Monday, July 15, 2019

Disease may cause loss of control of limbs, eyes

Rare autoimmune disease that attacks brain can be triggered by testicular cancer, new study says

Scientists using a novel diagnostic tool have discovered that testicular cancer can trigger a rare autoimmune disease.

That process stems from antibodies fighting the cancer going on to attack the brain, according to a recent story by Lois Zoppi in News Medical Life Sciences online.

The severe neurodegenerative disease that results (it's called "testicular cancer-associated paraneoplastic encephalitis"), the article says, "is often mis- or undiagnosed" — which means that appropriate treatment to limit its effects "often comes too late." 

The encephalitis causes men to lose control of their limbs, eye movement and, sometimes, their speech.

"Until now," the story continues, "scientists have been unable to identify which specific antibody was causing a staining pattern only seen in patients with testicular cancer. But the new study…showed a unique biomarker responsible for the disease."

A research team based at Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, the Mayo Clinic and the University of California at San Francisco made the discovery via "a variation of 'programmable phage display' technology, which simultaneously screens over 700,000 autoantibody targets across every human protein," the piece continues.
Dr. Sean Pittock
"By working together, our organizations have the potential to make biomarker discoveries much more rapidly," the News Medical Life Sciences piece quotes Dr. Sean Pittock, study co-author from the Mayor Clinic, as saying.

The story also quotes Joe DeRisi, who worked on the study, to the effect that their joint research "is the tip of the iceberg. We know there are more paraneoplastic autoimmune diseases waiting to be discovered and more people to help."

The study was published in "The New England Journal of Medicine."

More information about other studies of 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.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Jurist raps Bayer company for being uncaring

Judge expected to trim $80 million jury verdict against Monsanto for its cancer-causing Roundup

The judge in the first federal court suit against Monsanto intends to reduce a jury's $80 million damage award.
Bob Egelko
According to a story by Bob Egelko this week on the San Francisco Chronicle's website, although Judge Vince Chhabria plans to reconsider the Roundup weed-killer verdict in favor of Edwin Hardeman, he's not expected to totally eliminate punitive damages "for what he called the company's 'reprehensible' conduct."

The judge has already rebuked the agribusiness for ignoring a 2015 World Health Organization agency ruling that glyphosate, an active ingredient in the weed-killer, is a probable carcinogen — and for "showing no interest in conducting new studies or reconsidering their public assurances to regulators or consumers."

In short, he charged during last week's hearing, evidence at the trial showed the Bayer AG company "not caring whether its products cause cancer."

Hardeman, 70, had sprayed Roundup on his Sonoma County property for more than 26 years. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2015. 

Jurors had awarded him $75 million in punitive damages as well as $3 million for past pain and suffering, another $2 million for emotional distress in the future, and $200,000 for economic losses. 

Monsanto had requested Chhabria overturn the verdict. The judge has showed no signs of doing that. 

He did, however, indicate he'd probably cut the punitive damages damages to comply with Supreme Court standards limiting awards, under normal circumstances, to nine times the amount of awarded compensation.

No date has been set for his latest decision.

More information on court verdicts regarding products that may cause 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.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Bayer/Monsanto trying to fix damaged image

Maker of Roundup herbicide planning to spend $5.6 billion on research to find a new weed-killer

Despite, or maybe because of, facing more than 5,000 lawsuits over its Roundup herbicide causing cancer, Bayer AG plans to spend $5.6 billion on researching a new weed-killer.

Bayer, parent company of agribusiness Monsanto, which recently lost three court cases that found the glyphosate-based weed-killer caused cancer, is desperately trying to wipe the tarnish from its image.

All three court cases are being appealed.

According to a recent story by Rachel Siegel in The Washington Post, though Bayer still insists that glyphosate is safe, it announced it's not only investing that $5.6 billion but it's pledging "to reduce the company's environmental footprint by 30 percent through 2030."

That promise, Siegel's story says, "signaled a change in tone for Bayer. On its website, along with a full-page ad in [the] Post, Bayer said, 'We listened. We learned.'"

The vow reportedly also added the following phrases: "As a new leader in agriculture, Bayer has a heightened responsibility and the unique potential to advance farming for the benefit of society and the planet. We are committed to living up to this responsibility."

Ken Cook
Siegel's piece, however, quoted Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, as saying that "if Bayer is serious about reforming its products, it has to commit to a fundamentally new paradigm for pesticides, which must start with a simple principal: This class of chemicals should not end up in people."

EWG last week published a report, the Post story asserts, that Roundup has "been detected in 21 oat-based cereals and snack products tested by the organization."

Siegel apparently believes Monsanto/Bayer "underestimated the reputational damage" that stemmed from the losing lawsuits "and how they damaged the company's public perception."

The Post also quotes Anthony Johndrow, an expert on how corporations manage crises, to the effect that Bayer is making its decisions more transparent and "is sincerely making a change."

