What would you do with $1.3 million? I can think of a number of things I would do with it: pay off college loans, cover my bills, make some repairs on my home, and so on. Since I have one niece in the world and possibly a second niece/first nephew on the way, I’d put some money aside for them so that they could pursue a college education in 18 years. Well, as for University of Rhode Island (URI) researcher Wei Lu, $1.3 million is needed for another matter entirely: Wu has been given a grant for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his research regarding copper-sulfide nanoparticles and how effective they can be when injected into any given cancer tumor. Cancer tumors are often eliminated by the use of Infrared (or IR) light blasting, directly on the tumor. Wu’s research, however, will use nanoparticles (considered to be less than the weight and size of one human hair) and near-infrared lasers to blast a cancer tumor. The near-infrared technology and nanoparticles allow a small amount of radiation to come into contact with the body, as compared to the larger amounts of radiation that are currently allowed into the human body. Cancer is a catch-22 for many individuals; when you get cancer, the doctor recommends radiation and chemotherapy treatments; the radiation needed to remove the cancer from the body is often responsible for leaving radiation traces within the body, only for the patient to turn around and be back to the doctor’s office within a few years. Wu’s research is significant because his work will reduce the amount of radiation ejected into the body, thus reducing the risk of a second or third cancer diagnosis. Not only are his copper-sulfide nanoparticles small and reduce cancer risk, they are also biodegradable – meaning that the body can absorb the radiation effectively without harming the cancer patient’s organs. For his efforts, the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences Assistant Professor has been granted $1.3 million to continue his work of reducing radiation risk for cancer patients. We wish Dr. Wu well and hope that his efforts are ultimately successful.
Scheduled for First Week of April, Now Ten Years Strong US Senator Max Baucus has fought for mesothelioma patients and won. Thanks to his efforts, the National Asbestos Awareness Week, scheduled for the first week of April annually, will now be observed in its tenth year in the United States. Baucus’s work on Senate Resolution 336 was passed last month, setting the date in stone for the 2014 year. National Asbestos Awareness Week is designed to bring increased attention to the fact that many individuals in the United States suffer and die from asbestosis or mesothelioma – both due to the inhalation and contact with asbestos fibers. A number of occupations, particularly shipbuilding, mining, metallurgy, oil, drilling, and construction work, are often responsible for mesothelioma cancer contraction. Mesothelioma cancer is so named because it affects the mesothelium, believed to be the protective organ lining that guards organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, gall bladder, and so on. Mesothelioma cancer eats away at this lining, leaving these organs exposed – which then leads to deterioration, sickness, and eventually, death. Despite the sad nature of mesothelioma, a number of events have arisen where congressional leaders have enacted laws to protect large-scale corporations deemed responsible for mesothelioma contraction. Recently, a female senator in her sixties who has been smoking for the past 20-30 years (minimum) filed a mesothelioma cancer lawsuit against 60 corporations that she claims are responsible for her mesothelioma diagnosis. She was often exposed to asbestos, she claims, due to her father and brother’s shipbuilding occupation. They would often bring home asbestos fibers on their clothes and shoes, and scatter it throughout the home. The next event that has created a barrier for mesothelioma patients concerns laws that have been raised to force mesothelioma patients to supply their personal information on websites so that they cannot turn around and sue multiple corporations after winning a mesothelioma lawsuit against one company in question. Mesothelioma patients have protested these congressional statutes, but they have been designed to protect corporations from being double-sued, in some cases. The litigation passed that has angered both sides can be put to rest at least for one week of the year, as congressmen and the country take time to remember those who live with the disease on a daily basis.
The Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act, or NDPSA, is designed to prevent harmful substances from being readily available or accessible in the country of India. Morphine is listed under the list of drugs that India’s parliament has made it difficult to access (due to the power of the drug and its ability to impair patients). Cancer experts, however, believe that morphine, while harmful in some uses, is powerful for cancer patients and can help ease their pain as they battle cancer. The solution? Cancer experts are calling for India to pass a new amendment bill to the Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act that would allow patients easier access to morphine. Up to this point, hospitals have fought against allowing morphine to be accessed because it requires them to have a proper license for morphine as well as time and financial resources. In the words of B.R.A. Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital Head of Anesthesiology, Pain, and Palliative Care Dr. Sushma Bhatnagar, “We should not miss the opportunity to make a difference to millions of patients across the country and (1) urge all political parties and our members in parliament to help pass the bill” (“Cancer experts seek amendments to narcotics law”). Cancer is a terrible disease, as I have had seven family members to battle cancer in some form (prostate, breast, lung, brain, all four in my family), and six of the seven have died from their battles with cancer. Therefore, this debate over amending the Narcotics bill to allow cancer patients to have morphine is one in which there is no easy answer. On one hand, morphine could relieve the physical suffering and pain, making it easier for cancer patients to battle a disease they can do nothing about. On the other hand, morphine may prove to be harmful for cancer patients, such that they die from the morphine instead of the cancer.
