Gardasil Researcher Drops A Bombshell

From The Bulletin:

Dr. Diane Harper, lead researcher in the development of two human papilloma virus vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, said the controversial drugs will do little to reduce cervical cancer rates and, even though they’re being recommended for girls as young as nine, there have been no efficacy trials in children under the age of 15.

Dr. Harper, director of the Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Research Group at the University of Missouri, made these remarks during an address at the 4th International Public Conference on Vaccination which took place in Reston, Virginia on Oct. 2-4. Although her talk was intended to promote the vaccine, participants said they came away convinced the vaccine should not be received.

“I came away from the talk with the perception that the risk of adverse side effects is so much greater than the risk of cervical cancer, I couldn’t help but question why we need the vaccine at all,” said Joan Robinson, Assistant Editor at the Population Research Institute.

Continue reading

Urgent probe as girl dies after cervical cancer jab

Probably just a coincidence.

From Google/AFP:

LONDON — An urgent investigation was under way on Tuesday after a 14-year-old school girl collapsed and died after being vaccinated against cervical cancer.

The girl, who was named as Natalie Morton, died on Monday shortly after being injected with the Cervarix vaccine at the Blue Coat CofE school in Coventry.

The vaccine, which is made by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, is being administered to schoolgirls as part of a national vaccination programme to protect against the disease.

Health authorities immediately isolated the suspect batch of vaccine which protects against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually-transmitted virus which is the primary cause of cervical cancer.

“The incident happened shortly after the girl had received her HPV vaccine in the school,” said Dr. Caron Grainger, joint head of public health for the National Health Service (NHS) in Coventry and Coventry City Council.

“No link can be made between the death and the vaccine until all the facts are known and a post-mortem takes place.”

She added: “We are conducting an urgent and full investigation into the events surrounding this tragedy.”

In a statement GSK said it was working with health authorities “to better understand this case, as at this stage the exact cause of this tragic death is unknown.

“As a precautionary measure, the batch of vaccine involved has been quarantined until the situation is fully understood,” it said, noting that over 1.4 million doses of Cervarix have already been administered across the country.

To date, the “vast majority” of adverse reactions were either down to the known side-effects of the drug, or “due to the injection process and not the vaccine itself,” the company said.

Awareness of cervical cancer was raised earlier this year by the death of British reality television star, Jade Goody, who flagged the importance of women having regular cervical smear tests as she herself was dying of the disease.

Male breast cancer patients blame water at Marine base

I’m glad to see this finally made the national news. I ran an article from The LA Times about this in August (here). I suppose it caught my eye because I grew up about an hour from there, and have been on the base at different times for different reasons over the years (until I moved from the area).

From CNN:

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series.

Jim Fontella was based at Camp Lejeune in 1966 and 1967. He was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998.

Jim Fontella was based at Camp Lejeune in 1966 and 1967. He was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998.

TAMPA, Florida (CNN) — The sick men are Marines, or sons of Marines. All 20 of them were based at or lived at Camp Lejeune, the U.S. Marine Corps’ training base in North Carolina, between the 1960s and the 1980s.

They all have had breast cancer, a disease that strikes fewer than 2,000 men in the United States a year, compared with about 200,000 women. Each has had part of his chest removed as part of his treatment, along with chemotherapy, radiation or both.

And they blame their time at Camp Lejeune, where government records show drinking water was contaminated with high levels of toxic chemicals for three decades, for their illnesses.

“We come from all walks of life,” said Mike Partain, the son and grandson of Marines, who was born on the base 40 years ago. “And some of us have college degrees, some of us have blue-collar jobs. We are all over the country. And what is our commonality? Our commonality is that we all at some point in our lives drank the water at Camp Lejeune. Go figure.”

Starting in 1980, tests showed drinking water at Camp Lejeune had been “highly contaminated” with solvents. Several wells that supplied water to the base were found to have been contaminated in 1984 and 1985, and were promptly taken out of service after the pollutants were found, the Marine Corps told CNN.

