Cli­mate change ‘NZ’s worst en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue’

The Dominion Post - - Politics-News - ROSANNA PRICE

A lead­ing can­cer re­searcher and plas­tic sur­geon has ques­tioned the ‘‘hype’’ around im­munother­apy drugs such as Keytruda.

Swee Tan, who founded the Gil­lies McIn­doe Re­search In­sti­tute in Welling­ton, said there had been only a ‘‘mod­est im­prove­ment of can­cer care’’ as a re­sult of tril­lions of re­search dol­lars spent over sev­eral decades.

‘‘What we have come up with in the last 20 years is a group of bi­o­logic agents that are hugely ex­pen­sive and par­tially ef­fec­tive.’’

The ex­cep­tion was child leukaemia, breast can­cer and some brain can­cers, he said.

‘‘Her­ceptin . . . im­proves sur­vival by about 3 per cent. It im­proves the length of sur­vival by an aver­age of five months, but we pay $75,000 for it.

‘‘Even the mak­ers of this group of drugs ad­mit that it alone would not cure can­cer, and in fact econ­o­mists around the world have pre­dicted that within a decade this group of drugs will cost the world $40 bil­lion [every year].’’

Keytruda, which Phar­mac is look­ing at fully fund­ing from Septem­ber, was an­other ex­am­ple, he said.

‘‘The data that we’ve got [on Keytruda] is ac­tu­ally very lim­ited, maybe two years’ [worth].’’

In a main trial, two-thirds of peo­ple treated with Keytruda ei­ther had no change in tu­mour size or their tu­mours grew, ac­cord­ing to Phar­mac.

For one in three peo­ple, tu­mours shrank or dis­ap­peared Cli­mate change is the most serious en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue New Zealan­ders face, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port by the en­vi­ron­ment com­mis­sioner.

Dr Jan Wright said there was ‘‘no ques­tion’’ cli­mate change was wor­ry­ing and had flow-on ef­fects, in her com­men­tary on the gov­ern­ment’s En­vi­ron­ment Aotearoa 2015 re­port.

That re­port had sin­gled out rapid growth in dairy farm­land and surg­ing car­bon diox­ide lev­els as twin threats to the coun­try’s en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘[Cli­mate change] will im­pact com­pletely. ‘‘It cost $300,000 a year ago, now it’s $200,000,’’ Tan said. ‘‘It equals to, I think, 10 hip re­place­ments.’’

Phar­mac an­nounced this week that it had reached a pre­lim­i­nary agree­ment with Keytruda sup­plier Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) with a view to start fully fund­ing the drug.

Keytruda lob­by­ists have said Phar­mac’s delayed de­ci­sion had cost lives.

‘‘[T]here’ve been real peo­ple who’ve missed out while the com­mer­cial ne­go­ti­a­tions have been un­der­taken . . . and some have died wait­ing for this an­nounce­ment,’’ on­col­o­gist and Can­cer So­ci­ety med­i­cal di­rec­tor Chris Jack­son said.

Tan out­lined his the­o­ries on a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent way of treat­ing can­cer at Hutt Val­ley Chamber of Com­merce on Tues­day.

He said im­munother­apy drugs were based on tra­di­tional un­der­stand­ings of how can­cer cells spread.

He looked at can­cer and how it spread in a dif­fer­ent way, sim­i­lar to a bee­hive, with can­cer stem cells be­ing the queen bees that make other queens and worker bees (can­cer cells).

Im­munother­apy drugs went af­ter the worker bees rather than the queen, he said. ‘‘But you’ve got to deal with the queen bees.’’

Gil­lies McIn­doe re­searchers be­lieve they have iden­ti­fied a way of deal­ing with the stem cells through a com­mon reg­u­la­tory sys­tem in the body.

That sys­tem, which has not been named as the in­sti­tute waits for a patent, could be linked to 12 on the health of our sea, land, and fresh­wa­ter, our unique and pre­cious bio­di­ver­sity, and our econ­omy,’’ she said.

Ur­ban ar­eas would be vi­tal in re­duc­ing global green­house gas emis­sions, par­tic­u­larly from trans­port. ‘‘We must plan and de­velop our cities so that they are low-car­bon as well as af­ford­able.’’

Wright pre­vi­ously warned com­mu­ni­ties may have to be aban­doned or left to deal with ma­jor fi­nan­cial costs be­cause of sea-level rise.

Cli­mate Change Issues Min­is­ter Paula Ben­nett pointed to the dif­fer­ent types of can­cer.

‘‘The ex­cit­ing part is that reg­u­la­tory sys­tem, we be­lieve, can be ma­nip­u­lated by a hand­ful of sim­ple med­i­ca­tions,’’ Tan said.

