|Author Woody Weingarten|
|Author Woody Weingarten|
With a nod to a John Fitzgerald Kennedy speech about space travel, Joe Biden has drawn attention to his own "moonshot" to fight cancer.
The president has used his metaphor to push a federally backed study that seeks to validate using blood tests to screen against multiple cancers.
A recent Associated Press story by Zeke Miller and Carl K. Johnson indicates the Biden's endorsement could make the study "a potential game-changer in diagnostic testing to dramatically improve early detection of cancers."
The Biden bully-pulpit push came at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston that marked the 60th anniversary of JFK's "moonshot" speech.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancers are the second highest killer of Americans after heart disease. The American Cancer Society has estimated that 1.9 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed this year, with more than 600,000 deaths predicted.
Biden, the AP story says, "hopes to move the U.S. closer to the goal he set in February of cutting U.S. cancer fatalities by 50% over the next 25 years and to dramatically improve the lives of caregivers and those suffering from cancer."
|Danielle Carnival, PhD|
She cites as "one of the most promising technologies" the "development of blood tests that offer the promise of detecting multiple cancers in a single blood test."
Cancer, of course, has long been a Biden priority — stemming from the loss of his son, Beau, in 2015 to brain cancer. The president wrote in his memoir "Promise Me, Dad" that he chose not to run in 2016 primarily because of his son's death.
Scientists now understand, the AP piece notes, "that cancer is not a single disease but hundreds of diseases that respond differently to different treatments."
Any effort to reduce the cancer death rate, the story continues, "will need to focus on the biggest cancer killer, which is lung cancer. Mostly attributable to smoking, lung cancer now causes more cancer deaths than any other cancer. Of the 1,670 daily cancer deaths in the United States, more than 350 are from lung cancer."
Dr. Roy Herbst, a lung specialist at Yale Cancer Center, thinks the current situation is "tragic." The moonshot, he observes, "is going to have to be a social fix as well as a scientific and medical fix. We're going to have to find a way that screening becomes easier, that it's fully covered, that we have more screening facilities."
Biden wants Americans who've delayed cancer screenings because of the pandemic to seek them out quickly, "reminding them that early detection can be key to avoiding adverse outcomes."
More information about the federal government funding 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.
Marin County and nine of its municipalities, including my hometown, San Anselmo, have sued Monsanto because its products allegedly caused contamination.
The lawsuit — according to a press release from officials — claims the giant agri-business "deliberately misled the public, environmental regulators, and its own customers so it could reap massive profits" from its sales of toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), chemical compounds that eventually were banned by the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976.
Monsanto, which produced nearly 99 percent of all PCBs used in the United States since the 1930s, faces similar court actions nationwide.
PCBs are known or suspected to cause many diseases, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, breast cancer, liver cancer, gallbladder cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and skin cancer, says a recent story by Gideon Rubin, staff writer for Patch's San Anselmo-Fairfax website.
County officials explain, the Patch piece notes, that the suit about PCBs "aims to provide relief for the costs the jurisdictions will incur to remove the contaminants."
Monsanto, which was bought out by Bayer in 2018, has meanwhile settled multiple lawsuits involving its product Roundup, the nation's most popular weedkiller, after plaintiffs alleged it had caused cancer. But thousands of other suits are pending.
Rubin's article quotes county officials as saying that "according to Monsanto's own internal documents, company officials knew and were warned about the dangers to human health and the environment form PCBs, but Monsanto wrongfully promoted the product and failed to warn customers about its dangers."
The story states that two other companies, Solute, Inc., and Pharmacia LLC, are included in the new suit filed in Marin County Superior Court. A later article, by Richard Halstead in the Marin Independent Journal today, explains that the two companies had been spun off from Monsanto. While Monsanto retained its agriculture business, Solute took on the chemical business, and Pharmacia acquired the pharmaceutical business.
