas, is correlated with an increased risk of lung cancer and heart failure
, according to two new studies. Smoking's still deadlier, but smoke cigarettes behind a car tailpipe and you're really in business. [The Guardian] — Xeni
Human papillomavirus is a well-known and widely researched threat to womens’ health. But men are at risk too, writes Maggie Koerth-Baker,—and the scientific outlook is much more uncertain.
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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?
Insuring the Terminal Patient
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.
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Nine people who have not recently made any sweeping judgements about biotechnology.
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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The Tampa Bay Times has done some excellent investigative reporting on the 50 worst charities in America
— organizations that took in more than $1 billion over the past 10 years, and gave almost all of that money to their own staffs and professional solicitors. The series explains how charities like this operate and skirt the regulatory system. But if you're feeling TLDR, there's also a PDF that can help you quickly figure out if you're donating to one of these scams
. A large portion of the 50 worst is made up of charities devoted to cancer and veterans' issues. — Maggie
Michael Douglas offers us all a good reason
to a) get vaccinated
against the two most cancer-causing strains of human papillomavirus (even if you're a dude) and b) embrace dental dams
(even if you're straight) — Maggie
Lymphedema prevention garments designed for LympheDIVAs by R. Stevens.
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.
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My friend Jeff Simmermon
talks in this video about cancer and depression
. He nails it. Jeff explains,
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.