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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

#120~ Nevada Newsmakers Annette Whittemore Interview–Transcript

Following is the transcript of the October 26, 2011 Nevada Newsmakers interview with Annette Whittemore, for those of us that have difficulty with online video:

Sam Shad: There have been a lot of things swirling around and one of the reasons I wanted to have you on this program today is to clear up from what are rumor and innuendo to what are actual facts concerning the institute, and concerning the publication in Science Magazine of the study of a couple of years ago. Bring us up to date on exactly what’s going on. 

Annette: Well first of all Sam thank you so much for letting me come in and talk to you today because I know so many of the people out there that are suffering want to be reassured, and I think that that’s the most important thing today that we talk about from a very calm perspective of the work that is still going on at the institute. And you’re right, there have been, a lot of questions that have, that still remain unanswered about whether or not there is a retrovirus that’s associated with individuals who have this disease and many other diseases. And, I can just tell you that the work is still promising, that we are still headed down that direction very very methodically, and in an attempt to actually prove ourselves wrong. And so far we’ve been unable to do that when it comes to human tissue. But there’s several experiments that are left to be done, and so I can just say that we are still thinking along those lines, still looking very much at all pathogen possibilities, looking at the immune system deficits, and also characterizing the information. So, we’re very very much involved. There’s a study that will be starting November 1st in which we will literally be testing one lab against the other, looking at different methods, and determining which methods are actually the most accurate when looking for pathogens such as a retrovirus. 

Sam: Now, when the article first came out in Science Magazine, the first study, since then, it wasn’t completely retracted. There was one person out of many that retracted a portion of their work. Could you explain that for us? 

Annette: That’s right. Dr. Silverman found in his laboratory that there was contamination of the samples that he had worked on, and therefore he removed his part, and I think he had one figure in this entire paper. However, there still is a lot of confusion about what we think we’re seeing in the actual patients. And what some of the doctors have described as XMRV, that was actually created in a laboratory. And so, at the end of the day, is there just one XMRV or are there several? And are we looking at a virus that’s completely different in our subset of patients versus the ones that were looked at in the tissues of prostate cancer. So far we’re saying “not completely different”… 

Sam: …and that was what was originally found.. 

Annette: Right, right. It was originally found in Dr. Silverman’s laboratory, and Dr. Silverman originally found it in prostate cancer. And the connection that Dr. Lombardi eventually they ended up looking at this together along with Dr. Mikovits and so it’s still an incredible puzzle. But we’re really excited about the fact that what has happened as a result of this has been so much more attention, so much more funding and a very very serious validation of this illness that just hadn’t occurred before the WPI came along. 

Sam: One of the things that I always like to refer to so the people who are not as familiar with this as we might be, that this is kind of like when they came up with, not a cure, but a way to control AIDS through the retrovirus. It wasn’t a one simple thing. It developed over many many years. And now, AIDS is not a death sentence. 

Annette: Absolutely, and it does take time. A process like this takes so much time to go from discovery to actual medicine within the doctors’ offices. But you know, that is what the WPI is all about. We are very much patient centered. We’re here to provide ultimate treatments that are going to be effective for patients, and we’re here to find the truth. So whatever it is, there..I have..I think we’re really trying to keep our egos out of it, and be able to say that t he most important thing, and to keep remembering it, is the patient, and getting effective treatments. So we need to understand exactly what’s causing the problems, and then we can figure out how to solve those problems. 

Sam: One of the problems is that in the field of medical research, there are tremendous egos. 

Annette: (laugh) yes. And it’s been very very difficult as a result. Sometimes the politics and the science…I think we talked about this before…can be extremely difficult. But in this case I really do believe, and I think the majority of people out there are very very sincere when they say that they’re concerned now about these patients. They’re concerned about getting these answers right, and we’re looking forward to working with them. 

Sam: Alright, let’s take a break. With Annette WHittemore when we come back. 

Sam: And back on Nevada Newsmakers we continue our conversation with Annette Whittemore. She is the founder and president of the Whittemore Peterson Institute. Your research director left who’d been on this program many times. What does this mean for WPI and who is the current research team? 

Annette: Well right now we are moving forward with the same research team that we’ve had all along, but I think a lot of people didn’t realize the depth of that team, and the number of people that are working there. So we’re still doing the exact same thing that we have been doing, in a very organized and collaborative fashion. We’ll miss Dr. Mikovits but Dr. Lombardi is stepping in and taking control, organizing and reprioritizing our studies. 

Sam: Now, you’ve been doing a lot of testing over the last couple of years for XMRV, so I mean, this is a real thing. It’s not that you’re testing for people and it’s not showing up. 

