My ADFA Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia Inc business cards have arrived in the mail. I am now officially ADFA’s Social Media Voice and I’m very proud and honoured to be asked to take on this very important role and one that I am very passionate in getting the word out that there is no safe asbestos, asbestos kills. Helping via Social Media to create awareness, support and advocacy is a very powerful tool in today’s modern technology.Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA) is a not-for profit organisation working to provide support to people living with asbestos related diseases, family members, carers and friends. ADFA is a community based group founded by Trade Unions, victims, families of victims, and concerned citizens to meet the needs …Read more
As climate change is progressing, the temperature of our planet increases. This is particularly important for the large group of animals that are cold-blooded (ectothermic), including insects. Their body temperature is ultimately determined by the ambient temperature, and the same therefore applies to the speed and efficiency of their vital biological processes.But is it changes in average temperature or frequency of extreme temperature conditions that have the greatest impact on species distribution? This was the questions that a group of Danish and Australian researchers decided to examine in a number of insect species.Johannes Overgaard, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Denmark, Michael R. Kearney and Ary A. Hoffmann, Melbourne University, Australia, recently published the results of these studies in the journal Global Change Biology. The results demonstrate that it is especially the extreme temperature events that define the distribution of both tropical and temperate species. Thus climate change affects ectotermic animals primarily because more periods of extreme weather are expected in the future.Fruit flies were modeledThe researchers examined 10 fruit fly species of the genus Drosophila adapted to tropical and temperate regions of Australia. First they examined the temperatures for which the species can sustain growth and reproduction, and then they found the boundaries of tolerance for hot and cold temperatures.”This is the first time ever where we have been able to compare the effects of extremes and changes in average conditions in a rigorous manner across a group of species,” mentions Ary Hoffmann.Based on this knowledge and knowledge of the present distribution of the 10 species they then examined if distribution was correlated to the temperatures required for growth and reproduction or rather limited by their tolerance to extreme temperature conditions.”The answer was unambiguous: it is the species’ tolerance to very cold or hot days that define their present distribution,” says Johannes Overgaard.It is therefore the extreme weather events, such as heat waves or extremely cold conditions, which costs the insects their life, not an increase in average temperature.Drastic changes in storeWith this information in hand, the researchers could then model how distributions are expected to change if climate change continues for the next 100 years.Most terrestrial animals experience temperature variation on both daily and seasonal time scale, and they are adapted to these conditions. Thus, for a species to maintain its existence under varying temperature conditions there are two simple conditions that must be met. …Read more
Lou Williams | Survivor Insight Series Louise Williams has been affected by mesothelioma since the diagnosis of her father. HeRead more
http://au.news.yahoo.com/vic/a/21343158/vic-braces-for-major-fire-risk/Victorians are bracing for some of the worst fire conditions in five years with dozens fleeing their homes and others warned about out-of-control blazes that may flare up during the night. Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley warns that everyone should keep their mobile phones close to them while they sleep in case emergency warnings are sent out. Several extended heatwaves, followed by the current high temperatures, have pushed the state’s fire danger rating to extreme in six districts, he said. Temperatures are also forecast to remain above 30 degrees overnight, meaning firefighters won’t see a lull in fire activity before temperatures rise again on Sunday morning. “Anywhere in Victoria, fires will run and …Read more
Hurrah! After 3 weeks of putting up with our ancient computer that failed recently due to an electrical storm we have bought a new computer and Keith set it up last night. So much quicker for everything. For those that are MAC freaks I hate to disappoint you – we have another PC!Last Saturday 1 February 2014 was the inaugural Ban Asbestos Conference to be held in Pakistan thanks to the Syed Fareed Ahmed Memorial Mesothelioma General Hospital Foundation and in particular Syed Mezab Ahmed and his father who bravely took on the cause/case after their uncle/brother died of tongue cancer caused by exposure to asbestos while working in Pakistan. It is a credit to both of them holding this conference and showing much needed awareness and education. …Read more