Asbestos fibers may be hard to spot, and many people pay little attention to fibers or other things in the air. Sometimes, fibers in the air come from our clothes, and could simply be linen. At other times, however, the fibers in the air may be asbestos, and our exposure to them could be fatal in the long run. If you are in your home in the middle of a remodeling project and you detect asbestos, here is some advice to help you through what can seem to be a panicky situation. First, call an asbestos removal company. Western Australia now offers DIY asbestos removal courses, but these are only a few weeks at best. Since these courses are so small in time frame, they do not offer enough education about asbestos. Thus, it pays to call an asbestos removal company if you spot what you think could be asbestos. Even if you are suspicious and do not know for sure, there is no harm in calling an asbestos removal company. After all, they are more educated in these types of toxic substances and can likely tell you the nature of the substance even if it isn’t asbestos. Next, do not disturb the substance if you see it. The moment you find it, call the asbestos removal company right away. Moving the asbestos around can disturb it and lodge particles into the air. If you decide to take the substance in a bag outside, the outdoor air can be the medium by which the asbestos fibers travel to others. It is best that the asbestos remain contained inside the home, rather than outside – where it can infect more people than just you and your family. Last but not least, check the references of those that come to remove your suspicious substance or asbestos. After all, they are responsible for disposing of the asbestos properly. If they are not qualified, they will face a fine and jail time. The last thing you want to do, however, is refer your neighbors to a fraudulent asbestos removal company.
Joe Nocera has always been known for his comments at the New York Times. Recently, I read his work on the Apple tax fraud and Apple’s appearance before the congressional Senate by way of Apple CEO Tim Cook. Cook claims that Apple has committed nothing fraudulent by hiring the majority of its employee base in the US while stashing the majority of its money in overseas, “dummy” Ireland corporations. Nocera’s criticisms were spot-on about Apple: if few Americans are above the law and cannot secure their money elsewhere and avoid taxes, what gives Apple the right to – even if the company makes millions and provides great products (iPhone, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPod Touch) that we all know and love? Nocera, however, is back in the news again for his statements regarding Senator Carolyn McCarthy, the woman who is currently suing 70 companies for her exposure to asbestos when she was younger. She says that living with her brother and father, and going to pick them up at the shipyard they worked at is what played a role in her lung cancer diagnosis. The one point Nocera makes in his article concerns McCarthy’s lawyer and his response about smoking and asbestos:
her lawyer at Weitz & Luxenberg – which has feasted for decades on asbestos lawsuits – told the New York Post that ‘it has been conclusively proven that cigarette smoking and asbestos exposure act synergistically to cause lung cancer.’ Actually, it hasn’t been: there are plenty of studies saying there is no synergy at all. At best, the science is muddled” (Nocera, “The Asbestos Scam,” New York Times).
The key word here is “syngergistically.” We know that smoking causes lung cancer in many individuals. My dad’s mother died of lung cancer, and she smoked every day of my life. I had a close friend in grade school whose father smoked daily when he was a teenager, multiple packs of cigarettes a day, in fact. While he later stopped smoking, the damage had been done. Years later, he was given a lung cancer diagnosis; he died while me and my lifetime friend were in college together at the same university. The question, then, pertains to whether or not smoking and asbestos cause lung cancer. Asbestos exposure can lead to cancer. Unfortunately, her lifetime smoking habit is the thing that prevents us from knowing with some measure of certainty whether or not the asbestos exposure is to blame.
A new study conducted one week ago shows that patients in advanced stages of lung cancer are living longer – approximately four months longer, to be exact. The National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) conducted a study tracking 5320 lung cancer patients over a period of 12 years, and showed that lung cancer survival rates improved starting in 2005. Five years into the study, lung cancer patients went from living 8 months after cancer to living an entire 12 months (one year) after cancer. The NCCS attributes the four-month cancer survival increase to “more effective and targeted chemotherapy, and a better understanding of the variations of advanced lung cancer” (“Advanced stage lung cancer patients surviving longer”). This is good news for patients suffering with lung cancer. We have often heard about the negative effects of chemotherapy, that chemotherapy kills off healthy cells. I witnessed this with my mother, and witnessed her hair fall out and her finger nails disappear. At the same time, however, chemotherapy treatments are known to be effective for many patients. Some individuals I know have battled cancer for years now, being told initially that they would last only for a few months. It is also the understanding of various stages of lung cancer that have helped patients live longer as well. We’ve come to understand that some cancer treatments do not work for some individuals, but may work for others. In other words, “one size does not fit all” when it comes to cancer treatments. A number of new procedures have been created that involve using fighting, healthy cells within an individual’s body, taking them out and reinserting them into the body in order to stimulate healthy cells to attack the cancer cells. We have come a long way in cancer research, but there is more ground to cover. Until cancer is no longer a threat to millions, we still have a war on our hands. We won’t rest until everyone’s mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, aunt, uncle, grandparent, friend, or spouse is cured of cancer.
