Monthly Archives: May 2004

GSK: cervical cancer vaccine on the horizon

  • 5/26/2004
  • Datamonitor Services

GSK is awaiting the outcome of a Phase III trial to evaluate an anti-cervical cancer vaccine.

GlaxoSmithKline’s [GSK.L] four-year clinical trial of an HPV vaccine could have a significant affect on cervical cancer treatment, as HPV is a known contributory factor to the disease. However, GSK will need to consider how this product should be positioned, especially with regard to use in pediatrics, so as to maximize revenues.

GSK’s global Phase III PATRICIA HPV vaccine trial will involve 90 sites and approximately 13,000 young women aged 15-25 worldwide, lasting for approximately four years. HPV is associated with cervical cancer, the second most common cause of cancer in women worldwide, and the leading cause in the developing world. Furthermore, cervical cancer develops early in life, with a median age of 38 years. Although there are more than 100 different types of HPV, approximately 70% of all cervical cancers are associated with just two types, namely HPV 16 and HPV 18. It is against these oncogenic strains that the HPV vaccine is intended to confer protection.

GSK’s main challenge will be identifying the optimal target population. Judging by the proposed trial, it can be inferred that GSK anticipates its target population to be young women, from mid-teens to early twenties. This means that the HPV vaccine will not be included on the US pediatric immunization schedule, which is the most commercially attractive sector for vaccine manufacturers due to its large patient population and high compliance rates. Consequently, GSK will need to advertise the medical need for HPV vaccination to drive uptake in this patient group, a significant task considering that a recent survey revealed that only 30% of women in the UK have heard of HPV, let alone a link with cancer. Furthermore, targeting this age group may result in vaccination after individuals have become sexually active.

GSK may consider instigating trials in children to gain access to the pediatric market. However, GSK will need to address whether cervical cancer poses so great a medical problem as to warrant approval in this age group. Furthermore, inclusion of a vaccine against a sexually transmitted disease will face opposition from groups claiming such actions promote promiscuity. Nevertheless, depending on the outcome of the PATRICIA trial, the HPV vaccine should be commercially successful, but adopting an appropriate marketing strategy will determine the extent of its success.

May, 2004|Archive|

Sex Can Transmit Virus That Causes Cancer

  • 5/21/2004
  • Houston, Texas

Studies Link Oral Sex To Cancer

AIDS has been known for a long time as a sexually transmitted virus. Now, doctors are warning about a new virus that causes cancer and is spread through sexual contact, News2Houston reported Thursday. It’s called human papillomavirus, also known as HPV. Out of the hundreds of different strains of human papillomavirus, doctors said No. 16 causes cervical cancer. Approximately 20 percent of people have a type of HPV at any one time, according to statistics. That means two of every 10 people are active carriers. “The human papillomavirus is very common today because of sexual practices,” said Dr. Randal Weber, a head and neck surgeon at M.D. Anderson Hospital. “It is human-to-human contact and exchange of bodily fluids — that’s the way this is transmitted.”

Now doctors like Erich Sturgis at M.D. Anderson Hospital said it is also the culprit in another cancer. “The virus that is likely associated with head and neck cancer is the same virus associated with cervical cancer in women,” Sturgis said. “Is this theory that you are speaking of or is it accepted in the medical community?” asked News2Houston’s Krista Moreno. “I think it is accepted in the field of individuals who work in head and neck cancers, and I think it is also accepted in the field of individuals who work in human papillomavirus. But it is just not common knowledge among most physicians,” said Dr. Maura Gillison, with Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Gillison conducted a groundbreaking study that linked HPV 16 to cancers found in the back of the tongue and throat. “The first important thing to do when you’re concerned about the virus being associated with cancer is to prove in very detailed ways the virus is there,” Gillison said. Gillison did, and now other studies are finding the same thing.

“It must be in the mucus and it is transmitted to the throat,” Sturgis said. Consider the statistics. Three percent of the U.S. population gets oral cancers. Most are in their late 50s and 60s. Most are also smokers or drinkers. That is not always true of HPV cancer patients. They tend to be younger and not all of them smoke or drink. Researchers are still collecting data to determine how many cases of oral cancer can be linked to HPV No. 16. “Those patients have a higher reported rate of sexual exposure, unprotected sex, oral genital sex. All the things that go for risk of sexually transmitted disease — that is probably the strongest evidence for this,” Sturgis said. “We found that having HPV in your oral cavity was related to your behavior. Things like lifetime sexual partners and having oral sexual partners an individual had was what put them at risk,” Gillison said. “I think the general public would be surprised to learn that you can indeed catch cancer from sexual activity. How do you explain that to people who may be surprised to learn that?” Marino asked Gillison. “A lot of people aren’t aware that increasing your number of sexual partners puts you at risk. But the fact of the matter is the majority of people infected by human papillomavirus do clear up (and don’t transmit it to others), so the big question now in human papillomavirus research is, ‘How do you identify the people who are at risk for not clearing the virus infection, and who are at risk for developing cancer because of that?'” Gillison said.

