091: Don’t Die in the Next Five Years

In This Episode: The title — Don’t Die in the Next Five Years — is an unofficial motto of an organization my wife and I joined, and we went to our first conference with them as members last week. They say this because of coming advances in medicine in the next several years, and we got a glimpse into some of those advances, including some things that aren’t even published yet in medical journals, that were mind-blowing. This episode is my first report on what I learned.

091: Don’t Die in the Next Five Years

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Show Notes

  • Help Support Uncommon Sense — yes, $5 helps!
  • My Google Scholar page.
  • Kit’s coaching site.
  • Cancer statistics mentioned are from the American Cancer Society.
  • Web site for Tzar Labs. Their HrC test — short for the Himanshu Roy Cancer test — is named after Ashish Tripathi’s brother-in-law, who wasn’t diagnosed with cancer until he was at Stage 4; he died despite trying to fight it off for two years. “His message was always that you live an impactful life and leave a legacy, Tripathi said. “I believe that this test is a legacy worthy of his name.”
  • Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos was later convicted of multiple counts of fraud, and was sentenced to serve 135 months (11-1/4 years) in prison.
  • The index of articles/podcasts in this series is https://thisistrue.com/longevity/.


Welcome to Uncommon Sense, I’m Randy Cassingham.

Thanks for listening or reading, and yes, it’s been awhile! So the first thing is, I’ve definitely not abandoned the Uncommon Sense podcast. I’m just fitting it in where I can. But it is true I didn’t expect a four-month pause!

In the 9 May newsletter earlier this year I included a brief discussion of “biohacking.” Don’t let that glaze your eyes over: I’m pretty sure you are going to be really interested in this, and don’t worry, I won’t get too deep into the biology where lay people very often get lost.

It’s actually going to take me a few months to get my head around it all, delving into the biology enough that I can explain various things to lay people. That was my specialty that got me hired at NASA way back in the late 80s — explaining technical concepts in a way that regular people can understand — so I have a big head start. I’ll give you a preview in a few moments, but I expect by January I’ll be publishing updates frequently.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote last May. I said I went to a (different) meeting where we learned some of the latest on biohacking, and that I’ll have more to say on the tech stuff I’ve learned after I play with it a little. “The theory of operation,” I said, “is really interesting!”

Also, I said, my wife and I have both been long interested in biohacking — using nutrients and tech to improve bodily function and, ideally, extend life. I started reading about it in the late 70s, before they called it that. Kit’s interest is longevity: years ago she told me she plans to live to 150, and not just attain that age, but with health and vibrancy.

Hmmm. Do I think she’ll make it? Maybe, maybe not, but with that as her goal, she realized she needed to work now on the “vibrancy” part, while she still has it, and she has started to incorporate that into her coaching. With strides in medicine and technology, we are going to have longer lives, so we need to plan for getting the most out of that time, she says. Intriguing, eh?

“Longevity is about mindset and energy management,” she teaches. “Age is also a mindset. Yes, genetics plays a role in your longevity, but much less than you think.” I said that in coaching, she helps clients figure out their approach as they age. How to adopt “mindset and lifestyle choices that will give them the energy to live the life they want — and to do that for a long time.”

End of what I wrote.

Does that sound threatening to you? Pie in the sky? Yeah, Kit has big goals, and I have to admit I rolled my eyes over her “live to 150 years old” bit for a long time, but, as I said in May, having the goal at least made her think about what she would have to do to live longer and, very importantly, with vibrant health, because who wants to live to 150 if the last half of that is in decrepitude? She wants to enjoy that extra time!

Well, one of my readers, a medical doctor, was very upset at those brief paragraphs:

I was quite surprised and disappointed [when] you plugged your wife’s life extension activities,” he wrote. “I assume since neither you nor your wife are MDs or have research experience, it is out of ignorance that you are advocating what is a common and popular scam (or maybe a ‘misconception’). There’s a huge literature on the inefficacy (and often harm) resulting from vitamin and mineral ‘supplements’ fad diets, which promote transfer of funds, but either no impact, or a negative one on survival.

He went on to say that the only thing that has been proven to extend life is massive calorie restriction, and who would enjoy a longer life if you’re hungry all the time?

My response was, “Do you always condemn concepts before knowing just what it is you’re condemning?”

Kit doesn’t promote “life extension activities,” and I wasn’t “advocating” anything as of yet. She set a difficult goal and has set out to learn how it might be possible to achieve it. What I said was I was going to talk about “tech stuff” with an “interesting theory of operation.”

Those are, specifically, devices that I was referring to. I’ve tried one and my preview of the review is, it’s a dud. I just started trying out the second device this week, so I don’t have any reaction yet, but that will be one of the segments of my reporting on all of this. Because it turns out, my MD reader is wrong, and I can and will prove it! The “ignorance” may well be his.

I’m not a doctor, but I am a researcher — I even have a Google Scholar entry because my name is on scholarly papers, and my work has been cited in many others.

True, I don’t think any of it is in medicine, but I will be acting more as a reporter with knowledge and the ability to learn than working in someone’s lab. I’ll be telling you what I’ve learned recently that may well extend your life, and your vibrancy so you enjoy those extra years.

