Thursday, October 30, 2014

Reinventing Vietnam War History AGENT ORANGE KILLS

On August 10, 1961, America began spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Operation Ranch Hand waged herbicidal warfare for 10 years.

Around 20,000 sorties were flown. Other spraying was done from boats, trucks, or soldiers mounted with backpacks.

Over five million acres were contaminated. About 20% of South Vietnam was sprayed at least once.

Millions of gallons of dioxin-containing defoliant were used across vast areas. Concentrations were 50 times greater than for other defoliation purposes.

Horrific consequences followed.

Dioxin is one of nature’s most deadly substances. It’s both natural and man-made. It’s a potent carcinogenic human immune system suppressant. Minute amounts cause serious health problems and death.

Agent Orange kills! It accumulates in adipose tissue and the liver. It alters living cell genetic structures.

Exposure results in congenital disorders and birth defects. It causes cancer, type two diabetes, and numerous other diseases.

In 2009, the US Institute of Medicine reported evidence linking Agent Orange to soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (including hairy-cell leukemia), Hodgkin’s disease, and chloracne.

It’s associated with prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, amyloidosis (abnormal protein deposits), Parkinson’s disease, porphyria cutanea tarda (a blood and skin disorder), ischemic heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, cancer of the larynx, lung, bronchea and trachea, as well as spina bifida in offspring of exposed parents.

Vietnam’s Red Cross links it to liver cancer; lipid metabolism disorder; reproductive abnormalities; development disabilities; paralysis; and congenital deformities like cleft lip, cleft palate, club foot, hydrocephalus, neural tube defects, fused digits, and muscle malformations.

Dioxin remains toxic for decades. It’s not water soluble. Nor easily degradable. It contaminates soil, foliage, air and water.

It can be inhaled, absorbed through skin, or gain bodily entry through eyes, ears, or other cavity passages. It enters the food chain. Crops, plants, animals, and sea life are poisoned.

Its effects killed millions of Southeast Asians. Many others were disabled and/or suffer from chronic illnesses. Future generations are affected like earlier ones.

Around three million US servicemen and women were harmed. So were many American civilians. Many died. Living victims suffer from diseases, birth defects, and other ill effects.

Agent Orange use was always controversial. Studies confirmed its enormous harm. Ecocide and genocide best describe it. Human studies provided damning evidence.

In the early 1970s, Vietnam veterans reported skin rashes, cancer, psychological symptoms, birth defects, and other health problems.
Victims perish to this day.

Entire Piece Here

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Our Clambake this year was a great success.  We all had big fun.

Joe and Ping brought a bottle of the new Jaegermeister Spice.  Chris brought a bottle of Cake Pinnacle Vodka.

The beer and booze flowed all day and night.

This year we ordered 300 Littleneck Clams.  In the clam steamer, we had the clams, leg quarters, sweet potatoes and sweet corn.

Meanwhile, Dom and Ping manned the grill with garlic smoked sausage and bbq chicken.

During halftime of our late Saints game, we moved outside for fireworks and a bonfire.  (Ping is a pyro!).

Later that evening, Ping worked her magic on us, giving massages.  I highly recommend her massage parlor in Pensacola.  She’s in the process of opening a second.  Ping has been in this country for only 4 years, and she’s already a citizen, as well as a business owner.  Joe’s “child bride” is something else.  We’re very proud of her.

When the boys woke up the next day, they found that our fireworks had started a fire in our woods.  Came within about 10 feet of Dom’s truck and a 5 gallon can of gas.

Dom spent all day soaking it. He was planning on bumming around with Chris all day, but was afraid to leave the house.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mother Jones Magazine Blogger Diagnosed With Multiple Myeloma

This fellow might be interesting to follow as he continues his journey towards remission.

Friday Cancer Blogging - 24 October 2014
—By Kevin Drum

A few of you have probably cottoned onto the fact that people don't usually spend a week in the hospital for a broken bone, even a backbone. So in the long tradition of releasing bad news on Friday afternoon, here's my first-ever Friday news dump.

When I checked in to the hospital Saturday morning, the first thing they did was take a bunch of X-rays followed by a CT scan. These revealed not just a fractured L3, but a spine and pelvis dotted with lytic lesions that had badly degraded my bones. That's why a mere cough was enough to send me to the ER. It was just the straw that broke an already-weakened camel's back. Later tests showed that I also had lesions in my upper arm, my rib cage, and my skull—which means that my conservative friends are now correct when they call me soft-headed.

The obvious cause of widespread lytic lesions is multiple myeloma, a cancer of blood plasma cells, and further tests have confirmed this. (The painful bedside procedure on Tuesday was a bone marrow biopsy. Bone marrow is where the cancerous plasma cells accumulate.)

I know from experience that a lot of people, especially those who have been through this or know a family member who's been through this, will want to know all the details about the treatment I'm getting. I'll put that below the fold for those who are interested. For the rest of you, here's the short version: I'm young, I'm not displaying either anemia or kidney problems, and treatments have improved a lot over the past decade. So my short-term prognosis is pretty positive. Treatment involves two to three months of fairly mild chemotherapy, which has already started, followed by a bone marrow transplant. My oncologist thinks I have a very good chance of complete remission.

