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Celebrate Life with Blood Cancer Awareness Month

With each passing month we find new reasons to celebrate. Perhaps you are celebrating a spring birthday, going to start classes in the fall, or accepting a new summer job that you cannot wait to get started. Each month brings new life, a chance to recharge and being again. And now, more than ever before, each month has designated a cause with a stage and voice to those suffering from various chronic illnesses. September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month. This month is dedicated to raising funds for blood cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia, and myeloma (cancer specific to the abnormal proliferation of plasma cells) to support innovative research to help find cures, provide support for patients through non-profits such as Lymphoma Research Foundation and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and shed light on the daily physical and emotional struggles of living with these chronic illnesses.

To fully appreciate Blood Cancer Awareness Month, we must first understand blood cancers. Cancer, at its base definition, is a disease in which cells abnormally divide and destroy tissues. Common cancers of of the blood pertain to the vital white blood cells, or the immunological cells of the body. You would think that more white blood cells means more defense against foreign pathogens, but this sometimes deathly proliferation causes tissue damage to the organs in which they are housed (i.e. lymph nodes) and sometimes other tissues and systems at large should it metastasize (or spread). The cancerous cells also crowd out and block the action of the normal, healthy white blood cells leaving the patient susceptible to foreign pathogens. Let’s break down two specific white blood cancers: lymphoma and leukemia. Lymphoma is the cancer affecting the lymphatic system that has two types: Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin (also known as NHL). Named for the scientist behind the discovery, Hodgkin lymphoma is identified by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells, large, almost giant cells derived from B cell lymphocytes. Hodgkin is one of the most curable types of cancer with easily identifiable cells like the RS Cells and Hodgkin Cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is marked by lymphocyte proliferation in B, T, and NK cells that are indolent (slow growing) or aggressive (fast growing). Since there many subsets of NHL (over 30), it is harder to target and ward off its progression. Treatments for both NHL and Hodgkin lymphoma include chemotherapy, radiation, and sometimes stem cell therapy. Leukemia, a type of blood cancer found in the blood and bone marrow, has two main categories, lymphocytic and myelogenous, that present in the acute or chronic phase (ALL, AML, CLL, CML). The difference in these leukemias is the type of cells in question: marrow cells that become lymphocytes (lymphocytic leukemia) and marrow cells that are multipotent and can grow into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets (myelogenous leukemia). Although no direct cause has been attributed to the development of leukemia, certain cases of overexposure to radiation and or certain chemicals has been identified with a positive diagnosis.

Non-profit companies such as Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) are active in the pursuit of a cure. The LRF dedicates its mission to the eradication and community support of lymphomas. It provides funds for research such as the Young Investigators Grant to support the early training of scientists and Disease-Focus Areas Grants for senior scientists. The LRF also supports community efforts for disease-specific education and financial aid programs for those patients and families suffering from lymphomas. The LLS widens its berth of support by branching out to the lymphomas as well as leukemias. Its mission is subdivided into three main categories: research, patient access, and policy and advocacy. The LLS even has Therapy Acceleration Programs (TAP) to help fund research projects related to advancing therapies and diagnostic test kits for leukemias and lymphomas.

Just one day after World Lymphoma Awareness Day (Sept 15th), we remember that each day is a day to celebrate for those battling and conquering blood cancers. PPA supports the mission of these non-profits by providing superior blood and plasma samples to support research. Without PPA, these research projects would not have the diagnostic tools to perform research and advance therapies to make life easier for patients like those suffering from blood cancers. PPA Research Group’s new leukapheresis procedure, a unique and specific technique used for the procurement of white blood cells, can provide the necessary healthy white blood cells for diagnostic testings for these research projects and your donation can make all the difference. Leukapheresis is a new way to give and you can get started today. Give PPA a call at 423-477-6138 or opt-in for our newsletter by contacting .

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Vital Signs and Dollar Signs

Healthcare always seems to be a top priority in today’s news segments. Anything ranging from changes in healthcare reform to rises in drug costs can make or break your day depending on where you fall on the healthcare spectrum from patient to nurse to physician and even to insurance provider. Recently, a disease known as toxoplasmosis has hit the news with the unveiling of a price splurge resulting from a change in pharmaceutical owner with seemingly moral motives.

But what exactly is toxoplasmosis? Caused by the parasite T. gondii, toxoplasmosis is the resulting disease from the infection that usually shows flu-like symptoms in most people but can have serious complications with compromised immune systems like patients with HIV/AIDS. The parasite is a single-celled organism that can only reproduce in cats. Coming into contact with cat feces or even handling contaminated foods or utensils can increase your risk of infection. In most cases, signs and symptoms may not even show with infection because the body’s immune system will resist the parasite, keeping it in an inactive state. However, with immunodeficiencies, the body’s defenses are weakened and will succumb to its parasitic effects. With the spread of infection, toxoplasmosis can lead to seizures and encephalitis, a very serious brain infection.

