Thursday, December 23, 2021

New artificial intelligence technique may be able to predict breast cancer cases, research shows

Will AI be able to transform the mammogram and "allow patients to avoid aggressive treatments and even save the lives of countless people who get breast cancer"?

Professor Regina Barzilay
According to a recent story by Steven Zeitchik in The Washington Post, Regina Barzilay, an MIT professor and artificial-intelligence expert who endured chemotherapy, two lumpectomies and radiation for that cancer, as well as "all the brutal side effects that come along with those treatments," may have found "a marriage of tech and health care that could alter millions of lives without a single drop of medicine."

The Post article reports that Barzilay and Adam Yala, a student protege, "have built an AI that seems able to predict with unprecedented accuracy whether a healthy person will get breast cancer, in an innovation that could seriously disrupt how we think about the disease."

How it works was laid out in an piece in the Journal of Clinical Oncology: "By analyzing a mammogram's set of byzantine pixels and then cross-referencing them with thousands of older mammograms, the AI — known as Mirai — can product nearly half of all incidences of breast cancer up to five years before they happen."

"If the data is validated, I think this is very exciting," Zeitchik's story quotes Janine T. Katzen, radiologist at Weill Cornell Medicine who specializes in breast imaging. It also quotes Dorraya El-Ashry, chief scientific officer for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, as saying, "This is the next, very positive step forward. There is a lot of work to do. But this is very encouraging."

Meanwhile, breast cancer statistics are discouraging. "While many cancers, such as lung cancer, have been declining in the United States," the Post story says, "breast cancer rates have been going up — an annual average of half a percentage point between 2008 and 2017, according to the American Cancer Society."

More information on out-of-the-ordinary 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 caregivers.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Independent publishers say cover of children's fantasy book by granddad, granddaughter is best

This whimsical cover of Grampy and His Fairyzona Playmates, created by Joe Marciniak, has just been voted best 2021 children’s book cover design by the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA).

The fantasy book aimed at 6- to 10-year-olds was co-authored by me, Woody Weingarten, and my granddaughter, Hannah Schifrin, who are chums despite a 70-year age difference. We had fun writing it — and are certain that youngsters will have just as much fun reading our story about a sorcerer, two fairies, spells, unicorns and a magic carpet.

Highlights include an eight-year-old winning her division of the Unicorn Racing Championships, baby chicks singing jazz instead of cheeping, a wizard who makes robot movie characters less scary, and two girls who can stop thunder-and-lightning storms, floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes all over the planet.

For more information, just click on this link to my website:

Monday, December 6, 2021

Monsanto appeals a $25.2 million damage verdict against Roundup herbicide to Supreme Court

Monsanto has challenged a $25.2 million award to a cancer patient.

Edwin Hardeman
According to a recent story by Bob Egelko in the San Francisco Chronicle, the agribusiness giant told the Supreme Court that the damage verdict in favor of the patient, Edwin Hardeman, who sprayed Roundup on his North Bay properties "should never have gone to the jury." 

The basis of the claim by Bayer, Monsanto's parent company, is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had concluded that the herbicide, the world's most widely used, was safe.

However, an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Agency for Research on Cancer, had concluded in 2015, that the main ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, "was a probable cause of human cancer, a finding endorsed by California health officials," the Chronicle piece says.

The court is expected to consider the appeal at its weekly conference Dec. 10.

Monsanto filed the appeal despite it agreeing to replace glyphosate "with another active ingredient for U.S. home and garden sales, starting in 2023, while continuing to market the current version for agricultural use," Egelko's story reports.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a May ruling that upheld Hardeman's damage award, "said the EPA's approval did not carry the force of law, and it did not preclude a judge or jury from deciding whether Monsanto had violated a California law requiring warnings against risks that are 'known or knowable.'" 

Hardeman was diagnosed with lymphoma, a sometimes fatal disease, in 2015 after having used Roundup for 26 years on properties in Galla and Santa Rosa.

A federal court jury in July 2019 found the weed-killer was a "substantial cause" of his cancer. It awarded him, according to Egelko's story, "damages for economic losses, pain and suffering and emotional distress, along with punitive damages against the company for selling a product it knew, or should have known, to be dangerous." 

The article also notes that "state courts, meanwhile, have upheld damages of $21.5 million to Dewayne 'Lee' Johnson, diagnosed with terminal cancer after spraying the herbicide as a groundskeeper for the Benicia Unified School District, and $82.2 million to Alva and Alberta Pilliod of Livermore, who sprayed Roundup on their crops for 30 years."

More information about consumer 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.