Sunday, June 29, 2008

More Training

South Norwalk to Milford - 7 hours, 22.4 miles

It turned into a hot, muggy, and hazy day, and the 10-15 mph W to SW winds that were forecast never showed up. At 9:30AM I put on a shirt and some sunscreen (70 spf), which was a good idea as the temperature topped out over 90 degrees.

After breakfast, I made the mistake of rowing almost six hours straight (until 12:30), which was a mistake. The water I had brought tasted like it had sat in a rubber hose for a while (it had), which along with the heat left me feeling on the verge of puking for most of the trip. I also should have eaten much more while I was rowing, but the food I had needed to be cooked, and I didn't feel like stopping to boil water...not a good combination.

Notes for next time:
- Rest more
- Eat more
- Drink more
- Bring food that's easier to eat
- Bring cleaner water
- Don't fight the tides and Housatonic River after 7 hours of rowing

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Melanoma Study Offers Cautious Hope

By KEITH J. WINSTEIN June 19, 2008; Wall Street Journal, Page D5

Doctors in Seattle cured a late-stage cancer patient after tinkering with his body's defenses against infection, leading to cautious optimism about treating late-stage melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.

The surprising result, published in this week's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, is the latest hopeful finding from the 30-year-old field of "adoptive immunotherapy," which theorizes that the body can be taught to fight off its own cancers.

Researchers published several promising studies in the 1980s, but translating the findings into successful cancer treatments has been slow. Treatment requires extracting a patient's own white blood cells that are particularly adept at fighting a tumor, breeding the cells in a Petri dish, and then re-injecting them into a patient.

"This is the ultimate personalized medicine, because literally we create a new drug for every patient out of their own cells," said Steven Rosenberg, chief surgeon at the National Cancer Institute, who has published several studies on such treatments. But "it's a labor intensive kind of treatment, and it doesn't lend itself well to commercial development," he said.

Earlier this month, Dr. Rosenberg discussed the results of his experiments at a Boston conference of microbiologists. Out of 93 patients treated, 52 experienced a positive response, Dr. Rosenberg said. At least four patients saw their cancers disappear completely. The complete test results haven't yet been published.

"Pharmaceutical companies have been a little reluctant to pick this up, because they want drugs they can make and put in a vial and sell the vial," Dr. Rosenberg said. "It's very frustrating to me. I lose a lot of sleep over it."

Cassian Yee and other doctors at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle treated a 52-year-old Oregon man with melanoma that had spread to his lungs and groin.

The cancer had persisted even after several doses of chemotherapy, meaning his chances of survival were very slim. But after the researchers injected him with five billion of his own, specially bred white blood cells, the man's cancer disappeared completely and has stayed away for more than two years.

The New England Journal article discusses just one patient, who was the only one out of nine to be cured. The other eight melanoma patients haven't had as positive a response to the treatment, Dr. Yee said.

"This is not something we're going to use to cure a lot of patients. This is one patient," he said. The next step is to "treat a lot more patients and see if this is real," Dr. Yee said. "I think in five to 10 years, this will become much more mainstream."

Dr. Yee's and Dr. Rosenberg's research differs in the particulars.

Dr. Rosenberg's studies have focused on one kind of white blood cell, called "killer T-cells," which attack a tumor. Dr. Yee's study instead looked at "helper" T-cells, which are thought to recognize infections and tumors but mostly summon other cells to do the attacking.

In both cases, treating a patient costs roughly between $30,000 and $50,000 and requires specialized biological equipment that is found in only a few laboratories, making the treatment impractical right now for widespread medical use.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Oarlock Issues Resolved

A few weeks ago my ongoing sea trials paid off for the first time when I snapped in half my port-side oarlock pin, the threaded piece that holds the oarlock itself vertical and allows the oarlock itself to rotate.

This gave me a good opportunity to rationalize the oarlock/rigger system as a whole and, with guidance from three-time ocean rower Simon Chalk, I'm back up an running with a much stronger setup that consists of a custom built 3/16" stainless steel plate on the gunnel and a backstay of the same material. I've also added beefed-up oarlock pins (12mm) that I think are made for Alden boats.

Special thanks to Bob Mills at New England Fiberglass in Norwalk, CT, who donated several hours of his time to the project and installed the new system free of charge. Bob's wife is a breast cancer survivor and he donated several hours of his time to the project by installing the new oarlock system free of charge.

Days to Departure: 169

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New Equipment Sponsor - Fiorentino Para Anchors

I'm happy to announce that Fiorentino has come on as an equipment sponsor of Row for Hope and my 2,950 mile trans-Atlantic row for cancer research.  For everyone who has asked the question "What happens if there's a storm?", the answer is that I'll be deploying a Fiorentino paraanchor and then retreating to the cabin to get some rest. 

A paraanchor is basically an underwater parachute that when deployed will keep me from blowing backward too much during a storm or when the winds aren't blowing in the direction I want to go. It will also keep Liv's bow pointed into the waves which will keep her from rolling and/or capsizing. 

Zack at Fiorentino has some ideas for a customized approach and, at the same time he'll be building a similar setup for NASA's space capsules (really) he'll build something for Liv. More information from Fiorentino's website is below: 

"Established in 1958, Fiorentino is the exclusive manufacturer of the patented Offshore Parachute Sea Anchor with Para-Ring®, The  Para-Ring Drogue and the Fast-PAK®  Stowage System. Fiorentino's latest breakthrough in advanced para-anchor technology comes from extensive experience and a significant investment in research and development. Fiorentino parachute sea anchors are engineered by real-life offshore experts. Produced with exceptional quality, each para-anchor is meticulously manufactured and inspected by our master rigger before every shipment. Fiorentino parachute sea anchors delivers the type of performance and reliability that you would expect from your offshore and coastal survival equipment..."

Days to Departure: 173