Happy Veterans’ Day to all of you! I would like to take the opportunity to say thank you to our soldiers who are currently overseas, at war against an enemy that we cannot see, and to former soldiers and now war veterans who have retired and are reaping some of the benefits of their labor to keep the United States safe and secure from enemies both foreign and domestic. What we must remember on this day is that freedom comes at a cost: nothing that is free comes without paying a price. You paid the price when you sacrificed your lives and put your future on the line so that we can have the freedoms that we currently enjoy. Your discipline, hard work, and determination to be the best protectors and defenders of the USA has not gone unnoticed. For all of this, we want to say thank you. Although there are wars of the past that have been fought and won, the war on terrorism still exists in this country today. 9/11 reminds us that, when we think we’re safe, our enemies still war and fight against us. We have no peace in this country without taking up arms when we need to most. But terrorism is not the only war that we still face: mesothelioma cancer (and cancer as a whole) remains another deadly war that seems to be winning out in the competition between death by war and death by disease. If you are a soldier who served in the military in the 1970s or earlier, you may have come into contact with asbestos in many military products, such as weapons, helmets, and other military equipment. If you served during this time, we here at Mesothelioma Hope want you to get tested. Go see your doctor about how to get tested for mesothelioma cancer or cancer in general. No one wants to get the “C” diagnosis or hear the “C” word, but hearing this news early just may be the thing you need to save your life. Pride matters little when compared to the worth of a human life. On this Veterans’ Day, we are proud of you veterans who have served in many of our nation’s wars. I myself am proud to say that my grandfather’s father, my great-grandfather, served in World War II. He was buried in the church cemetery on my family’s burial plot, and his grave is marked with a World War II designation so that everyone knows he fought as a war hero. He survived the War, but died in the early 1950s – five years before his granddaughter, my mother, Teressa, was born. She never met her grandfather, but she was always proud of how he served his country. Knowing that my great-grandfather served in WW II makes me proud to be an American, and I remember Veterans’ Day with fondness. Mesothelioma and terrorism are two wars that humanity will continue to fight. At the same time, however, we must celebrate the fruits of the labor of those who have sacrificed their time and lives for us in the fights against terrorism and mesothelioma. We know it has not been easy, and we realize that we’ll never know all you’ve faced. At the same time, we want to show our gratitude. This day reminds us that freedom comes at a cost, but we believe in it so strongly that it mandates a price that we are happy to pay. God bless our troops, and God bless the United States of America.
Professor Bruce Robinson, a 63-year-old Professor in the University of West Australia’s School of Medicine and Pharmacology, has been awarded one of West Australia’s most prestigious awards: Australian of the Year (2014). Dr. Robinson has done a lot of good in his time as a cancer and asbestos diseases researcher. He and his team are known for creating the first mesothelioma blood test; creating a doctoral course to help doctors with patient care, called Breaking Bad News; he has also been responsible for a number of medical clinics dedicated to psychological and emotional health, as well as directing a University of West Australia Fathering Project. The Fathering Project helps connect children with father figures who can become lifelong parental models for those who are fatherless or have no parents to turn to. Bruce Robinson is deserving of this award, simply because of the countless hours he has donated to cancer and asbestos research. There are fewer drugs on the market to counter mesothelioma than typical cancers such as breast cancer and even something like basic lung cancer medications. His Fathering Project endeavor and volunteer service at Indonesian medical clinics makes him a worldwide servant who heeds the call to serve his fellow man. Last but not least, his mesothelioma blood test is to be acknowledged and celebrated. Mesothelioma has always been believed to be a rare form of lung cancer that can be detected only by way of cancer exams and lung examinations. To know that a blood test exists in the world by which mesothelioma can be determined is a good thing, since it may help patients detect their mesothelioma cancer and fight it before it’s too late. There is too little asbestos research done in the world. We need more committed researchers and doctors like Professor Bruce Robinson. Professor Robinson, we congratulate you on your achievement and may your efforts continue to aid the people of not only West Australia, but also those of Australia as a whole.