The longer-term prognosis is less positive, and depends a lot on how treatments improve over the next few years. But I figure there's not too much point in worrying about that right now. Better to stay focused on the current regimen and see how I respond to that. Wish me well.

OK, here are all the gruesome details of my treatment regimen. Yesterday I had a kyphoplasty, which we hope will repair my fractured lumbar bone and relieve my immediate pain. Once a month I'll be getting an IV infusion of Aredia, a bone-strengthening medication.

Because I'm young and my symptoms are mostly limited to the bone lesions, I'm a good candidate for a bone marrow transfusion. For that reason, my oncologist has recommended treatment with three drugs:

Decadron, a corticosteroid

I've already begun the Decadron treatment, and I'll start the other two later today. The total treatment cycle is 2-3 months. It's supposed to be a fairly mild regimen with not too many hideous side effects. We'll see. As usual, the drugs put me at higher risk of infection, so I'll be taking Acyclovir as a prophylactic antiviral.

Assuming this all goes well, it will be followed by a bone marrow transfusion. Basically, they suck the blood out of my body, filter it, and pump it back in. There's more to it than that, of course, but we'll take these things one step at a time.

That's basically it. Obviously there will be loads of ongoing tests and imagery to see how things are going, and I'll continue to have to watch carefully for signs of relapse for the rest of my life. For the time being, though, I'm alive and my prospects for staying that way seem pretty good.

Kevin's Blog Link

Friday, October 24, 2014

When Monsanto Owns Your Sperm (SATIRE)

Should have learned by now but how were you supposed to know you should always read the fine print on your cereal box.

You sit down at the kitchen table. Pour breakfast kibble into a bowl, add milk, and eat. That’s how it’s done. Maybe you take a glance at some cartoon character on the front of the box, but that’s about it. Nobody expected you’d need a law degree before a post-dawn get down with good ole Cap’n Crunch.

You don’t expect to hear someone knocking on your front door at six o’clock in the morning. At least you shouldn’t. Cops, bill collectors, and religious zealots sometimes pick that time in the morning since they know you’re probably home. They don’t particularly care if you think they’re entirely obnoxious for waking you up from a sound sleep. Oh, and process servers like early morning visits as well.


Well, that’s certainly plain enough. You open the front door and a funny looking little guy, resembling the Cap’n himself a bit, hands you official looking papers, smiles, and strolls back to his car. CEASE and DESIST. Well, you can’t please all the people all of the time.

You pour yourself a second cup of coffee and read the damn thing. Blah, blah, blah, your name, blah, blah, Monsanto, CEASE and DESIST, all activity involving, fluids, your body, blah, blah, implied consent, CAP’N CRUNCH, your supermarket reports. You live alone…read the cereal box. CEASE and DESIST.

You need more coffee and your reading glasses. On the back of the Cap’n Crunch box, in infinitely small letters, you read, “By consuming this Monsanto GMO product, you agree that Monsanto shall retain all rights to all material produced in conjunction with this Monsanto product.” You wonder if that isn’t just the slightest bit odd.

Back to the CEASE and DESIST order. “Blah, blah, blah, all products produced by ingesting this Monsanto product including, blood, muscle, flesh, bone, hair, nails, internal organs, ejaculate, sweat, tears, and manure. Use of any and all of these Monsanto products by you without suitable recompense….”

Reading further you are delighted to discover that you need not immediately stop using the Monsanto products which now constitute your body.  Upon monthly payment of one hundred dollars, for a single gentleman such as yourself, every 30 days Monsanto will allow you to maintain control of up to one inch of fingernail clippings (per digit), the equivalent amount of fluids and solids commensurate with up to four flushes a day, one inch of overall hair,  the product of 15 ejaculations, and the donation of a pint of blood to charitable organizations. Any use above these limits must be shipped immediately to the Monsanto processing facility nearest your home.

This seems relatively fair to you. After all, you did eat the cereal and failed to read the small print on the package. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” as they say. And since Sergeant Scalia maintains that corporations like Monsanto are human, and you’ve got the product of Monsanto seeds in you, in a way you’ve been royally screwed and Monsanto wants its child support, or something like that. Threats regarding dragging you through every court in the land and hounding you until the end of time are most definitely implied.

On the final page of the CEASE and DESIST order are instructions for proper payment as well as an offer for additional use of your Monsanto body products. For an extra fifty dollars a month, you are allowed unlimited use of the Monsanto products which now constitute your body. You don’t think you’ll be donating more than a pint of blood, or growing more than an inch of hair, but you decide to kick in the extra fifty anyway.

Not the best way to start off the morning, but you feel better once you’ve authorized your bank to pay Monsanto on a monthly basis. You figure it’s cheaper than court costs. Being jerked off by a lawyer would probably cost at least twice as much.

LINK to this amusing piece

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Paralysed man walks again after stem cell transplant – ‘better than moonwalk’

A paralysed Bulgarian man can walk again after receiving revolutionary stem cell transplant treatment in Poland in a breakthrough hailed by one of the British scientists responsible as “more impressive than a man walking on the moon”.