Brian Hill, the founder of the Oral Cancer Foundation, and a man who neither drinks nor smokes, said he did not know how he got oral cancer. “Oral cancer took me by surprise,” Hill said. He said these studies might offer the answer. “Public awareness of this issue is the next step now that the link has been identified. That needs to be combined with an increased diligence about screening of patients by dentists and primary care physicians, particularly those patients that they may have omitted from their opportunistic screening efforts because they were not tobacco users.”

“The protection afforded by a condom isn’t sufficient,” Gillison said. Gillison and Sturgis said the best protection is to be aware. “Especially women being aware if they have a history of abnormal Pap smears for a period of time, you know, their sexual partner should be aware of that. Possibly, this may be a risk factor — oral contact, oral genital contact may be a risk factor for these people to get throat cancer,” Sturgis said.

There is no cure for HPV, but there are HPV vaccines in the works. Doctors said the largest source of HPV 16 is found in a woman’s cervix, but it is passed back and forth between men and women. Research also showed those with HPV 16 cancers tend to have a better survival rate than other cancers.

May, 2004|Archive|

A Nine-Hole Match with the Devil Two-time major winner Hubert Green takes on cancer with the same resolve he shows on the golf course

  • 5/11/2004
  • Dave Kindred
  • Golf Digest

Hubert Green said, “That pine tree, the tall one, all the way to the left.” He looked at the tree through a range finder. “It’s 144, 145 yards.”

It was one of those bright winter days in Florida when the sun is betrayed by a chilling wind off the Gulf of Mexico. The breeze came past that pine tree, came against Green’s face. Because he’s diabetic, his hands and feet quickly get cold. He was uncomfortable. He wore shimmering blue slacks, a blue sweater over a blue long-sleeved shirt, and the wide-brimmed leather hat that is his trademark. He’d driven his golf cart onto the back practice tee at Hombre Golf Club, his home course in Panama City Beach. In a red plastic crate, he’d brought along a couple hundred Callaway reds, each ball marked with an inked circle and inside the circle the initials “HG.”

He hit five, six balls with a 9-iron. Earlier, he’d said he felt weak. Instead of the club hitting the ball, it was like the ball hit the club. A 9-iron might go 110 yards, a measure of strength so dispiriting that he said, “Right now I couldn’t play on the LPGA Tour.” On the practice tee, he moved to a 5-iron. A little draw, pretty enough. Nine, 10 swings. The balls fell 10, 15 yards short of that left pine tree.
He turned and said to the only other player on the range, “Whatcha hitting?” “Five-iron,” said Allen Doyle, another Champions Tour star, and Green rolled him a ball, asking him to hit it at that last pine tree, the one 144, 145 yards away. Doyle’s 5-iron flew over the pine. Green watched, said nothing.

Someone remarked on the wind coming at the players. These next words Green said through tight lips: “Freakin’ hurricane. I can hit a 5-iron 145 yards.”

What we know to be true is not always what we want to know. Hubert Green knows it to be true that so soon after his cancer he cannot be the Hubert Green who was one of the great players of his generation.

He knows it. Says it out loud. Still, he wants it. He’s a hard case, little different at age 57 than 27, ornery, funny, proud. Green’s longtime friend and contemporary, Billy Kratzert, says, “Hubert just expects so much of himself, and he goes at everything head-on. Only problem is, he wants it yesterday. He’s the king of wanting it yesterday.”

Now, on the range, he wants it to be yesterday. He wants to be able to scream a 5-iron 185 yards into the freakin’ teeth of a hurricane.
But it’s not happening. “Got nothing from here,” he said, bringing the 5-iron halfway down, “to here,” moving it to impact. He hit maybe 25 balls, then packed up his stuff. “Not very impressive, eh?”

Four months earlier, Hubert Green was all but dead. Any dead man in August who draws 5-irons into a December breeze is impressive.

