Sunday, July 14, 2013

Leave our packed lunches alone, Nanny Staters

James Delingpole

I like Henry Dimbleby. He's a delightful fellow, he runs a top notch, high-end fast food chain (Leon) and if I'd been in his shoes when the call came from 10 Downing Street to volunteer as Britain's latest school dinners czar I'm sure I too would have said "yes."

But I'm sure I would have hated myself every day thereafter. Why? Because my new job would have entailed coming up with Nanny Statist crap like this:

     "Mr Dimbleby said: "More than a half of our children bring packed lunches into school and two-thirds of those have crisps in them and two-thirds have confectionery in them.  "The best schools – the schools that have good food – find ways of making packed lunch the less exciting option. Some of them ban packed lunch altogether."

"Mr Dimbleby", it seems to me, is coming perilously close to suggesting that the decision as to what children eat at school should be a matter for the State rather than parents. Can he really believe this? Is there nothing about saying this sort of thing that makes him uneasy?

I mean sure, I agree with him on the principle that a good, well-prepared hot meal at lunchtime is probably more filling and nourishing than a packet-bread sandwich and a packet of crisps. Problem is, not all school canteens offer quite the same range and quality you might find in – oh, I don't know, let's pluck a random example from the air, shall we? – Bekynton.

Having put children through the state system myself I know whereof I speak. A new caterer arrived at my daughter's primary school to much fanfare and for a while the food was great and most parents gratefully abandoned packed lunches (which, let me tell you, are a real hassle for a parent to prepare because they have to be done fresh in the morning when you're already in a rush having breakfast and getting ready for the school run) and welcomed the new regime. But then standards began slipping to the point where my daughter (who, like a lot of children whose staple diet is gastro-porn TV programmes from the Great British Bake Off to Masterchef, genuinely cares about food) couldn't eat the stuff any more. Again: is "Mr Dimbleby" seriously suggesting that schools should force children to go on eating in the canteen regardless of how disgusting they find the food?

You hear similar arguments from well-heeled progressive types on the school system generally. "If only public schools were abolished and all those pushy middle-class strivers were forced to put their children through the state system, standards would rise across the board." Well, possibly. What would more likely happen is that all those scrubbed, diligent, nicely spoken, polite young poshos would be dragged down to the level of the lowest common denominator. And in any case it's not an experiment which has any right being attempted anywhere in a Western notionally free-market economy. Why not? Because it's illiberal bordering on the totalitarian, is why.

Get this, nice Henry Dimbleby! Get this, David Cameron! It is not the government's job to dictate to children what they can and cannot eat. That decision should be the parents' and the parents' alone. This even applies when parents make the wrong decision (as many parents undoubtedly will). Sure some children may end up obese, sure others may find it difficult concentrating in class – but allowing families the right to make wrong decisions is one of the prices we pay for living in a free society.

Creating a better society through improved diet has long been the dream of domineering politicians. Here's one, quoted in Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, sounding like he'd do very well on one of David Cameron's task forces.

    The artificial is everywhere; everywhere food is adulterated, filled with ingredients that supposedly make it last longer, or look better, or pass as 'enriched', or whatever else the industry's ad men want us to believe… [W]e are in the hands of the food companies, whose economic clout and advertising make it possible for them to describe what we can and cannot eat….we shall take energetic steps to prevent the ruin of our people by the food industries.

You can almost hear the harpies at MumsNet applauding every word, can't you?

Yup, he sure knew a thing or two about the importance of nutrition, did good old Heinrich Himmler.


Human trials for wonder drug that shrinks cancerous tumors to begin next year

Mouse data.  May not generalize to people

A drug that helps the immune system to break down cancerous tumors has been developed and is set to begin human testing early next year.

The drug, developed by researchers at the University of Stanford, has been successful on different of cancers - including  breast, bowel, prostate, ovarian and brain - and could even be a cure, they said.

The drug's effectiveness centers on its relationship with a protein called CD47, which is found on the surface of cancer cells in high quantities.

The protein prevents the cancer from being engulfed and eaten by immune cells called macrophages, which serve as the body's garbage trucks by eating old or damaged cells.

The researchers made antibodies that would bind to the CD-47 on the cancer cell so that when a macrophage came along, it did not see CD-47 on the cell and engulfed everything.

So when the drug masked this 'don't-eat-me signal', it allowed the immune system to attack the cancer, destroying some entirely and shrinking others.

Tests on mice showed it to work on a broad range of cancers and with minimal side-effects. Given to mice with human tumors, the antibody made them shrink and, in some cases, disappear.

When the CD47 antibodies were injected into the mice, they produced positive results for all types of cancer, research showed.

The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which first published the findings of Dr Irv Weissman earlier this year, adds that the drug 'dramatically' increased survival rates.

Dr Weissman, from the Stanford University School of Medicine, said: 'Blocking this "don't-eat-me" signal inhibits the growth in mice of nearly every human cancer we tested, with minimal toxicity.

'This shows conclusively that this protein, CD47, is a legitimate and promising target for human cancer therapy.'

Now the lab has received a $20 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to conduct studies on humans.

Weissman told The Great Falls Tribune that the trials will start in 2014, as early as February or as late as April, depending on when it is cleared with the Food and Drug Administration.

The team of researchers at Stanford plan on starting a small 10-100 person phase I clinical human trial of the cancer therapy next year, with the focus on leukemia patients.

A similar trial will take place in the United Kingdom, the Tribune reported.

But Weissman told the paper he was approaching the study with some apprehension.

'Everybody should know that no matter how good studies are, no matter how strong the principle is, when you get to humans there could be variations in humans that could make it not work, so we're prepared for that,' he said.

Weissman added that it will take at least five years after the completion of the trial to determine whether their CD-47 trial is even successful.

The New York Post added that people are already rushing to sign up to be part of the potentially ground-breaking study.


No comments: