Saturday, January 28, 2023

Could an ant's sense of smell be so strong it could sniff out cancerous tumors? Yes, says study

Researchers are training ants to detect the scent of human cancer cells, a new study indicates.

Baptiste Piqueret
According to a story this week by Dino Grandoni in The Washington Post, the study "highlights a keen ant sense and underscores how someday we may use sharp-nosed animals — or, in the case of ants, sharp-antennaed — to detect tumors quickly and cheaply."

Dr. Baptiste Piqueret, a post-doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany, is quoted as saying that "the results are very promising [but] it's important to know that we are far from using them as a daily way to detect cancer."

He explains that "there will be no direct contact between ants and patients. So, even if people are afraid of insects, it's fine."

Piqueret, the Post article says, "has been fascinated by ants ever since playing with them as a child in his parents' garden in the French countryside. 'I've always loved ants,' he said, 'looking at them, playing with them.'"

He once, however, "had to reassure someone aware of his research that the ants that swarmed a picnic were not a sign of cancer," the story continues. "'The ants were not trained,' he said. 'They just want to eat sugar.'"

Fererica Pirrone
Grandoni's story also quotes Federica Pirrone, associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences at the University of Milan who was not involved in the ant research but has conducted similar investigations into the smelling ability of dogs, as saying that "the study was well conceived and conducted." However, she cautions that "to have real confirmations, we need to wait for the next steps."

The study was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Piqueret, the Post article says, "conducted the research while studying at the Universite Sorbonne Paris Nord in France. During Covid lockdowns, he brought silky ants into his apartment outside Paris to continue his experiments. He chose the species because it has a good memory's easy to train and doesn't bite (at least not hard, Piqueret said)."

Information on other studies that can detect diseases can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey expects to make full recovery from surgery and prostate cancer

Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, needs to undergo surgery for prostate cancer but expects to make a full recovery.

Sen. Bob Casey
According to a story by Neil Vigdor in a recent edition of The New York Times, the 62-year-old wrote on Twitter that he is "confident that my recommended course of treatment will allow me to continue my service in the 118thNN Congress with minimal disruption, and I look forward to the work ahead."

Casey's seat is up for election in 2024. A potential challenger, Vigdor's article contends, is "David McCormick, a former hedge fund executive who lost last year's Republican primary against the celebrity physician Mehmet Oz for Pennsylvania's other Senate seat."

Pennsylvania is a swing state that's played a big role in the last two presidential elections.

Casey, who currently is in his third term, didn't mention any other treatments for the prostate cancer.

Health has played a major role in Pennsylvania politics recently. John Futterman, the state's lieutenant governor who beat out Oz, is recovering from a stroke that he had last May.

More information on surgeries and other disease treatments can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Biden's wife may use her skin cancer to amp up the push for screenings and the search for a cure

President Biden's wife just underwent a surgical procedure for two common skin cancers, with a third remaining a question mark.

Dr. Jill Biden
According to an Associated Press story by Darlene Superville on Monday, a lesion that doctors found above Dr. Jill Biden's right eye was removed last week "and confirmed to be basal cell carcinoma — a highly treatable form of skin cancer."

A second lesion, from the left side of her chest, was removed after being found while the 71-year-old First Lady was being prepped for the removal of the first. That, too, was confirmed to be basal cell carcinoma.

A third lesion from her left eyelid is being tested.

It is expected the cancers will spur her to amplify her long-time advocacy for "research into curing cancer" and her urging of people to get "regular screenings," Superville's article indicates.

POTUS' wife has been an advocate regarding the disease since 1993, long before her son's death in 2015 from brain cancer.

Her advocacy stems from four girlfriends — "including her pal Winnie, who succumbed to the disease" — being diagnosed with breast cancer. She confirmed in a speech last year that "Winnie inspired me to take up the cause of prevention and education," the AP story reports.

That initial impetus, the article continues, "led her to create the Biden Breast Health Initiative, one of the first breast health programs in the United States, to teach 16- to 18-year-old girls about caring for their breasts. Biden was among the staffers who went into Delaware's high schools to conduct lectures and demonstrations."

Her mother, Bonny Jean Jacobs, and father, Donald Jacobs, died of cancer — in 2008 and 1999, respectively. A few years ago, Superville's piece adds, "one of her four sisters needed an auto-stem cell transplant to treat her cancer."

According to the AP piece, her spokesperson, Vanessa Valdivia, declares that "the First Lady's fight against cancer has always been personal. She knows that cancer touches us all."

"Nothing like 'I've been there, done that' and being personally involved, [agrees] Myra Putin, a First Lady scholar at Rider College," the story notes.

