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Alberta boy with thyroid cancer runs, plays after taking U.S.-approved drug

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This winter, Kayley Leeds can watch her nine-year-old ski and run around with his siblings, but a year and a half ago, her little boy was more likely to be in bed.

Ashton Leeds was only four when his mom found a lump in his neck. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 thyroid cancer.

That news set the family on a difficult journey that included major surgery and intense radioactive iodine treatments so strong that Ashton had to be isolated for the safety of his family.

Now, he’s like a different kid, happy and playful. A new drug, approved in the United States last week, changed his life.

“When he didn’t have any energy, he didn’t want to do anything. He didn’t have an appetite,” his mother told the Calgary Eyeopener. “It was really hard for him to do day-to-day things because of his breathing.”

Kayley Leeds and her son Ashton have gone to many treatments over the years. Now her little boy is feeling healthy. (Seattle Children’s Hospital)

The oral medication, called larotrectinib, underwent clinical trials at Seattle Children’s Hospital. It targets a genetic marker inside the cancer, a fused chromosome, that causes the cancer to grow. The medication stifles that growth by targeting that unusual chromosome.

As of Nov. 26, the medication (brand name Vitrakvi) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat multiple types of cancer in children and adults, including soft tissue sarcoma, salivary gland cancer, infantile fibrosarcoma, thyroid cancer and lung cancer.

Health Canada confirmed Wednesday that it received an application from the pharmaceutical company in November to sell the drug in Canada. The federal regulator said it is reviewing that application, a process that typically takes about a year.

‘Immensely exciting’

In some patients, their localized tumours have disappeared entirely, the principal investigator and clinical trial director Dr. Katie Albert said. In Ashton’s case, his chest tumours have shrunk so he can have a normal quality of life.

“It’s immensely exciting,” said Albert, who’s spent her career researching cancer treatment. “That’s about as big of a deal as, a development as you can have in cancer therapy.”

She finds the development noteworthy because the medication targets the problematic cells only, the rest of the body typically has few, if any, symptoms.

Ashton Leeds can run around and play with his siblings now. (Leeds Family)

That’s unlike chemotherapy, she said, that targets the activity of cell growth. It causes the cancerous cells to stop growing or slow down, but meanwhile, it also affects the rest of the body, causing symptoms like nausea and hair loss.

The new drug can be taken at home orally in tablet or liquid form, so patients only need to go to hospital for periodic monitoring.

The image on the left is a scan of Ashton’s thyroid cancer that had spread to his lungs, taken in July 2017 before starting larotrectinib on the trial. White specks represent tumour nodules that riddled his lungs. The image on the right was taken a month ago after 14 months on the drug. (Seattle Children’s Hospital)

In 2017, after traditional treatments failed and cancer spread, Ashton qualified for Albert’s U.S. trial. Each month for more than a year, he flew to Seattle from his family home in Claresholm, Alta.

Within the first week, his parent saw an improvement. After a few months, the white spots in his chest X-ray, which indicate the cancer, had nearly disappeared.

“We watched a change in Ashton. We watched his health improve. His breathing improved, his colour improved, his appetite came back,” Leeds said. “He was starting to feel like himself again.”

After treatment, Ashton Leeds is now enjoying life as a nine-year-old boy in Claresholm, Alta. (Leeds Family)

Now he takes the pill twice a day and will continue to be monitored by the Seattle physicians.

“He’s just able to play as a normal kid, doing day-to-day things,” his mother said. “He’s happy and he’s running around and he doesn’t feel sick right now. His breathing is good.”

He still has fragmented pieces of cancer scattered across his lungs but the bulk has disappeared.

Ashton Leeds has gotten to know his nurses well. He has spent a lot of time in the hospital over the years. (Ashton’s Army/Facebook)

Alberta health insurance does not cover clinical trials or drugs provided outside of Canada, but the pharmaceutical company running this clinical trial covered the Leeds family’s travel and medical costs.

“Ashton loves to go there once a month. I mean, we’ve made sacrifices along the way in order to go there every month,” Leeds said. “But overall, it’s been a really positive experience for us, and we’ve had very supportive people in our lives that have made it happen.”

Canadian test underway

Until the drug is approved for sale in Canada — if it is — others interested in trying the medication will have to find their way to the United States and pay out of pocket.

For pediatric patients, there is one clinical trial underway in Canada that is accepting patients. Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children recently opened the trial and has one patient enrolled so far.

The study’s principal investigator, Dr. Daniel Morgenstern, said there is understandably a lot of excitement around the drug but cautioned it applies to a very rare group of patients with particular genetic abnormalities.

In Seattle, Albert said she intends to continue running clinical trials to determine, for example, how patients can eventually come off the drug and remain cancer-free.

With files from Kathryn Marlow and the Calgary Eyeopener.

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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