Darek Fidyka was paralysed from the chest down following a knife attack in 2010, but can now walk using a frame after receiving treatment in which nerve cells from his nose were transplanted into his severed spinal column, according to research published in the journal Cell Transplantation on Tuesday.

“When there’s nothing, you can’t feel almost half of your body. You’re helpless, lost,” the patient, who is now recovering at the Akron Neuro-Rehabilitation Center in Wroclaw, told BBC’s Panorama programme.

“When it begins to come back, you feel you’ve started your life all over again, as if you are reborn. It’s an incredible feeling, difficult to describe,” he said.

Specialist olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), which form part of the sense of smell, were used in the treatment as they are pathway cells, enabling nearby nerve fibres to be continually regenerated.

Pawel Tabakow, consultant neurosurgeon at Wroclaw University, led a team of surgeons in removing one of the patient’s olfactory bulbs before transplanting cultured cells into the spinal cord.

Scientists think that the cells, implanted above and below the injury, enabled damaged fibres to reconnect.

“What we’ve done is establish a principle, nerve fibres can grow back and restore function, provided we give them a bridge,” explained Geoff Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, who led the British research team working on the joint project.

“To me, this is more impressive than a man walking on the moon. I believe this is the moment when paralysis can be reversed.”

Tabakow said it was “amazing to see how regeneration of the spinal cord, something that was thought impossible for many years, is becoming a reality”.

Scientists now plan to hold clinical trials on 10 patients in Britain and Poland.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wicked Weather in Panama City Beach.....But Still a Great Time.

I FINALLY convinced The Dom to join me at the condo last week.  He hadn't been there since our Fourth of July festivities.

We had a very pleasant drive there.  Blue skies and sunshine.  That all changed early evening.

We had one helluva storm!  We actually slept on our sofa bed to enjoy the light show.  It was amazing.

When we woke up on Tuesday morning, we were shocked to see the destruction.  The beach was an absolute mess.  There were chaise lounges scattered all over the place.  Double Red Flags were flying.  (STAY OUT OF THE GULF).

It was obviously not going to be a "beach day", so we decided to walk over to Dee's Hangout for their Tuesday lunch of skillet fried chicken.

Much to our shock we saw horrible damage at our favorite hangout across the street.... Beach Bar and Package.

It's amazing that the windows weren't broken!
Local Storm Coverage

Wednesday and Thursday were spent at one of the pools.  The storm had really messed up the water.

Wouldn't you know it.... on Friday morning as we were ready to leave, the water cleared up.

Anyway, it was fun to see the gang, and I was tickled to get Dom to Panama City Beach!


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Diabetes breakthrough: Human stem cells altered to make insulin

In what could be a major breakthrough for diabetes treatment, scientists have discovered a way to drastically alter human embryonic stem cells, transforming them into cells that produce and release insulin.

Developed by researchers at Harvard University, the innovative new technique involves essentially recreating the formation process of beta cells, which are located in the pancreas and secrete insulin. By stimulating certain genes in a certain order, the Boston Globe reports that scientists were able to charm embryonic stem cells – and even altered skin cells – into becoming beta cells.

The whole process took 15 years of work, but now lead researcher Doug Melton says the team can create hundreds of millions of these makeshift beta cells, and they’re hoping to transplant them into humans starting in the next few years.

"We are reporting the ability to make hundreds of millions of cells — the cell that can read the amount of sugar in the blood which appears following a meal and then squirts out or secretes just the right amount of insulin," Melton told NPR.

There are 29.1 million people in the United States believed to have diabetes, according to statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dating back to 2012. That’s 9.3 percent of the entire population.

Currently, diabetes patients must rely on insulin shots to keep their blood-sugar levels stable, a process that involves continual monitoring and attentiveness. Failure to efficiently control these levels can cause some patients to go blind, suffer from nerve damage and heart attacks, and even lose limbs. If Melton’s beta cell creation process can be successfully applied to humans, it could eliminate the need for such constant check-ups, since the cells would be doing all the monitoring.

Already, there are positive signs moving forward: the transplanted cells have worked wonders on mice, quickly stabilizing their insulin levels.

"We can cure their diabetes right away — in less than 10 days," Melton said to NPR. "This finding provides a kind of unprecedented cell source that could be used for cell transplantation therapy in diabetes."

With mice successfully treated, the team is now working with a scientist in Chicago to put cells into primates, the Globe reported.

Even so, significant obstacles remain, particularly for those who have Type 1 diabetes. With this particular form of the disease, the human immune system actually targets and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, so Melton’s team is looking into encasing cells inside of a protective shell in order to ensure their safety.

Another hurdle is political, since many are against tinkering with human embryonic stem cells on the grounds that research wipes out human embryos. As a result, scientists are also trying to recreate their work on other types of stem cells.

Regardless, the research – formally published in the Cell journal this week – is being welcomed with open arms.

"It's a huge landmark paper. I would say it's bigger than the discovery of insulin," Jose Olberholzer, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois, told NPR. "The discovery of insulin was important and certainly saved millions of people, but it just allowed patients to survive but not really to have a normal life. The finding of Doug Melton would really allow to offer them really something what I would call a functional cure. You know, they really wouldn't feel anymore being diabetic if they got a transplant with those kind of cells."


