There are numerous long lived people in the Bible. There are others enumerated in the pantheon of religions that preceded the books of the children of Abraham. Eastern religions have their own immortals. In all cases immortality is the gift of the sacred. Even the evil possessors of this gift are considered above mere mortals. But that may be changing. Last year I noted that scientists had discovered how to work with the gene that causes aging, possibly even stopping it completely. There has been a spate of other developments as well. All the way back in the good old days of 2016 I wrote about how scientists were overcoming the limitations that prevented humans uploading their minds into cybernetic beings. [Read more…] about From Here to Eternity
Lilfe’s a funny old thing. You show up, with no input on when or where, you hang around for a while, then you die. Some make the most of their time here on this rock, other’s not so much. But, for some, choices are denied them. Somehow their bodies break down and cause them endless suffering. Yes, I’m aware some people’s brains break down as well, but today we’re just focusing on the flesh. You know, that tacky bag of epidermal tissue that tends to wrinkle and holds your bones and organs in. Anyway, a list of common diseases tend to roam the earth denying people their lives. They all tend to force the person to dramatically alter their lifestyle, eating habits, social constructs, and then they kill the person anyway. Some slower than others, but the end result is the same.
[Read more…] about Living a Little Healthier
While the Internet keeps puking up stuff that is supposed to make you healthy but will, in reality, get you killed, or, at least, not make you any better, there have been some stunning advances in the real world. Granted, they use that magic science stuff and not something cool someone once said their Aunt Sadie swore might work. If you believed and sent $100 to someone somewhere. These remedies, and I use that term incorrectly here, are only slightly less effective than praying for rainbows or sending good vibes via Twitter. Steve Jobs chased a holistic rainbow and died because of it.
Alice G. Walton, over at Forbes, sums it up.
According to Steve Jobs’ biographer, Walter Isaacson, the Apple mastermind eventually came to regret the decision he had made years earlier to reject potentially life-saving surgery in favor of alternative treatments like acupuncture, dietary supplements and juices. Though he ultimately embraced the surgery and sought out cutting-edge experimental methods, they were not enough to save him.
Jobs’ cancer had been discovered by chance during a CT scan in 2003 to look for kidney stones, during which doctors saw a “shadow” on his pancreas. Isaacson told CBS’ 60 Minutes last night that while the news was not good, the upside was that the form of pancreatic cancer from which Jobs suffered (a neuroendocrine islet tumor) was one of the 5% or so that are slow growing and most likely to be cured.
Kids, those doctor people aren’t perfect, no human is, but when faced with something like this you should get a second diagnosis, not skip to Mexico and drink magic juices. Just FYI, the cure rate for what he had, in the stage it was caught, runs around 95%. In other words, had he lived the world would probably have been spared a $1,000 i-Phone that finally is capable of mimicking an Android.
I have previously written about how science is closer to an actual cure for Alzheimer’s, worked out a method so the paralyzed can walk, and heal wounds with an easy to apply polymer that requires no special treatment. You can read about all of those by clicking the link.
And now, since you’ve been kind enough to read this far, I’m going to share some new cures that are headed to a doctor near you.
Let’s start with cancer. Lydia Ramsey, on loan to Science Alert from Business Insider, says that science has discovered a way for patients to, literally, heal themselves with a little help from a medical professional.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved a cutting-edge cancer therapy.
On Wednesday, the FDA approved Novartis’s Kymriah, also known as tisagenlecleucel, a treatment for pediatric acute lymphoblastic lymphoblastic leukemia.
“I think this is most exciting thing I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Dr. Tim Cripe, an oncologist who was part of the FDA advisory committee panel that voted in favour of approving the drug in July.
The highly personalised treatment is called CAR T-cell therapy. It’s a type of cancer immunotherapy — or a therapy that harnesses the body’s immune system to take on cancer cells.
“We’re entering a new frontier in medical innovation with the ability to reprogram a patient’s own cells to attack a deadly cancer,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.
“New technologies such as gene and cell therapies hold out the potential to transform medicine and create an inflection point in our ability to treat and even cure many intractable illnesses. At the FDA, we’re committed to helping expedite the development and review of groundbreaking treatments that have the potential to be life-saving.”
Short for chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, CAR-T treatment takes a person’s own cells, removes them from the body, re-engineers them, and then puts the cells back in the body where they can attack cancer cells.
Novartis’ therapy is one of two cutting-edge treatments for blood cancers are poised to get approved by the end of the year.
