Azra Raza, M.D. Professor of Medicine, Director of the MDS Center, at Columbia University recently wrote the following regarding mouse models of cancer. Azra was answering the question: “What Scientific Idea Is Ready For Retirement?”
An obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed in cancer research is that mouse models do not mimic human disease well and are essentially worthless for drug development. We cured acute leukemia in mice in 1977 with drugs that we are still using in exactly the same dose and duration today in humans with dreadful results. . . . there are no appropriate mouse models which can mimic the human situation.
Raza quotes Robert Weinberg of the Whitehead Institute at MIT, as stating that the reason people continue to use mouse models are: "Two reasons. First, there's no other model with which to replace that poor mouse. Second, the FDA has created inertia because it continues to recognize these models as the gold standard for predicting the utility of drugs." (See here for more on the comments of Robert Weinberg. I will also address some of his comments on the FAQs section of the new website.) Weinberg’s first reason is fallacious as there are many times when doing nothing is preferred to the status quo of doing something. For example, doing research that is misleading is worse than doing no research at all. Weinberg’s second reason, while true is just an excuse to maintain the status quo. Scientists do not have to use models that do not work just because someone in a different department of the federal government suggests they use mouse models.
But Raza adds a third reason that is more to the point:
There is a third reason related more to the frailties of human nature. Too many eminent laboratories and illustrious researchers have devoted entire lives to studying malignant diseases in mouse models and they are the ones reviewing each other's grants and deciding where the NIH money gets spent. They are not prepared to accept that mouse models are basically valueless for most of cancer therapeutics.
Sound familiar? I wonder if David Gorski MD, PhD agrees with her? (You can read her entire essay at http://www.edge.org/responses/what-scientific-idea-is-ready-for-retirement.) Furthermore, I wonder if any scientists will speak out and support her in this position? I doubt it. Growing a spine could result in their colleagues talking behind their back or the university speaking sternly to them about their tenured position and being a team player. I cannot imagine anyone asking a full professor to endure that kind of horror just to save the lives of few billion human patients.
Raza’s position is consistent with a December 19, 2013 press release from Jackson Laboratory that announced the response to cocaine and methamphetamine differs between 2 substrains of the commonly used Black 6 mouse. The C57BL/6J mice appeared to have a weaker response to the drugs than the C57BL/6N mice. The reason appears to be a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the gene Cyfip2. The press release states that: “This means that researchers should be very cautious when comparing behavioral data from studies using 6J and 6N strains.” (For more see reference .)
As I have stated many times, when strains of mice differ in their response to drugs and disease and monozygotic human twins do the same, trans-species extrapolation is not going to have any predictive value. (See Trans-Species Modeling Theory for more.) But it will be a hard to convince people of this when they have a vested interest in animal models. And by vested interest I do not just mean a financial interest.
Recently Universities and Science Minister of the UK, David Willetts stated: “Animals are only used when there are no suitable alternatives. But the results we get from research can transform lives and pave the way for new and ground-breaking medical advances.” Needless to say the Science Minister provided no references for this claim and refuses to support a proper debate as I outlined here or even consider the notion that vested interest groups might lie. Willetts supports the status quo as long as he benefits. Moreover, as I have also stated, there are no alternatives to something that is not viable in the first place. There are no alternatives to using animals as predictive models for human response to drugs and disease.
Interestingly, in the same article that Willets was quoted in, Minister Norman Baker was quoted as saying that “the scientific case for developing new techniques that do not involve animals is ‘as strong as the moral one.’ ”
Raza is not the first to point out that mouse models have failed. The list of scientists who have stated more or less the same thing in science journals is long. Despite this, nothing seems to be changing. Perhaps that is because society seems to be under the impression that all scientists support the use of animals as predictive models in drug and disease research. As long as the vested interest groups get to phrase the survey questions, can buy advertising space, have the support of the media, and refuse to debate specific questions in the presence of unbiased experts, this will not change. Must be nice to have that kind of job security.
1. Kumar, V.; Kim, K.; Joseph, C.; Kourrich, S.; Yoo, S.-H.; Huang, H.C.; Vitaterna, M.H.; Pardo-Manuel de Villena, F.; Churchill, G.; Bonci, A.; Takahashi, J.S. C57BL/6N Mutation in Cytoplasmic FMRP interacting protein 2 Regulates Cocaine Response. Science 2013, 342, 1508-1512. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6165/1508.abstract
The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning to all credit card holders that if they see a charge for $9.84 on their statement, their information may be in the hands of crooks.
