Friday, 1 September 2017

First cancer 'living drug' gets go-ahead

KymriahImage copyrightNOVARTIS
"The US has approved the first treatment to redesign a patient's own immune system so it attacks cancer.
The regulator - the US Food and Drug Administration - said its decision was a "historic" moment and medicine was now "entering a new frontier".
The company Novartis is charging $475,000 (£367,000) for the "living drug" therapy, which leaves 83% of people free of a type of blood cancer.
Doctors in the UK said the announcement was an exciting step forward.
The living drug is tailor-made to each patient, unlike conventional therapies such as surgery or chemotherapy.
It is called CAR-T and is made by extracting white blood cells from the patient's blood.
The cells are then genetically reprogrammed to seek out and kill cancer.
The cancer-killers are then put back inside the patient and once they find their target they multiply.

'Enormously exciting'

Dr Scott Gottlieb, from the FDA, said: "We're entering a new frontier in medical innovation with the ability to reprogram a patient's own cells to attack a deadly cancer.
"New technologies such as gene and cell therapies hold out the potential to transform medicine and create an inflection point in our ability to treat and even cure many intractable illnesses."
The therapy, which will be marketed as Kymriah, works against acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Most patients respond to normal therapy and Kymriah has been approved for when those treatments fail.
Dr Stephan Grupp, who treated the first child with CAR-T at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said the new approach was "enormously exciting".
"We've never seen anything like this before," he added.
That first patient had been near to death, but has now been cancer-free for more than five years.
Out of 63 patients treated with CAR-T therapy, 83% were in complete remission within three months and long-term data is still being collected.
However, the therapy is not without risks.
It can cause potentially life-threatening cytokine release syndrome from the rapid proliferation of the CAR-T cells in the body. This can be controlled with drugs.

New era

But the potential of CAR-T technology goes beyond one type of cancer.
Dr David Maloney, medical director of cellular immunotherapy at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said the FDA's decision was a "milestone".
He added: "We believe this is just the first of what will soon be many new immunotherapy-based treatments for a variety of cancers.
CAR-T technology has shown most promise against different blood-based cancers.
However, it has struggled against "solid tumours" such as lung cancer or melanoma.
Dr Prakash Satwani, a paediatric oncologist at Columbia University Medical, said: "The results haven't been that great when you compare it with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, but I'm sure the technology will get better in the near future."
Boosting the immune system is already a cornerstone of modern cancer treatment.
A range of drugs that "take the brakes off" the immune system to allow it to attack cancer more freely have already been adopted around the world.
CAR-T technology, which goes a step further and redesigns the immune system, is at a much earlier stage.
Prof Peter Johnson, the chief clinician at the charity Cancer Research UK, said: "The first genetically modified cell therapy to be approved by the FDA is an exciting step forward.
"We still have a lot to learn about how to use it safely and who might benefit from it, so it is important to recognise this is just a first step."
  • 30 August 2017

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

I've just sponsored Victoria Evans. What about you?

"Hello everyone, 
So this year I have set myself the monumental challenge of running a half marathon! Anyone who knows me will know this is a huge deal given that my default setting is sofa sitting with chocolate and pizza to hand. I am brushing off my running shoes to start training and raise some cash for a good cause! 
Cancer is a disease that I am sure we have all had touch our lives and I am no exception. I have family and close friends who have been affected and have heard so many inspirational stories from incredibly brave people. So this is why I am running for Cancer Research, I want to contribute something to this great cause while doing something completely out of my comfort zone to make a mark.
I have started training and so far it has been hard work, but nothing worth doing is ever easy! Please sponsor me & help me keep going! 
Thank you
Thanks for taking the time to visit my JustGiving page.
Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving - they'll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they'll send your money directly to the charity. So it's the most efficient way to donate - saving time and cutting costs for the charity."