When Beau Biden died in 2016, the current president was vice president. Shortly thereafter, he "helped push for a national commitment to 'end cancer as we know it."

Joe Biden resurrected what was known as the Cancer Moonshot initiative after he became president, and "aded a new goal of cutting cancer death rates by at least 50% over the next 15 years, and improving the experience of living with and surviving cancer for patients and their families," Superville's story explains.

In the years between Joe Biden serving as vice president and running for the top office, both Biden's headed up the Biden Cancer Initiative, a charity. 

More information on advocacy and treatment of the various forms of the disease can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova diagnosed with 'double whammy' — breast and throat cancers

Tennis great Martina Navratilova starts treatment this month for both breast and throat cancers. 

According to an Associated Press story on yesterday's Huffpost website, her agent Mary Greenham says the prognosis is good — despite the breast cancer being her second bout with the disease.

Martina Navratilova
Navratilova, a 66-year-old, 18-time Grand Slam singles champion, is quoted as saying, "This double whammy is serious but still fixable, and I'm hoping for a favorable outcome. It's going to stink for a while but I'll fight with all I have got."

In 2010, she'd been diagnosed with a noninvasive form of breast cancer and had a lumpectomy. This time, the AP reports, she says she noticed "an enlarged lymph node in her neck while attending the season-ending World Tennis Association finals in Fort Worth, Texas, in November, and a biopsy showed early-stage throat cancer." 

While she was undergoing tests on her throat, the story continues, "the unrelated breast cancer was discovered."

Greenham's statement says the tennis star, who's worked as a television analyst in recent years, won't be a regular part of Tennis Channel's coverage of the Australian Open later this month "but hopes to be able to join in from time to time" via video conference. 

Another story, by Matt Bonesteel in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post quotes Navratilova in 2017 while talking about her earlier battle: "I was as healthy as you can get and didn't really have to worry about anything. [But after the diagnosis], you realize your life can change in a nanosecond, so that 'seize the day' thing definitely applies."

Her attitude was awesome, as it's expected to be this go-'round: "I'm always good about dealing with reality and getting on with it, not worry about too many possibilities. Just what is now, let's deal with it. That's where tennis training comes in handy, you need to deal with the ball, the ball is right here. You don't think about anything else. Being a top-level athlete, a pro athlete, you learn to be positive. So that came in very handy as a patient. Being a positive person helped a lot, and surround yourself with positive people as well."

Bonesteel's piece notes that she was the top-ranked women's singles player for 332 weeks — second only to Steffi Graf. 

Navratilova still holds  the WTA Tour's all-time record of 167 titles.

More information on life-threatening disease and treatments for them can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer,  a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Maryland Congressman who led second Trump impeachment trial reports that he has lymphoma

Jamie B. Raskin, a key member of the House Select Committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, is again fighting cancer.

The 60-year-old Democrat Congressman from Maryland, who'd also led the second impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, announced yesterday that he is being treated for lymphoma.

Rep. Jamie Raskin
According to a story by Steve Thompson in The Washington Post, Raskin reported that 
“after several days of tests, I have been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma, which is a serious but curable form of cancer. Prognosis for most people in my situation is excellent after four months of treatment.”

Raskin, who won reelection last month with more than 80% of the vote, said he expects to work during the outpatient treatment of chemo-immunotherapy — though physicians have cautioned him "to reduce unnecessary exposure to the coronavirus, the flu and other viruses."

Thompson's story quotes him from a press release, joking, "“I am advised that [the treatment] also causes hair loss and weight gain (although I am still holding out hope for the kind that causes hair gain and weight loss).”

Raskin has battled cancer before. Radiation and chemo helped him in 2010 get rid of Stage 3 colon cancer.

In the final session of the select committee, Raskin was the one who voiced the committee's referral of four criminal charges against Trump to the Department of Justice.

More information about life-threatening diseases and treatments can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Despite drop in cancer death rates, docs worry about continued high numbers among Blacks

A new study indicates that, despite a drop, cancer deaths in Black people remain higher than those of every other category.

Lindsey Tanner's recent Associated Press story notes that the death rates among Blacks have steadily declined — as they have for all Americans for the past two decades — apparently because of lower smoking rates and advances in early detection and treatment.

But the continued high rates among Blacks remain a concern. 

Wayne Lawrence
Those rates, according to the AP article that quotes National Cancer Institute researcher Wayne Lawrence, who led the study published online in "JAMA Oncology," likely reflect "social and economic disparities including poverty, less access to care and mistrust of doctors.