Bayer, he indicates, knew what they were getting when they bought Monsanto last June: "This is their going forward, whether they like it or not."

When a jury recently awarded $2 billion to a Livermore couple who blamed Roundup for their non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnoses, the verdict added to Bayer's steep stock descent to its lowest level in seven years, erasing more than 40 percent of its market value.

To read about more court cases involving manufacturers sued because their products caused disease, check out "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Is Calif. too liberal to try Roundup cancer cases?

Maker of weed-killer Roundup gets change-of-venue win in cases that contend product causes disease

A federal court judge in San Francisco has handed Monsanto a big victory in its bid to ward off large money verdicts in trials alleging that its Roundup weed-killer causes cancer.

According to a recent online Courthouse News Service story by Helen Christophi, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria is giving the agribusiness a chance to pick the venue of upcoming trials.

Monsanto, which is owned by Bayer AG, had sought to have the trials take place "in agricultural states where farmers heavily depend on the company's glyphosate-based herbicides Roundup and Ranger Pro, and where medical-causation laws favor the defendants," the article explains. 

Chhabria oversees nationwide litigation over the product.
Brian Stekloff
Monsanto was represented by Brian Stekloff of the Washington, D.C., law firm Wilkinson Walsh Eskovitz, who admitted that the company was looking to try the cases in states more favorable to his clients than liberal California.

Aimee Wagstaff of the Colorado law firm Andrus Wagstaff has been representing the plaintiffs.

The judge's ruling followed Monsanto losing three trials in a row in California courts in which plaintiffs testified that they developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after using Roundup.

The World Health Organization's cancer agency in 2015 had declared the weed-killer's main ingredient, glyphosate, a probable human carcinogen.

Chhabria also postponed the next bellwether case until Feb. 10 of next year. It had been scheduled to start this month.

More information on litigation regarding products that may cause 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.

Monday, June 10, 2019

FDA finds bodies are absorbing chemicals

Stop your worrying — a new study indicates you can keep smearing on sunscreens to prevent skin cancer 

Worries about skin cancer should supersede concerns about absorbing sunscreen into the bloodstream.
Dr. Aaron E. Carroll

At least that's the conclusion of a new study reported online today by Dr. Aaron E. Carroll in The New York Times.

Skin cancer, the article says, "is the most common malignancy in the United States, affecting more than three million people each year."

But sunscreens, it asserts, "are a key component of preventing skin damage that can lead to skin cancer." 

Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who notes that recommendations against UV exposure "apply to everyone," suggests some folks who want to be extra safe switch to sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — inorganic compounds that aren't absorbed into the body but sit on the skin reflecting or absorbing the sun's harmful rays.

But even using sunscreens without those two components are unlikely to put you in peril.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) study, published in JAMA, tested  24 healthy people. It found that continued use of sunscreens did lead to an accumulation of potentially dangerous chemicals in the body — avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrlene and ecamsule.

More information about scientific research into consumer products 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.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Roundup maker fights 'liberal standard,' damages

Monsanto asks federal court to shift venue of Roundup cancer suits from California and its 'media bias'

Monsanto want the federal Roundup cancer lawsuits moved out of California, claiming, among other things, that the state's media is biased against the company.

According to a San Francisco Chronicle story by Bob Egelko yesterday, the agrichemical giant says California has "plaintiff-friendly laws and 'highly prejudicial coverage' in news media."

Shades of Donald Trump screeching about bias and fake news.

The Monsanto request — in which the company cites Proposition 65, a 1986 ballot measure authorizing state health officials to declare that chemicals and other products pose a risk of cancer or birth defects — came after three verdicts by San Francisco Bay Area juries awarded huge damages to cancer victims who used the company's herbicides.

The agribusiness has asked that the next federal cases be shifted to Nebraska and North Carolina, where some other plaintiffs live.

Ironically, the next trial is slated Aug. 19 in County Circuit Court in St. Louis, Monsanto's hometown, where, an online story by Carey Gillam in Environmental Health News indicates, "corporate officials can be forced to appear on the witness stand, and legal precedence shows a history of anti-corporate judgments."

Aimee Wagstaff
Aimee Wagstaff, who was co-lead counsel for Edwin Hardeman, a Sonoma County, California, man who was awarded $80 million in damages, will also be co-counsel in the Missouri case filed by Sharlean Gordon, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after 15 years of using Roundup.

Wagstaff, Gillam's story says, "plans to subpoena several Monsanto scientists to appear on the witness stand to answer questions directly in front of a jury. She and the other attorneys trying the California cases were not able to force Monsanto employees to testify live because of the distance. The law provides that witnesses cannot be compelled to travel more than 100 miles or out of state from where they live or work."

Egelko's piece notes that of "more than 3,000 pending lawsuits nationwide by users of Roundup and other Monsanto weed killers, about 1,300 federal suits have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria of San Francisco," who'd presided over the first federal trial in March.