For that dif­fer­ent form of treat­ment ‘‘mo­men­tous’’ Paris agree­ment where 175 coun­tries signed up to low­er­ing emis­sions.

‘‘Pres­sure is on us now to make sure that we keep up with that mo­men­tum – that ac­tu­ally it’s not just the sign­ing of a doc­u­ment but that it’s real ac­tion.’’

In­no­va­tions were be­ing made in trans­port and elec­tric ve­hi­cles, agri-re­search and re­new­able en­ergy – but there was ‘‘al­ways more’’ that could be done, she said.

Work was un­der way to look at the ‘‘op­tions’’ to meet New Zealand’s com­mit­ment to get emis­sion lev­els down to 5 per cent be­low to be an op­tion for can­cer pa­tients, it would need to be the sub­ject of clin­i­cal tri­als. Tan said the in­sti­tute did not have the re­sources for that to hap­pen soon.

‘‘I think to do the study you’d 1990 lev­els by 2020.

Ben­nett said plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment was pri­mar­ily the re­spon­si­bil­ity of lo­cal coun­cils and busi­nesses.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw backed the call to bring down trans­port emis­sions, which he said was the ‘‘fastest and eas­i­est’’ op­tion.

He said the re­port was just an­other ac­count of ever-in­creas­ing tem­per­a­tures from cli­mate change and New Zealand needed to ‘‘get our act to­gether and do some­thing about it’’.

‘‘Un­der the Na­tional Gov­ern­ment New Zealand’s green­house gas emis­sions have in­creased about 20 per cent,’’ Shaw said. need some­where around $5 mil­lion prob­a­bly. We have to trans­fer the knowl­edge that we’ve gained from the lab­o­ra­tory to the treat­ment of pa­tients.’’

Phar­mac spokesman Si­mon

‘‘That is when we’ve had an emis­sions trad­ing scheme, the whole point of which is to re­duce emis­sions – so clearly we’re go­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion.’’

Trans­port Min­is­ter Si­mon Bridges agreed cli­mate change was New Zealand’s big­gest en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue, and a ‘‘def­i­nite pri­or­ity’’ for his port­fo­lio.

‘‘Every year we’re in­vest­ing un­prece­dented amounts in pub­lic trans­port and cy­cle­ways,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve got a sig­nif­i­cant elec­tric ve­hi­cle pol­icy we need to roll out and see real achieve­ment made in.’’

The En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency and Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­ity (EECA) had car­bon re­duc­tion mea­sures Eng­land said Tan’s treat­ment ideas were ‘‘all wor­thy of in­ves­ti­ga­tion’’, but the meth­ods he spoke of were ex­per­i­men­tal.

‘‘Any­thing we’re fund­ing needs to be ap­proved by MedSafe.’’ around fuel ef­fi­ciency, he said. ‘‘It’s very much a process of just try­ing to do more where we sen­si­bly can.’’

Cli­mate change was one of four key ar­eas Wright out­lined: she also high­lighted slow progress in sea pro­tec­tion, en­cour­aged tree plant­ing on un­sta­ble hill coun­try, and raised con­cerns about New Zealand’s wildlife. ‘‘Our na­tive birds and an­i­mals are un­der sus­tained at­tack from preda­tors.’’

She called for the Min­istry for the En­vi­ron­ment to put out a re­port out­lin­ing pri­or­i­ties for ac­tion in re­sponse to her find­ings.

She also wanted the con­clu­sions to be ‘‘made trans­par­ently on a rea­soned ba­sis’’. boy’s home.

In 1999 Hous­ton con­fronted his fa­ther and suspended him, but at an ex­ec­u­tive meet­ing the church kept the al­le­ga­tions con­fi­den­tial.

The sec­ond preacher to visit New Zealand is Jen­tezen Franklin, who was last week an­nounced as a mem­ber of Trump’s Evan­gel­i­cal Ad­vi­sory Board to be an­nounced later this month.

Trump stated on his web­site: ‘‘I have such tremen­dous re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion for this group and I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to talk about the issues im­por­tant to evan­gel­i­cals, and all Amer­i­cans, and the com­mon sense so­lu­tions I will im­ple­ment when I am pres­i­dent.’’

Franklin leads a 16,000-mem­ber con­gre­ga­tion in Ge­or­gia, US, and an in­ter­na­tional tele­vi­sion min­istry that reaches mil­lions of peo­ple.

Arise Church was asked for com­ment.

The Arise Church con­fer­ence is sched­uled for July 21-23.

PHOTO: DAVID WHITE/FAIR­FAX NZ

Dr Swee Tan out­lined his the­o­ries on a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent way of treat­ing can­cer at a Hutt Val­ley Chamber of Com­merce break­fast. Se­nior pas­tor Jen­tezen Franklin will ad­dress an Arise Church con­fer­ence in late July.

Jan Wright

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