Category Archives: cancer

Killing cancer by giving it polio

Word on the street is that the FDA has fast-tracked further research into a possible cure for cancer: (h/t AoSHQ)

A bold experiment to kill a vicious form of brain cancer has been granted breakthrough status by the Food and Drug Administration. Results in the earliest stage of testing have been so remarkable, the FDA wants to fast track the treatment to speed it to market.

The therapy uses the polio virus to attack glioblastoma. “60 Minutes” has been following patients in the clinical trial for the last two years.

One of those patients was Stephanie Lipscomb. In 2011, Lipscomb was a 20-year-old nursing student with headaches. A doctor told her she had a glioblastoma tumor the size of a tennis ball and that she had months to live.

She had 98 percent of the tumor removed. Then in 2012, the doctors told her the cancer had come back.

With recurrent glioblastoma, there were no options except the one that had never been tried. Lipscomb became the first volunteer for Duke University’s experiment with the polio virus.

Researchers took some polio virus and modified it with a bit of cold virus so that it can’t invade and reproduce in healthy tissue, but it can still invade and reproduce in cancer cells.  Infected cancer cells then show up on the immune system’s radar as foreign cells that need to be eliminated:

Stephanie Lipscomb’s tumor shrank for 21 months until it was gone. Three years after the infusion, something unimaginable had happened.

An MRI in August of 2014 showed no active cancer cells at all.

Be careful where you send your money

The worst kind of scam is one where you think you’re doing good when you donate, but your money instead goes to line the perp’s pockets.

After Tabitha’s death, I decided it’d be bad form to wish cancer on anyone…but these scumbags are such a tempting target.  Maybe I’ll just wish for them to die in a fire instead:

4 Cancer Charities Are Accused of Fraud

There were subscriptions to dating websites, meals at Hooters and purchases at Victoria’s Secret — not to mention jet ski joy rides and couples’ cruises to the Caribbean.

All of it was paid for with the nearly $200 million donated to cancer charities, and was enjoyed by the healthy friends and family members of those running the groups, in what government officials said Tuesday was one of the largest charity fraud cases ever.

At the center of the operation was James T. Reynolds Sr., who opened the Cancer Fund of America in 1987. Over the decades, according to a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission and regulators from 50 states and the District of Columbia, he expanded the enterprise to four separate groups and was joined by his son, friends and members of his Mormon Church congregation in Knoxville, Tenn.

In its complaint, the F.T.C. called all four of the cancer groups “sham charities,” charging the organizations with deceiving donors and misusing millions of dollars in donations, including putting money toward personal expenses like carwashes and college tuition, from 2008 to 2012.


The other charities connected to Mr. Reynolds and named in the suit were Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society.

Some good news on cancer, for once

tl;dr: A new combination of drugs long used in the treatment of breast cancer has produced some stunning results:

New breast cancer treatment wipes out tumours in just 11 DAYS

A new treatment for breast cancer has completely eradicated tumours in just 11 days.

Doctors today described the unexpected results as ‘staggering’ – and said the new two-pronged technique could spare thousands of women from gruelling chemotherapy.

The UK team, announcing their results at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Amsterdam, said they had never seen breast patients respond so quickly to a cancer treatment.

Women who were newly diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer were given the therapy at 23 UK hospitals.

Of the participants in the trial the vast majority – 87 per cent – responded to the treatment, with tests showing that the cancer had stopped producing more cells.

But for some women the results were more dramatic.

In 11 per cent the tumours had completely vanished, to the surprise of surgeons, and for another 17 per cent they had significantly shrunk.

The drugs involved aren’t particularly expensive, either, as cancer drugs go: around $2150 for an 11-day course.  The patent on one of them is about to expire, which should knock that price down a fair bit.

Spinning for cancer

If you have a few bucks looking for a home, you could do worse than to help out my sister-in-law, who’s getting on one of those “spinning” stationary bikes for three hours to raise money to kick cancer in the teeth:

Yas-a-Thon 2015: Toni White’s Page

As most of you know, my sister, Tabitha Beatty Alfter, passed away from cancer on September 6, 2013, at 33 years old. Losing my sister has been the hardest thing I have ever had to endure and do not wish that anyone ever has to experience the pain to losing anyone they love to cancer. So, I am committed to do my part to work towards a cure.

The sick shouldn’t have to beg for life-saving drugs

An effort is under way in a number of states to pass “right to try” laws that would widen the availability of experimental drugs to patients who’ve exhausted their other options.  Here in Nevada, AB164 has passed the Assembly and is on its way to the Senate.  The hope is that it’ll fend off more instances like the following:

The sick shouldn’t have to beg for life-saving drugs

Mikaela Knapp’s story is one such example.