The credit card fraud was brought to light by investigative reporter Brian Krebs who says that the person or people behind it rely on the carelessness of the cardholders to be able to follow through. By charging such a small amount, the crooks are able to have the credit card number to use it for fraud because so many people will mistakenly overlook such a small charge.
In his report, Krebs says that he received a lot of questions from people who noticed the strange $9.84 charge, so he decided to investigate the matter. Krebs eventually discovered that close to 230 websites connected to just a small number of individuals were linked to each case of the charge.
“If I had to hazard a charitable guess about what is going on here, I would say some ambitious “affiliates” associated with these moneymaking schemes were abusing the system and pushing through charges on stolen credit cards,” writes Krebs. “But it is difficult to escape the conclusion that this is little more than an elaborate (and probably successful) scam set up to steal little bits of money from lots and lots of people.”
This scam, he explains, is not something new, and it is very easy for the people behind it to perpetrate.
“By the way, this is not a new type of fraud, nor is this particular fraud a recent occurrence — although the bogus $9.84 charges do appear to have spiked around the holidays,” says Krebs. “Most of the domains involved in this scheme were registered a year ago or more, and a quick search on the amount $9.84 shows that the fraudsters responsible for this scheme have been at it since at least the first half of 2013.
Krebs goes on to offer advice to people who have discovered the fraudulent charge on their credit card statement.
“If you see a charge like this or any other activity on your credit or debit card that you did not authorize, contact your bank and report the fraud immediately. I think it’s also a good idea in cases like this to request a new card in the odd chance your bank doesn’t offer it: After all, it’s a good bet that your card is in the hands of crooks, and is likely to be abused like this again.”
Sara Ylen, 38, has been sentenced to at least five years in prison after filing a false report of rape just days after pleading no contest in a cancer scam case.
Ylen was accused of fabricating a story about two men attacking her at her Lexington home in 2012. The false police report claimed that a construction company owner and a mental health worker raped her in her home after she drove her children to school. The men attended the same church as her ex-husband. Ylen was also convicted of tampering with evidence by using makeup to create what looked like bruises.
Her sentencing in the false rape report case by St. Clair County Judge Daniel Kelly exceeds guidelines.
Judge Kelly stated it would be a "travesty of justice" to sentence Sara Ylen to any less, reports The Huffington Post.
The strict sentencing comes as a result of Ylen's lack of credibility.
For two years Ylen accepted thousands of dollars from supporters and was treated by a hospice service after claiming to have end-stage cervical cancer that had spread throughout her entire body. After state police found no evidence that confirmed her cancer diagnosis, Ylen pleaded no contest to fraud, reports Boston.com.
"This is a tormented and disturbed woman who will go to extraordinary lengths to wreak havoc upon other individuals, potentially subjecting them to life in prison in order to gain sympathy and notoriety for herself," Judge Kelly said Friday.
Ylen was sentenced to a minimum of two years in prison for the false rape report and a minimum of three years for evidence tampering. Boston.com reports the sentences will run consecutive, and her eventual release will be determined by the state parole board.
Ylen's attorney, David Heyboer, said a year in the local jail would have been enough. Ylen declined to speak in court.
Prosecutor Suzette Samuels views Ylen's sentencing as "justice in its best form."
This is not the first time Ylen has been in the public eye.
In 2003 she agreed to be featured in "Sara's Story," an award-winning series in the Port Huron Times Herald. Ylen shared a story about being raped in daylight in the parking lot of a major retailer in 2001. Her alleged attacker, James Grissom, was sentenced to at least 15 years in prison.
Grissom was released from prison in 2012 after a judge threw out his rape conviction when new evidence surfaced discrediting Ylen.
Ylen's time in court is not over.
On February 19 she will be sentenced in the fake cancer case.
A South Florida woman is headed to federal prison and will be forced to repay $2.2 million to victims for an elaborate fraud scheme in which she told people she could help them using her psychic powers.
44-year-old Nancy Demetro Marks was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison for telling victims that she could do a number of things using her psychic powers.
The elaborate scheme isn’t just confined to Nancy Marks, however. Eight other family members were arrested and will be charged in the massive scheme. Marks’ mother Rose appears to be the leader of the operation and will reportedly receive a much harsher sentence in March.
