Monthly Archives: October 2003

Eszterhas And Cleveland To Launch Anti-Smoking Campaign

  • 10/19/2003
  • Cleveland
  • PRNewswire

Eszterhas Takes Aim at Smoking in Movies: ‘Don’t Let People Like Me Kill You’ U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona Commends ‘Join Joe’ Campaign

— Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas has written
and filmed a 30-second public service announcement to be shown in movie theaters which warns audiences “not to get suckered into smoking byHollywood.”

“I glamorized smoking in my movies,” Eszterhas says on screen to moviegoers. “Then I got throat cancer. Maybe that’s my punishment. Please, don’t let people like me kill you.”
The announcement, filmed on a Hollywood soundstage, funded by The Cleveland Clinic and directed by American History X director, Tony Kaye, will be shown on more than 30 screens in the Cleveland area, where Eszterhas lives. Jonathan Forman, president of Cleveland Cinemas, said, “I only hope other exhibitors nationwide will have the courage to take this vital message to the masses of people who are killing themselves with tobacco.”

“We’re working around the clock with Joe and Jon Forman to get this message into as many theaters as possible across America,” said Angela Calman, chief communications officer for The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. “Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, resulting in more than 440,000 deaths each year. When it comes to smoking, quitters are winners,” said U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona. “I commend the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout and the ‘Join Joe’ Eszterhas campaign for helping people to quit smoking and begin living longer, healthier lives.”

“Hollywood simply has to confront its complicity in the deaths of millions of smokers,” Eszterhas said. “For the past year and a half, I have been engaged in a struggle both through the media and behind the scenes, to ban smoking in films. I have gotten nowhere. By filming this public service announcement, I have decided to go in another direction: to warn the public, minutes before a movie begins, about the glamorization of smoking which that movie might contain. I am hoping that my cancer and my voice will neutralize the pro-smoking message in the movie.”

Eszterhas’s films — which include Flashdance, Jagged Edge and Basic Instinct — have grossed more than a billion dollars at the box office. He is the first major Hollywood figure to criticize his own role in the glamorization of smoking on screen and to call for a voluntary industry-wide ban of smoking in films. Eszterhas’s anti-smoking-in-movies message is one of three public service announcements he filmed recently. The other messages are aimed at young people: “Cancer isn’t cool,” Eszterhas says in another message. “Cancer isn’t hip or rock and roll. Cancer hurts, cancer makes you cry, and then it kills you.” All three spots are being sent by The Cleveland Clinic to 300 local television stations across the country. WKYC, the NBC affiliate in Cleveland, will be the first station in the country to run the PSA’s beginning Wednesday, Nov. 19. Portions of the three spots also will be shown this week on television news programs and websites like WebMD. The public service announcements are the beginning of a larger Cleveland
Clinic Foundation initiative called “Join Joe.” The “Join Joe” campaign is an effort to provide support for those seeking help quitting smoking through a non-commercial website that will link people to a variety of free programs and information. The site also will be a call to action for smokers to “Join Joe” in quitting tobacco. It will invite people to join Joe and provide a forum for public support of their actions. Eszterhas will kick off the “Join Joe” campaign with a one-hour internet chat in partnership with WebMD at noon EST, Thursday, Nov. 20, as part of the Great American Smokeout. To Join Joe, log on to

Doctors at The Cleveland Clinic, a not-for-profit academic medical center ranked as one of the nation’s best hospitals, will take part in the chat, too. Eszterhas was successfully treated at The Cleveland Clinic for his throat cancer, which is now in remission. “Joe Eszterhas’s story is truly a medical miracle, a Hollywood ending,” said Dr. Marshall Strome, chairman of The Cleveland Clinic’s Department
Otolaryngology and Communicative Disorders. “He woke up and changed his life, and he’s committed to changing yours, too. I have the utmost respect for him.”