Monday, 28 August 2017

There might be blood, guts and brain damage... or maybe not

Maybe, just maybe, there's a staged fight and all was already set for the script. Who knows?, that's impossible to tell. What's easy to tell is that they are now millionaires, if they weren't before already ... and that the videos of them partying leaves a trace of opulence, a degree of shallowness and in my personal opinion, a reinforced need for better days to the world we live in. Why? If only people invested that much money and energy in educating the masses, maybe we wouldn't be foraging Mars for an inter-spatial way out of a doomed planet.

But I had promised a post summarising exactly what happens to one's brain after a full blow to one's head in a boxing fight. However, as I stated many times before in the past, there is no point in producing information when such information is already available at a decent-to-excellent level for free, in the web.

The website MIC Network Incorporated shared with their audience on the 4th of May 2015 a post by Max Plenke (is that his real name or he just found it funny to address himself as close to Max Planck as possible) that goes through what I intended to cover on this very same post. The post image they used shows Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao (I guess, I've seen these two like three times on TV news for a brief minute or so).

But so you don't have to read integrally their good piece of investigation journalism, allow me to summarise what is shared by them in a few bullet-points, adding to the affirmations a few articles that can help you understand the biological aspect of the injuries provoked when one is hit:

- Flash of light, brief blackness, blurred vision depending on the severity of the strike [1];

- "Coup" and "contre-coup" of the brain (where the brain travels back and forth against and from the skull barrier) [2] [3];

- Average punch force that in the case of Olympic fighters is enough to break bricks, and would definitely break the bone wasn't it for the mobility of the human head and neck [4];

- Short-term and long-term alterations to a non-rehabilitated brain (should rest for a year) that can result in impaired judgement, personality changes, chronic traumatic encefalopathy (e.g., Parkinson's- and Alzheimer's-like lesions to the brain) [5]. These are also linked to behavioural changes towards a more violent pattern as the article so well reports. 

[1] Doggart, J. H. (1955). "The impact of boxing upon the visual apparatus". AMA Arch Opthalmology, 54(2), pp. 161-169.

[2] Williams, D. J. and Tannenberg, A. E. G. (1996). "Dementia pugilistica in an alcoholic achodronplastic dwarf". Pathology, 28(1), pp. 102-104. 

[3] Handratta, V., Hsu, E., Vento, J., Yang, C., Tanev, K. (2010). "Neuroimaging findings and grain-behavioral correlates in a former boxer with chronic traumaticbrain injury". Neurocase - The Neural Basis of Cognition, 16(2), pp. 125-134. 

[4] Walilko, T. J., Viano, D. C., Bir, C. A. (2005). "Biomechanics of the head for Olympic boxer punches to the face". British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(10), pp. 710-720.

[5] Mendez, M. F. (1995). "The neuropsychiatric aspects of boxing". The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 25(3), pp. 249-262.

Post image obtained from MIC, This is what happens when you get punched in the head, [].

Friday, 25 August 2017

There might be blood, guts and brain damage...

But hopefully everything will end like it started, a circus frenzy of two 'killing machines' disputing their egos amidst a boxing ground.

It's Mayweather versus McGregor 

and while everyone is putting their wagers and balancing their bets for the right winner, I will be doing something different. The Toxicologist Today will be offering a public service by analysing the typical brain damage that is caused when one is full blown to the head with a flying fist from a professional boxer. In my opinion there's way too much violence in the world for us to be promoting another dis-entertainment like the fight that is to come. Therefore, my best approach is to just sit down, compile the list of damage and subsequent permanent alterations to the tissue matter and brain functionalities, and let the best of them rise as the flying Phoenix while the other one will be suffering the toughest humiliation of his career. Here's the countdown to the fight, the post will come the day after they sort out their manhood in that boxing ring.

Post picture kindly taken from freaking

Did you know that...

What's new in the news today for my little science maggots out there? I've been reading some crazy stuff, and I'm sure you're also informed of the hot links popping on the left side column down there. I'll just review the most spicy topics so you don't have to filter it out. A bit of a starter for your science feast if you wish to deepen any more of these interesting topics. 

