Monthly Archives: October 2015

New treatment can stop tumours from asbestos in up to 3 out of 4 cases

By Peter Dockrill, http://www.sciencealert.com/

asbestosbuildingOne of the most chilling facts about asbestos is that harmful exposure to the dangerous substance can take decades to reveal itself, at which point conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy offer little hope to terminal patients.

However, a new treatment developed by scientists at the University of Technology, Sydney in Australia has been shown to arrest the development of mesothelioma tumours, the cancer caused by asbestos exposure, in 60–80 percent of cases.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive, incurable cancer that occurs after asbestos fibres become lodged in our lungs. The disease can take 20–50 years to present itself, at which point most patients sadly don’t have very long to live. The average lifespan after a diagnosis of mesothelioma is nine months, with chemotherapy only giving patients an extra three months in most cases.

The new compound discovered by UTS researchers could offer a lifeline to those at risk. The reason asbestos is so dangerous is because lodged fibres can cause cells to die off by suppressing the operation of our immune system. The new treatment overcomes this mechanism at a genetic level, giving our natural defences a chance to start fighting back against the fibres.

That’s the theory anyhow, but how effective is it? Well, it’s had an impressive run in pre-clinical lab trials so far. With testing on mice exposed to asbestos, the compound stopped the development of mesothelioma tumours in 60–80 per cent of cases. The researchers are currently applying for a patent and are looking to bring on board a pharmaceutical manufacturer, with hopes a treatment could be available on the market within five years.

“We think the compound could be used through a puffer or a nebuliser, just like those used with asthma, where it could either prevent the fibres taking hold in people exposed to asbestos, or improve the condition for people suffering now,”said Tony George, one of the researchers, in an announcement of the results. Read more

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Lead-poisoning settlement deals draw scrutiny, calls for reform

By Timothy B. Wheeler and John Fritze, http://www.baltimoresun.com/

Maryland lawmakers vowed Thursday to investigate and clamp down on companies that “buy” lawsuit settlements after learning that hundreds of lead-poisoning victims in Baltimore had signed away their court-approved rights to long-term financial support in return for quick cash worth only a fraction of what they were due.

Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said his office would work to strengthen Maryland’s law regulating purchases of so-called “structured settlements” when the General Assemblymeets in January. But he also pledged to investigate the companies involved and go after them if his staff determines they broke the law as it stands now.

“We want to be able to take action to protect people from this kind of scam and see if we can help the folks that have already been victimized,” Frosh said.

State legislators and members of Maryland’s congressional delegation joined in expressing dismay and pledging change in reaction to a Washington Post report this week on companies that struck deals with lead-poisoning victims to swap guaranteed regular payments over years for much smaller one-time payouts.

One lead-poisoning victim has filed a lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court saying she had been misled into agreeing to such a deal.

Baltimore lawyer Saul Kerpelman said he brought the case because he considers such settlement transfers “obscene.” Kerpelman, who’s represented thousands of families in lead-poisoning lawsuits, said the companies are undoing financial arrangements specifically crafted to give victims a long-term stream of income, rather than a big one-time payout. Read more

State fails to meet guidelines on lead in homes

By David Abel, http://www.bostonglobe.com

leadinhomesShortly after Jahnyi O’Neal’s first birthday, a routine blood test revealed an elevated level of lead — nearly double the amount that federal health officials say can harm children.

But his doctors weren’t required to notify state authorities or discuss the potential harms with his family, because Massachusetts standards allow a much higher level of lead in the blood before triggering state intervention.

Within a year, while his family remained unaware that the boy was in danger, Jahnyi’s blood lead level tripled, finally reaching a threshold that mandated a home inspection and an expensive deleading of the boy’s century-old Dorchester home.

“He could have permanent brain damage. We had no idea,” said Lenora O’Neal, his great-grandmother, who owns the seven-bedroom home in the Grove Hall neighborhood.

Three years after federal health officials cut by half the amount of lead in a child’s blood that they said warrants medical attention, Massachusetts has yet to tighten its standards.

As a result, thousands of children in the state may be at greater risk of lead poisoning, which can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and in the worst cases, even death, public health advocates and lawmakers say. Read more