In January, Eszterhas will host a weekly one-hour anti-smoking program to be called “Join Joe” on WebMD, one of the most frequented websites in the world. “Quitting smoking,” Eszterhas said, “was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I started smoking when I was 12 years old and was a four-pack-a-day smoker at the end. I was obviously terribly addicted. I know that if I could stop, others can. I have the greatest compassion in the world for smokers — and the greatest loathing in the world for tobacco companies and their allies.” “As soon as you quit smoking, your circulation improves and carbon monoxide levels in your blood start declining,” said Carmona. “Your pulse rate and blood pressure, which are abnormally high while smoking, immediately start returning to normal. One year after quitting, your risk of heart disease is cut in half, and over the next several years it continues to decrease. It’s never to late to quit.”

In a New York Times op-ed last year, Eszterhas wrote, “A cigarette in the hands of a Hollywood star on screen is a gun aimed at a 12 or 14 year old. The gun will go off when that kid is an adult. We in Hollywood know the gun will go off, yet we hide behind a smoke screen of phrases like ‘creative freedom’ and ‘artistic expression.’ Those lofty words are lies.

Click here to listen

October, 2003|Archive|

‘Yogi’: A chance to catch Ben Gazzara

  • 10/7/2003
  • New York
  • Robert Dominguez
  • New York Daily News

Playing Berra Off-B’way: Ben Gazzara Fifty years after dazzling Broadway audiences with a series of intense leading roles – he played Brick in the original production of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in 1955 – Ben Gazzara is coming back to the stage this month.

It’s like dèjá vu all over again in more ways than one – he’s playing New York Yankees great Yogi Berra in a one-man show, “Nobody Don’t Like Yogi.”

Gazzara, four years removed from a bout with oral cancer, won his first Emmy last month for a supporting role in the HBO film “Hysterical Blindness.” After years of toiling in obscure foreign films and TV movies, the award capped a period of steady work as a character actor in which he was “rediscovered” by independent-film directors – including David Mamet, Vincent Gallo, Todd Solondz, Spike Lee and the Coen brothers – who were familiar with Gazzara’s collaborations with indie icon John Cassavetes in the 1970s.

“Yogi” is set on opening day at Yankee Stadium in 1999, when Berra ended his self-imposed exile following his dismissal as manager by team owner George Steinbrenner. “It’s a personal portrait of Berra that’s funny, but it’s also very touching,” says Gazzara. “It doesn’t depend on ‘Yogi-isms’ like ‘It ain’t over ’til it’s over’ or that kind of nonsense to fill an evening.”

Berra does not plan to see the show, a spokesman tells The News. Gazzara, who was a rabid Yankee fan while growing up on the lower East Side, says he understands Berra’s decision. “It shows the honorable quality of the man,” says Gazzara. “I think having made peace with Steinbrenner, he just doesn’t want to revisit it, and that speaks to what kind of a class act he is.”

“Yogi,” which had brief runs early this year in Sag Harbor and Syracuse, begins performances on Oct. 21 at OffBroadway’s Lamb’s Theatre.

While Gazzara says portraying such a beloved figure is a challenge, the real hurdle will be just getting through the hour-and-a-half performance every night. Radiation treatments for his cancer “cooked my saliva glands,” he says. “The lack of saliva makes me dry up. And I can’t drink water – it remains in my mouth because I can’t swallow fast enough. That’s another part of the damage that was done.” But the play’s trial runs proved to Gazzara that he was up to the task: “The theater is where I came in, and I feel very comfortable doing this.”

October, 2003|Archive|

Why smokers are a dying breed

  • 10/5/2003
  • New Zeland
  • New Zeland Herald

Cigarette packs will soon carry graphic horror stories but, asks CATHERINE MASTERS, will smokers take any notice?

Every smoker knows what to do when confronted with the hard evidence of why they should not. Justify – might get run over tomorrow, got to die one day. Defend – it’s my choice. Turn the pack over. Put the lighter on top of the warning. They have all seen the warnings on the packs and managed to ignore them. But soon the warnings are going to get bigger and nastier.

The Smoke-free Environments Amendment Bill, likely to be passed before Christmas, does not stop with banning smoking in bars and clubs. It includes other measures to get rid of the cigarette. No longer will you be able to light up while you watch your child play sport within the school grounds, for instance.