It began at his dentist’s. At a regular cleaning in April, Dr. Stephen Myers saw a swollen, abnormal area on the back left of Green’s tongue. On May 26, doctors told Green he had cancer. He remembers nothing else of what the doctors said, nothing that made sense. He heard words, words all around him, pieces of ice on the air, floating, brittle. At the back of his neck, there by the hairline, fear arrived. Doctors said the cancer was at Stage 4, the killing stage. It was on the back of his tongue and a tonsil. They talked about treatments. None of the information made it through the fear shaping itself to the man with the cancer. He knew cancer.

Green’s father was 75 when he died in 1975 of cancer that began on his stomach. The son remembered Dr. Albert Huey Green’s customs of each April at the Masters. “He’d walk down 1, down the right side on 2, and stop by a tree on that hill to watch us play out and hit tee shots on the third,” Green said. He sat at home. Sunlight danced on the gulf waters. Tears filled his eyes. “After he passed away, I found myself turning on 2 and looking back. He wasn’t there.”

Treatment for Green’s cancer wouldn’t start until July 2. So he did what he has always done. Played golf. “What else am I going to do, feel sorry for myself, ‘Oh, woe is me’? I’d have gone crazy sitting at home.”

A Billy Kratzert story: “The week after he found out he had cancer, Hubert’s playing a skins game before the Senior PGA with me, Fuzzy Zoeller and John Calabria. Hubert, of course, is in every fairway. And on the first four holes I’m in rough you can’t get out of. Well, he is all over me. So I say, ‘Hubert, why’re you riding me so hard?’

“He says, ‘Man, I’m dying of cancer, this might be the last time I ever get to give you a bunch of [grief].’ I say, ‘Here I am, feeling a little compassion for you, and you’re still that Doberman you always were.’ It was wonderful.” Green shot 77, 75, missed that cut. Two weeks later: 66, 67, 71 for his best finish of the season, a fourth in the Farmers Charity Classic. Then, 30th in the U.S. Senior Open where, on June 29, he played his last round of 2003. By August, done with chemotherapy and radiation, he considered playing a Champions event the next week.

He reported it himself in a way that calls for elaboration. He’d set up a website,, to keep friends and fans informed. It was priceless stuff, amazing, inspiring, an accounting of prayers and fears, laughs and tears, alive with the essence of Hubert Green. He began:

“I speak in a Southern type language. My spell-check on this great IBM has no chance. Sometimes I might put a capital ‘S’ to emphasize sarcasm. ‘R’ will stand for Redneck-ese. (S) I will try to include some highly intelligent digs at y’all from time to time.” His wife, Michelle, becomes a lifesaving version of Nurse Ratched. His treatment is “a nine-hole match with the devil.” God is spoken of, and often, as Mr. Big, sometimes in capital letters. “The devil has no chance, thanks to y’all and MR. BIG.”

During six weeks of radiation, Green wore a white mask molded to his facial features. The idea was to hold his head still so radiation zapped only the targeted area. “If you think it’d be hard to lay still for 15, 20 minutes,” he says, “let me tell you, you can lay real still when your life depends on it.”
He sometimes carried a prop to his four-hour chemotherapy sessions: “They had these nine chairs, lined up like a barber shop, and everybody in them is dying. It’s not a happy place, everybody in pain. But I thought, ‘It’s where we are in life. Let’s lighten up.’ ”

So chemo nurse Debbie Balmer laughed when she saw Green carry in a stuffed-toy horse, Renegade, representing the mascot of his alma mater, Florida State University. “It played the Seminole fight song,” Balmer said. “Well, we’re all Gators here [at the University of Florida Health Science Center]. I went to the gift shop and bought a Gator that played our fight song louder than his. We had a fight-song war going on in chemo.” A minute of laughter, dozens of “puke days” in “Pukeville.” Green reported, “Chemo does not favor this redneck. Matter of fact, it is worse than missing a three-footer on 18 at Augusta.”

During radiation treatment, Green wore a white mask molded to his facial features to help hold his head still.

When Green missed that putt 26 years ago, three years after his father’s death, he needed it to get into a playoff with Gary Player. At the time, Green was near greatness. The previous summer he had won the U.S. Open. In 1985 he won the PGA Championship. From 1971 to 1985 he won 19 PGA Tour events. Give him that Masters and move him up from third in the 1977 British Open, he’d be with Nicklaus, Hogan, Sarazen, Player and Woods as the only six men with a career Grand Slam.