Annette: Well this is, absolutely. And you know, Harvey and I were always very very interested in continuing to ask that question every other month pretty much…is it real, is it infectious, has anybody changed their mind at the NCI, for instance. And I recently was up in Ottawa in a conference and asked two researchers up there, not ones that work with us directly. And they both said it’s real and it’s infectious. The question is, where is it in this population. Is it in this population of individuals, and more importantly, how do we develop the most accurate test that we can, so we can look at this particular virus. But I think again that we don’t want to limit ourselves to one particular virus strain, or one particular virus. We want to continue to keep looking at the there an active retroviral infection in the patients that is coming from outside, rather than is there an actual endogenous or internal retrovirus that is becoming active. And you know this is exciting, it’s very very very complicated, and I don’t want to pretend at all to be a scientist. I get the, I’m so fortunate to be able to listen to all of this and be able to talk to you about it, but you know I’m a wife. 

Sam: You’ve become a sponge for this information. You’ve absorbed it and passed it on. But it’s interesting as time has developed now that you’re seeing that it may take more than one form. 

Annette: Absolutely. You know we see that, I like to tell some of the patients this, that we see the head … my understanding is that we see the head, we see the tail basically, if we were to see an animal…as a virus…but we don’t see the entire body. We’re not sure what’s going on, so the next step really is to get this material and get it deep sequenced so that we can fully characterize what it is that we’re seeing. 

Sam: One of the things, you know, in this economy obviously everybody’s taking a huge financial hit. But NV Energy, the power company in Nevada really stepped up to the plate with a huge donation. 

Annette: They absolutely did. They were phenomenal. Recently they donated a hundred thousand dollars to the cause. We’ve had Vivint and Chase Community Giving which are online community voting grant programs. I think we’ve raised about a hundred eighty five thousand dollars through that. And then just recently we had our fundraiser at the Atlantis. The Farahis who hosted that event were just phenomenal and they even donated back the proceeds from the event. 

Sam: That was here in Reno 

Annette: That was here in Reno, in September. I’ve got to say it was one of the best events we’ve ever had. There was so much love in that room. And even all the way down to the individual who came out from Nashville, Suzi Oravec, and gave her time, donated her time to provide music for all of us. It was an outstanding evening. 

Sam: Now, you started out as an ordinary mom. I shouldn’t say ordinary mom..a mom..
Annette:…Mom of 5 children 

Sam:…you were a spectacular mom. But your daughter Andrea contracted this. And when you were last on the program, you were saying that the treatments that are coming from the clinic are, were helping her. Is she still progressing in a good direction? 

Annette: She is. And you know we’re just really very very thankful that that’s occurred. And we’re trying very very hard to take a look at that, and Andrea thank goodness is willing to be a donor so that we can frequently check to see what are the differences between the times that she’s ill and the times that she’s well so that we can determine what is it exactly that’s going on, what are the treatments that are being most helpful, and why. We really don’t have all those answers yet. Those are things that we’re studying and I guess I’m just happy that she’s close by and she’s willing to donate her blood to that particular research. 

Sam: How are you being helped at this point by the National Institute of Health? Are they being helpful at this point? 

Annette: Well I think they are, because they’ve got a lot of researchers internally that are taking a look at this. And beneath all of the controversies that are going on in this particular virus, there’s some really good work. There’s some solid work that’s coming out. Not long ago there was a paper that said XMRV can infect neuronal cells for instance, or neurons, in the brain. And that was a key paper. I think there was a paper that also explained how easily it was transmitted, which would be, it’s very very unusual that a retrovirus could be transmitted potentially airborne. So there are some very interesting facts, and some good research is going on inside the NIH on this particular virus right now. 

Sam: Alright, so I always like to ask you to tell the folks out there who are watching, literally all over the world, what your advice is to them about where everything sits at this point in time. 

Annette: Well I think my best advice is to be able to remain calm, and to be reassured that the changes don’t mean that anyone’s going away, or that any way our commitment has been lessened. Or that the commitment of others has been lessened. In fact, it’s just the opposite. So there are more federal dollars today going into research in this particular disease. There are more individuals committed. An individual by the name of Glen Hutchins just committed ten million dollars to what he calls the Fatigue Initiative, and he’s brought new researchers into the field. Dr. Peterson has started a foundation and brought additional researchers into the field. So we’ve got some outstanding retrovirologists and virologists and immunologists that were never in this field before, that committed to helping us discover the answers. That is really the message… 

Sam: What’s your level of optimism over the next couple of years? 

Annette: Oh my goodness. I’ve got to say that we are making progress at a rate that is phenomenal. And ..on the one hand. On the other hand, we have to be patient. This is not an overnight process. I don’t expect it’ll take 20 years. I’m too impatient for that and I don’t think that’s appropriate. But it’s not going to happen tomorrow. So people need to sit back, take a deep breath, be reassured, and be hopeful. But, you know, let’s watch, let’s see what happens. Let’s be right about this. Let’s be good about this. 

Sam: That’s the most important thing, to be right about it. Always a pleasure. Thank you so much for being here.

Reprinted with gratitude and permission from Khaly:


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