Immune cells undergo ‘spontaneous’ changes on a daily basis that could lead to cancers if not for the diligent surveillance of our immune system, Melbourne scientists have found.The research team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute found that the immune system was responsible for eliminating potentially cancerous immune B cells in their early stages, before they developed into B-cell lymphomas (also known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas). The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Medicine.This immune surveillance accounts for what researchers at the institute call the ‘surprising rarity’ of B-cell lymphomas in the population, given how often these spontaneous changes occur. The discovery could lead to the development of an early-warning test that identifies patients at high risk of developing B-cell lymphomas, enabling proactive treatment to prevent tumours from growing.Dr Axel Kallies, Associate Professor David Tarlinton, Dr Stephen Nutt and colleagues made the discovery while investigating the development of B-cell lymphomas.Dr Kallies said the discovery provided an answer to why B-cell lymphomas occur in the population less frequently than expected. “Each and every one of us has spontaneous mutations in our immune B cells that occur as a result of their normal function,” Dr Kallies said. “It is then somewhat of a paradox that B cell lymphoma is not more common in the population.”Our finding that immune surveillance by T cells enables early detection and elimination of these cancerous and pre-cancerous cells provides an answer to this puzzle, and proves that immune surveillance is essential to preventing the development of this blood cancer.”B-cell lymphoma is the most common blood cancer in Australia, with approximately 2800 people diagnosed each year and patients with a weakened immune system are at a higher risk of developing the disease.The research team made the discovery while investigating how B cells change when lymphoma develops. “As part of the research, we ‘disabled’ the T cells to suppress the immune system and, to our surprise, found that lymphoma developed in a matter of weeks, where it would normally take years,” Dr Kallies said. “It seems that our immune system is better equipped than we imagined to identify and eliminate cancerous B cells, a process that is driven by the immune T cells in our body.”Associate Professor Tarlinton said the research would enable scientists to identify pre-cancerous cells in the initial stages of their development, enabling early intervention for patients at risk of developing B-cell lymphoma.”In the majority of patients, the first sign that something is wrong is finding an established tumour, which in many cases is difficult to treat” Associate Professor Tarlinton said. “Now that we know B-cell lymphoma is suppressed by the immune system, we could use this information to develop a diagnostic test that identifies people in early stages of this disease, before tumours develop and they progress to cancer. There are already therapies that could remove these ‘aberrant’ B cells in at-risk patients, so once a test is developed it can be rapidly moved towards clinical use.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.Read more
Last night in Melbourne I was very honoured to be able to attend this beautiful gala event with my husband Keith and Rod Smith/Karen Banton all representing Bernie Banton Foundation.A black tie event, it was a good excuse to dress up, kick our heels up and enjoy a spectacular night with other like minded people who were there for a good cause – raising much needed funds for mesothelioma research.http://www.oliviaappeal.com/About-Us/Appeal-Committees/Associate-Professor-Paul-Mitchell.aspxAssociate Professor Paul Mitchell, Olivia Newton John Cancer Centre spoke on the aggressive and deadly nature of mesothelioma and how much needed funds are very vital. I spoke to him after his speech and about me being past my use by date as there …Read more
Yesterday we slept in after a busy week spent mostly in Melbourne. Strange to say, because of this sleep in, last night was a night where I couldn’t really sleep and just laid there until I got up about 5am, made a green tea and turned the computer on.Saturday we went up to Mt Macedon Trading Post/General store/cafe and where we have our post office box for our mail. As it was absolutely freezing when we left here, I put a scarf/gloves/parka/boots on and jumped in the car, when we got up to our gate … there was a family of kangaroos standing in a row watching us, usually the whole family stand there including uncles/aunts … however yesterday there was the …Read more
Last Thursday I made the train/tram/tram journey to Melbourne and visited my daughter and little grandkids and most important with this visit – my little one day old grandson Oliver! I had a very special cuddle and took photos on my new little smart phone … only to delete them by accident when I got home! Whoops!! By the time I boarded my last train to come home I was totally exhausted and it took the next 2 days to get my strength back.Yesterday Tuesday we fronted up at the day chemo/hospital for my weekly PICC dressing, bloods taken and across to see my oncologist for the okay to have chemo. No luck as I was anemic and my white blood cells way down so NO …Read more