According to victim testimony, the Marks family took millions of dollars over years from people whom they convinced they could influence situations like infertility and terminal cancer. The family had psychic shops set up in Fort Lauderdale and New York.
Florida Democratic Representative Alan Grayson entered the national media spotlight during the debate over healthcare by saying that the GOP plan was for the sick to “Die Quickly.” Since then Rep. Grayson has tried to become the kind of outspoken character for the left that Iowa’s Steve King or Texas’s Louie Gohmert is for the right. Whether or not he’s been successful is a matter for debate, but Rep. Grayson finds himself in the news again only this time for being a victim. The Associated Press reports that Grayson was one of 120 investors who lost more than $35 million in a scheme that purportedly allowed investors to use their portfolios as collateral for a loan.
In the article Grayson told the AP that “he has had a long record for picking winning stocks,” and the trial documents seem to back up that account. William Chapman, the con artist in charge, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison primarily because Grayson’s stocks performed so well that Chapman was unable to cover what he owed the Congressman. His inability to cover these payments to Grayson is what “caused Chapman’s scheme to crumble.”
According to a report from POLITICO, “Grayson has a minimum of $22.8 million in assets, as well as at least $5 million in liabilities.” Along with doing well in the stock market, Grayson “helped create a successful long-distance telecommunications company.” This is also not the first time the congressman has lost money due to fraud. He won a lawsuit in 2009 against Derivium Capital, whose “business plan for hedging an investor’s stock profile was nearly identical to the plan outline[d] by Chapman.” Grayson also expressed disappointment with federal court officials for not better protecting his identity as a victim in the fraud.
A man who sued the Washington Metro after sustaining injuries from slipping on a banana peel in an elevator at a train station is now being charged with second-degree fraud thanks to surveillance footage of him planting the peel.
42-year-old Maurice Owens is clearly shown on camera walking into the empty elevator, reaching into his pocket, and then looking up at the security camera with a worried look on his face. As he waits for the elevator to open, the banana peel is suddenly on the ground by the doors, and while the video doesn’t show Owens dropping the peel on the ground, it is clear that the peel was not there when he walked in.
The end of the video shows the doors opening and Owens slipping on the peel as he exits the elevator. He immediately gets up, but according to reports, he was taken to Howard University Hospital for treatment of his supposed injuries. Just two weeks after the incident, Owens filed a lawsuit against Washington Metro for $15,000.
Now, a judge has thrown out his lawsuit after watching the surveillance video, and Owens is being charged with second-degree fraud. Washington Metro says that the investment in the cameras was obviously well worth it and it is “protecting fare-paying riders and the region's taxpayers from fraudulent claims.”
Watch the incriminating surveillance video below.
Three Senior Navy Intelligence Officials Being Investigated In Gun Silencer Scheme That Cost Military $1.6M
Three senior Navy intelligence officials are currently under investigation for an elaborate scheme that cost the Navy $1.6 million for gun silencers that really only cost $8,000. The three suspects are civilians and have not yet been named by the Navy.
According to reports, the men arranged to buy the gun silencers from an auto mechanic who happened to be the brother-in-law of one of the men. They had the mechanic, identified as Mark Stuart Landersman, get 349 silencers made, and in total, they wound up costing $8,000. Landersman, along with the three Navy officials, had the silencers sold to the Navy for $1.6 million, which is nearly 200 times more than what they actually cost to make.
The names of the three Navy intelligence officials that are under investigation are currently not being released, but the Washington Post claims that due to errors in redacting court documents, they can safely identify two of them as Lee Hall and David Landersman.
Once Mark Landersman got the custom silencers and sold them back to the Navy for an enormous profit, he allegedly went on a spending spree, buying stock shares in a microbrewery for $100,000 and refurbishing older cars. The auto mechanic was arrested late last month and has since been released from jail on $100,000 bond.
While the town is studied in history classes for its witch hunts during the 17th century, the presence of witches and warlocks is still a contentious issue in Salem, Massachusetts.
Local law enforcement authorities have lately been focusing on Fatima’s, a Salem psychic center that charges money to remove what it believes to be curses. The police have been investigating Fatima’s for fraud simply because it believes in curses. Because most of the other Wiccan communities and psychic centers in the city do not believe in curses, they have not been targeted.