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Food Companies Using Monsanto's Products. (GMOs)

VA Braces for a New Front in the Agent Orange Battle

A group of post-Vietnam War veterans say their illnesses are tied to the herbicide. So far, Veterans Affairs isn't buying it.

October 7, 2014 In 2011, Wes Carter was talking to a handful of friends when he realized they had something in common: They all flew on the C-123 planes after the Vietnam War, and they were all sick.

During the Vietnam War, C-123s were used to spray the herbicide Agent Orange. Although the planes were being used for cargo and medical flights by the time Carter served after the war, he and his fellow veterans believe their illnesses—which range from diabetes to cancer—are tied to their time on the planes between 1972 and 1982.

"We were physically scraping goop from nooks and crannies trying to get the thing as clean as possible, because there's quite an odor to it," said Carter, 68, who flew on a C-123 plane and believes that his prostate cancer and heart disease are tied to his time in the service.

So far, C-123 veterans have had little luck getting their disability claims granted.

Last year, C-123 pilot Paul Bailey, who died in October 2013 after suffering from prostate cancer, became the first of Carter's group to get his exposure to Agent Orange recognized without having to seek help from the Board of Veterans Appeals.

"I've said that because they've granted one, that becomes the de facto standard, why not grant them all?" said Thomas Bandzul, a lawyer representing the C-123 veterans.

The Veterans Affairs Department said in a July 2013 letter to Bailey that the "preponderance of the evidence suggests that you were exposed to herbicide onboard the U.S. Air Force C-123K aircraft." But the claims are considered on a case-by-case basis, meaning the decision isn't factored in when VA staff look at other disability requests.

The C-123 crew isn't the first group of veterans to accuse the VA of being unwilling to recognize that their illnesses are tied to Agent Orange exposure. For decades, veterans who served in the Vietnam War tried to get disability compensation, to no avail. It wasn't until almost 20 years after the war that the VA began to link certain illnesses in Vietnam veterans to Agent Orange. They are still pressing the department to cover more illnesses, with former Secretary Eric Shinseki in 2010 tying four more diseases to Agent Orange for Vietnam veterans.

And, as before, the VA and the C-123 veterans each believe they have science on their side.

The VA said in an email that any Agent Orange the C-123 veterans were exposed to would have been solidified, which wouldn't lead to "adverse long-term health effects."

And that's because dried Agent Orange does not "readily penetrate into human skin," meaning it would be difficult for C-123 veterans to absorb Agent Orange into their systems, according to a separate 1991 study cited by the VA.

The VA reviewed that report, and more than a dozen others, throughout 2011 and 2012 and determined that it's unlikely that C-123 veterans were exposed to Agent Orange, and if they were, it was at levels small enough that it wouldn't impact their health.

But there's also a swath of scientific evidence that disagrees with the VA.

Most notably, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the Health and Human Services Department, said in 2013 that it could not "exclude inhalation [or ingestion] exposure to TCDD [commonly referred to as dioxin, a chemical included in Agent Orange] while working on contaminated aircraft." It concluded that "aircrew operating in this, and similar, environments were exposed to TCDD."

The military stopped using the C-123 planes in 1982. In the late '90s, Air Force officials at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio realized that a number of C-123 planes sold to other countries "may have been contaminated by residual pesticides/herbicides" including Agent Orange, according to a 1997 Air Force Security Assistance Center memo.

The memo notes that Air Force Security Assistance Center headquarters staff become aware of the problem after the General Services Administration tried to sell some of the planes in Arizona. One of the planes was determined to be contaminated, and so the Air Force presumed that—unless they had evidence to suggest otherwise—all of the C-123 planes were contaminated.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, have pressed for the VA to recognize C-123 veterans exposure. But their efforts are largely on hold as Congress grapples with the larger department scandal, and a government agency studies the Agent Orange claims.

The deciding factor could come later this month. The Institute of Medicine is expected to release a report determining if there is "an excess risk of adverse health" for the C-123 crew members.

But if the institute says that the C-123 crews were exposed to harmful levels, it could create more headaches for the VA.

Bandzul said that Alison Hickey, the VA under secretary for benefits, has promised to follow the findings of the institute's report.

But the roughly 2,000 members of the C-123 crews are a small fraction of the more than 22 million total in the veterans community. And granting benefits to the post-Vietnam veterans could give new life to ongoing fights over Agent Orange exposure between the VA and Vietnam veterans who served at sea, also known as blue-water veterans, or those who served on bases where the chemical was stored.

"You could smell the stuff in the air, every time that they fueled a plane. It was unbelievable," Bandzul said. "... So we're wondering if that group [who served on bases where it was stored] is going to be next."

In the meantime, Carter hopes the Institute of Medicine will be fair, but is hesitant to believe that things will improve. "We feel that the deck had been stacked against us," he said. "VA took an adversarial position instead of a neutral position against us"

But Carter argues that if he was able to change his mind on the harms of Agent Orange exposure, the VA should, too. He said he didn't believe exposure was harmful until his father, a Vietnam War veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange, died from prostate cancer.