The International Association for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, has classified Roundup's active ingredient, glyphosate, as a probable cause of cancer in humans — although it isn't listed "as hazardous by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or regulatory agencies in other countries," the Chronicle article asserts.

California, not incidentally, "listed glyphosate as a cancer-causing substance in 2017, although a federal judge later stopped the state from requiring Monsanto to post warning labels on the product."

The company's attorneys, the article also reports, claim California law "allows juries to find that a product is a 'substantial factor' of an illness, a more liberal standard than in other states; makes it easer than other states to qualify witnesses as experts; and, unlike some states, has no limits on damages for emotional distress or punitive damages."

The lawyers also contend that "California's pool of prospective jurors is tainted by the extensive and highly prejudicial coverage in local, state and national news media of the prior three California verdicts."

The judgments against Monsanto, after lawyers for cancer victims had argued that the company had "unduly influenced the EPA," Egelko adds, have included "$289 million by a San Francisco jury for a Benicia school groundskeeper, later reduced by a judge to $78.5 million; $80 million by a jury in Chhabia's court for [Hardeman], and more than $2 billion, mostly in punitive damages, by an Oakland jury for a Livermore couple."

Monsanto, which was purchased by Bayer AG last June, a German pharmaceutical company, is appealing all three verdicts, after which the stock prices of Bayer dipped to their lowest level in seven years, erasing more than 40 percent of their market value.

More information on lawsuits stemming from chemicals 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.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Minorities feel cast aside by health system

Black women's fatality rate from breast cancer greatly exceeds that of whites, HuffPost story says

Black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than whites, especially in the South.

That was the conclusion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a recent story by Max Blau on the HuffPost website.

"Louisiana and Mississippi have the highest racial disparities in breast cancer mortality," Blau's piece quotes the American Cancer Society, with the excess death rate among black women being more than 60%.

But Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee all have rates above 40%.

One reason, the HuffPost article says, "is that researchers haven't developed advanced treatments for a series of aggressive [and hard to treat] tumors — known as triple-negative breast cancer — that black women are more likely to get. Another is that recent advancements in cancer therapies for other kinds of tumors have yet to be fully proven in minorities, in part because of the lack of diversity in…clinical trials."

Moreover, the story contends, "black women have described feeling cast aside by a health system of doctors, nurses and support groups that rarely look like them; and face further obstacles outside labs and hospitals — including lack of access to jobs, transit and health insurance. This marginalization of black women is especially prevalent in the South."

Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice
Blau quotes Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, as expressing the hope that "we move beyond the disparities and put our dollars toward solutions that not only close the gaps but lead to healing equity."

The writer also notes that, at the 2019 American Association for Cancer Research's annual conference, Dr. Shafiq Khan, a biological sciences professor at Clark Atlanta University, maintained that "treatments developed and approved are disproportionately tested on white people."

More information on triple-negative research 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, May 14, 2019

Agribusiness giant to appeal cancer decisions

Oakland jury hits Monsanto with a $2 billion verdict because Roundup weedkiller caused lymphoma

Although an Oakland jury awarded a couple more than $2 billion this week in their suit claiming a Monsanto weedkiller caused their cancer, the verdict is expected to be severely trimmed.

The large punitive damages, in the third consecutive trial that ruled against Bayer AG's glyphosate-based Roundup since August, "is likely to be reduced due to U.S. Supreme Court rulings that limit the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages to 9:1," according to a story by Tina Bellon of Reuters.
Alberta and Alva Pilliod. Photo courtesy
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman

The jury in this case awarded only $55 million in compensatory damages to Alva and Alberta Pilliod, both of whom had contracted non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after using the weedkiller between 1975 and 2011.

Each were awarded $1 billion in punitive damages. 

The Reuters story reports that Alva was awarded $18 million in compensatory damages by the state court jury in Alameda, California; Alberta, his wife, $37 million — because Roundup purportedly was "defectively designed, that the company failed to warn of the herbicide's cancer risk and that the company acted negligently"

Bayer, which faces more than 13,400 U.S. lawsuits over Roundup's alleged cancer risk, had acquired the agribusiness giant Monsanto for $63 billion last year. An appeal is planned.

The Reuters story notes that Alberta Pilliod "called on Bayer to add a warning label to Roundup, saying she and her husband would not have used the product had it alerted them to a chance of risk. 'We've been fighting cancer for more than nine years now and we can't do any of the things we wanted to do. We really resent Monsanto for that,' Pilliod said."

The two prior San Francisco jury verdicts against Monsanto triggered steep declines in shares of Bayer; this decision is likely to cause a further dip. The earlier litigation wiped out some $33 billion from Bayer's market value.

The next suit to be adjudicated will be in Missouri state court in August, the first time a jury outside of California will hear a Roundup case. The trial will take place in St. Louis County, where Monsanto’s former headquarters are located. 

Lawsuits against the company so far have been based on the 2015 conclusion by the World Health Organization's cancer arm that classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogen to humans."

More information on verdicts in cases against manufacturers can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer,"4 a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.