The FDA is also expected to make a decision about another CAR-T treatment from Kite Pharma, which just got acquired by Gilead Sciences. That’s for Kite’s CAR-T treatment for aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (more general than DLBCL).
In data Kite released in February, the company found that out of the 101 patients, 36 percent had a complete response to the treatment after six months.
It’s a type of cancer that Novartis wants to get approval for in the future.
In June, Novartis released data from its Phase 2 trial of CTL019 in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL for short), an aggressive form of lymphoma that’s one of the two types Kite’s data looks at. The trial found that of the 51 patients with DLBCL, 23 had either a complete response (meaning cancer had disappeared completely) or a partial response (meaning their tumour displayed signs that it was shrinking).
Back in June of 2015 I wrote about how scientists were using stem cells to speed the healing of damaged bone tissue. For example, the kind of damage people suffer when they go through chemo, have muscular dystrophy, have been in a severe accident, and so on. That treatment, which works and is getting more advanced, basically grinds up the bones of random dead people, extracts the varied stem cells, and slams the resulting genetic slurree into a patient via a needle.
Scientists have long known that stem cells are key to human life and healing. Now they are figuring out how to make that knowledge work for you. And those you love.
Right now the treatments listed above for cancer cure run about $300,000 a pop. Everyone is well aware that’s not feasible for the average patient. But, if it can be mass produced, the treatment – not your stem cells, that will bring down the price. They are also looking to the government for subsidies. I’ll keep you posted on that.
One side note, while this is prohibitively expensive, the costs for current drugs can run around $10,000 a month, and some therapies can run upwards of $30,000 per month, not including the additional expenses for the care of the patient. Wiser minds than mine might see the new treatment as cost effective when everything is factored in.
Another thing stem cell treatment has been lauded for is its ability to repair permanently damaged cells. Well, in theory at least. Now, its a fact.
I’ll let Meg Aldrich, over at USC News, tell the story since she does a better job at it than I could.
On March 6, just shy of his 21st birthday, Kristopher (Kris) Boesen of Bakersfield suffered a traumatic injury to his cervical spine when his car fishtailed on a wet road, hit a tree and slammed into a telephone pole.
His parents were warned there was a good chance their son would be permanently paralyzed from the neck down. However, they also learned that he could possibly qualify for a clinical study that might help.
Enter Keck Medical Center of USC, which announced that a team of doctors became the first in California to inject its patient with an experimental treatment made from stem cells as part of a multi-center clinical trial.
Charles Liu, director of the USC Neurorestoration Center, led the surgical team, working in collaboration with the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and Keck Medicine of USC, that injected an experimental dose of 10 million AST-OPC1 cells directly into Boesen’s cervical spinal cord in early April.
“Typically, spinal cord injury patients undergo surgery that stabilizes the spine but generally does very little to restore motor or sensory function,” Liu explained. “With this study, we are testing a procedure that may improve neurological function, which could mean the difference between being permanently paralyzed and being able to use one’s arms and hands. Restoring that level of function could significantly improve the daily lives of patients with severe spinal injuries.”
Two weeks after surgery, Boesen began to show signs of improvement. Three months later, he’s able to feed himself, use his cellphone, write his name, operate a motorized wheelchair and hug his friends and family. Improved sensation and movement in both arms and hands also makes it easier for him to care for himself, and to envision a life lived more independently.
“As of 90 days post-treatment, Kris has gained significant improvement in his motor function, up to two spinal cord levels,” Liu said. “In Kris’ case, two spinal cord levels mean the difference between using your hands to brush your teeth, operate a computer or do other things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, so having this level of functional independence cannot be overstated.”
Doctors are careful not to predict Boesen’s future progress.
“All I’ve wanted from the beginning was a fighting chance,” said Boesen, who has a passion for repairing and driving sports cars and was studying to become a life insurance broker at the time of the accident. “But if there’s a chance for me to walk again, then heck yeah! I want to do anything possible to do that.”
There is a lot more to that article and I hope you’ll take the time to click the link and read it all. In the meantime, if you, or someone you know, is interested in partaking in the treatment, here is the info:
To qualify for the clinical trial, enrollees must be between the age of 18 and 69, and their condition must be stable enough to receive an injection of AST-OPC1 between the 14th and 30th days following injury.
Keck Medical Center is one of six sites in the United States that is authorized to enroll subjects and administer the clinical trial dosage.
Just click the Keck Medical Center link to get in touch with them. They will help you find the treatment center closest to you.