Treatment for acute toxoplasmosis usually starts with Daraprim, a pyrimethamine that has been used since the 1950’s to treat malaria. An antibiotic known as sulfadiazine is sometimes prescribed in conjunction with a pyrimethamine to treat the infection. This brings us to our pivotal talking point on the recent news regarding Turing Pharmaceuticals’ recent spike on cost of the Daraprim tablet. According to the New York Times, the cost of Daraprim, an out-of-patent medication, has risen from $13.50 per tablet to $750 per tablet under the direction of hedge-fund manager and new Turing Pharmaceuticals owner Martin Shkreli. His reasons for the sudden 5000% price increase all come down to finances and R & D (research and development). There hasn’t been a significant effort for toxoplasmosis funding in the research and development department to enhance treatment and Turing Pharmaceuticals plans to invest profits made from the price increase directly into R & D. In addition to R & D, Shkreli has mentioned that Daraprim was basically given away at the cost of $13.50, barely making a profit for a pharmaceutical company, which would make it impossible to keep up with its competitors.

This boils down to vital signs versus dollar signs. Dr. Wendy Armstrong, professor of infectious diseases at Emory University, reported that toxoplasmosis treatment wasn’t necessarily something that researchers were clamoring to invest in. So how much research is really necessary if a drug is on the market at an affordable cost that works for the patient and physician? Profits must be made in order for companies to survive, but at what cost? A 5,000% increase seems excessive, but Turing stands by its decision. They have made a commitment to making the drug available to all, even if patients aren’t able to afford the new price per tablet.

Watch CNN’s interview with Mark Shkreli and research toxoplasmosis to see what you think about the decision regarding the price increase. If one thing is right about this whole ordeal, research is definitely necessary to improve the quality of medications and create innovations in healthcare when a change is needed. Toxoplasmosis is a very serious condition for patients PPA is an industry leader in disease research distribution and provides quality biologic specimens and specialty plasma to researchers worldwide. Make sure to check out the How to Participate section for more information regarding our donor qualifications.

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Donation Center for Biological Specimens

Hepatitis A Outbreak

Food-borne illnesses are no walk in the park. Getting an upset stomach after a greasy meal at an all-you-can-eat buffet or battling a case of food poisoning from your local fast-food chain may deter you from eating certain types of food ever again. But what happens when you unknowingly eat food infected with a more serious type of pathogen? Such is the case with the recent outbreak of Hepatitis A from two local Hardee’s near Spartanburg, SC.

Before we divulge, let’s look a little bit closer at Hepatitis A. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by HAV (the Hepatitis A virus) found in contaminated food or water and can be passed by the fecal-oral route, either by person-to-person contact or consumption of said contaminated food or water. A HAV vaccination along with good hygiene making sure to properly sanitize when using public facilities and eating as clean as possible.

Unlike other viral infections, Hepatitis A infection has a limited lifespan in the body and will not become chronic. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no specific cure for the virus since your body will clear on its own so its best to treat the symptoms, which include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, dark urine, joint pain, abdominal pain near the liver, loss of appetite, and low-grade fever, until the body clears the infection (which usually takes about six months). The only thing to really worry about is decreased liver function if the virus persists in a patient with immunodeficiencies like HIV. Resting your liver (decreasing alcohol intake) will help clear the infection more quickly.

So, how can we be sure that the food we eat at our local restaurants is clean? Food Safety News is a reliable online source that reports on food safety throughout the country and will highlight restaurants with recent outbreaks. Also, checking to make sure the restaurant has up-to-date and high-scoring health codes that encompass food testing will ensure you are eating somewhere that is safe for you and your family. Getting properly vaccinated is also a good step toward optimal health, especially when you are traveling to areas with high risk of infection. Local and national health departments also do their best to control outbreaks whenever such incidences should arise like the 2013 Hepatitis A Outbreak across multiple states from ingesting infected pomegranate seeds from a Turkish, organic importer. The article explains the process for investigating the cause of the virus outbreak by examining the infected people (what foods were consumed before symptoms arose, where the foods were purchased, etc) and its subsequent target, the specific brand of pomegranate seeds usually grown in North Africa and the Middle East. An immense amount of work from the FDA and CDC goes into investigations like this all for good reasons- to identify the outbreak, stop the spread, and prevent further outbreaks of a similar kind. Needles to say, the product was recalled and all 162 infections were found and controlled.

This may seem like a scene from The Walking Dead, with a virus spreading like wildfire in an apocalyptic society, but the FDA and CDC work tirelessly and endlessly to prevent outbreaks like Hepatitis A and other infections. Knowledge is power and knowledge, in this case, is knowing proper hygiene, being cognizant of signs and symptoms of certain types of viruses, and getting properly vaccinated to prevent future infections. PPA also works tirelessly to provide materials for scientists and researchers in the viral infection fields to create vaccinations and diagnostic test kits. If you have been infected with Hepatitis A and are currently experiencing symptoms, you could help fulfill biologic specimen and plasma for research purposes. Check out PPA online or call us today for more information regarding our donor programs for research. Remember, knowledge is power and you are in the driver seat!

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