Among the chemicals later identified in the drinking water were trichloroethylene, a degreaser; benzene; and the dry cleaning solvent perchloroethylene. Two independent studies have found no link between water contamination and later illnesses, according to the Marine Corps. But the men facing a debilitating and possibly lethal disease don’t buy it.

“That’s literally unheard of to have 20 men come from the same place, walking on the same dirt, drinking the same water,” said Jim Fontella, who was based at the camp in 1966 and 1967. “I mean, there has to be a link there somehow. And they’re saying that it couldn’t happen.”

Fontella, a Detroit native who fought in Vietnam, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998. When it returned after surgery, spreading to his spine and back, he “kind of manned up to it after a while and expected to die.”

“Once you have metastasis in the bone, it’s basically just a matter of time before you die, you know,” he told CNN. “Luckily, I have already passed my due date by five years. I outlived that death sentence I got.”

Fontella is one of seven male breast cancer survivors who spent time at Camp Lejeune who spoke to CNN. Fontella said that at the time of his diagnosis, he didn’t know men could get breast cancer.

Peter Devereaux, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, was based at Camp Lejeune in 1981 and 1982. The cancer spread to his spine, ribs and hips.

“The difference with metastatic breast cancer means now there’s no cure. So the average life expectancy is two to three years,” Devereaux told CNN.

“Being a man, I try to take care of my wife and my daughter,” he said, his voice catching. “Now that I’m considered disabled because I can no longer work and use my arms, you’re having challenges.”

Dr. John Kiluk, a breast cancer surgeon at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, said he’s startled by the common threads among the group.

“The average breast cancer patient for males is about 70 years old,” Kiluk said. “So when you have gentlemen in their 30s stepping forward, without a family history of breast cancer, that is alarming. And the question is, why? Why is this happening?”

As many as 500,000 people may have been exposed to the contaminated water over a period of 30 years, the Marine Corps said. Partain, Fontella, Devereaux and others CNN interviewed are all members of “The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten,” which was set up to organize people who believe they have been affected by the contamination.

But in a written response to questions raised by the men, the Marine Corps told CNN that two studies have examined whether contaminated water led to illnesses among base personnel or their families.

“To date, these studies have not identified a link between exposure to the historically impacted water at Camp Lejeune and adverse health effects,” the service said.

In addition, it said a 2004 review by the Marine Corps found the service followed existing water quality regulations. And investigations by the Bush administration’s Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency found no criminal conduct by Marine Corps officials and no violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

But Tyler Amon, an EPA investigator, told a House committee in 2007 that some employees interviewed during the criminal investigation appeared to have been coached and were not forthcoming with details. The Justice Department decided against filing charges based on his concern, however.

Parts of Camp Lejeune have been included on the EPA’s Superfund list of contaminated sites. Benzene, one of the chemicals found in the water there, is classified as a known human carcinogen by the federal government, while the other two are listed as potential causes of cancer.

Frank Bove, an epidemiologist with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, said the level of contamination in one sample taken at Camp Lejeune was “the highest I’ve ever seen in a public water system in this country.” But, he added, “Whether exposures were long enough and high enough at Camp Lejeune to cause disease — that’s the question.”

Researchers need to know more about where the men lived on the base, what kind of work they did, their medical histories and other details before reaching a conclusion, Bove said.

“We’re not sure there’s one common cause across all these cases,” he said. “There may be several different causes.”

The Marines Corps said it has worked with environmental and health agencies “from the beginning” to determine whether the contamination resulted in any illness, and “this collaboration continues to the present day.”

But so far, “collaboration” does not involve medical care for the stricken men, who say they are now facing a bureaucratic Catch-22: The Marine Corps sends them to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which says it can’t treat the men for a condition that hasn’t been shown to have been “service-related.”

“How could they do this to me after I served the country faithfully?” retired Marine Rick Kelly told CNN. “How could they do this to my fellow Marines?”