We have had 3 beautiful days in the spa country/Daylesford and Hepburn Springs area staying in a bed and breakfast home. In its heyday of 1910 era this guesthouse had 38 rooms/60 guests. Today 4 ensuite rooms and 8 guests. It is a lovely Edwardian timber home, high ceilings and what was once a beautiful garden. Unfortunately it has been let go due to the high maintenance and costs however besides all of this we had a lovely time away and was able to focus just on that happy time rather than on treatment and the what will happen in our lives in the near future scenarios!Steve Cook has just posted his blog and so pleased to hear that his major operation was a success and he will be home …Read more
Asbestos – Living with Mesothelioma in Australia Louise (Lou) Williams: Life between chemotherapy! Visit to Melbourne an…: Yesterday I caught the trains to Melbourne (3 trains altogether) and visited my daughter Jo and beautiful little grandkids including little …Read more
Yesterday a windy journey to the hospital in Melbourne (about an hr away if a good run) we left here about 7.20am and got there just before 8.30am for our appointment at Day Chemo. The last few days we have had violent winds here and yesterday was no exception. We have lost a huge tree between us and neighbours, lucky it has not taken out the fence – it is just hanging over it. A few branches near the house however no real damage. Today is a stillness day and birds singing, sun starting to come out – will be nice in the garden later on this afternoon. I have spoken too soon lol! The wind is picking up!Day chemo changed my PICC line – flush and bloods were …Read more
This morning a race in traffic to Melbourne for 9.45am appointment at day chemo ward (John Fawkner Hospital) for my PICC clean and dressing/blood taken and across to see Allan Zimet my oncologist for results of the blood test and okay for chemotherapy at 10.45am. Keith took my bloods up to pathology and waited a good half hour for the slip of paper with results.We waited over an hour for our appointment to see Allan as he had so many patients to see. We knew by the results of the bloods that chemo would not be happening as all very low. Lyall who has peritoneal meso, a long term survivor and good friend was due to come and see me while having chemo. I rang …Read more
Aug. 27, 2013 — Australian researchers have developed a new approach to detecting coeliac disease, revealing this immune disorder is far more common than previously recognised.In a study of more than 2500 Victorians the researchers combined traditional antibody testing (measuring the immune response to gluten) with an assessment of specific genetic risk markers. They found more than half of Australians had genetic risk factors for developing coeliac disease. The research is published online today in the journal BMC Medicine.Dr Jason Tye-Din from the Immunology division at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and Dr Bob Anderson, chief scientific officer at US biotechnology company ImmusanT, worked with Barwon Health, Deakin University, Healthscope Pathology and the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute to develop and trial the new diagnostic approach.Dr Tye-Din said the new approach of combining the genetic test with a panel of antibody tests would increase the accuracy of testing, decrease overall medical costs by reducing invasive diagnostic tests, and avoid medically unnecessary use of a gluten-free diet.”Currently, bowel biopsies are recommended for anybody with positive antibody tests,” he said. “In this study the inclusion of a simple genetic test helped identify a substantial number of people whose antibody tests were falsely positive and who did not actually require a bowel biopsy to test for the possibility of coeliac disease.”Coeliac disease is caused by an inappropriate immune response to dietary gluten. Gluten can be found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. When gluten is consumed, it can cause a wide range of complaints from chronic tiredness, iron deficiency, osteoporosis, itchy rash, and headaches to various digestive symptoms. Coeliac disease damages the lining of the small intestine and can lead to significant medical complications such as autoimmune disease, infertility, liver failure and cancer. Coeliac disease usually develops in childhood and is life-long, but early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the risk of adverse health complications.Dr Tye-Din said the newly developed testing strategy showed coeliac disease potentially affected at least one in 60 Australian women and one in 80 men. Previous estimates had the number of Australians with coeliac disease as no more than one in 100. …Read more