"The VA even said, 'You have a family history of prostate cancer,' " Carter said. "No, we have a history of being warriors, there's a difference."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Precious Cat Litter, Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation Team Up to Dust Cancer

Precious Cat Litter and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) have partnered on a campaign to raise awareness and find a cure for multiple myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer. Kathy Elsey, cofounder of the Englewood, Colo.-based Precious Cat Litter, was diagnosed with the disease in 2009. Since then, she and her husband, Dr. Bruce Elsey, have donated nearly $7 million to the Norwalk, Conn.-based organization.

"This is an opportunity for us to raise awareness for an organization that is making great strides toward finding a cure and advancing treatments for multiple myeloma,” said Dr. Elsey, cofounder of Precious Cat Products.

The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, established in 1998 by twin sisters Karen Andrews and Kathy Giusti after Kathy’s multiple myeloma diagnosis, aims to relentlessly pursue innovative means that accelerate the development of next-generation multiple myeloma treatments to extend the lives of patients and lead to a cure.

The campaign, #CatsAgainstCancer, spans Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the Photala photo sharing platform to enable users to share their individual experiences and support the campaign’s mission.

As part of the campaign, users can download a coupon from the campaign landing page that allows them to save $3 on their next purchase of a 40-pound bag of Precious Cat Ultra Litter. For every $3 saved, Precious Cat will donate $3 to MMRF.

To find out more about the campaign and how you can participate, visit /redirect.aspx?


Monsanto's Roundup Linked to Cancer - Again

A brilliant and celebrated inventor, John Franz, gave us an herbicide, Roundup, which has changed the face of agriculture. This herbicide has become the foundation for an entirely novel approach to farming - biotech agriculture - that has expanded rapidly throughout the globe.

Monsanto makes seeds for soy, corn, canola, cotton, alfalfa and sugar beets that are genetically engineered to be tolerant to Roundup. The seeds are marketed in 120 countries. Throughout the world, Roundup is sprayed heavily as a weed killer without fear of damaging the cash crops, which have been engineered to survive the herbicide's effects.

"The change in how agriculture is produced has brought, frankly, a change in the profile of diseases. We've gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects and illnesses seldom seen before."

Roundup seemed, at first, to be the perfect herbicide. It blocks the ESPS synthase enzyme, which prevents the synthesis of amino acids that plants need for growth. Since animals don't have this enzyme, it was initially hypothesized that they would be safe from Roundup's effects.

Unfortunately, Roundup has now been shown to affect much more than the EPSP synthase enzyme. The herbicide has been proven to cause birth defects in vertebrates, including in humans, and it may also be the cause of a fatal kidney disease epidemic.

An increasing number of studies are now linking the herbicide to cancer.

Roundup Linked to Increased Cancer in "Soy Republic"

Roundup is now heavily sprayed in what is known as the "Soy Republic," an area of Latin America larger than the state of California. This region has undergone a profound transformation since genetically modified (GM) crops were first introduced in 1996. Some 125 million acres in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay are now devoted to GM soy production.

Doctors serving these areas have documented an alarming increase in cancers. A group of dedicated physicians formed an organization, Doctors of Fumigated Towns. They held a national conference in August of 2010 in Córdoba, the center of Argentina's soy region. The Department of Medical Sciences of the National University at Córdoba sponsored the conference. An estimated 160 doctors from throughout the country attended.

Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez, a pediatrician specializing in environmental health, explained his concerns:

"The change in how agriculture is produced has brought, frankly, a change in the profile of diseases. We've gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects and illnesses seldom seen before. What we have complained about for years was confirmed and especially what doctors say about the sprayed towns and areas affected by industrial agriculture. Cancer cases are multiplying as never before in areas with massive use of pesticides."

Dr. Avila Vazquez blamed the biotech agricultural corporations for placing their profits over the public's health:

"The tobacco companies denied the link between smoking and cancer, and took decades to recognize the truth. The biotech and agrochemical corporations are the same as the tobacco industry; they lie and favor business over the health of the population."

It was the health of the population that concerned Dr. Damian Verzeñassi, professor of social and environmental health from the National University at Rosario. In 2010, he began a house-to-house epidemiological study of 65,000 people in Santa Fe, also in Argentina's soy region. He found cancer rates two to four times higher than the national average, with increases in breast, prostate and lung cancers.

Dr. Verzeñassi commented on his findings: "Cancer has skyrocketed in the last fifteen years."

Much the same was found in Chaco, Argentina's poorest province. In 2012, two villages were compared, the heavily sprayed farming village of Avia Terai and the non-sprayed ranching village of Charadai. In the farming village, 31 percent of residents had a family member with cancer while only 3 percent of residents in the ranching village had one.

Carlos Fria lives in Avia Terai. He has complained about glyphosate spraying in close proximity to his home:

"If the wind changes, the agrochemicals come into the house. My uncle just died of cancer. My wife too, passed away from cancer. Now many, many people are dying of cancer. It didn't used to be like that. In my opinion, this has to do with the poison they put on the fields."

