Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Where?  When?
File this one away somewhere.  With any luck you will never need it, but if you do – here it is.
How to find a clinical trial:  When Linda was diagnosed with stage 3c epithelial ovarian cancer neither she nor I knew what that was, nor what to do about it.  We knew that things called clinical trials existed, but we didn’t know how to find them or whether they could be trusted, let alone would do her any good.  We relied on our oncologists for guidance – and, sad to say, we didn’t get much.  Knowing about and utilizing clinical trials probably wouldn't have saved her, but then again, who really knows?.  So, you should  know about clinical trials.
To find a clinical trial in your vicinity, simply go to the NIH web site “Clinicaltrials.gov”.  It is easy to use, up to date, and exhaustive.  Were Linda alive today I would go to that web site and type in “ovarian cancer and Seattle”.  This request would return 130 studies, of which 24 currently are recruiting.  (The rest are either full or recently completed.)  Clicking on any of the 24 would give me who to contact, as well as a description of what the investigator(s) are trying to find out.  Searching on “ovarian cancer and Bellingham” returns 12 studies, three of which are open.  And these examples are based on using “basic search”; there is a button for “advanced search” that can narrow the possibilities down much further.    
Note that many of these trials are run by drug companies.  Before you shudder and turn away in disgust: they are supervised by the NIH and most of them have academic researchers on staff.  You may not like drug companies (really, who does?) but we damned well still need them.
I hope this turns out to be useless information.

Monday, July 28, 2014


In better times
Here is a tough one to read.  Tough, but we all should read it.  I’m trying to muster the courage to read his book.
To cheer up I think I will go look at cute baby pictures on Facebook.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

LINDA'S TEAM, 2014. The final report.

Patches knew a good lap when she saw one.
To start with the good news:  Linda’s Team skunked the Fred Hutch team.  We raised $1530 to their $1105.  Hooray for us, and thanks to all of you who donated.
The bad news?  I have 15 hotdogs and two dozen buns to freeze, plus enough beer and pop to last a year.  I guess I didn’t advertise the thing well enough, because only Karen and Florence showed up.  My cousin-in-law Pieter Berendson also was here; he cooked the hot dogs – all two of them.  Maybe next year I should go back to a full-fledged hard press to advertise the event.  I didn’t think I’d have the energy to do it this year, but in retrospect I was wrong.  Wait ‘til next year!

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Linda and Carolyn, 1991
Nice shot.  Where at?
I have used up my quota of free articles from the NY Times web page, but maybe Dick Ingwall will keep me in the loop.  Inshallah!
My last article was an interesting essay on the woes of the pharmaceutical industry.  If you haven’t used your ten free peeks, you may be able to read it at:
Again, Inshallah!  (I am reading a spy novel that uses lots of Arabic ejaculations.) 
So, apparently the pace of innovation in the pharm industry has slackened rather dramatically.  The reasons seems to be economic as well as regulatory.  It costs so much to develop mass-market drugs that Big Pharma often despairs of recovering their investment, let alone of making a profit, before their patent runs out and generics take over 80% of the market.  Also, some new drugs cost so much that medical insurance plans won’t cover them.  (Try $84,000 per dose for a new “blockbuster” drug for hepatitis C.) 
Oddly enough, the exception to this dearth of innovation seems to revolve around the so-called “orphan drugs”, which are drugs developed to confront diseases (including several kinds of cancer) that are exceedingly rare.  Apparently the FDA permits smaller and cheaper clinical trials for these drugs, because there are too few sufferers to people a full-size Stage 3 clinical trial.  Also, the insurance companies are less reluctant to pay for such drugs – often costing $100,000 or more per treatment – because there are so few potential claimants.    
As one wag put it, “more people are studying orphan diseases than actually HAVE orphan diseases.”
FYI:  Linda’s Team trails Fred Hutch by $5.00 as of this morning.  Remember – I will (grudgingly) match anything you contribute .    http://community.swedish.org/summerun/2014/2014-summerun----team-page?tab=0&frtid=1657

