Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Women with cancer diagnoses — and docs — face tough choices because top court discarded Roe

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's eliminating abortion rights validated half a century ago in the Roe v Wade decision, pregnant women with cancer diagnoses may face wrenching choices.

Doctors as well are now facing difficult decisions.

That's the conclusion of a recent story by Gina Kolata in The New York Times, which headlines the piece with: "Urgent questions arise about how care of pregnant women with cancer will change in states where women are unable to terminate pregnancies."

Kolata's piece notes that "if the life of a fetus is paramount, a pregnancy can mean a woman cannot get effective treatment of her cancer. One in a thousand women who get pregnant each year is diagnosed with cancer, meaning thousands of women are facing a serious and possibly fatal disease while they are expecting a baby."

Dr. Clifford Hudis
The article quotes Dr. Clifford Hudis, chief executive officer at the American Society of Clinical Oncology, to the effect that "if a doctor can't give a drug without fear of damaging a fetus, is that going to compromise outcomes? It's a whole new world."

The Times story explains that cancer drugs are dangerous for fetuses in the first trimester, and while older chemotherapy drugs are safe in the second and third trimesters, "the safety of the newer and more effective drugs is unknown and doctors are reluctant to give them to pregnant women."

Some 40 percent of women who are pregnant and have cancer have breast cancer, but many other cancers occur in pregnant women: blood cancers, cervical and ovarian cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, melanoma, brain cancer, thyroid cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Moreover, the story says, "women with some types of cancer, like acute leukemia, often can't continue with a pregnancy if the cancer is diagnosed in the first trimester. They need to be treated immediately, within days, and the necessary drugs are toxic to a fetus."

Dr. Eric Winer, director of the Yale Cancer Center, is also quoted: "In my view, the only medically accepted option is termination of the pregnancy so that lifesaving treatment can be administered to the mother."

Some oncologists, Kolata's story continues, "say they are not sure what is allowed if a women lives in a state like Michigan, which has a law that criminalized most abortions but permits them to save the life of a mother."

Dr. N. Lynn Henry
In that regard, still another physician, N. Lynn Henry, an oncologist at the University of Michigan, says that "we can't prove that the drugs caused a problem for the baby, and we can't prove that withholding the drugs would have a negative outcome."

In other words, the story goes on to attribute to unnamed doctors, "complications from pregnancy — a miscarriage, a premature birth, birth defects or death — can occur whether or not a woman with cancer takes the drugs. If she is not treated and her cancer gallops into a malignancy that kills her, that too might have happened even if she had been given he cancer drugs."

A law professor and bioethicist at Harvard, I. Glenn Cohen, projects — according to the story— that "we are putting physicians in a terrible position. I don't think signing up to be a physician should mean signing up to do jail time."

Additional information about chemotherapy 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, July 19, 2022

New study confirms that breast and brain cancer cells easily migrate to body's 'sweet spots'

Cancer cells do extremely well in body's so-called sweet spots, new research shows.

According to a recent story by Lee Bullen of Zenger News in Newsweek magazine, a group of researchers led by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities have "shed new light on how cancer thrives."

Previous studies, the article says, showed that cancer cells — which can "sense the stiffness of the environment they are in, from hard bone and tough muscle to soft, fatty tissue" — have a sweet spot "of stiffness…where they can move faster."

The latest study, published in the scientific journal "Nature Materials," indicates that the sweet spot is "a just-right Goldilocks spot somewhere in the middle."

David Odds, PhD
Bullen's story quotes David Odde, PhD and professor at the university's Department of Bio-medical Engineering, as saying that "this discovery challenges the current thinking in the field, which is that cells only move toward stiffer environments. I think that this finding will change how people think about this phenomenon."

He added, "We're basically decoding how cancer cells invade tissue, they don't just move randomly. They actually have particular ways in which they like to move, and if we can understand the, we may be better able to trip them up."

The researchers had analyzed both breast and brain cancer.

More research information is available in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

U.S. judge OKs refunds for customers in suit that says Monsanto masked Roundup's cancer risks

A federal judge has tentatively approved small refunds for customers in a lawsuit accusing Roundup's manufacturer of hiding cancer risks.

According to a recent story by Bob Egelko in The San Francisco Chronicle, buyers of the weed killer in recent years would be eligible for 20% refunds. 

The amount would be minuscule, however — between 50 cents and $33, depending upon the amounts of 19 versions of the herbicide purchased "during a period determined by the statute of limitations in their state."

Gillian Wade
As an example, the story cites California, the state in which the ruling jurist, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria of San Francisco, resides. 

There, Egelko's article quotes Gillian Wade, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, as saying, the judgment would mean a refund based on "one product per year for the last five years if they no longer have a receipt or other proof of purchase, and more products if they have such documentation."

The proposed settlement calls for Bayer, the parent company of Monsanto, the giant agribusiness that makes Roundup, to pay between $23 million and $45 million, depending on the claims. Of that amount, the Chronicle story says, "up to 25% would go to attorneys for legal fees and costs, and the rest to customer refunds."

Despite Chhabria's ruling, which seemingly validates the nationwide settlement of the lawsuit accusing Monsanto of false advertising, the company continues to describe the product "as perfectly safe."

Egelko's story notes that Monsanto still cites the weed killer's "approval since 1991 by the U.S, Environmental Protection Agency. But the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, classified the herbicide's main ingredient, glyphosate, as a probable cause of human cancer in 2015. And the EPA has now offered to allow California to place cancer warning labels on Roundup sold in the state."

The settlement is separate from the tens of thousands of suits filed against Monsanto and Bayer by people diagnosed with cancer after spraying Roundup, the world's most popular weed killer, on their crops. San Francisco Bay Area juries alone already have awarded damages of $133 million in three of those cases, and just recently the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of Monsanto's appeal of the award to one of the plaintiffs, Edwin Hardeman, a former school groundskeeper in Benicia who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's disease in 2015.

Chhabria's ruling, the judge emphasized, doesn't hinder any customer's right to sue for any illness or other harm caused by the weed killer.

He is scheduled to finalize his approval of the refunds in January.

Information on other lawsuits related to 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, July 7, 2022

Docs wary about study showing cancer drug might cut Covid deaths for patients in hospitals

A new study found that an experimental cancer drug reduces death in hospitalized Covid patients by 55 percent.

According to a story this week by Carl Zimmer in The New York Times, however, some experts are cautious about over-interpreting the results of the study.

Veru, the Miami company that developed the drug, sabizbulin, has applied to the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency authorization to use it.

Dr. Ilan Schartz
The story quotes Dr. Ilan Schwartz, infectious disease expert at the University of Alberta who wasn't involved in the study, as saying, "This looks super-impressive. We have a small number of treatments for patients with a severe disease that improve mortality, but another treatment that can further reduce deaths would be very welcome."

He cautioned, though, that the clinical trial was relatively small — only 134 patients receiving the drug while 70 got a placebo over a course of 60 days — and said he'd "welcome large and independent confirmatory studies."

Researchers hypothesize, among other things, that the drug, which is taken in pill form, helps Covid patients fight potentially life-threatening lung inflammation.

Dr. David Boulware, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, also cautioned about the impact of the study. He suggested the large 45 percent mortality rate in the placebo control group might be a sign the study was too small to draw firm conclusions. The death rate, he was quoted as saying, "jumps out at me as rather high."

In addition, he observed, "trials which are stopped early routinely overestimate the effect." He predicted a similar fate as what happened with the drug molnupiravir, which initially appeared to reduce the risk of hospitalization from Covid by 50 percent but settled for a more realistic figure of 30 percent in the final analysis.

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