Carla Williams, a Ph.D. and a Howard University expert in cancer-related health disparities, who had no role in the research, also was quote regarding the finding: "It's showing that we simply can't rely on medical care as a way to address and eliminate the disparities."

Tanner's article also says "an earlier report from the American Cancer Society found the racial gap was narrowing mostly because of a bigger decline" in smoking. The largest dips, it postulates, "were in lung cancer among Black men and stomach cancer in Black women."

The piece cites the following data: "Rates among Black people fell each year from 1999 to 2019, from 359 cancer deaths per 100,000 to 239 deaths per 100,000, according to the report."

The rates, however, are "almost double the lowest rate in Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders."
Carla Williams, Ph.D.

Cancer prevention expert Dr. Otis Brawley of Johns Hopkins University is quoted by the the story as saying, "Other data show Black Americans get worse cancer care than White people. That's in part because they're more likely to be treated at hospitals with overworked doctors and fewer resources, and less likely to have a college degree."

Why the emphasis on a college degree? Because, the AP story quotes Brawley again, "evidence suggests that people with college degrees are more likely to exercise, not be obese, and to seek medical care when they notice changes that could signal cancer."'

More information about racial inequities and disease can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten,  aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Button, button, who's got the button? Read this for the answer, and learn about 3 readable books

‘Tis the season in which folks often focus on family and friends.
The Roving I
, a mostly light-hearted book that was just released, does just that — focus on family and friends. But its 70 first-person columns also include some that feature serious stuff, and numerous humorous others that showcase overheard conversational tidbits and one-liners.
Sounds like a perfect holiday gift to me, and it’s not too late to order one (or two, or more). I have a vested interest, of course, since I cherry-picked the essays from an archive of many more that I, Woody Weingarten, wrote over more than a dozen years.
Highlights, among other recollections in the collection, are an amusing tale about my pre-wife earning a slot in my Little Black Book, an upbeat story of a friend turning Parkinson’s Disease into an asset, an awesome family drama about a woman carrying her sister’s “miracle baby” inside her for five months, an inspirational adventure about a Cambodian slave-labor camp escapee becoming a successful U.S. entrepreneur, and a peek at legendary comic Robin Williams transforming himself into a talking vagina.
Button, button, who’s got the button? That’s a refrain from my childhood (not mentioned in the book), but it certainly resonates today. Chanukah’s not over yet, and Christmas is in the offing. So, check out my website — — and push the appropriate buy-button to purchase The Roving I.
Or push one for Grampy and His Fairyzona Playmates, a whimsical fantasy co-written by my 8-year-old granddaughter and aimed at 6- to 10-year-olds. Or Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer, which details how my partner and I learned to cope, and which can benefit anyone who knows someone with any life-threatening disease.
It's easy to find what my website labels fantasy, facts, and florilegium (an opaque, unfamiliar word meaning collection). Just go 
to  and select your favorite book outlet.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Experimental skin cancer vaccine shows promise when used with Keytruda, new study says

A small clinical test shows an experimental skin cancer vaccine, mRNA, may be promising, a new study indicates.

The study, according to a story by Lenny Bernstein this week in The Washington Post, shows that the vaccine from Moderna performed well when used alongside an immunotherapy drug developed by Merck.

Bernstein's article contends that "for the first time, messenger RNA technology — the advance that undergirds the most commonly used coronavirus vaccines — has been shown effective against a deadly form of skin cancer, when used in conjunction with" the Merck drug, pembrolizumab, which is marketed as Keytruda.

A cautionary note: The study, which involved 57 patients with Stage 3 or 4 melanoma that had spread to a lymph node and who faced a high risk of recurrence, was sponsored by the two drug companies.

The trial showed patients seeing a 44% reduction in the risk of recurrence or death compared to those who used only Keytruda. 

Stéphane Bancel
Stéphane Bancel, Moderna's chief executive, is quoted as saying that the findings "are highly encouraging…mRNA has been transformative for COVID-19, and now, for the first time ever, we have demonstrated the potential for mRNA to have an impact on outcomes in a randomized clinical trial in melanoma." 

Frances S. Collins, ex-director of the National Institutes of Health, said recently that the development of vaccines for cancer using mRNA may be one of the great medical advances to come out of the pandemic, the Post story states. 

"Cancer vaccines have had a lot of promise," it quotes him as saying, "but they have been really not quite taking hold because the cycle time was just too long…Now with mRNAs, you can do that so much more quickly."

It should be noted that no mRNA cancer vaccine has yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the story concludes, in 2018, the last year for which figures are available, "83,996 people were diagnosed with melanoma in the United States and 8,199 died."

Information on other clinical trials can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.