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Tag: cancer

Google on Life and Death

Monday, 23 September, 2013 1 Comment

“One of the things I thought was amazing is that if you solve cancer, you’d add about three years to people’s average life expectancy. We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that’ll totally change the world, but when you really take a step back and look at it, yeah, there are many, many tragic cases of cancer, and it’s very, very sad, but in the aggregate, it’s not as big an advance as you might think.” So says search engine entrepreneur Larry Page in “The Audacity of Google”, the main feature article in the current issue of Time magazine, which plays up the interview on its cover with the dramatic title: Can Google Solve Death?.

In a post on Google+ dated 18 September, Page wrote: “I’m excited to announce Calico, a new company that will focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases… 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.”

Nabanita Das commented on the post: “quite an overpowering thought ….cancer is known to exist more than 5000 yrs back (as mentioned in epics ) ….it is the most persistent harbinger of natural (aging) death process ….any breakthrough will surely be multifaceted.”

But a close reading of Page’s comments in the Time interview suggest that “solving” the cancer problem is not what Page has in mind. Sure, the search for the cancer “cure” is regarded by many as the Holy Grail of modern medicine, but it does not follow that Page would see it this way. The reason is “Big Data”. More about that here on Wednesday.

Time


Stop Sepsis. Save Lives.

Monday, 9 September, 2013 0 Comments

The first-ever Berlin Sepsis Summit (PDF) opens today in Langenbeck-Virchow-Haus. Your blogger has a personal interest in the disease as he contracted sepsis, with near fatal consequences, while in hospital during summer and nothing concentrates the mind more wonderfully than the prospect of closure and its causes, to paraphrase Dr Johnson. For those unfamiliar with the syndrome, sepsis occurs when the body is unable to fight bacterial infection. Perversely, many of the advances in modern healthcare weaken our immune system, opening the door for sepsis. These include cancer treatments, medicines for gastro-intestinal illnesses and drugs that affect the immune system, like cortisone.

Every three seconds someone around the world dies of sepsis and, terrifyingly, it is now the second-leading cause of death in non-coronary intensive care unit patients. Even in first-world countries such as Germany, with a much-praised healthcare system, some 160,000 people die from the disease annually. Imagine, then, the havoc it wreaks in less developed societies?

The keynote address in Berlin today will be given by Ciaran Staunton, whose young son, Rory, died of sepsis in April last year in NYU Langone Medical Center. A preventable death in one of the world’s best medical facilities produced a storm of outrage and led in January to the enactment in New York State of “Rory’s Regulations“, a series of protocols to diagnose and treat sepsis before it turns fatal.

World Sepsis Day will be marked globally on Friday and the declared goal is reducing the incidence of the disease by 20 percent by 2020. Stop Sepsis. Save Lives.

World Sepsis Day


The promise of immunotherapy

Friday, 16 August, 2013 0 Comments

“YERVOY (ipilimumab) can cause serious side effects in many parts of your body which can lead to death.” That’s a rather drastic warning for a drug company to offer prospective users, but that’s exactly what Bristol-Myers Squibb is doing in the case of YERVOY (ipilimumab), which “shrank tumors significantly in about 41 percent of patients with advanced melanoma in a small study. In few of the 52 patients in the study, tumors disappeared completely, at least as could be determined by imaging.” One of that “few” is the journalist is Mary Elizabeth Williams, who writes for Salon. Since late 2011, she’s been taking part in an immunotherapy clinical trial at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan and, as she puts it, she’s “clean”. What is immunotherapy? Williams explains:

“Unlike traditional cancer treatments, immunotherapy works with the body’s own defense system, releasing the braking system on a patient’s T-cells to attack cancer. And because it works systemically, the hope is that the immune system will be able to fight not just the cancer cells that testing can detect, but anywhere it might be lurking in the body — and to continue to do so long-term.”

That’s a snippet from “My ‘truly remarkable’ cancer breakthrough,” which appeared in Salon on 17 May this year. “Because immunotherapy worked so well for enough of us, my greatest hope is that now it will work well for a whole hell of a lot more of us,” says Williams. And so say all of us. By the way, on Wednesday OncLive reported that, “Any lingering skepticism about immunotherapy as an anticancer strategy appears to have been banished by research presented at the 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, with fresh data from several key trials translating into excitement in clinical circles and in the investment arena.” Faster, please.

 melanoma cells


How the Mad Men marketed coffee

Wednesday, 15 August, 2012

Produced by Vision Associates in 1961 as a promotional film for the Coffee Brewing Institute, This is Coffee has been placed in the public domain thanks to the Prelinger Archives. Coffee, is there anything it cannot do? Study: Coffee Lowers Colon Cancer Risk. And there’s this: Coffee Cuts Alzheimer’s Disease Risk. Drink lots today!

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Provide, provide!

Wednesday, 7 December, 2011 0 Comments

“Infusing his speech with the type of language that has emerged in the Occupy protests, President Obama on Tuesday delivered his most pointed appeal yet for using taxes and regulations to level the economic playing field.” That’s what the New York Times tells readers in “Obama Strikes Populist Chord With Speech on G.O.P. Turf“. Typically, clownish media around the world ran with the story.

It would be no harm if the president, for once, tried to level the economic playing field by actually empowering people to provide for themselves and their families. As a politician, however, he is more interested in rhetoric than realism. Which brings us to Provide, provide! by Robert Frost. “Make the whole stock exchange your own! / If need be occupy a throne”, is the perfect couplet for the populist.

Provide, provide!

The witch that came (the withered hag)
To wash the steps with pail and rag
Was once the beauty Abishag,

The picture pride of Hollywood.
Too many fall from great and good
For you to doubt the likelihood.

Die early and avoid the fate.
Or if predestined to die late,
Make up your mind to die in state.

Make the whole stock exchange your own!
If need be occupy a throne,
Where nobody can call you crone.

Some have relied on what they knew,
Others on being simply true.
What worked for them might work for you.

No memory of having starred
Atones for later disregard
Or keeps the end from being hard.

Better to go down dignified
With boughten friendship at your side
Than none at all. Provide, provide!

Robert Frost (1874 —1963)

In 1885 when Robert Frost was 11, his father died of tuberculosis, leaving the family with just $8. In 1894 he sold his first poem, “My Butterfly: An Elegy”, to the New York Independent for $15. After Frost’s mother died of cancer in 1900, he wrote poems, delivered newspapers and worked in a factory as a lightbulb filament changer to make ends meet. He provided.