Then there are the warnings, likely to take up half the pack and be much more graphic: images of rotting lungs and hearts, brains with blood clots, infected teeth – unavoidable, graphic and nasty. But will they make a blind bit of difference to smokers already immune to warnings of impending doom? Walk into any pub and ask. So, John May, a burly Scottish cop working in Auckland, drinking a beer and smoking Marlboro Lights in a pub in central Auckland, what do you think when you see the warning already on your pack? May, 41, from Torbay, glances at the pack, which says smoking is addictive. The warnings have no impact whatsoever, he says. But he concedes he does notice them. “It’s a dreadful addiction. I keep trying to stop it but I’ve never really managed it.”

Shown the images of lungs, a heart and a blood clot on the brain – graphic warnings used in Canada, probably similar to those destined for New Zealand packets – he says: “That’s not nice … ugh … ooh … nah. “It’s a good idea ’cause some people will stop. I might stop, I don’t know. I would love to … ” He says he will probably stop when there is a little less stress in his life. He looks guilty. He knows that is just an excuse. He will probably go on until he gets “a little scare”. Maybe breathlessness. “No, no, I don’t want to get to that point. That would definitely make me stop.” When asked if he knows he is inhaling poisons including arsenic, cyanide, carbon monoxide and the carcinogenic gas 1,3 butadienne, he recoils. Briefly.

Almost everyone you talk to, including many smokers, agrees the bill to ban smoking from bars and clubs and increase the size of warnings is a great step forward that will save lives. But the bill does not deal with the cigarette itself, the bewildering array of additives put in by the tobacco companies, and the deadly gases ignited when the cigarette is lit.

Tobacco companies disclose what the ingredients of a cigarette are – but this is only a range of what might be in any particular brand, although British American Tobacco New Zealand lists ingredients and quantities brand by brand on its website. The list is long, from cinnamon bark oil for binding to potassium sorbate as a preservative and ethyl acetate as flavouring. But nowhere in the world are companies forced to reveal exactly what is in there, in what quantities and what the ingredients do to the body. If cigarettes were a food they would not pass the cancer test and would not be put on the market. But they are still sold at every dairy.

Cigarettes are estimated to contain around 4000 chemicals. There are some key nasties. The tobacco plant is rich in nicotine, probably as a defence against insects. Nicotine is used as an insecticide. It harms cardiovascular and endocrine systems. It also triggers addiction, although researchers now think something else in the cigarette or smoke may increase the addictiveness. Tar is the particulate matter in cigarette smoke, the black gooey stuff that is deposited and retained in the lungs. It contains chemicals that are considered carcinogenic. Carbon monoxide ties up haemoglobin in the blood and reduces the amount of oxygen blood can carry. It stays for several days until the red blood cell is renewed, but in the meantime smokers are continuing to smoke, so they always have a percentage of their blood cells and haemoglobin which are essentially useless. Hydrogen cyanide is a product of combustion and is a potent inhibitor of critical biochemical pathways in the body at very low concentrations. It is very toxic and long term can cause cardiovascular toxicity. Acetaldehyde is another product of combustion and a suspected carcinogen. One thing that forms it is burned sugars – and sugar and sweeteners are added to cigarettes. 1,3 butadienne is yet another product of combustion and yet another carcinogen. Its concentration in cigarette smoke is said to make it the leading carcinogen.

There are a lot more – the likes of acrolein, acrylonitrile, ammonia, benzene, cadmium. ESR scientist Jeff Fowles has tested cigarettes and written reports. He describes how cigarette smoke irritates the mucous membranes of nasal and airway passages and the eyes, that this irritation is a natural warning sign by the body of ongoing harmful exposure. “A number of additives in cigarettes appear to serve the purpose of temporarily lessening this sensation of irritation, essentially removing a natural barrier for avoidance of cigarette smoke.” In another report, he says little is known of the combustion chemistry of most compounds and substances added to tobacco. “If you look at the ingredients list the companies submit they have all sorts of harmless-sounding things like chocolate and fruit juices. It all sounds very wholesome and yummy. But of course no one ever inhales the fumes of a burning chocolate bar, so it’s hard to know.”