At age 24, Mikaela was diagnosed with a deadly form of kidney cancer that migrated into her bones before she even knew she was sick. She went through every known treatment for the cancer in a matter of months — nothing worked. Mikaela’s high school sweetheart, Keith, heard about a drug in development that was successfully treating people with this same cancer. Like Josh, Mikaela wasn’t allowed to enroll in the clinical trial.

Mikaela and Keith launched a social media campaign to try to get access to the drug, but it wasn’t enough. The FDA didn’t help, the drug company didn’t bend and Mikaela didn’t get access to the drug.

She died on April 24, 2014.

Five months later, on Sept. 4, the FDA gave final approval to the drug that could have saved her life.

No family should have to launch a social media campaign or beg the government and drug companies on national television for the chance to save their child, their wife or their mother.

Dealing with cancer is bad enough.  Being told you can’t have access to a potentially lifesaving drug because some faceless bureaucrat hasn’t signed off on it yet is not only frustrating, but it’s killing people needlessly.  Is it guaranteed that the drugs in question will save people’s lives?  No…but it’s one more shot against a disease that, left untreated, will kill.

Is It Possible to Control Cancer Without Killing It?

Is It Possible to Control Cancer Without Killing It?

A novel therapy is in early trials aimed at bring a form of leukemia under control by trying to fix the damage done by cancer, rather than writing off the cancerous cells and trying to eradicate them:

The breakthrough is notable in part for the unconventional manner in which the drug attacks its target. There are many kinds of cancer, but treatments have typically combatted them in one way only: by attempting to destroy the cancerous cells. Surgery aims to remove the entire growth from the body; chemotherapy drugs are toxic to the cancer cells; radiation generates toxic molecules that break up the cancer cells’ DNA and proteins, causing their demise. A more recent approach, immunotherapy, coopts the body’s immune system into attacking and eradicating the tumor.

The Agios drug, instead of killing the leukemic cells—immature blood cells gone haywire—coaxes them into maturing into functioning blood cells. Cancerous cells traditionally have been viewed as a lost cause, fit only for destruction. The emerging research on A.M.L. suggests that at least some cancer cells might be redeemable: they still carry their original programming and can be pressed back onto a pathway to health.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s yielded promising results so far. It remains to be seen if this would be an effective therapy for other sorts of cancer. According to the article, the standard treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia is a combination of two drugs: cytarabine (which is neurotoxic) and either daunorubicin or doxorubicin (both of which are cardiotoxic). The first round of Tabitha’s chemotherapy for metastatic uterine leiomyosarcoma included doxorubicin. Looking back, it appeared to have the most positive effect at rolling back the damage done by cancer, but her heart never worked quite the same afterward. Her resting pulse rate was closer to most people’s pulse rate while doing moderately vigorous exercise, and as time went on, it kept going up until it was about where mine is when I’m out for a run.

On hashing, cancer, and symbols

Drinkers with a Satanic Cult Problem?

Hashers will recognize the symbol in the screengrab above.  It got Flying Booger’s attention; after a few minutes’ googling, he found some wackjob website that tried linking cancer researchers, etc. to devil worship or some such nonsense.  Said website raised his hackles a bit…can’t say I’d blame him, especially with one of his fellow Tucson hashers having recently gone into hospice care without anybody even knowing that he’d been sick.

This Saturday, it’ll be one year since my wife passed after putting up a hell of a fight against cancer.  Her doctors tried every treatment feasible, including some experimental treatments.  It was one of the rare cancers…probably something most of you wouldn’t have heard of.  We hadn’t either, until we received the diagnosis after having been married all of two months.  About all the docs could do was try what had worked with somewhat similar cancers in the past and hope for the best.  At first, things looked promising, but the first course of treatment wasn’t sustainable over the long term due to cardiotoxicity and subsequent treatment regimens weren’t as successful at turning back the tide.  All that said, I think everyone involved in my wife’s cancer treatment gave a best effort.  It’s just such a damn tricky disease that a fair bit of the time (and more often than not, with this particular cancer), the best effort in the world still comes up short.  I could be angry with the docs for that, but that would be counterproductive.  It won’t bring Tabitha back, and it won’t help the docs help other patients avoid her fate.

The quacks and pseudoscience fearmongers (or “shit-stirrers,” as Flying Booger called them) who would send cancer patients off on wild-goose chases for “cures” that won’t do them any good (and would possibly do them harm) can go take a long walk off a short pier, as far as I’m concerned. Keeping a positive atttitude is one thing, but eschewing tested, peer-reviewed treatments for what some huckster on the radio at 2 AM is pushing isn’t going to do anybody any good.