In the U.S. federal health officials say that "while most children are getting their first dose of HPV vaccine, many aren't completing the full vaccination schedule, the officials said". As you may know the human papillomavirus is sex-transmitted, infects approximately 14 million Americans and is responsible for cancers. In women these express as "cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers". In man, penile. "It can also cause anal cancer, throat cancer and genital warts in both men and women, according to the CDC". More on the matter here.

Here is a curious one and a subject I really want to know a bit more about. The American Chemical Society reported a few days back that the coffee ring produced when "water evaporates from around the edge of a droplet, pulling water outwards from the middle and leaving a characteristic mark around the edge" says a lot about the quality of said water. After collecting droplets of these rings they were able to look into the residue left after evaporation and analysing it under a magnifying glass. The discoveries made point towards future low cost water analysis by common people. That is because the little particles that are left behind when supported by a special software can provide a sort of fingerprint of the droplets, tell more of the quality of the water itself. Makes me wonder why they bring about the ring effect anyway, seems totally unnecessary for the protocol. Read more about it here.

Want to do something good for the future of your children? Print this letter and send it to your representatives. The reason being that by 2050 antibiotic resistance is expected to kill more than cancer. Not enough is being made in the world of research and prevention in what concerns the development of antimicrobial drug resistance. There's not much I need to tell because after you read this open letter you will be even more familiar with the drama that is brewing and the chaos that there is to come. Act now for the sake of everyone. Read more about it here.

Finally, I don't know much about podcasts, but I know that their becoming a frequent thing on blogs. I might try one myself one of these days just to see if my audience appreciates my sexy tone as I babble about medicines, science and the like! For now, have a taste of what this Toxicology podcast looks like. Produced by The Poison Review and covering the opioid crisis (for some odd stupid reason heroine is making a totally unpredictable comeback), here.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

7 Years of The Toxicologist Today

Life is made of impressive experiences, not all pleasant. But one of the things I have learned throughout 38 years of being on this planet is that it's you, as an individual, who has to be responsible for filtering what life gives you and fight for your happiness. This points towards a lot of facets in life, but simply put could simply mean that for those who love reading a good book, they should find that really nice tree far from all, washed by a warm sun-shower, surrounded by solid grass that accommodates body and dreams. For those who love writing, they should find that solace soul asylum in the comfort of a coffee-shop surrounded by people carrying stories and with these experiences, facts, that all mixed together provide the dew for a nice tale. For people like myself, who love reading and writing and science, as if the physical body needed that for sustaining itself, a blog is the right atmosphere and vehicle where I process my natural addiction. 

I'm a knowledge fiend, not a geek. I don't consider myself unfashionable. I don't see myself as socially inept. Nevertheless, contrarily to the current trend in our modern society I don't see the need for fashion as important as the need for education, be it in myself or in others. As to what regards making and maintaining friends, I am very much a person who loves the possibility of trusting people. But for me a friendship is not a position, a status, it's an entity that needs caring, feeding, respecting, cherishing, and a portfolio of trust and shared experiences. If that is not present, it's not a friendship at all but a mere social 'obligation'.

When I started this blog I started it for myself. I was going through rough times career-wise, and needed to feel relevant to some aspect and degree. I needed to be involved, I needed to participate and contribute. It's not easy to be left out when you have so much energy within you, the will to make a change, the drive to construct but there is no scenario available for you to start building that rapport. Those were tough times, indeed. Where I needed to find my stage to let the wave of contribution flow freely, and regain myself as a capable professional, individual, human being.

I looked around in the world to be seen and touched and I realised there was ever little space for a science blogger to write in his own mother tongue. English is still the drive through in terms of global communication. How would I perform in a language that is not mine? Like everything else you're an alien to, there is only one way out... the way in! So I gave it a go. I started writing about current topics that concerned Toxicology, my long lasting passion, whilst relating to more domestic issues that could be easily interpreted. That was SEVEN years ago. I have no idea what change I made to people's lives but I surely hope I have been making my humble contribution... for this is the secret that needs to be extracted from your bones as a delicacy - the privilege of contributing. This is what values the human being in our very fragile and short physical experience in this planet. 