In addition to the county and San Anselmo, plaintiffs include the cities of Belvedere, Mill Valley, Novato, San Rafael, and Sausalito, and the towns of Corte Madera, Ross, and Tiburon.
The piece further quotes Washington as saying "PCBs have left a long toxic legacy. The companies responsible need to contribute to the solution so that the taxpayers do not have to carry the entire burden."
The chemical compounds, Rubin's story says, have also been implicated "in non-cancer health problems such as cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, hepatic (liver), immune, neonatal, neurological, ocular, and reproductive harm."
PCB contamination "resulting from the defendants' actions is already widespread across the [San Francisco] Bay Area," Patch reports, adding that "the entire bay is classified as 'impaired' by PCBs under the federal Clean Water Act. This impairment endangers natural resources and human health, county officials said."
That contamination has been so severe in the bay, the story continues, "that the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has advised some people not to eat certain types of fish caught in the bay."
Rubin's piece details the suggestion: "Children and women aged 18 to 49 are advised not to eat striped bass, sharks, and white sturgeon caught in the bay. Everyone is also advised not to eat the skin and fatty tissue of any fish caught in the bay."
More information on product-caused contamination 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.
Jane Fonda, star of films and television, says her non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is "a very treatable cancer."
In a recent story by Matt Stevens, Dani Blum, and Alisha Haridasani Gupta in The New York Times, Fonda's Instagram account is quoted: "I feel very lucky" — because of the kind of cancer it is, because she has health insurance, and because she has "access to the best doctors and treatments."
The social activist also took pains to voice that "I realize…I am privileged in this. Almost every family in America has had to deal with cancer at one time or another and far too many don't have access to the quality health care I am receiving and this is not right."
|Dr. Matthew Matasar|
The defining characteristic of the illness is that it develops in the immune cells, but, Matasar notes, "there are actually over 100 different types of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma."
The National Cancer Institute has estimated that there will be more than 80,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma this year.
Those 60 and older are most susceptible.
As with most diseases, the earlier non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is detected, the better chance a person has of surviving.
Although underlying health issues may complicate a patient's response to chemo treatments, the Times article quotes Dr. William Dahut, chief scientific officer of the American Cancer Society, as saying that "some people have very, very good prognosis — it's not a death sentence."
In her Instagram post, Fonda says she's "handling the treatments quite well, and, believe me, I will not let any of this interfere with my climate activism."
More information on celebrities battling 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.
False-positives from cat scans for lung cancer could do more harm than good.
At least that's the conclusion of two cardiologists at the University of California, San Francisco.
The two — Dr. Rita Redberg and Dr. Sanket Dhruva — published their view in a recent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Their piece notes that while "more Americans are worried about cancer than Covid-19, according to a recent Gallup poll," the screenings often lead "to significant harm."
|Dr. Rita Redberg|
On the other hand, cat scans might save a patient from lung cancer, which is now the leading cause of cancer death in the United States (130,000 people die from it each year).
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended an annual CT scan for some patients with a heavy smoking history after shared decision-making — because it's been proven in clinical trials that it reduces the death rate when "performed on patients at high-risk — those age 50 to 74 who smoked about one pack per day for 30 years."
The Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee, which Redberg has chaired and which is made up of independent experts, concluded, according to the op-ed, "there was not sufficient evidence that the benefits of a robust CT scan policy exceeded the harms."
The op-ed further maintains "research shows that shared decision-making is rarely happening prior to CT scans, despite the Medicare requirement. When any conversation does occur, doctors underemphasize, or omit altogether, the risks — while overemphasizing the benefits. Medicare has failed to enforce its own shared decision-making requirement, meaning that hundreds of thousands of patients are agreeing to lung cancer screening scans without being fully informed of the risks and shortcomings of the test."
|Dr. Sanket Dhruva|
Doctors "owe it to patients," they conclude, "to equip them with the information and tools to make fully informed decisions."More information about tests that can be risky 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.