Anyway, by August, reported that its journalist might play the next week. Instead, crisis.

It was Aug. 9. At home, he suddenly felt so bad he asked his wife to take him back to the hospital. Severe dehydration, low white blood-cell count, pain. He couldn’t swallow. A feeding tube was inserted.

Then it got worse. “On the 11th,” he says, “I came close to cashing in my chips.” Disoriented, he vomited a pool of dark reddish fluid. He thought he’d seen such an eerie pool somewhere else. Three days later, he remembered where.
“My father, I was with him, vomited the same-color stuff,” Green says. “And one of the nurses came in and said, ‘Ooh.’ My mother asked, ‘What was that?’ The nurse said, ‘That’s dead man’s bile.’ “The next morning, he passed away. Thank God, when I vomited, I was on enough pain medication I couldn’t realize what I was seeing. That might have put me over the hill.”

Green went home to stay on Aug. 22, and two weeks later his journal’s headline read, “MATCH OVER — VICTORY GREEN TEAM.” He’d had another CAT scan. It showed: “The big C is no more.”

For months the basic acts of eating and talking continued to be difficult and often painful. His health remained at risk; radiation and chemotherapy destroy good cells with bad, leaving a patient with a diminished immune system. Doctors have told him that if the cancer returns, the chances are 90 percent it will do so within two years.

On that winter day when he left the practice range unimpressed, Hubert Green sat on the balcony behind the Hombre clubhouse. His weight had risen from 143 to 165, not yet his normal 180. He was tired, maybe sad, frustrated. He wanted to be golf’s Hubert Green, not cancer’s Hubert Green. And he wanted it yesterday. Talk got around to the three-footer at Augusta and the truth that being alive is a better thing than any putt. He laughed and said this next quickly, happily: “If I beat this, there’ll be more putts to make.”

May, 2004|Archive|

Broken Lives Rebuilt

  • 5/11/2004
  • Hartford Courant

Cancer patients often leap two gigantic hurdles in the race against disease. First comes treatment to stay alive. Next is life after treatment. And for patients such as Sandra Smith, who lost most of her jaw and the floor of her mouth to oral cancer, living now includes smiling, speaking clearly and chewing tender meat with replacement parts that move and function almost as well as the originals.

Smith and about 6 million other people nationwide are beneficiaries of advances in reconstructive surgery that some doctors say they could not have imagined 10 years ago.

The ability to create Smith’s new, living jawbone; to rebuild breasts without destroying abdominal muscles; and to restore function to limbs or fingers damaged by accident hinges on the relatively newfound ability of doctors to stitch together veins and arteries whose diameters are about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen. “Reconstructive surgery has never been more exciting,” said Dr. Allen Van Beek, a Minnesota plastic and reconstructive surgeon and president of the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation, an arm of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “It goes well beyond what would have been possible without the advent of microsurgery.”

Most people have heard the term microsurgery when a person loses a finger in an accident and the severed digit is placed in an ice-filled baggie and rushed to the hospital along with the patient. A surgeon in Boston started experimenting with replacing and restoring function to severed fingers in the 1950s. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that researchers began to perfect the optics and the tools that allow doctors to see and stitch together thread-thin vessels. Doctors also increased their understanding of how tissue lives and receives blood. Material developed to suture the vessels is now one-half the diameter of a strand of human hair, said Dr. Rajiv Chandawarkar, a plastic surgeon at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.

Someday, Van Beek said, the technology could allow doctors to transplant hands or arms the same way they might transplant a donated kidney today. A researcher in Canada is experimenting with replacing the entire faces of people disfigured by burns, other mishaps or birth defects, he said.

Sandra Smith was first diagnosed with jaw cancer 20 years ago, at the age of 27. Then, surgeons replaced her diseased jaw with a titanium plate and dead bone grafted from her hip. The cosmetic replacement looked good, but Smith could not use the rebuilt part of her mouth. And she lost feeling in her tongue.

All of that, she says, was a small price to pay for a healthy, happy life that she filled easily tending bar, raising three children, giving birth to a fourth, who is now 8 years old, and becoming a nurse’s aide at a rehabilitation center near her home in Brooklyn, Conn.

Last December, she discovered that the cancer had recurred at the edges of the titanium plate. This time, Smith was ready for a fight. She was not prepared to come away from the ordeal with a jaw that felt and worked almost as well as the healthy one she was born with. When she went to see her surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Spiro, at the University of Connecticut Health Center, she was offered a consultation with Chandawarkar, who moved to Connecticut just a few months earlier from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston.