When a smoker lights up, the impact on the body is instant – on them and non-smokers. The smoke reaches the eyes, irritating. It floats up into the nose, the sinuses. It is inhaled down the throat, deep into the lungs and the gooey tar deposited. Tom Marshall, of Doctors for a Smokefree New Zealand, says: “The moment you start puffing it’s going in and doing damage. That’s why these unusual or uncommon carcinomas, cancers of the mouth and the tongue and the nose, tend to occur predominantly in smokers.” On entering a smoky room or lighting up, within minutes carbon monoxide in the smoke slightly decreases the oxygen supply to the heart. Over 20 minutes, the platelets in the blood become sticky, predisposing to clots and increasing the risk of a heart attack by a third. After 30 minutes the heart’s arteries’ capacity to open up under stress to supply oxygen to the heart is reduced by a fifth. Repeated exposure to smoke damages and ages the arteries, leading to thickening, stiffening and narrowing of the artery.

Dr Murray Laugesen, of the anti-smoking lobby group Ash – in the gun from Rodney Hide for being paid by the Ministry of Health to lobby MPs – says tobacco companies should make cigarettes less dangerous, although there is no such thing as a safe cigarette. How can the tobacco executives sleep at night? “The real answer to that is they get well paid to forget about it,” says Laugesen. “But it’s the right question to ask.” Tobacco companies contacted did not want to comment, although British American Tobacco directed the Weekend Herald to its website. This contains details about what is in cigarettes brand by brand and also health information. It lists lung cancer as one of the main health issue”The statistical evidence indicates that the lung cancer risks associated with smoking are real and serious.”

But in Britain, Imperial Tobacco, which is being sued by a woman whose husband died of lung cancer, is refuting decades of scientific proof of a link between smoking and lung cancer, says the Observer newspaper. Trish Fraser, the New Zealand director of Ash, says the bill is a real coup – but once passed the lobbying begins for the next step. “The product needs to be phased out,” she says. “It will happen … How can they sell a product that kills every second person who uses it over a long period of time?”It all makes no difference to Kevin Hewson, a 44-year-old chef from Ponsonby, sitting at another bar in Auckland. He has some Brazilian cigarettes which already have big graphic warnings.

“I must admit I was quite affected. It made me look at it and go, ‘Ooh, that’s a bit harsh’. I still lit up another cigarette. “It is about choice. And the Government gets tax income of about $900 million a year from cigarettes. “As much as the Government says, ‘Oh, but you cost us all this money for your health’, well, so what if I do end up at 65 being in hospital having a lung removed or a leg amputated? I’ve paid for it in one way or another. I don’t need Big Brother saying to me I’m not allowed to sit down and have a cigarette.” But yes, he would like tobacco companies regulated and cigarettes made safer. That would definitely be the way to go.

October, 2003|Archive|

MIT to develop non-invasive cancer detection tools

  • 10/4/2003
  • Boston
  • MIT

The George R. Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory in the School of Science at MIT has been awarded a Bioengineering Research Partnership grant to develop and implement spectroscopic techniques for imaging and diagnosing dysplasia -the precursor to cancer – in the uterine cervix and the oral cavity.
Cervical and oral cancer account for approximately 11,000 deaths in the United States each year. Detection of the precancerous state of human tissue is crucial for ease of treatment and greatly improved survival, but it is often invisible and difficult to diagnose. The new techniques are said to provide a method for visualisation and accurate diagnosis based on spectroscopic detection and imaging.

Clinical screening for cervical and oral precancer are multibillion-dollar industries which currently rely on visual detection of suspicious areas followed by invasive biopsy and microscopic examination. Given that visually identified suspicious areas do not always correspond to clinically significant lesions; spectroscopic imaging and diagnosis could prevent unnecessary invasive biopsies and potential delays in diagnosis.
Michael S. Feld, professor of physics and director of the Spectroscopy Lab, says the laboratory has developed a portable instrument that delivers weak pulses of laser light and ordinary white light from a thin optical fibre probe onto the patient’s tissue through an endoscope. This device analyses tissue over a region around 1 millimetre in diameter and has shown promising results in clinical studies. It accurately identified invisible precancerous changes in the colon, bladder and oesophagus, as well as the cervix and oral cavity.