US Democratic representative Carolyn McCarthy has filed an asbestos lawsuit against 70 companies this past week. Her reason? McCarthy has been diagnosed with lung cancer at 69 years old. What many may not know is that the firm that filed her class-action lawsuit, Weitz & Luxenberg, filed the asbestos lawsuit while ignoring the fact that McCarthy has been an avid smoker for 40 years. Why file the lawsuit, then? In a word, McCarthy’s contact with asbestos during her younger years when her father and brother worked as Navy yard shipbuilders. McCarthy’s attorney, Daniel Blouin, did note that smoking does have a connection to lung cancer: “It has been conclusively proven that cigarette smoking and asbestos exposure act synergistically to cause lung cancer” (Palmeri, “Politician with cancer smoked for 40 years, sues over asbestos”). At the same time, however, mesothelioma cancer (a form of lung cancer) does come by way of asbestos exposure that occurs at least 20-30 years before a medical diagnosis. While it seems more likely that McCarthy contracted mesothelioma cancer (or lung cancer) from her 40 years of smoking, it could be the case that her asbestos exposure at a young age plays some role in her cancer diagnosis. Her asbestos lawsuit consists of 70 companies, including Pfizer, Con Ed, and Goodyear Tire. that must defend themselves against McCarthy’s lawsuit. A 16-year Congressional veteran, McCarthy’s smoking has caught much attention around Capitol Hill. It has been said that she often took smoking breaks in-between legislative votes during congressional sessions. McCarthy is receiving treatment from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. While asbestos exposure can lead to cancer, asbestos exposure in addition to a regular smoking habit gives an individual forty times the probability to contract cancer than a non-smoking patient who is exposed to asbestos. This case is a unique one, similar to a case I wrote on some time ago regarding a man who smoked cigarettes with filters that contained asbestos. Although he smoked for many years, the asbestos-filled filters increased the danger of mesothelioma cancer contraction – even though the filters could not be directly linked to the individual’s cancer. In the same way, McCarthy could receive some form of compensation here for her asbestos exposure simply because she was exposed to asbestos many years ago. While I believe she may win something due to asbestos exposure, she will likely not win as much as the cigarette-filter victim who won $8 million against Greensboro, North Carolina-based Lorillard Tobacco Company (who later purchased the cigarette filter manufacturing company). At the same time, it didn’t seem as if the Lorillard case plaintiff would win much money due to his smoking. The jury may surprise in this case.
Residents from both Ohio and West Virginia, totaling 9 individuals in all, have filed a lawsuit against Teflon maker DuPont last month on account of their new cancer diagnoses. The 9 plaintiffs have all been diagnosed with cancer by way of DuPont’s C8 chemical that has been linked to testicular, thyroid, and kidney cancer, among others. C8 was discovered to be lethal and lead to a number of cancers by way of a court-appointed science panel and is considered to be objective information in the lawsuit. DuPont, owning a manufacturing plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia has been accused of “contaminating drinking water supplies with a chemical known as C8,” according to Lex 18 News. C8 is used in Teflon, known scientifically as polyfluoroethylene, and polyfluoroethylene is used both as a non-stick coating with cooking pans and utensils, as well as medical solutions in surgeries. The current lawsuit by 9 Ohio and West Virginia residents is only one of 50 lawsuits filed against DuPont over the last year. While the lawsuits are piling up against DuPont, the company’s spokesman says that “‘they ignore family history, lifestyle choices’ and other factors that cause disease.” It is true that lifestyle choices, environment, family history, and other factors can cause cancer, but this still does not get DuPont off the hook for its water contamination in West Virginia. Environment plays a role in cancer contraction, and, even if in an indirect sort of way, DuPont is still culpable for its role. After all, when a company uses chemicals such as C8, the company is responsible for how it affects the citizen population in the community. Take the old asbestos mills that were once a popular place of work. Asbestos mills, asbestos factories, and so on were places where products were made using the carcinogenic material. Asbestos mills and factories existed at a time when few employees could successfully sue their employers for contracting asbestosis or mesothelioma cancer. Despite the legal loopholes employers jumped through in order to escape paying billions in responsible damage penalties, the asbestos companies were still responsible. After all, one cannot own an asbestos factory without knowing the risks of asbestos. If you knew that asbestos would lead to the death of your employee base, wouldn’t you take measures to protect and shield your employees so that their longevity would lead to your company’s long-term success? While asbestos is not the subject of the cancer being discussed, C8 serves the same purpose as did asbestos: it is a carcinogenic substance that DuPont should have known better than to dump on the ground and allow to spread throughout the surrounding areas. It is likely that DuPont’s actions are, at the very least, environmentally irresponsible and likely violate EPA rules regarding carcinogenic substances.