Master Gene That Switches On Disease-fighting Cells Identified By Scientists

From ScienceDaily:

ScienceDaily (Sep. 14, 2009) — The master gene that causes blood stem cells to turn into disease-fighting ‘Natural Killer’ (NK) immune cells has been identified by scientists, in a study published in Nature Immunology Setember 13. The discovery could one day help scientists boost the body’s production of these frontline tumour-killing cells, creating new ways to treat cancer.

The researchers have ‘knocked out’ the gene in question, known as E4bp4, in a mouse model, creating the world’s first animal model entirely lacking NK cells, but with all other blood cells and immune cells intact. This breakthrough model should help solve the mystery of the role that Natural Killer cells play in autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Some scientists think that these diseases are caused by malfunctioning NK cells that turn on the body and attack healthy cells, causing disease instead of fighting it. Clarifying NK cells’ role could lead to new ways of treating these conditions.

The study was carried out by researchers at Imperial College London, UCL and the Medical Research Council’s National Institute for Medical Research.

Natural Killer cells – a type of white blood cell – are a major component of the human body’s innate, quick-response immune system. They provide a fast frontline defence against tumours, viruses and bacterial infections, by scanning the human body for cells that are cancerous or infected with a virus or a bacterial pathogen, and killing them.

NK cells – along with all other types of blood cell, both white and red – are continuously generated from blood stem cells in the bone marrow over the course of a person’s lifetime. The gene E4bp4 identified in today’s study is the ‘master gene’ for NK cell production, which means it is the primary driver that causes blood stem cells to differentiate into NK cells.

The researchers behind this new study, led by Dr Hugh Brady from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, are hoping to progress with a drug treatment for cancer patients which reacts with the protein expressed by their E4bp4 gene, causing their bodies to produce a higher number of NK cells than normal, to increase the chances of successfully destroying tumours.

Currently, NK cells isolated from donated blood are sometimes used to treat cancer patients, but the effectiveness of donated cells is limited because NK cells can be slightly different from person to person. Dr Brady explains: “If increased numbers of the patient’s own blood stem cells could be coerced into differentiating into NK cells, via drug treatment, we would be able to bolster the body’s cancer-fighting force, without having to deal with the problems of donor incompatibility.”

Dr Brady and his colleagues at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research proved the pivotal role E4bp4 plays in NK production when they knocked the gene out in a mouse model. Without E4bp4 the mouse produced no NK cells whatsoever but other types of blood cell were unaffected. As well as proving their hypothesis about the function of the E4bp4 gene, this animal model will allow medical researchers, for the first time, to discover if NK cell malfunction is behind a wide range of medical conditions, including autoimmune disorders, inflammatory conditions, persistent viral infections, female infertility and graft rejection.

Dr Brady explains: “Since shortly after they were discovered in the 1970s some scientists have suspected that the vital disease-fighting NK cells could themselves be behind a number of serious medical conditions, when they malfunction. Now finally, with our discovery of the NK cell master gene and subsequent creation of our mouse model, we will be able to find out if the progression of these diseases is impeded or aided by the removal of NK cells from the equation. This will solve the often-debated question of whether NK cells are always the ‘good guys’, or if in certain circumstances they cause more harm than good.”

The researchers were initially studying the effect of E4bp4 in a very rare but fatal form of childhood leukaemia when they discovered its importance for NK cells.

The study was funded by the charities CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA and Leukaemia Research.

Girl Rejects Gardasil, Loses Path to Citizenship

From ABCNews:

Born in Britain in 1992, Simone Davis got off to a rough start in life. Her biological mother abandoned her as a baby, and her father couldn’t care for her.

At 3, Simone was adopted by her paternal grandmother, Jean Davis, who married an American in 2000 and moved them to Port St. Joe, Fla.

But because the adoption was not recognized in the United States, Davis embarked on a near-decade quest to get Simone U.S. citizenship.

Now 17 and an aspiring elementary school teacher and devout Christian, Simone has only one thing standing in the way of her goal — the controversial vaccine Gardasil.

Immigration law mandates that Simone get the vaccine to protect against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, which has been linked to cervical cancer.