The second device, which has not yet been tested on patients, can image precancerous features over areas of tissue up to a few centimetres in diameter. Feld predicted that in a couple of years, these devices will lead to a new class of endoscopes and other diagnostic instruments that will allow physicians to obtain high-resolution images. These easy-to-read images will map out normal, precancerous and cancerous tissue the way a contour map highlights elevations in different colours. The optical fibre probe instrument employs a method called trimodal spectroscopy, in which three diagnostic techniques – light-scattering spectroscopy (LSS), diffuse reflectance spectroscopy (DRS) and intrinsic fluorescence spectroscopy (IFS) – are combined.

IFS provides chemical information about the tissue, LSS provides information about the cell nuclei near the tissue surface and DRS provides structural information about the underlying tissue. The information provided by the three techniques is complementary and leads to a combined diagnosis, though the imaging technique is based on LSS alone.
The LSS optical technique has long been used to study the size and shape of small spheres such as water droplets. For cancer detection, the method is applied to the cell’s spheroid nucleus. Physics theory predicts that scattered light undergoes small but significant colour variations when bouncing back from spheres of a certain size and refractive index. Light is delivered through the probe onto the patient’s tissue. The probe collects the light that bounces back and analyses its colours. The colour content is then used to extract diagnostic information.

‘By analysing the intensity variations in this back-scattered component from colour to colour, the nuclear size and density can be mapped,’ Feld said. Closely packed cells with larger-than-normal nuclei packed tightly with genetic material are markers of precancerous change.
‘The images created with this new technique are different from ordinary microscopic images in that they provide hard and fast information about cellular features,’ he said. ‘We believe this is an important step that will lead to new optical tools for both [making] early cancer diagnoses and developing a better understanding of how changes in the genetic material inside the cell’s nucleus make the tissue more vulnerable to cancer.’

October, 2003|Archive|

AAO-HNSF: Sentinel Node Biopsy Feasible For Head-and-Neck Cancer Surgery

  • 10/3/2003
  • Florida
  • Ed Susman
  • American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation

Identifying and locating the sentinel node in head–and-neck cancer surgery is feasible, and the results of careful dissection of the nodes appears to correlate with full neck dissection, researchers said here September 21st at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.

In describing findings from a recent study, lead author Peter Zbaeren, MD, department of otorhinolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Bern–Inselspital, Switzerland, said, “Accurate localisation of the sentinel nodes was possible in all cases by using lymphoscintigraphy and by use of a gamma probe.”

Dr. Zbaeren and colleagues found 82 sentinel nodes in 36 patients — about 2.2 nodes per patient. Using a radionuclide-labeled colloid, preoperative lymphoscintigraphy and intraoperative sentinel lymph-node identification by a gamma probe, doctors located the sentinel lymph node, excised the node or nodes and performed frozen section analysis.

The study sought to assess the accuracy of sentinel lymph node identification in patients with a Stage NO neck in squamous-cell carcinoma of the oral cavity and oropharynx.

Dr. Zbaeren said the pathology analysis located one occult cancer in a sentinel lymph node. To correlate these findings, the surgeons carried out a complete neck dissection in the patients, removing an average of 36 nodes from each patient. In the 1,295 nodes analysed, just one positive node was found.

Dr. Zbaeren said the sensitivity of sentinel lymph-node biopsy in the series was 93%, and the negative predictive value was 94%. Complete dissection resulted in 100% sensitivity and negative predictive value, he added.

The researchers said the results suggested that the sentinel-node procedure could be used to reduce the need for more extensive biopsy procedures. “The study shows that sentinel lymph-node biopsy in head and neck surgery is feasible and accurate,” Dr. Zbaeren concluded.

[Study title: Value Of Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy For Oral And Oropharynx Carcinoma.]

October, 2003|Archive|