Monday, July 21, 2014


Linda and friend under the protection of Horus
Unfortunately, he let her down
If it were possible to crush cancer under the weight of published scientific papers, cancer would already be history.  To avoid doing housework I have spent the morning playing with my computer, specifically with Google Scholar.  Just now I asked GS to look for scientific papers with the phrase “epithelial ovarian cancer” in their titles, published since 2013.  Eighteen months’ worth of the finest thought by ovarian cancer experts!  The program returned 714 papers!  I also asked for papers during the same interval of time that had that phrase anywhere in the article.  The return: well over 4,000! 
And yet, as one paper put it, epithelial ovarian cancer continues to represent “late presentation and stagnant mortality statistics.”  In other words – for all this effort, and for all the money expended, we are getting essentially nowhere.  If you don’t believe me, read Clifton Leaf.  What to do?

Monday, July 14, 2014


The Yukon, July, 1991
Picture was taken at 10:00 p.m.  Glad I bought that flashlight!
Boy, have I ever got a treat for all you genetics/biochemistry freaks following  my blog! (Especially you folks in Turkey,  Moldova and the Ukraine.)   An article you will love appeared recently in the “Magazine” section of the NY Times: you can read it at:


To understand what follows, you have to recall the meaning of the following:

Cytoplasm:  The goop in a cell outside the nucleus, comprising all sorts of things including organelles called…

Mitochondria:  Tiny, membrane-enclosed packages that produce energy by the breakdown of sugars.  Contained within the mitochondria is a short strand of DNA, called miDNA.

I.V.F:   In-vitro fertilization, wherein an egg is extracted from a female, fertilized in a test tube, then re-implanted in the uterus.

Parents:  Individuals who contribute DNA to a …..

Zygote: A single omnipotent cell capable of transforming itself into a human being.  (Or, if it is a goat zygote, into a full-fledged goat  You get the picture..)

Anyway, the article describes research aimed at (1) enhancing fertility in women who have a hard time getting pregnant, and (2) curing some very nasty diseases that occur when the mitochondria misbehave owing to mutated miDNA.  The fertilization part of the “experiment” has been going on for a long time; fully healthy and highly functional children have been the result (although several “failures” are noted.)    The second goal has been pursued for a shorter time & the jury seems still to be out.

What these guys do is something like this.  They take a fertilized egg, extract the cytoplasm (how, for God’s sake!), then replace it with cytoplasm extracted from the egg of another woman.  This, then, is implanted in the proper place (I.V.F) and allowed to reach maturity.  The result: should  be a child whose cells contained the nuclear DNA of her mother and father – and the miDNA of another  woman.  Characteristics such as height, hair color, smarts, etc. would be the result of DNA from the mother and father (plus environmental effects, of course), but the little mitochondrial power plants would be inherited from a stranger.  So?

Well, note that mitochondria are inherited exclusively from the mother.  Thus, the “stranger miDNA” conceivably could echo down the corridors of time, “even to the nth generation.”  Is that bad?

Well, hell, I couldn’t figure out what the problem actually is.  It seems to have a large moral/philosophical dimension.  The article is long, and when I get the clothes washed I will read it again.  In the meantime, enjoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

LINDA'S TEAM: SummeRun 2014 (not)

Somewhere in southern Utah
When?  Where?  Who took the picture?
My taste in beer was rotten; my taste in women, unexcelled.
Well, heck.  Earlier (I Wimp Out: 7/4/14) I confessed to being too old and useless to stage a full-fledged Summerun North this year.  I did say that there would be a Linda’s Team to which you can donate, and – impulsively – I set a $2000 fund-raising goal.  So far there is exactly $75 in the coffers, and I am beginning to worry.  Since gas is so expensive you aren’t going to travel this summer, so you have money to burn.  How about making a small donation? – and I will match it!  (Until the goal is reached, of course.)   Direct-line descendants  should particularly note that any excess I have to contribute comes directly out of their inheritance.  No donation too small:  if 200 of you give $5 each we will go over the top.  Here is the web address.  Remember to “Donate” – do not “Join” the team.
Actually, if you want to join you can do so, but then you will have to fork over an additional $25 – which I darned well will not match!