But Simone, who has taken a virginity pledge and is not sexually active, doesn’t see why she should have to take the vaccine, especially since it’s been under fire recently regarding its safety .

And none of her American classmates is mandated by law to be vaccinated.

“I am only 17 years old and planning to go to college and not have sex anytime soon,” said Simone. “There is no chance of getting cervical cancer, so there’s no point in getting the shot.”

Since 2008, the government has required that female immigrants between the ages of 11 through 26 applying for permanent resident or refugee status receive Gardasil, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006.

Simone and her adoptive mother she still calls “Nanny” sought a waiver for moral and religious reasons and were recently rejected by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

That ruling threatens to separate Simone and Davis, and could dash the teen’s plans to attend Pensacola Christian College, where she was conditionally accepted.

They were given 30 days to appeal or the teen would face being “removed.”

The 1996 Immigration and Naturalization Act requires girls and women within a specified age group to receive the vaccination against certain specified diseases “and any other vaccinations recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices.

//

Gardasil was added to the list of vaccines in 2008.

“The decision to include HPV as a required vaccine was made by the CDC,” said Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman Chris Rhatigan.

“We follow the law,” she told ABCNews.com. “The objection to a waiver would have to be to all vaccines, not just Gardasil.”

The CDC is expected to publish new criteria to determine which vaccines should be recommended for U.S. immigrants in about a month, according to spokeswoman Christine Pearson.

Simone’s struggle began in 2000, when U.S. authorities did not recognize the British adoption papers, and the process began anew.

“We never heard from her mother again after she sent a third birthday card, and was never given a contact address,” said Jean Davis, who is now 63, divorced, and a teacher. “I had no idea where she was.”

Read the rest:

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ReproductiveHealth/gardasil-vaccine-roadblock-citizenship/story?id=8542051

Tumors Feel The Deadly Sting Of Nanobees

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 31, 2009) — When bees sting, they pump poison into their victims. Now the toxin in bee venom has been harnessed to kill tumor cells by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The researchers attached the major component of bee venom to nano-sized spheres that they call nanobees.

In mice, nanobees delivered the bee toxin melittin to tumors while protecting other tissues from the toxin’s destructive power. The mice’s tumors stopped growing or shrank. The nanobees’ effectiveness against cancer in the mice is reported in advance online publication Aug. 10 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“The nanobees fly in, land on the surface of cells and deposit their cargo of melittin which rapidly merges with the target cells,” says co-author Samuel Wickline, M.D., who heads the Siteman Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence at Washington University. “We’ve shown that the bee toxin gets taken into the cells where it pokes holes in their internal structures.”

Melittin is a small protein, or peptide, that is strongly attracted to cell membranes, where it can form pores that break up cells and kill them.

“Melittin has been of interest to researchers because in high enough concentration it can destroy any cell it comes into contact with, making it an effective antibacterial and antifungal agent and potentially an anticancer agent,” says co-author Paul Schlesinger, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of cell biology and physiology. “Cancer cells can adapt and develop resistance to many anticancer agents that alter gene function or target a cell’s DNA, but it’s hard for cells to find a way around the mechanism that melittin uses to kill.”

The scientists tested nanobees in two kinds of mice with cancerous tumors. One mouse breed was implanted with human breast cancer cells and the other with melanoma tumors. After four to five injections of the melittin-carrying nanoparticles over several days, growth of the mice’s breast cancer tumors slowed by nearly 25 percent, and the size of the mice’s melanoma tumors decreased by 88 percent compared to untreated tumors.

The researchers indicate that the nanobees gathered in these solid tumors because tumors often have leaky blood vessels and tend to retain material. Scientists call this the enhanced permeability and retention effect of tumors, and it explains how certain drugs concentrate in tumor tissue much more than they do in normal tissues.

But the researchers also developed a more specific method for making sure nanobees go to tumors and not healthy tissue by loading the nanobees with additional components. When they added a targeting agent that was attracted to growing blood vessels around tumors, the nanobees were guided to precancerous skin lesions that were rapidly increasing their blood supply. Injections of targeted nanobees reduced the extent of proliferation of precancerous skin cells in the mice by 80 percent.

