A cluster bomb for cancer

Tel Aviv University develops nano-vehicle to deliver chemotherapy treatments on target

Chemotherapy, while an effective cancer treatment, also brings debilitating side effects such as nausea, liver toxicity and a battered immune system.

Now, a new way to deliver this life-saving therapy to cancer patients a€• getting straight to the source of the disease A— has been invented by Dr. Dan Peer of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Cell Research and Immunology and the Center for Nano Science and Nano Technology together with Prof. Rimona Margalit of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Drs. Peer and Margalit have developed a nano-sized vehicle with the ability to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly into cancer cells while avoiding interaction with healthy cells, increasing the efficiency of chemotherapeutic treatment while reducing its side effects.

“The vehicle is very similar to a cluster bomb,” explains Dr. Peer. Inside the nano-vehicle itself are tiny particles of chemotherapy drugs. When the delivery vehicle comes into contact with cancer cells, it releases the chemotherapeutic payload directly into the cell. According to Dr. Peer, the nanomedical device can be used to treat many different types of cancer, including lung, blood, colon, breast, ovarian, pancreatic, and even several types of brain cancers.

Their technological breakthrough was recently reported in the journal Biomaterials.

A sweet payload to trick cancer

The key to the drug delivery platform is the molecule used to create the outer coating of this cluster nano-vehicle, a sugar recognized by receptors on many types of cancer cells. “When the nano-vehicle interacts with the receptor on the cancerous cell, the receptor undergoes a structural change and the chemotherapy payload is released directly into the cancer cell,” says Dr. Peer, which leads to more focused chemotherapeutic treatment against the diseased cells.

Because the nano-vehicle reacts only to cancer cells, the healthy cells that surround them remain untouched and unaffected by the therapy. The nano-vehicle itself, adds Dr. Peer, is made from organic materials which fully decompose in the body once it has performed its function, making the treatment safer than current therapies.

Clinical trials coming soon

This drug will be an improvement on anything currently on the market, says Dr. Peer. Delivering chemotherapeutics directly into cancerous cells themselves is not only more potent, but also much safer.

Drs. Peer and Margalit are working with ORUUS Pharma in California, which has licensed the “cluster bomb” platform from the university and can ensure a quick transition from the lab to clinical trials, which should begin in two years or less, says Dr. Peer.

via A cluster bomb for cancer care | BreakThrough Digest Medical News.


A ‘magnetic’ solution to identify and kill tumors

Tel Aviv University researcher develops nano-methods for treating cancer tumors with heat and magnets

Though a valuable weapon against cancerous tumors, radiation therapy often harms healthy tissue as it tries to kill malignant cells. Now, Prof. Israel Gannot of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering is developing a new way to destroy tumors with fewer side effects and minimal damage to surrounding tissue.

His innovative method, soon to be published in the journal Nanomedicine, uses heat to kill the tumor cells but leaves surrounding healthy tissue intact. Using specific biomarkers attached to individual tumors, Prof. Gannot’s special mixture of nano-particles and antibodies locates and binds to the tumor itself.

“Once the nano-particles bind to the tumor, we excite them with an external magnetic field, and they begin to heat very specifically and locally,” says Prof. Gannot. The magnetic field is manipulated to create a targeted rise in temperature, and it is this directed heat elevation which kills the tumors, he says.

The treatment has been proven effective against epithelial cancers, which can develop in almost any area of the body, such as the breast or lung. By using a special feedback process, also developed in his laboratory, the process can be optimized for individual treatment.

A cure without casualty

The specialized cocktail of nano-particles and antibodies is administered safely and simply, through topical local injection or injection into the blood stream. As an added benefit, the mixture washes out of the body without leaving a trace, minimizing side effects.

If clinical trials are successful, the technique may become a mainstay of patient care. The nano-particles themselves are already FDA-approved, and according to Prof. Gannot, the method is effective almost any type of tumor, as long as its specific markers and its antibodies can be identified.

The countdown to demolition

In addition to being minimally invasive, this treatment boasts sheer speed. It can be applied during an out-patient procedure, the entire technique lasts only six hours, which allows patients to recuperate in the comfort of their own homes.

Prof. Gannot is currently applying his technique to cell lines and to ex vivo tissues and tissue-like substitutes in his lab, and plans to start in vivo experiments by next year.

via A ‘magnetic’ solution to identify and kill tumors | BreakThrough Digest Medical News.

Why A World Food Crisis Is Coming If Asia Doesn’t Slow Down

Eclectica’s Hugh Hendry has warned that the world faces further commodity price rises and a potential food shortage if Asian economic growth continues unchecked. In a discussion on Newsnight yesterday, the hedge fund manager said the effect of years of underinvestment in agriculture and rapid population growth are now being keenly felt. ‘Asia is putting on fantastic economic growth and if China or Asia does not have a great recession, we will have pressure on the food supply,’ he said.‘For 30 years, the price of agriculture has collapsed it fell by 90% in real terms so we haven’t invested in the sector. As a world society, we are now acutely vulnerable in the business of feeding ourselves because we have not spent enough and organised the production of agriculture in a manner that is appropriate.’Another danger, he says, is that crop yields in China decrease with the Chinese authorities refusing to overpay for potash to produce the fertiliser it needs. The price of potash, which is closely controlled by a small number of producing countries, including Russia, Canada and Belarus, has soared fourfold over the past decade.