Roundup Linked to Lymphoma

Research has also been done in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand investigating possible links between glyphosate, Roundup's active ingredient, and cancer. A large number of studies have focused on glyphosate's possible association with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have analyzed studies spanning almost three decades. The IARC is the branch of the World Health Organization that promotes cancer research. Scientists throughout the world with skills in epidemiology, laboratory sciences and biostatistics are brought together to identify the causes of cancer so that preventive measures may be instituted. The agency views cancers as linked, directly or indirectly, to environmental factors.

The research shows that Roundup is linked to a host of cancers in those living in the heavily sprayed regions of Latin America. It has also been linked to B cell lymphoma, and to brain cancer.

JUMP for much more

Friday, October 3, 2014

Long-Term Isolation Poses Special Challenges after Stem Cell Transplantation

“The thing I remember most about the weeks after the transplant was that everyone who came in to see me was wearing a mask. I didn’t have to wear one, but they did. Day after day, week after week, all I saw of the people I loved was the little rectangle of their faces — eyes and forehead — that the mask did not cover. Everyone who touched me was wearing gloves, and I grew to miss that, too, the feel of holding (my partner’s) hand, the touch of my sisters’ and friends’ lips on my cheek.”

In this quote from her 2014 memoir, Everybody’s Got Something, morning news show veteran Robin Roberts crystallized the sense of disconnection ubiquitous among stem cell and bone marrow transplant, or BMT, patients. Ms. Roberts — who anchors ABC’s Good Morning America — received a stem cell transplant at Memorial Sloan Kettering in the fall of 2012 to treat the life-threatening bone marrow disorder myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS).

For the hundreds of adults who undergo stem cell or bone marrow transplants each year at MSK, mostly for blood cancers, Ms. Roberts’ book relates a familiar experience. Beyond the physical difficulties of the treatment itself, this type of transplantation requires prolonged isolation from everyday life, adding emotional challenges to an already steep recovery.

“With any diagnosis that threatens your life, even for patients with the greatest amount of support, there may be a sense of aloneness at different points in the illness and treatment experience,” says MSK social worker Margery Davis, who works with patients on the Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Service. “For transplant patients, there’s also a physical isolation and restrictive lifestyle imposed by the treatment that’s very different from other experiences.”

Creating Comfort during the Hospital Stay

During hospitalization, which frequently ranges from two to six weeks, it’s paramount to keep bacteria, viruses, and fungi from infecting BMT patients — particularly for those receiving a donor-derived, or allogeneic, transplant, whose immune systems are being entirely rebuilt as these “foreign” cells engraft in their bone marrow. That’s why all visitors, along with medical staff, bear the rectangular visage of masks and don gloves, as Ms. Roberts poignantly describes. It’s only after patients’ blood counts begin to rise again that they’re even allowed out of their hospital room to walk the halls.

This isolation doesn’t have to equal solitary confinement, since a small circle of family and friends can spend time with BMT patients both in the hospital and at home in the first months after discharge. Instead, the separation stems from being deprived of normal sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches along with regular patterns of socializing, working, shopping, and moving about.

“People generally feel well taken care of here, so I wouldn’t say the isolation is only because of the environment and the masks and gloves,” Ms. Davis says. “I think the room isolation contributes to feeling disconnected at times. It’s hard to cope being in a room that represents their illness and treatment 24-7.”

To compensate, some patients outfit their space for the long haul with homey touches such as comforters, photographs, and simple wall hangings, says Ann Jakubowski, a physician on MSK’s Adult Bone Marrow Transplantation Outpatient Unit. They can also shun hospital gowns and wear their own leisure clothes during much of their stay.

Making Adjustments at Home

Psychologically, a far more vulnerable time for most BMT patients is the 100 or so days after they leave the hospital, according to Dr. Jakubowski and Ms. Davis. At home, a multitude of adjustments await, all to minimize germs: Dirt and dust are enemies. Many foods are discouraged. No taking mass transit, no eating out, no venturing into crowds. Visitors must be limited and screened to make sure they’re not sick. Even the family pet — because it may carry bacteria or other infectious organisms — might have to temporarily live elsewhere.

“For some people, their dog is like their baby, especially for those who don’t have kids,” Dr. Jakubowski says. “It’s really hard on them. There are a lot of rules and recommendations they are given while their immune system is suppressed…all trying to protect them.”

Unless they’re able to work from home, many patients must also leave their jobs for at least three months, which can add to the mounting financial strain of treatment. Some people also experience the long separation from work as a blow to their identity. Creating structure around these home-based months — when patients are encouraged to limit outside activities to only frequent follow-up medical visits — is key. Quiet routines that include bathing, exercise, reading, and light household chores such as folding laundry can help focus patients during seemingly endless days.

“I think the slow recovery is very hard for people to sit with,” Ms. Davis says. “People need to get back to work for financial reasons, but also for purpose and meaning in their life. They need to create a structure for themselves without being able to work.”

Strategies for Recovery

To smooth recovery psychologically and physically during isolation, Dr. Jakubowski and Ms. Davis offer the following advice. These tips may be helpful not only to patients who have undergone BMTs but also to those whose immune systems may be compromised due to chemotherapy or other cancer treatments.

