Letters

From the week of January 18, 2001

A Lab, A Dog

Blind data: I have several comments regarding the story "Screwing the Pooch" (James Hibberd, January 4).

First, the research work demonstrated by Mr. Hibberd is extraordinary. It is apparent that he took the time to speak with research professionals with the expertise to understand the issues. It also is apparent that he took the time to carefully read the documents and to understand material that is difficult, to say the least.

Second, it is important to distinguish between research with and without scientific merit. Scientific merit means that the focus of the project is important enough to merit the work and that the data (results) of the work indicate that the research is moving forward and support the theories behind the research. The allogenic glioma project has had relentlessly negative results over a 10-year period. Arizona State University voted to terminate the protocol, at least partly, because there were little or no data indicating that the project had any scientific merit with respect to results. It is wrong and cruel to hold out the hope of a treatment or cure when a research project is not progressing and producing data.

Beyond that, holding on to research that is going nowhere takes away resources from projects that may offer hope. In the time Michael Berens killed more than 300 puppies trying to create a canine model of a brain tumor, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have begun to understand certain genetic characteristics of brain tumors that predict how well a patient will respond to chemotherapy. If the patient does not respond well, these researchers have begun to manipulate the genetics of the tumor to make chemotherapy work better. In the time that Michael Berens refused to change his project and destroyed all those animals, a researcher in the United Kingdom has developed two new drugs for the treatment of brain tumors. The treatments soon will be going into clinical trials. These studies all were done on human subjects. The point is that Dr. Berens, over 10 years and several hundred thousand dollars, tried to make something work that was not working without changing it. In that time, others moved forward and found treatments with real hope for brain tumor patients.

Finally, this is not the 19th century. It is true that in the 19th century, and even later, researchers were able to slaughter animals indiscriminately to answer questions of science and even to satisfy their own curiosity. Today that is not true. The Animal Welfare Act, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees such as the one at ASU, and the Public Health Service Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals dictate that research on animals must show results and data. ASU chose not to accept a standard of a 95 percent to 98 percent failure rate. ASU did the right thing.

Patricia Haight
Phoenix

No-brainer: Every animal species on Earth is biologically unique -- right down to the cellular level, where disease occurs and drugs have their effect. This point cannot be overemphasized. Sadly, Dr. Berens will reap only weariness and disappointment so long as he continues to study dog cancer in order to cure human cancer. Even if a treatment is found to work on dogs, it won't cure a single human being. Ask any veterinarian if a human could use the same drugs and treatment given to dogs. It's a nonsensical idea born of a false ideology. It doesn't matter if research is done on beagles or chimps or mice. You cannot make an animal "model" of a human disease.

Scientists know that while morphine is a stimulant in dogs, it has the opposite effect in people. Vets know that while humans need to eat vitamin C, dogs produce all of their own. Even a 5-year-old knows that dogs can't eat chocolate while humans can! Why can't Dr. Berens learn what a child knows?

All medical advances of the past have come from the careful observation of human beings, be it at the patient's bedside, studying human populations and the patterns of lifestyle and disease, learning from autopsies and so forth. Scientists already know that smoking, eating animal products, exposure to hazardous chemicals, pollution and stress lead to cancer. If Dr. Berens switches to preventing human cancer instead of wasting time, money and lives in the laboratory, that will be the day he enters the path to saving the very first human life yet in his entire career.

Paul Sewick
Roseville, Michigan

Research for tomorrow: I was very happy to read your recent article titled "Animal Fights" (James Hibberd, January 4). It was an excellent discussion of the two sides of the animal rights/animal welfare versus animal researcher argument. Although I personally would like to see animal experimentation end in my lifetime and I believe that it is wrong to kill animals for human benefit, I do appreciate the other perspective and realistically I know that animal research has benefited my life and the lives of my loved ones.

However, I firmly believe that people must be given the facts and left to make their own decisions about what is immoral and what is truly justified. Thank you for writing an article that explained both sides without bias. I hope it will serve to educate a few more people about what the issue really boils down to: a personal decision.

Julia Salo
via Internet

Dog's life: Thank you for the article "Animal Fights." More so than many, it attempted to give a balanced presentation of the arguments for and against animal experimentation. Most media are lopsidedly pro-vivisection. There are some points I wish to take issue with, however. The old argument that the polio vaccine was created through animal models is patently false, even though widely propagated and believed. The Nobel Prize was awarded to Enders, Weller and Robbins, who first cultured the disease in human tissue, and Sabin himself admitted under oath to Congress in 1984 that the animal monkey models delayed understanding of the nature of the disease in humans for decades.

This is because animals are biologically and physiologically different from humans, and findings from them are only tenuously applied to us, even in creatures very close to us, like chimpanzees.