Aug. 20, 2013 — Asthma sufferers frequently exposed to heavy traffic pollution or smoke from wood fire heaters, experienced a significant worsening of symptoms, a new University of Melbourne led study has found.The study is the first of its kind to assess the impact of traffic pollution and wood smoke from heaters on middle-aged adults with asthma.The results revealed adults who suffer asthma and were exposed to heavy traffic pollution experienced an 80 per cent increase in symptoms and those exposed to wood smoke from wood fires experienced an 11 per cent increase in symptoms.Asthma affects more than 300 million people worldwide and is one of the most chronic health conditions.Dr John Burgess of the School of Population Health at the University of Melbourne and a co-author on the study said “it is now recommended that adults who suffer asthma should not live on busy roads and that the use of old wood heaters should be upgraded to newer heaters, to ensure their health does not worsen.”In the study, a cohort of 1383 44-year old adults in the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study were surveyed for their exposure to smoke from wood fires and traffic pollution. Participants were asked to rate their exposure.The survey asked for exposure to the frequency of heavy traffic vehicles near homes and the levels of ambient wood smoke in winter.Results were based on the self-reporting of symptoms and the number of flare-ups or exacerbations in a 12-month period. Participants reported from between two to three flare-ups (called intermittent asthma) to more than one flare-up per week (severe persistent asthma) over the same time.Traffic exhaust is thought to exacerbate asthma through airway inflammation. Particles from heavy vehicles exhaust have been shown to enhance allergic inflammatory responses in sensitised people who suffer asthma.”Our study also revealed a connection between the inhalation of wood smoke exposure and asthma severity and that the use of wood for heating is detrimental to health in communities such as Tasmania where use of wood burning is common,” Dr Burgess said.”Clean burning practices and the replacement of old polluting wood stoves by new ones are likely to minimise both indoor and outdoor wood smoke pollution and improve people’s health,” he said.”These findings may have particular importance in developing countries where wood smoke exposure is likely to be high in rural communities due to the use of wood for heating and cooking, and the intensity of air pollution from vehicular traffic in larger cities is significant.”The study revealed no association between traffic pollution and wood smoke and the onset of asthma.It was published in the journal Respirology.Read more
Aug. 7, 2013 — The global study was led by University of Melbourne and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology today.The study involved about 2,500 women from Europe, North America and Australia who have inherited mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2, the breast cancer susceptibility genes, and who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. About one-third of these women were placed on tamoxifen.Tamoxifen has been used for decades to treat breast cancer and has recently been shown to prevent breast cancers in many women.Until now, there has been limited information about whether it reduces breast cancer risk for women who are at the very highest level of risk with BRCA1 or BRCA2.Lead author, Professor Kelly-Anne Phillips says this study, the largest to date, suggests that it could work for these high-risk women by halving their breast cancer risk.”In the past, the only way of reducing breast cancer risk for these high-risk women was to do invasive surgery to remove their breasts and/or ovaries. For women who choose not to undergo such surgery, or who would prefer to delay surgery until they are older, tamoxifen could now be a viable alternative.”Such was the case for US actress Angelina Jolie who was found to carry a mutation in one of these genes.Previous research led by Professor Phillips revealed that only 1 in 5 Australian women with a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 choose to undergo bilateral mastectomy to prevent cancer.Professor John Hopper, co-author from the School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne, says “In light of our findings, it is clear that women who have a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 should review their management plan with their specialist and re-discuss the options available to them to lower that risk.”This important finding has come from more than 20 years of research involving breast cancer families recruited from cancer registries and clinics across the country.”Without the generous contributions of those families we would not be able to make such discoveries which help future generations fight breast cancer,” he says.Read more
June 16, 2013 — Mammals vary enormously in size, from weighing less than a penny to measuring more than three school buses in length. Some groups of mammals have become very large, such as elephants and whales, while others have always been small, like primates. A new theory developed by an interdisciplinary team, led by Jordan Okie of Arizona State University, provides an explanation for why and how certain groups of organisms are able to evolve gigantic sizes, whereas others are not.The international research team composed of palaeontologists, evolutionary biologists and ecologists examined information on how quickly an individual animal grows and used it to predict how large it may get over evolutionary time. Their research is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.The new theory developed from the observation that some animals live fast and die young, while others take their time and mature much later. This is called the slow-fast life-history continuum, where “fast” animals — such as mice — breed very quickly, while humans mature slowly and are relatively older when they first have children. The theory proposes that those species that are relatively faster are more likely to evolve a large size