Chandawarkar trained in India, where head and neck cancer is common because of the widespread use of chewing tobacco and various chewing roots there. He said he believes every patient facing cancer surgery deserves to see a plastic surgeon before any tumor is removed. “The surgical oncology guy is going to take a portion of [their tissue] away, the radiologist is going to burn them, the medical oncologist is going to poison them. Shouldn’t they see a guy who’s going to put them back together?” Chandawarkar asked.

Before they could rebuild Sandra Smith, Spiro and Chandawarkar removed her old jaw from her chin to her cheek. They also took out the floor of her mouth and the lymph nodes in her neck. The doctors then moved down to her leg, where they isolated the fibula, the slender bone between the knee and the ankle. They did not disturb the more important of the shinbones, the tibia. They made sure to take the arteries and veins that supplied the fibula and surrounding skin. Before severing the blood vessels from the leg, the doctors cut the bone into small pieces. The pieces were cut at angles and attached to a titanium mold of Smith’s jaw. Chandawarkar likened the process to using a miter saw to form perfect corners when installing crown molding in a home. Next, they cut the vein and artery from the leg and moved the replacement jaw to where it belonged, carefully reattaching the vessels to those that supply blood to Smith’s face.

“All you need is an artery and vein that will feed the tissue,” Chandawarker said. “It’s like unplugging a lamp with the cord and a socket.”

Using the same approach, doctors can rebuild breasts disfigured by mastectomy by removing skin and fat from the belly, but leaving behind all but a small amount of muscle that surrounds one blood vessel needed to supply the new breast.

At M.D. Anderson, doctors are experimenting with using a similar approach to borrow a small, minimally important nerve from the foot to replace the nerve near the prostate that is responsible for causing erections in men. The nerve is commonly damaged during surgery for prostate cancer, causing impotence. Chandawarkar said the early results are promising.

Smith said she is happy when she looks in the mirror and even more amazed by the renewed sensation in her rebuilt jaw. “It’s different,” she said, “it’s living bone and tissue.” The operation, she said, has renewed her faith and her certainty that cancer is a disease to live with, not to die from.

“I really think people should know you can get through it,”

May, 2004|Archive|

Study Finds More Evidence Cigars Not a Safe Smoke

  • 5/10/2004
  • Reuters Health

Puffing on one cigar may be enough to harden the body’s main artery for hours afterward, a small study shows. Researchers say the findings add to evidence that, far from being a “safe” alternative to cigarettes, cigars increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study of 12 healthy men who smoked cigarettes and cigars found that shortly after smoking a cigar, the men showed evidence of greater stiffness in the aorta, the main artery carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The degree of stiffness in large arteries is key in how well the heart’s main pumping chamber can work and blood can flow. The new findings provide the first evidence that cigar smoking immediately increases stiffness in large arteries, according to the study authors, led by Dr. Charalambos Vlachopoulos of Athens Medical School in Greece. They report the findings in the American Journal of Hypertension.

Tobacco use in its various forms has long been known to carry serious health risks. Yet there’s been a popular perception that cigars, which enjoyed a surge in popularity starting in the 1990s, offer a safer way to smoke. But research shows that cigar smoking does boost the risk of heart disease, stroke and several types of cancer, including lung and oral cancers.

In the new study, the researchers used a measure called pulse wave velocity to gauge aortic stiffness in 12 young, male smokers for two hours after they smoked a cigar, and after they puffed on an unlit cigar. The men’s aortic stiffness increased “promptly” after they smoked the cigar and stayed elevated for the two-hour study period, according to Vlachopoulos and his colleagues.

It’s unclear what these immediate effects mean for the long term, the researchers point out. But, they add, hours of daily arterial hardening over time would “logically” put a burden on heart and artery function. This study, they conclude, “provides further evidence that cigar smoking increases cardiovascular risk, and fights the promoted perception that cigars are innocuous alternatives to cigarettes.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Hypertension, April 2004.

May, 2004|Archive|

Players battle to quit the spit

  • 5/2/2004
  • Arizona
  • Odeen Domingo
  • The Arizona Republic

He’s seen it. The hurt it could create. The damage it could cause.

Spit tobacco facts

Nicotine: a poisonous and highly addictive drug.
Carcinogens: cancer-causing agents.
Abrasives: wear down teeth and allow nicotine and other chemicals to get directly into blood system.