Keep active.

Yes, your energy is limited, and you can’t hit the gym. But while you’re hospitalized, get out of bed at least twice a day, if possible, and do the exercises hospital staff members recommend, which reduce the risk of infection and help maintain muscle tone. At home, short treks outside (away from crowds) help build endurance, and wisely selected video fitness games such as tennis, basketball, or bowling offer a surprisingly effective workout. “It’s about keeping a positive perspective and moving forward as opposed to being in a sick mode,” Dr. Jakubowski says.

Stay connected.

Virtual connections — through email, Skype, and social media outlets such as Facebook — can fill the void while face-to-face contact is scarce. MSK offers the online community Connections for patients and caregivers to give and receive support. Just be careful about chat rooms and websites operating without oversight from a major health organization, Dr. Jakubowski says, since information may be misleading or wrong.

“With the Internet, it’s easier to keep some connection with other people,” she says. “You can see and hear them in ways that wouldn’t have been possible ten or 15 years ago. And in terms of being able to talk to your kids while you’re in the hospital, or talk to your friends, being able to use Skype is huge.”

Take a taste.

The chemotherapy and radiation typical before stem cell transplantation, as well as some of the medications needed to protect the transplant patient, temporarily affect many patients’ sense of smell and taste, lowering appetite and causing varying degrees of weight loss. Despite your aversion, “keep trying tastes of everything — salty, sweet, and different textures — to see what works right now,” Dr. Jakubowski suggests.

Focus on the end game.

Set small, short-term goals such as attending a social event (with your doctor’s blessing) so you have something to look forward to. “It’s a relief to go even to the grocery store,” Ms. Davis says. “It’s a sign you’re moving toward recovery, toward normal life.”

But don’t do too much, too soon, even if you’re feeling stronger, Dr. Jakubowski warns. “Some patients live by the rules…and others feel very cheated that things aren’t normal. It’s maybe a year of your life, but if it’s what it takes to save your life, try to hang in there.”

Set expectations.

Appoint a “spokesperson” who can keep others in the loop about your transplant and recovery. This person can also help set expectations for your at-home healing period. “Patients say that everyone expects them to do everything they did before, but just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re back to normal,” Ms. Davis says. “It’s a very high-risk phase, and I think a sense of isolation comes when people have a different schedule for you to get back to normal than the real schedule.”


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hope for blind as scientists find stem cell reservoir in human eye

Scientists at the University of Southampton have discovered stem cells in the human eye which can be transformed into light sensitive cells and potentially reverse blindness

Hundreds of thousands of people who are registered blind have been offered new hope after scientists discovered special stem cells in the human eye which can be altered to pick up light.

Researchers at the University of Southampton have discovered a reservoir of stem cells in an area of the eye called the corneal limbus.

And they have proven that, in the right environment, they can be transformed into photo-receptor cells which react to light.

Scientists are hopeful that implanting the cultured stem cells in a damaged eye could reverse blindness.

It could offer a potential cure for the hundreds of thousands of people suffering macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa, which are both caused by the loss of photo-receptor cells in the eye.

And researchers were amazed to find that the cells even existed in the eyes of a 97-year-old, opening up the possibility that the treatment could work for the elderly.

“These cells are readily accessible, and they have surprising plasticity, which makes them an attractive cell resource for future therapies,” said Professor Andrew Lotery, of the University of Southampton and a Consultant Ophthalmologist at Southampton General Hospital led the study.

“This would help avoid complications with rejection or contamination because the cells taken from the eye would be returned to the same patient.

“More research is now needed to develop this approach before these cells are used in patients.”

The loss of photoreceptors cells causes irreversible blindness.

Age related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the developed world which affects around one in three people in the UK by age 75.

Around 513,000 people are in the late stage of AMD and that figure is set to rise by one-third over the next decade, totalling nearly 700,000 cases by 2020.

Almost two million people in the UK are living with sight loss, approximately one person in 30.

It is predicted that by 2020 the number of people with sight loss will rise to over 2,250,000. By 2050, the number of people with sight loss in the UK will double to nearly four million.

There is currently no treatment for blindness caused by the loss of photo-receptors.

So far scientists have only shown that the concept works in the lab and are yet to implant them in a human patient. But they are hopeful that the cells could be taken from a patient, grown in the lab and transplanted back into the eye. Clinical trials should begin within five years.

Charities are optimistic that it could herald a brighter future for people with sight loss.

Clara Eaglen, RNIB Eye Health Campaigns Manager, said: "At RNIB we talk to people everyday who tell us about the huge impact that losing their sight has on daily life, so this is very interesting research.

"The study shows that you can grow stem cells and make them act like light sensitive cells, a big step forward in helping patients with conditions such as age-related macular degeneration where damage has occurred to the light sensitive cells.

"These cells can then be taken from a patient, changed, and replaced - reducing the risk of rejection which is exciting.

"We are hopeful that stem cell technology will significantly change the way in which people with sight loss are treated over the next decade."

The research was published in the journal PLOS One.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The promise of stem cell therapies is closer to reality

Edgar Irastorza was just 31 when his heart stopped beating in October 2008.