Steve Jobs was one of the wealthiest men in the world. A brilliant visionary who changed the way people communicate, learn, and work. His innovations altered everything. He was also a bit of a prick, but that only mattered to those closest to him and is not relevant here today. What is relevant is that, despite his brilliance, he was also a moron. You see, in 2003 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was caught early, had over a 90% survival chance if treated traditionally, and it killed him. Why? Because he wanted to “try alternative medicines.” By the time he realized they weren’t working it was too late. All he could do was put his affairs in order, write a book, and shuffle off this mortal coil. So that is what he did. It was a complete waste of a human life. All because one of the smartest men in the world believed some shit he’d read on the internet.
“But, but, but,” you stammer, I read that ____________ cures ___________ and is safer. No it doesn’t and no it isn’t. While some holistic treatments can, and do, shore up traditional medicine, think cannabis as part of pain treatment for Crohn’s disease, most do more harm than good. The longer a patient eschews medical assistance the more the disease takes hold, just like in the case of the late, lamented, Mr. Jobs, and the less likely said patient is to survive.
How less likely, you ask, weighing the risks versus the possible discomfort. More than you might think.
Pete Dockrill, over at Science Alert, has published an article based on a decade’s worth of research done by Yale University, and has come to the conclusion that your risk of dying doubles once you head off to internet land instead of the hospital.
Choosing alternative medicine to treat curable cancer instead of conventional cancer treatments more than doubles your risk of dying in five years, according to a new study.
There’s no denying that alternative medicine is a hugely popular choice for many Americans, with one in three taking some kind of alternative remedy – but new data shows that rejecting conventional medicine when faced with a cancer diagnosis is an extremely risky gamble.
Researchers from Yale University analysed 10 years of records in the National Cancer Database from 2004 to 2013 and identified 281 patients who had presented with early-stage breast, prostate, lung, or colorectal cancer – but decided to forgo conventional treatments in favour of alternative approaches.
These individuals make up only a small minority of cancer patients overall, but for many, their decision to reject conventional treatments ended up coming at a big cost.
When the researchers compared their survival rates with 560 patients facing the same diagnoses but who opted to receive conventional chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiation treatments, the individuals who elected to solely take alternative medicine were overall two and a half times more likely to die within five years.
Sobering stats to be sure, but the prospects were even graver in three of the cancer sub-groups.
People taking alternative medicine for breast cancer were 5.68 times more likely to be dead in five years. For colorectal cancer it was 4.57 times, and lung cancer had a factor of 2.17 times.
What brought the overall average down was prostate cancer, for which there wasn’t a statistically significant association between alternative medicine and early death – but, as the researchers acknowledge, that’s likely because prostate cancer is a slowly progressing disease, whose ultimate long-term impact fell outside the scope of the study.
“We now have evidence to suggest that using alternative medicine in place of proven cancer therapies results in worse survival,” says lead researcher and oncologist Skyler Johnson.
“It is our hope that this information can be used by patients and physicians when discussing the impact of cancer treatment decisions on survival.”
Go back and read that again. Yes, I get it, this is on the internet too. But, and this is key, it’s based on real science which was conducted by studying real dead people. People who need not be dead. People who flushed their lives away based on a rumor.
I guess this is important to me because I know a lady who is wandering down the “alternative medicine” path to treat breast cancer. Nuts and berries aren’t going to help her but she doesn’t believe that. So, no matter the truth, she continues to follow a path that is going to get her killed. At her current rate I would say in about two to three years.
Then she will leave her kids, her husband, and her friends behind wondering why she’s not there.
I’ll be blunt here. Alternative medicine is just a slower form of suicide. You’re welcome to make that choice, just understand what choice it is you’re making and what its ramifications are.
I’ll let Dr. James Yu end this blog. He”s got a degree, and I don’t, so maybe you’ll listen.
“In this study, all the biases were in favour of alternative medicine, in that the cohort was younger, more affluent, and had fewer comorbidities. These patients should be doing better than the standard therapy group, but they’re not.
“That’s a scary thing to me. These are young patients who could potentially be cured, and they’re being sold snake oil by unscrupulous alternative medicine practitioners.”
Hopefully, with this new data at hand, it’s easier for doctors to help communicate some of the risks surrounding alternative medicines to treat cancer, cutting through misinformation people may have heard from friends or read on the internet.
Because ultimately, of course, the choice is up to them.
“If patients make an informed decision, because of patient autonomy, they can do whatever they want,” Yu said.
“We’re always advising them; we can’t make them do anything.”