Mouth cancer: cancer of cheeks, gums, lips and tongue.
Throat cancer: cancer of the voice box and esophagus.
Heart disease: heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure.
Dental diseases: stained teeth, tooth decay, receding gums and gum disease. Stomach problems: ulcers, increased bowel activity and stomach cancer.

Source: Saskatchewan Health and National Cancer Institute

Diamondbacks center fielder Steve Finley has seen it almost destroy his good friend Pete Harnisch. “It” is spit tobacco. It’s also commonly known as smokeless tobacco, chewing tobacco or dip. Whatever it’s called, it almost ended Harnisch’s career. Harnisch, a one-time All-Star pitcher who last pitched in the major leagues in 2001, was diagnosed with clinical depression in 1997 at the time when he was trying to quit a 13-year-old habit he knew was dangerous. So when Finley was asked recently to do commercials sponsored by the National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP), which is headed by Hall of Fame baseball announcer Joe Garagiola Sr., he didn’t hesitate. “(Garagiola) asked me if I’d be a part of (the anti-spit tobacco campaign) and help the organization,” said Finley, 39, a non-user. “It’s a bad habit . . . it caused a big brush in him (Harnisch). He tried to quit and in a year, quit cold turkey. It’s very addicting and cancer-causing in your mouth. It’s not very hard to get behind a cause like that.” Baseball banned spit tobacco for all minor league teams in 1994, but that’s not helping much.

“I think (the minor league ban) doesn’t work,” Diamondbacks head trainer Paul Lessard said. “I’ve seen it in spring training. The minor league guys that we had, those guys were excited that they got to use it. “Players use spit tobacco even though team trainers dispense information and have individual talks about the dangers of dipping. “There’s been a lot of awareness about it,” Lessard said. “But in those group settings, it’s almost like guys blow it off a little bit more.” The most recent survey by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) and the Oregon Research Institute done in 2001 showed that 30.5 percent of major leaguers use spit tobacco. Lessard and Anaheim Angels head trainer Ned Bergert said the percentage of players who use it today is about the same.

The 30.5 percent figure is a reduction from PBATS’ 1998 survey that showed 38.5 percent of major leaguers dipped. Notable major leaguers who had public battles trying to cope with their spit tobacco addiction are perennial All-Stars Chipper Jones and Curt Schilling. Former Diamondbacks pitcher Schilling has battled the urge for much of his career, telling People magazine a couple of years ago: “It’s the most horrific, disgusting habit on the face of the earth … and if I don’t quit, it’s going to kill me. “Spit tobacco has been virtually synonymous with baseball. At the ballpark and on television, spectators can see players with wads of dip in their mouths or with a spit tobacco can in their pockets. “Kids think it’s a part of the game,” said Garagiola, 78, a Scottsdale resident who has been campaigning against dipping for over 20 years. “But we have to educate them that it’s not going to help your swing.”

The idea that dipping hasn’t declined much since the last survey doesn’t sit well with Garagiola, who through NSTEP had a program in place from 1997-2001 that included talks and oral cancer exams during spring training. “The players association asked me what the percentage was of getting cancer using spit tobacco -‘What is it, like one in a thousand?’ ” Garagiola said. “I said, ‘Go ask Ms. Tuttle about that. Her husband is the one in a thousand you’re talking about.’ ”
“Ms. Tuttle” is Gloria Tuttle Fischer, 66, widow of former major leaguer Bill Tuttle, who died at 69 in 1998. Bill Tuttle was diagnosed with oral cancer in 1993. Doctors said it came from his 37 years of chewing tobacco, a habit he started while playing with the Detroit Tigers. “He had seven surgeries,” Fischer said. “They removed half of his face. He had no jawbone, no teeth. The shortest surgery was nine and a half hours. He had a tube for two years that helped him breathe. For major league ballplayers, if it doesn’t hurt you, look what it does to your family.”

Spit tobacco users have an increased risk of developing oral cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Other effects are gum disease, gum recession and a nicotine addiction. Garagiola’s major campaign slogan is, “Smokeless does not mean harmless.” He said he would love to start up the education program again in the major league clubhouses with his own money if Major League Baseball asks him to. But now, he’s focusing on educating the younger generation.
“Most people think you have to start with the big-leaguers,” Garagiola said. “But you have to start with the kids (little league through high school), they’re the ones who will become major leaguers one day.”

May, 2004|Archive|