All posts by Kavya Rajesh

Why Vaccines are Safe

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Photo from FDA

Inki Lee

Decades of hesitancy about vaccines have lowered vaccination rates leading to a recent resurgence in measles.  Measles is a highly contagious disease. In 2000 it was declared eliminated from the United States because none of the 86 diagnosed cases documented resulted in transmission.  While the early history of vaccination was a bit spotty, it’s modern application represents one of the most successful public health interventions in history.  

Hesitancy regarding vaccines is undoing this good work. A common concern is exposure to mercury from the use of thimerosal, which is a preservative. Studies have found that ethylmercury, which is the mercury source in thimerosal, is broken down and excreted from the body very quickly. There are no credible links between thimerosal and harm. Nevertheless, to assuage concerns, there are now thimerosal-free vaccine options.

Formaldehyde is used to inactivate the virus and neutralize bacterial toxins so that vaccines don’t cause sickness. Formaldehyde can cause cancer when there is exposure to large quantities over a long period of time. Formaldehyde is a normal human metabolite and is naturally present in the human body in small amounts. The amount of formaldehyde present in vaccines is unlikely to affect natural formaldehyde levels.

Aluminum is added to vaccines to make them more effective in smaller doses. Some people wonder if  long-term exposure to aluminum may result in disease. Aluminum is ever-present. It is in the food and water we consume. Aluminum has been used safely in a wide variety of products for a long time. It seems unlikely that the relatively small amount of aluminum used in vaccines will have much influence on health.

There are concerns that the use of antibiotics and gelatin in vaccines could trigger an allergic response. Since antibiotics are removed during the vaccine purification process, there are only trace amounts left after production; too little to cause an allergic reaction. 

The amount of gelatin in vaccines varies with each vaccine, from 0.0015 mg on the low end to 14.5 mg on the high end. If gelatin allergies are a concern, alternatives and exemptions are available.  The rate of severe allergic reaction to gelatin in a vaccine is estimated to be fewer than one in every two million vaccinations.  

The odds of a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics in vaccine are estimated at one in a million. For context, the odds of being struck by lightning in one lifetime is 1 in 3,000.

Vaccines are safer than many of the products that we use or consume on a daily basis. The risk of harm from the diseases these vaccines limit or prevent outweighs all known risks including possible exposure to chemicals.

How Effective Will CAR T-Cell Therapy be in Treating Solid Tumor Cancers?

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Source: Mesothelioma

Guest Piece written by David Haas

David Haas is a health advocate specializing in mesothelioma. He works to ensure the continuation of awareness about the disease and supports active research being conducted to find a cure.

 The American Cancer Society estimates that almost 2 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States this year. Oncologists and researchers are working to develop new treatment options in hopes of increasing both the duration and quality of life of people with cancer. One relatively new treatment (CAR T-cell therapy) extracts and modifies T cells from the blood (type of immune cell), gives them a receptor that directs them to the specific type of cancer (Chimeric Antigen Receptor, or CAR) the patient has, and then places them back into the bloodstream. Patients are monitored closely because reintroduction of a large number of T cells can lead to life threatening complications. One possible complication is Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS): the release of an excess of cytokines (an inflammatory molecule). CRS can cause a steep drop in blood pressure, high fever, and swelling of the brain, which can be fatal. These risks do not deter many patients who have limited treatment options left.

Given the success of CAR T-cell therapy for liquid tumors such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL; 83 percent remission rate in some clinical trials) there is discussion of how this treatment could impact solid tumors. However, site-specific drug delivery is more difficult for solid cancers.

The National Cancer Institute recently granted 11 million dollars to the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center to study T cell therapy for solid tumors. This research will focus on a rare lung cancer known as malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), which has a notoriously poor prognosis. For people with late-stage mesothelioma, it’s unusual to live more than two years after diagnosis. If successful, research interest in CAR T-cell therapy for rare solid tumors may expand.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) researchers have enrolled 12 people with MPM in a clinical trial of CAR-T-cell therapy. The early results are promising, showing no signs of toxicity, with one patient remaining clinically well eight months after T cell infusion.

It may be a while before this treatment is widely available, as one hurdle is price. The two FDA approved T cell treatments cost more than $370,000. This price would leave the average cancer patient in a debilitating amount of debt even with optimal insurance coverage. Regulators are looking to have these prices reduced.

While research may establish CAR T-cell therapy as effective for solid tumor cancers such as mesothelioma, the timeframe for accessible treatment may be several more years since it is experimental and prohibitively expensive.

***If you are interested in writing a guest piece on our website about a topic of interest, please feel free to reach out to us at and to discuss an idea. We hope you enjoyed this piece and we look forward to hearing from you!



Aluminum in Deodorant

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Source: Ebay

Kavya Rajesh

A few years ago, an email linking antiperspirant use to breast cancer went viral. The email suggested that antiperspirants prevented the body from “purging toxins” and caused these toxins to travel to the lymph nodes and cause cancer. Many health and beauty sites, including beauty vloggers with large followings, have recommended using aluminum free deodorant.

However, experts (including the director of medical content for the American Cancer society) say that “there is no convincing evidence that deodorant or antiperspirant use increases cancer risk.” In fact, a study in 2002 with over 1,500 women found no link between breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use.

Some research has suggested that aluminum can disrupt hormone receptors in breast cells. However, an incredibly small amount of aluminum is absorbed through the skin.