A Miami property manager, break-dancer and former high school wrestler, Irastorza had recently gained weight as his wife’s third pregnancy progressed.

“I kind of got pregnant, too,” he said.

During a workout one day, he felt short of breath and insisted that friends rush him to the hospital. Minutes later, his pulse flatlined.

He survived the heart attack, but the scar tissue that resulted cut his heart’s pumping ability by a third. He couldn’t pick up his children. He couldn’t dance. He fell asleep every night wondering if he would wake up in the morning.

Desperation motivated Irastorza to volunteer for a highly unusual medical research trial: getting stem cells injected directly into his heart.

“I just trusted my doctors and the science behind it, and said, ‘This is my only chance,’ ” he said recently.

Over the last five years, by studying stem cells in lab dishes, test animals and intrepid patients like Irastorza, researchers have brought the vague, grandiose promises of stem cell therapies closer to reality.

Stem cells broke into the public consciousness in the early 1990s, alluring for their potential to help the body beat back diseases of degeneration like Alzheimer’s, and to grow new parts to treat conditions like spinal cord injuries.

Progress has been slow. But researchers have been learning how to best use stem cells, what types to use and how to deliver them to the body — findings that are not singularly transformational, but progressive and pragmatic.

As many as 4,500 clinical trials involving stem cells are underway in the United States to treat patients with heart disease, blindness, Parkinson’s, HIV, diabetes, blood cancers and spinal cord injuries, among other conditions.

Initial studies suggest that stem cell therapy can be delivered safely, said Dr. Ellen Feigal, senior vice president of research and development at the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the state stem cell agency, which has awarded more than $2 billion toward stem cell research since 2006 and is enrolling patients in 10 clinical trials this year.

But enthusiasm for stem cells sometimes outstrips the science. When Gov. Rick Perry of Texas had adult stem cells injected into his spine in 2011 for a back injury, his surgeon had never tried the procedure and had no data to support the experiment.

A June review in The New England Journal of Medicine found that “platelet-rich plasma” stem cell therapies praised by a number of athletes worked no better than placebos.

Such public chatter may imply that stem cell research is further advanced than it is, said Dr. Charles Murry, a co-director of the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Washington.

Slick websites advertising stem cell therapies leave the impression that such treatments are ready to use and that “the only problem is the evil physicians and government, who want to separate people from lifesaving therapies,” said Murry, a cardiovascular pathologist. “Almost every one of these places are charlatans.”

In fact, very few therapies beyond bone marrow transplants have been shown to be effective, he said.

And still to be determined is the most cost-effective way to deliver stem cells.

Scientists presumed, for instance, that a patient’s heart would repair itself better when injected with its own stem cells. But the study that Irastorza volunteered for at the University of Miami showed that patients fared just as well with someone else’s stem cells, and their bodies did not mount an immune attack against the cells.

If supported by further studies, this means that future patients won’t need immune suppressants, and that stem cells can be made in large batches — and therefore more cheaply.

Treatment for Irastorza, who received his own cells, began with the withdrawing of some of his bone marrow. Researchers took adult cells believed to be stem cells from the marrow and then inserted them through a catheter directly into Irastorza’s heart.

About a third of his left ventricle had been destroyed by his heart attack, which was attributed to a hereditary cholesterol problem. It’s impossible to know for sure whether the bone marrow cells’ descendants became heart muscle cells or if repairs were spurred some other way, but today, his doctors tell him his heart is one third of the way back to normal.

It’s enough, Irastorza said, to allow him to dance again and to be the kind of father he wants to be: “My quality of life is like night and day to before the treatment.”

Dr. Roach: How to keep ‘smoldering’ myeloma at slow pace

Dear Dr. Roach: More than a year ago, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in the smoldering stage, based on a bone marrow biopsy and blood tests. Every three months, my hematologist checks my blood tests and tells me that when I feel bone pain, it will be time to begin chemo. While I am in the smoldering stage, is there anything I can do to prolong the shift to the full-blown stage? I am 79 and otherwise in good health. My only symptoms are some fatigue and lack of energy.


Dear W.K.: Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer of blood cells — the plasma cells, which are responsible for making antibodies. Most, if not all, cases of myeloma have a precursor stage called MGUS, monoclonal gammopathy of uncertain significance. About 3 percent of all people older than 50 have MGUS, and about 1 percent of people with MGUS will develop MM per year. “Smoldering” MM is the diagnosis when the bone marrow biopsy shows evidence of MM but there are no other signs of MM. Signs of MM include myeloma in the bones (on X-ray or CT, called lytic lesions, since they “lyse,” or cause holes in, the bones), anemia, high calcium, poor kidney function and high viscosity of the blood, which predisposes a person to strokes.

In addition to looking for physical symptoms, your hematologist is searching for any of these findings. In addition, the amount of immunoglobulin in the blood predicts risk for developing overt MM (the higher the immunoglobulin, the higher the risk). A level over 1.5 g/dL puts you at high risk. Although trials are ongoing, there are no generally accepted treatments to prevent progression to MM for people with MGUS or smoldering myeloma.