An individual named Ryan Reid from West Henrietta, N.Y., initially alerted the authorities of Fatima’s fraudulence, claiming that he spent $16,800 for a “shield” that would remove his curse. Police investigated the shop and found that its fortune-teller license had expired, so they forced it to close. The city’s licensing board has since allowed the shop to reopen for the remainder of the year, provided they do not use curses as a portion of their business.
The controversy surrounding Fatima’s has pitted those of the fortune-telling community against law enforcement.
Christian Day, the owner of two Salem witch shops, claimed that other religious figures should be punished for doing the same thing as Fatima's. “If they’re a fraud, then we’re all frauds, and all religion is a fraud. They’re not regulating the priest who absolves you of your sins and tells you to put some money in the collection basket, or the old lady who sends all her money to Pat Robertson. They pick on us for one reason: They’re afraid of us. They’ve always been afraid of us,” Day told The Boston Globe.
Other members of the fortune-telling community, however, were glad to see Fatima’s temporarily closed down.
“What I do is read people’s energy. What they do is charge thousands of dollars for sea glass to read a curse. They prey on people who are weak, and they make us all look like frauds,” local fortune teller Timothy Reagan told The Boston Globe.
19-Year-Old Student Buys $300 Belt from Barney's With Saved Money and Is Arrested for Fraud Because He's Black
A young black man was arrested for fraud after purchasing a $320 belt from Barney’s, but after an investigation, it turned out that it wasn’t fraud at all. He purchased the belt with his own debit card and showed his own ID after saving up the money to buy the belt for months.
Back in April, 19-year-old Trayon Christian went to the Manhattan Barney’s store specifically to get a $320 Salvatore Ferragamo belt that he saw his favorite rapper Juelz Santana wearing. After making the purchase and leaving the store, undercover NYPD officers on the street immediately arrested Christian.
Now, Christian is filing a civil rights lawsuit against both the store and the NYPD for the incident. According to the suit, officers initially asked him, “how a young black man such as himself could afford to purchase such an expensive belt.”
Even though Christian showed his ID when paying with his Chase Bank debit card, the cashier was still suspicious and called police. The suit claims that even after showing authorities the debit card, ID, and receipt, they still continued to question him for two hours. It was only after they called Chase Bank and confirmed the purchase that they let him go.
“He’s never been arrested,” says Christian’s lawyer Michael Palillo. “His only crime was being a young black guy buying a $300 belt.”
The young man, who is a college student with no history of arrests, says that he no longer has the belt.
“I brought the belt back to Barneys a few days later and returned it,” said Christian. “I got my money back, I’m not shopping there again. It’s cruel. It’s racist.”
The lawsuit has recently been filed and the matter is still under investigation.
Lost in all this hooplah surrounding the gun control, Obamacare, and drug policy debates, is a subtle but dangerous problem impacting our nation’s livelihood: Hello Kitty doll fraud.
Oklahoma news station News On 6 reports that a man working a game booth at the Tulsa state fair allowed patrons to bribe him with money in exchange for Hello Kitty dolls.
The man, Frank Feikema, was arrested (yes, arrested) when an undercover Tulsa police officer struck a deal with him: for $40, if the officer popped a balloon with a dart, he would automatically get the highest prize at the booth – the Hello Kitty doll.
According to the deputy, this agreement represents a serious breach of fair prize protocol.
“The rules state that the participant must win a certain number of each size prize to trade up for a larger prize," the deputy’s report said. "You continue to trade up until the largest prize is won."
"I took a dart, popped a balloon on the first try, handed him $40 and asked for one of the largest prizes," the deputy said. "He handed me the Hello Kitty that I asked for and I walked away."
Five minutes later, the deputy and his fellow officers arrested Feikema and charged him with fraud.
Congratulations, Tulsa police. Amidst the pickpockets and drunks at the fair, you identified and reprimanded the true threat to the safety of the fair: the man taking bribes for Hello Kitty dolls.
Now for some good news: we’re not the only ones who think Feikema’s arrest is silly. Oklahoma community organizers Lisa Bowman and Joanna Francisco are speaking out against Feikema’s arrest and raising money to have him released from jail. Here’s a statement from Bowman:
“If the money taken from me, involuntarily, in the form of taxes, is funding the institutions that are in place to fight crime, then I expect them to focus on true crime. What I see here is a voluntary exchange between two consenting adults, where one party is being set up, caged, and exploited. The cost to tax payers (victims) for this act is not justified. The only justice in this case will come in the form of nullification or dismissal.”