Diana Bianchini founded Di Moda Public Relations in 2002. Di Moda is renowned for spearheading innovative, sustainable, community oriented campaigns that leave an indelible global impact. In addition to Di Moda representing Project Angel Food for the past five years, Diana also serves on the Advisory Board for The Good News Foundation, has been an event chair twice for the Los Angeles chapter of the March of Dimes and gives of her time to many other national and local charities. Diana was born in Marin, California and raised in the Bay Area. She currently makes Los Angeles her home.
BOSTON: MAKING DES CANCER HISTORY, ONCE AGAIN by Diana Bianchini
Earlier this year, I blogged on The Huffington Post about DES (diethylstilbestrol), the toxic, carcinogenic synthetic estrogen that was prescribed to millions of pregnant women for decades: from 1938 until 1971 in the United States, and until the mid-1980s in parts of Latin America, Europe, Australia, and the Third World .
The DES cancer link was first established in Boston 40 years ago at Massachusetts General Hospital .
Once again, Boston is at the epicenter of DES history. This week, the first part of the historic DES breast cancer cases will be wrapping up in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston. The result of this trial will determine if the first ever series of DES breast cancer lawsuits in the US can survive Daubert scrutiny on causality and be allowed to go forward.
Aaron M. Levine and Julie Oliver-Zhang from Aaron M. Levine & Associates are representing the 53 DES Daughters involved in these breast cancer cases . It’s just two lawyers for the plaintiffs and about 20 lawyers representing the drug companies in the court room. According to some attendees, the drug company lawyers are sporting uniform black suits a la Agent Smith in “The Matrix”.
The outcome of these joint DES breast cancer cases will not only affect American DES Daughters, but DES victims around the world who are waging their own legal battles because of the devastating effects of DES exposure. The currently proven effects of DES exposure include a rare vaginal cancer in DES Daughters; greater risk for breast cancer in DES Mothers; possible risk for testicular cancer in DES Sons; abnormal reproductive organs; infertility; high-risk pregnancies; and an increased risk for breast cancer in DES Daughters after age 40. There are a number of other suspected effects, including auto-immune disorders, but many of these effects are still awaiting further research.
Dr. Hans-Olov Adami, former Chair of the Harvard School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology and a world-renowned physician and epidemiologist, testified during the trial that women exposed in utero to diethylstilbestrol (DES) are at substantially increased risk for breast cancer. Dr. Adami cited to Dr. Julie Palmer’s 2006 NCI study, “Prenatal Diethylstilbestrol Exposure and the Risk of Breast Cancer,” which showed a 2.05 – 3.85 relative risk for DES daughters over the age of 40. Dr. Adami “found it overwhelmingly likely based on this methodology that DES causes breast cancer, [and] increases substantially the risk of breast cancer in women starting about the age of 40.”
In confirming the Palmer study in court as a valid and important reopening of the never-ending DES tragedy, Dr. Adami stated: “so the bottom line of this is it provides strong evidence that DES exposure increases the risk, and that the risk increase starts sometime around age 40 and then grows as women get older.”
Dr. Adami stressed that there are two practical implications in the Palmer study: “one is that it reinforces the importance of women who have been exposed to participate in mammography screening programs in order to allow early detection of breast cancer if they develop it; and secondly, because women who have been on hormone replacement therapies are already at an increased risk, the indications should be very restrictive to add another major risk factor if they have also been exposed to DES in the uterus.”
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick recently declared “DES Awareness Week” this July commemorating the experience of DES Daughters and warning of breast cancer risks.
On February 22, 2011, US Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and US Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) received a 3-page response from the FDA , per their joint letter about a DES apology. The FDA’s letter did not contain an official apology from the federal government for the DES drug disaster. However, it acknowledged the devastating health consequences of DES, explained FDA initiatives to prevent future drug disasters, and talked about DES as a “tragedy” .
The trial in Boston will continue until Friday, September 23, as the 53 DES Daughters involved put on further biology, toxicology, oncology, and obstetrics and gynecology experts to support Dr. Adami’s opinion of this substantial DES breast cancer risk in the daughters. The trial is open to the public.
(author photo courtesy of author)
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