quicker than slow species, and that their maximum size will be greater.The research team tested their theory using the fossil records of mammals over the last 70 million years, examining the maximum size of each mammal group throughout that time, including whales, elephants, rodents, seals and primates. They found that their theory was very well supported.”Primates have evolved very slowly, and never got bigger than 1,000 pounds,” said Okie, an exploration postdoctoral fellow in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU. “The opposite was true of whales, which evolved their large size at the fastest rates recorded.”The theory also makes predictions about the relative risks of extinction for large animals compared to small. The maximum size of an animal is limited by the rate of mortality in the population. Because larger animals tend to breed less frequently than smaller animals, if the mortality rate doubles, the maximum size is predicted to be 16 times smaller.”This is a really surprising finding,” said co-author Alistair Evans of Monash University (Melbourne, Australia). …Read more
May 29, 2013 — Astronomers expect that stars like the Sun will blow off much of their atmospheres into space near the ends of their lives. But new observations of a huge star cluster made using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have shown — against all expectations — that a majority of the stars studied simply did not get to this stage in their lives at all. The international team found that the amount of sodium in the stars was a very strong predictor of how they ended their lives.
The way in which stars evolve and end their lives was for many years considered to be well understood. Detailed computer models predicted that stars of a similar mass to the Sun would have a period towards the ends of their lives — called the asymptotic giant branch, or AGB  — when they undergo a final burst of nuclear burning and puff off a lot of their mass in the form of gas and dust.
This expelled material  goes on to form the next generations of stars and this cycle of mass loss and rebirth is vital to explain the evolving chemistry of the Universe. This process is also what provides the material required for the formation of planets — and indeed even the ingredients for organic life.
But when Australian stellar theory expert Simon Campbell of the Monash University Centre for Astrophysics, Melbourne, scoured old papers he found tantalising suggestions that some stars may somehow not follow the rules and might skip the AGB phase entirely. He takes up the story:
“For a stellar modelling scientist this suggestion was crazy! All stars go through the AGB phase according to our models. I double-checked all the old studies but found that this had not been properly investigated. I decided to investigate myself, despite having little observational experience.”
Campbell and his team used ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to very carefully study the light coming from stars in the globular star cluster NGC 6752 in the southern constellation of Pavo (The Peacock). This vast ball of ancient stars contains both a first generation of stars and a second that formed somewhat later . The two generations can be distinguished by the amount of sodium they contain — something that the very high-quality VLT data can be used to measure.
“FLAMES, the multi-object high-resolution spectrograph on the VLT, was the only instrument that could allow us to get really high-quality data for 130 stars at a time. And it allowed us to observe a large part of the globular cluster in one go,” adds Campbell.
The results were a surprise — all of the AGB stars in the study were first generation stars with low levels of sodium and none of the higher-sodium second generation stars had become AGB stars at all. As many as 70% of the stars were not undergoing the final nuclear burning and mass-loss phase  .
“It seems stars need to have a low-sodium “diet” to reach the AGB phase in their old age. This observation is important for several reasons. These stars are the brightest stars in globular clusters — so there will be 70% fewer of the brightest stars than theory predicts. It also means our computer models of stars are incomplete and must be fixed!” concludes Campbell.
The team expects that similar results will be found for other star clusters and further observations are planned.
 AGB stars get their odd name because of their position on the Hertzsprung Russell diagram, a plot of the brightnesses of stars against their colours.
 For a short period of time this ejected material is lit up by the strong ultraviolet radiation from the star and creates a planetary nebula.
 Although the stars in a globular cluster all formed at about the same time, it is now well established that these systems are not as simple as they once thought to be. They usually contain two or more populations of stars with different amounts of light chemical elements such as carbon, nitrogen and — crucially for this new study — sodium.
 It is thought that stars which skip the AGB phase will evolve directly into helium white dwarf stars and gradually cool down over many billions of years.
 It is not thought that the sodium itself is the cause of the different behaviour, but must be strongly linked to the underlying cause — which remains mysterious.Read more