Monday, December 17, 2007

'Holy Grail' of cancer treatments expected within two years

QUEENSLAND scientists expect to start clinical trials within two years on what has been described as the "Holy Grail" of cancer treatments. Dr Ming Wei from the University of Queensland Department of Medicine says he is "very confident" of success in developing the treatment, which uses bacteria from kangaroos to attack tumours. The world-first therapy could save millions of lives each year.

Professor Ian Frazer, who developed a cervical cancer vaccine, has hailed the work of his Queensland colleagues. "The Holy Grail of cancer treatments is to come up with treatments which can deal with the tumours without harming the patient," he said.

Starting next month, Dr Wei will lead a team of 10 scientists genetically modifying a common bacterium from kangaroos to develop a product that is expected to be effective in combating up to 90 per cent of cancers. "It will work on any solid tumours anywhere in the body," said Dr Wei, who is based at the Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane.

The bacterium will be injected into tumours, releasing special enzymes which liquefy the cancer mass, shrinking it, and stimulating the body's natural immune forces. "Most people with cancer die from the spread of the tumour, not the primary tumour mass itself," Dr Wei said. One in four Australians dies from cancer.

The bug being developed by Dr Wei's team also occurs in humans, cattle and soil but the form found in the stomachs of eastern-grey kangaroos contains more protein-digesting enzymes. "It's an anaerobic bacterium, which means it doesn't need oxygen to multiply. It can multiply much faster than the tumour cells, effectively starving the tumour of the 'food' it needs to grow," Dr Wei said. The scientists will genetically engineer the bacterium to boost its cancer-busting power even further.

The potential of the bacterium in curing cancer was first identified by doctors in Germany nearly 100 years ago when they noticed that some patients spontaneously recovered after suffering a bacterial infection and fever. The UQ team has been experimenting on human tumours in rats, with a 60 to 65 per cent success rate and Dr Wei said it would be "no more than two years before we can bring this into clinical trials". A product could be ready to market within five years.


Warning: Congress May Be Hazardous to Your Health

It has given the FDA an impossible and destructive burden

Since 1906 we've entrusted Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure the safety of our vital food and drugs. Foolishly, we've also entrusted Congress and successive administrations to provide appropriate oversight and management of the agency. Now, after a century of Washington-style bureaucracy-building, America is stuck with an FDA that's unequivocally incapable of safeguarding either our food or our drugs.

This isn't just some uninformed opinion. The past year's flood of news stories about fatal food contamination - including spinach and peanut butter - are there for all to see. But it's also the official finding of the FDA's own blue-ribbon advisory group, the Science Board, which recently issued a damning report titled "FDA Science & Mission At Risk." The report notes that "the Agency suffers from serious scientific deficiencies and is not positioned to meet current or emerging regulatory responsibilities." Gail Cassel, a co-author of the report, said, "The wheels are coming off. In fact, I would say they're off. They're already off."

In 1990, the report says, Congress added pre-market approval for disease prevention and nutrient descriptor claims for food products. And in 1994 it added pre-market review for newly marketed dietary supplements. This sort of mission creep "has made it increasingly impossible for FDA to maintain its historic public health mission."

Indeed, the litany of FDA deficiencies is breathtaking in scope: Inadequate inspection of manufacturers, a "badly broken" food import system, a food supply "that grows riskier each year", a "dearth" of scientists trained in emerging technologies, an "obsolete" information-technology system and more. Warnings of the potential collapse of the FDA have been around for years and the FDA's own Science Board says the crises predicted earlier "are now realities, and American lives are at risk."

When a $2 billion-a-year federal agency crashes and burns, it's fair to ask, "Who's at fault?" Beyond the bureaucrats themselves, responsibility lies with Congress and the many administrations who have failed to hold legislators in check. The new FDA Science Board report underscores the damage done by decades of expanding regulatory mandates by Congress with very little oversight - just the sort of irresponsible headline-making legislative action which plays well among constituents but fatally undermines the agency's ability to fulfill its core mission.

The critical question today is: Will this startling analysis have any affect on Congress? We'll know soon enough. The House Energy & Commerce Committee will soon vote on H.R. 1108, a bill which could well put the final nail in the FDA's coffin. The bill would saddle the agency with new regulatory responsibility for the entire tobacco industry - a task which is beyond the FDA's charter, beyond its expertise, and beyond all reason. It is unnecessary, untimely and unworthy of congressional action. All this bill does is pander to a bunch of vocal anti-tobacco zealots.

This is a moment when the Energy & Commerce Committee should step back and reconsider the wisdom of piling yet another regulatory burden onto FDA's already full plate. Instead, it should focus on paring the agency's agenda back to an affordable, rational and narrowly focused food and drug safety program. Either that or slap a huge warning label across the Capitol dome: "Warning: Congress May Be Hazardous to Your Health."



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

9). And how odd it is that we never hear of the huge American study which showed that women who eat lots of veggies have an INCREASED risk of stomach cancer? So the official recommendation to eat five lots of veggies every day might just be creating lots of cancer for the future! It's as plausible (i.e. not very) as all the other dietary "wisdom" we read about fat etc.

10). And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This is another anti-fat scare that emanates from a much-cited editorial in a prominent medical journal that said so. Yet this editorial offered no statistical basis for its opinion -- an opinion that flies directly in the face of the available evidence.

Even statistical correlations far stronger than anything found in medical research may disappear if more data is used. A remarkable example from Sociology:
"The modern literature on hate crimes began with a remarkable 1933 book by Arthur Raper titled The Tragedy of Lynching. Raper assembled data on the number of lynchings each year in the South and on the price of an acre's yield of cotton. He calculated the correla-tion coefficient between the two series at -0.532. In other words, when the economy was doing well, the number of lynchings was lower.... In 2001, Donald Green, Laurence McFalls, and Jennifer Smith published a paper that demolished the alleged connection between economic condi-tions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his anal-ysis in 1929. After the Great Depression hit, the price of cotton plummeted and economic conditions deteriorated, yet lynchings continued to fall. The correlation disappeared altogether when more years of data were added."
So we must be sure to base our conclusions on ALL the data. But in medical research, data selectivity and the "overlooking" of discordant research findings is epidemic.


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