Overall, the results suggest that nanobees could not only lessen the growth and size of established cancerous tumors but also act at early stages to prevent cancer from developing.

“Nanobees are an effective way to package the useful, but potentially deadly, melittin, sequestering it so that it neither harms normal cells nor gets degraded before it reaches its target,” Schlesinger says.

If a significant amount of melittin were injected directly into the bloodstream, widespread destruction of red blood cells would result. The researchers showed that nanoparticles protected the mice’s red cells and other tissues from the toxic effects of melittin. Nanobees injected into the bloodstream did not harm the mice. They had normal blood counts, and tests for the presence of blood-borne enzymes indicative of organ damage were negative.

When secured to the nanobees, melittin is safe from protein-destroying enzymes that the body produces. Although unattached melittin was cleared from the mice’s circulation within minutes, half of the melittin on nanobees was still circulating 200 minutes later. Schlesinger indicates that is long enough for the nanobees to circulate through the mice’s bloodstream 200 times, giving them ample time to locate tumors.

“Melittin is a workhorse,” says Wickline, also professor of medicine in the Cardiovascular Division and professor of physics, of biomedical engineering and of cell biology and physiology. “It’s very stable on the nanoparticles, and it’s easily and cheaply produced. We are now using a nontoxic part of the melittin molecule to hook other drugs, targeting agents or imaging compounds onto nanoparticles.”

The core of the nanobees is composed of perfluorocarbon, an inert compound used in artificial blood. The research group developed perfluorocarbon nanoparticles several years ago and have been studying their use in various medical applications, including diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis and cancer. About six millionths of an inch in diameter, the nanoparticles are large enough to carry thousands of active compounds, yet small enough to pass readily through the bloodstream and to attach to cell membranes.

“We can add melittin to our nanoparticles after they are built,” Wickline says. “If we’ve already developed nanoparticles as carriers and given them a targeting agent, we can then add a variety of components using native melittin or melittin-like proteins without needing to rebuild the carrier. Melittin fortunately goes onto the nanoparticles very quickly and completely and remains on the nanobee until cell contact is made.”

The flexibility of nanobees and other nanoparticles made by the group suggests they could be readily adapted to fit medical situations as needed. The ability to attach imaging agents to nanoparticles means that the nanoparticles can give a visible indication of how much medication gets to tumors and how tumors respond.

“Potentially, these could be formulated for a particular patient,” Schlesinger says. “We are learning more and more about tumor biology, and that knowledge could soon allow us to create nanoparticles targeted for specific tumors using the nanobee approach.”

Funding from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association supported this research.

Camp Lejeune residents blame rare cancer cluster on the water

From The L.A. Times:

For three decades, dry-cleaning chemicals and industrial solvents laced the water used by local Marines and their families. Mike Partain and at least 19 others developed male breast cancer.

Reporting from Tallahassee, Fla. – One night in April 2007, as Mike Partain hugged his wife before going to bed, she felt a small lump above his right nipple. A mammogram — a “man-o-gram,” he called it — led to a diagnosis of male breast cancer. Six days later, the 41-year-old insurance adjuster had a mastectomy.

Partain had no idea men could get breast cancer. But he thinks he knows what caused his: contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he was born.

Over the last two years, Partain has compiled a list of 19 others diagnosed with male breast cancer who once lived on the base.

For three decades — from the 1950s to the mid-1980s — the water supply used by hundreds of thousands of Marines and their families was laced with chemicals from an off-base dry-cleaning company and industrial solvents used to clean military equipment.

A 1974 base order required safe disposal of solvents and warned that improper handling could cause drinking water contamination. Yet solvents were dumped or buried near base wells for years.

“The Marine Corps knowingly poisoned their own people,” Partain recently said in his living room, surrounded by stacks of military documents and water analysis reports. “They were told about the water, and they did nothing. Nothing. And then they lied about it.”

Read the rest:

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-military-cancer26-2009aug26,0,5677602,full.story