Some governments totally forget that what in fact values and makes their citizens worth is the options created for these to offer their unique individual attributes. If one has no chance of contributing, one has no platform to express the qualities that do not replicate and assemble from being to being. Believe me you are all unique. You are all capable of things that can only be achieved if you untangle the shackles of reduction others impose you with their esteem-killing criticism.

Seven years ago I started this Toxicology blog because I wanted to feel more a toxicologist I was by then. With the different degrees I obtained, the work experience, the life experience, fathering two beautiful children and being married to my very first real love, I here remain a servant of my own self-imposed dream. The only thing I will ever fear is mediocrity. By mediocrity read unfulfilled potential that needs nurturing for the greater good. Fear and inhibitions imposed by others upon your consciousness will never free the great human being that you keep inside. All you have to do is take a stand and believe. Have a slice of this passion cake, it's on me, The Toxicologist Today.

Read freely, Write freely, Think freely.

Ivan Lafayette
(The Toxicologist Today)

Monday, 21 August 2017

An issue of individuals rather than a defect of societies

I like real people, with real problems, and real answers to face these same issues... I am not so inclined to believing that the problems we see nowadays in the world have one colour only, one cultural spectrum only and one approach diagram only. 

My very favourite comedian, George Carlin, could tackle the hot-steamy-stinky society issues with loads of class and intelligence. And I honestly believe that as a communicator, thinker and comedian he lacked no predicate whatsoever. But times change, routines are altered and the world needs newer, fresher approaches. 

I've been listening to Bill Burr recently, and I have to admit he is becoming the comedian that got me to believe in clever, authentic, intelligent, contemporary comedy once again... for the guy is a real person with a real vision on things. Bear in mind I know nothing else of this dude, just his Netflix special and nothing else. But on this special he covers loads of interesting day-to-day behaviours that really divert from the expected norm. For example, in regards to racism...

One of the toughest and most walking-on-glass topics for any branch of thought in the entertainment world is Racism (alongside lesbianism, gay tendencies, feminism, abortion and gun control). But like myself, Bill sees racism as it is, an issue of individuals rather than a defect of societies. Individuals can be racist, not the entirety of the cultural background they emerge from. 

Being a member of a family composed of dark-black people (my sweet grandma that I love so much is a great example) and very pale-white people (my blue-eyed awesome grandfather that I cherish incredibly), with a vast encompassing spectrum of tones of skin in the middle, I understand Bill easy!

I come from a country that once had over 60% of the world in hands. After colonisation was rightfully abandoned and assumed as a crime against humanity, the people that were 'touched' by the Portuguese returned to Portugal and live now as one, in the most peaceful country in the World. Not Iceland. Yeah Iceland, it's easy to be number one when it's so cold outside that no one really goes out and finds another soul in the streets. So take my word, Portugal is the most peaceful country in the world; chased by Iceland :P as a close second. In Portugal, people really respect each other... as a whole. Occasionally, certain individuals come out of their racist nests and disrupt that peace, but there's nutters everywhere, they actually represent the standard deviation that actually make the norm abide to the statistical rule.

These are individuals, not the whole society nor even the 'small majority' of our nation. These are the ones that ferment these jokes as they are in fact the joke on themselves.

As to Institutional Racism, that's a different thing. In that sense, yes, Portugal is light years behind the best socialist European countries. Try to be an African descendant and climb up the ladder in any governmental entity/institution in Portugal, you'll know the physical meaning of 'impossible', Seldom, Rare. I personally don't know a single case. And that is because years and years of Institutional segregation has been in place against those who were once the colonised ones. And this my friends, is statistically undeniable. A Black, Mollato, Gipsy, Asian man reaching even the middle of the company/governmental hierarchy is like never-to-be-seen. Let alone on those multimedia companies (TV, web, newspapers, etc) where 'they' could gain influence and represent a menace to old customs. In that sense, that is just a mirror of the racism that lives within these particular citizens for whom TV, in particular, and media, in general, are made. 

Yep, I could debate this matter for hours as I experienced this first-row for many years in person and as a third party.

For now let's just relax and hear old Bill explain it in a more interesting fashion.