‘They [the Chinese authorities] are aggrieved and stop consuming and risk an absolute collapse in their yields,’ he says. ‘China does have a vulnerability in feeding itself.’ He added that this is likely to see China to continue buying up tracts of land and resources in Africa.

via Hugh Hendry Explains Why A World Food Crisis Is Coming If Asia Doesn’t Slow Down

massive central bank easing is a form of cowardice

Nearly a century ago, the great economist Ludwig von Mises observed that massive central bank easing is invariably a form of cowardice that attempts to avoid the need to restructure debt or correct fiscal deficits, avoiding wiser but more difficult choices by instead destroying the value of the currency.

Von Mises wrote, “A government always finds itself obliged to resort to inflationary measures when it cannot negotiate loans and dare not levy taxes, because it has reason to fear that it will forfeit approval of the policy it is following if it reveals too soon the financial and general economic consequences of that policy. Thus inflation becomes the most important psychological resource of any economic policy whose consequences have to be concealed; and so in this sense it can be called an instrument of unpopular, that is, of antidemocratic policy, since by misleading public opinion it makes possible the continued existence of a system of government that would have no hope of the consent of the people if the circumstances were clearly laid before them. That is the political function of inflation. When governments do not think it necessary to accommodate their expenditure and arrogate to themselves the right of making up the deficit by issuing notes, their ideology is merely a disguised absolutism.”

As a side note, von Mises also cautioned against the misconception that destroying the value of a currency would have a sustainable benefit for the economy, writing “If the depreciation is desired in order to ‘stimulate production’ and to make exportation easier and importation more difficult in relation to other countries, then it must be borne in mind that the ‘beneficial effects’ on trade of the depreciation of money only last so long as the depreciation has not affected all commodities and services. Once the adjustment is completed, then these ‘beneficial effects’ disappear. If it is desired to retain them permanently, continual resort must be had to fresh diminutions of the purchasing power of money.”

via Hussman Funds – Weekly Market Comment: Why Quantitative Easing is Likely to Trigger a Collapse of the U.S. Dollar – August 23, 2010.

heading towards acceptance

But look at the bright spot, we are finally exiting the denial stage and heading towards acceptance. That, my friends, is progress in its own right. When Washington realizes that the solutions lie in supply-side policies that will promote growth in the capital stock and hiring/work incentives — education, infrastructure, payroll taxes, a coherent energy strategy (nuclear!) — and begin to abandon failed policies such as this ongoing emphasis on Keynesian short-term spending quick fixes, the adoption of “too big to fail” strategies, initiatives aimed at bailing out delinquent homeowners, measures that actually try to prevent market forces from working, initiatives that pay people to stay off work for 99 weeks with no thought behind skills improvement and training in return, and attempts at influencing the equilibrium level of asset prices, such as real estate, then indeed, when we have finally broken free from these failed interventionist and distorting manoeuvres, then we will likely have much more reason to turn optimistic.


How Good Were the Good Old Days?

In general, life is better than it ever has been, and if you think that, in the past, there was some golden age of pleasure and plenty to which you would, if you were able, transport yourself, let me say one single word: “dentistry” – PJ O’Rourke, All the Trouble in the World

This article is a sort of round-up of passages from various writers to the effect that things are better now – at least in some important ways – than they used to be.


Why do we romanticize the past? Steven Pinker puts forward a number of possibilities, including better record keeping in the modern era, and guilt over how we’ve treated colonized peoples. But I think a big part of it is a deep-seated fear of change. The up side of living in dynamic times is that it’s exciting to see the world transform in a short enough time span to be noticeable. The down side is that it’s scary. We don’t know where it’s going to end, and we’re worried we might fuck it all up. And we very well might. But the system is in motion, and we’re all a part of it, and it’s in a state of flux, regardless of our feelings on the matter. I think it’s a thrill to witness and participate in.

via How Good Were the Good Old Days?.

Bubble Psychology and Lessons from History

For starters, no market ever moves in only one direction. There are always counter-trend moves, some of which are very substantial. For instance, some of the largest short-term upward moves happened during the crash following on from 1929. In addition there were longer counter-trend moves which kept hope alive throughout a massive deleveraging:

We can expect to see such moves as well, and we can expect people to cast the most favourable light on every upswing, as if it was the dawn of a return to the previous ‘golden age’. Actually, extreme volatility is a sign of fear, and when fear is in control, markets are an exceptionally dangerous place to be. The potential to be whipsawed in both directions on a moment’s notice is very high, as is the risk that governments will rewrite the rules of the game, usually in a counter-productive way that will compound the pain.

The psychology of typical small-scale fluctuations plays out like this:

Click to enlarge

The psychology of a major bubble follows a similar pattern, but having risen to ridiculous levels of leverage, has very much further to fall. Much greater collective psychological extremes are experienced in a rare period of manic optimism, and its inevitable aftermath:

We are just past the point labeled ‘Return to Normal’, which corresponds to just after the end of the great sucker rally of 1930.

via The Automatic Earth: August 13 2010: Bubble Psychology and Lessons from History.