The AMA and medical community support vivisection because that is the model they were taught, and because this is where the gravy train of federal money flows. They will not even consider arguments opposing it made from a growing number of reputable doctors and scientists like Ray Greek and Murray Cohen. This does not say much for the so-called "openness" to new ideas of scientists and of the scientific model. Also, many of the discoveries made with animals were not necessary, i.e., it was unnecessary to use animals to obtain the information.

The comment by Dr. Dale Dernado (to the effect that he works with lizards because people don't care about them) was particularly revealing: Lizards belong to a different species from us, are cold-blooded, covered with scales, etc., so the usual excuse for vivisection, helping cure human illnesses, obviously doesn't apply here. He's experimenting on these animals because he's supported for doing so and because people don't object.

Patricia Panitz
Centerville, Massachusetts

Anchor Steam

Ego terrorist: Dewey Webb's article about Liz Habib ("Liz, They Hardly Knew Ye," January 4) was not only interesting, it was awesome! I loved every bit of it.

What I thought was so funny was the verbal vomit that was flowing out of Habib's mouth. These were comments that only Mick Jagger, Madonna, Jack Nicholson, et al., could get away with. It's rude, but they could get away with it. How humorous that a local news personality expects everyone to not only know who she is, but to roll out the red carpet, too.

The article was great and deserving. It will probably benefit her even though most would think it is a negative. Hopefully after catching flak, she may look inside and reevaluate who she really is.

Phoenix is self-absorbing in many ways, and our proud Liz exemplified this in her excursion to Dos Gringos. Keep up the good work on exploiting egomaniacs. Be gone with all who think they are above the fact that we really are all made of the same carbon.

Name withheld by request

Liz and learn: What's with the story on Liz Habib? Your point was . . . ? Who cares!

When I saw that you ran this old story, I felt as though it was done with cruel intent, not for reporting reasons. Liz, like many other people, made a mistake. If one of your people did the same thing, would it make the news?

It's sad that we live in a society that has these people up on high but are so ready to knock them down. Because of this story, I hope you know your newspaper has lost my respect. Don't lose your conscience!

Name withheld by request

Rube Tube

Telly communication: Robert Wilonsky's recap of the 2000 TV season ("Blow Up the Box," December 28) was one of the funniest and most entertaining articles I have read in any publication -- and that includes Salonand Slate. The scary thing is that Wilonsky nails the annoying things in Will & Grace, ER, Bette, etc., that most people celebrate. Thanks for the laughs.

Mel
via Internet

Bury My Heart at San Carlos

Apache tears: I am an enrolled member of the San Carlos Apache tribe. I was appointed under two different tribal administrations as the tribal secretary to the tribal council coupled with providing press releases of actions taken by the tribal council. Because of my candid reporting, I was fired 12 times and rehired 13 times by the tribal council.

I would like to commend your writer, Robert Nelson, who was bold enough to come onto our Apache Indian reservation to write a story ("Tribal Belt," December 14) that needed to be told about the mishap and political vendettas taken against Margarite Faras for her ability to speak out and to tell the truth. How sad it is to have the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation be labeled the most corrupt tribal government in Indian country. Sad as it is, it is true. I can attest to various actions by the tribal council. For the same reason, I, too, have had my life threatened on more than one occasion. But someone has to tell the truth.

Mr. Nelson was very articulate in his reporting. There is so much political turmoil with the high rate of turnover of tribal council members. The story couldn't possibly be covered in one article. What the readers read was only a small segment of what has truly happened. There were 14 key staff members who were fired just because they stood behind Ms. Faras, believing that the council was discriminating against her. She was wrongly removed from office.

I hope and pray that the U.S. Attorney's Office will be flooded with letters and telephone calls to prompt it to continue this investigation. How can a vice chairman of the tribal council appoint the treasurer by himself just to purchase a vehicle for his personal use? It's like dealing with a communistic government, and if you speak out, you can bet that your life will be threatened, just like what happened to Ms. Faras and myself.

Call to Action was a group that was started to help with constitutional reform. However, Gail Haozous, claiming she founded the group, had ulterior motives. She used this group to try to get a name for herself and ran for the tribal council, but she lost during this election last November. Today, she has only a handful of people supporting her cause, and the people have moved on.

Justice and fairness are all that we ask for from the Apache people. Maybe someday we'll finally smarten up and elect wise tribal members to lead our people. Perhaps the message will be heard by the newly elected tribal officials and they won't be influenced for political favors. The tides of justice are finally rolling. And yes, life does go on and so does my belief in the First Amendment -- the right to speech, press and religion.

Sandra Rambler
Bylas

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