Life expectancy has been shooting up, especially since the 1900s. (Covid has knocked this down a bit, however.)

Because guess what? Human life expectancy has already expanded — about 20 years of extra life during my lifetime — compared to the life expectancy statistics of the 1960s. And in the next 20 years, it could well be much more than that.

That’s true: it’s already out to 20 extra years! So where your grandparents may have expected to retire at 65 and die a few years later, 65 is now considered pretty darned young. So as Kit says, if you already have 20, or 30, or more years, wouldn’t you like to be healthy during that extra time so you can do things? Have fun instead of pain, spend time on vacation instead of in the hospital? We sure would.

But I don’t have an outline of everything yet, or a timetable. Yes, I’m getting going on this starting right now, but a lot of it will require research first, reporting later. So I add clarity to what I’m going to tell you about, rather than confusion.

Some of my reports will be podcast episodes, which always have a transcript option if you would rather read than listen, and some may well be text only, but I will have an index of every bit of it so if you miss something, or want to review something again, you can go to one place rather than having to search for it. I’ll put that link on the Show Page.

But I did say I’m going to start right now, so let’s delve into specifics with something that’s already been announced, but as far as I could tell none of the other attendees at the conference had heard of yet, and it got several of them pretty darned excited.

That has to do with a breakthrough regarding cancer. What kind of cancer? All of them.

First, where are we now? The American Cancer Society says that 18-1/3 percent of American women die from cancer, and if that seems grim, 21-1/3 percent of American men will die from cancer. Of course not everyone who gets cancer dies from it, but nearly 40 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. You almost certainly have friends and/or family members who have faced such a diagnosis; I certainly have friends and family who have fought it — and many have died. And maybe you’re fighting it yourself, or have a gene that makes it more likely you will get it.

Ashish Tripathi is the founder and CEO of Tzar Labs of Singapore, and Director of Epigeneres Biotechnology of India, and he told us what they’ve done about this: their Indian scientists have figured out how to diagnose cancer — even the likely “prospect” of cancer starting — with remarkable accuracy …using a simple blood test.

The HrC test results chart, from their medical journal article (linked below, click to see larger).

The current blood test for cancer is CTC — Circulating Tumor Cells — which looks for individual cells shed by cancerous tumors. Well, that’s way too late: even at confirmed Stage 4, CTC only finds cancer tumor cells about 60 percent of the time. That’s a lot of room for false negatives, especially during early stages.

The thing is, we don’t need to get a diagnosis at Stage 4, we need it at Stage 0 — before there is a tumor! Finding cancers at even Stage 2 would be a huge breakthrough, when it’s still reasonably curable without too much damage. Stage 1, even better. But Tzar’s test, which they call HrC (see the Show Page for what that means), finds cancer before tumors form at all. Stage 0. If that was all, that’s Nobel Prize territory. But wait, there’s more.

The test not only shows there’s cancer coming, it indicates to which organ it’s coming to. In later stages it indicates what organs it’s starting to spread to — again before tumors form there. The earlier cancer is detected and located, the easier and more successfully it can be treated. Just that would save hundreds of billions of treatment costs, let alone the suffering and death in millions every year.

And yes, there’s still more. Tripathi says it’ll be cheap enough to do the testing routinely every year. And it’s so accurate that if the result is negative, they can pretty much guarantee there will be no cancer for the next year because it takes that long for any cancer to start and become detectable …still at Stage 0.

See what I mean by mind-blowing?!

The medical journal paper front page. The full thing costs $40 (here).

They do it by analyzing markers in the RNA transcriptome. RNA, or ribonucleic acid, has been in the news a lot with another medical breakthrough: m (or “messenger”) RNA was how the first Covid vaccines were delivered. And that’s it for the jargon: I’ll include a link to the paper describing it in scientific detail on the Show Page.

Now, it is reasonable to approach this with skepticism. It’s already ironic that the very day I was starting to outline this episode, the criminal trial of Elizabeth Holmes was getting underway. Who’s she? The founder, at age 19, and CEO, of Theranos, which had the technology (she promised) that could do blood tests from mere drops of blood with great accuracy right in your doctor’s office using a tiny machine.

What are her criminal charges? Fraud and conspiracy, because the college dropout was lying: she had developed no such technology, and all the investors in Theranos lost the hundreds of millions of dollars they poured into the company to help commercialize it.

So how does Tzar prove it? Well, that’s why this new test isn’t well known yet: their proof of concept involved a thousand test subjects, 500 with cancer and 500 without, but Tzar now has to run large clinical trials to prove it works. Unofficially, they’ve already saved some very important person’s life with it. Important enough that Tripathi couldn’t even hint as to who. As usual, the rich and powerful get first access, but that’s OK: let them help pay for it so the rest of us can get it!

Another way to scan the body for tumors is the PET scan. That’s cool, except that the radiation exposure to the patient from a PET scan can be the equivalent of up to 70,000 x-rays, which guess what, could be enough to cause cancer by itself. Even CAT scans produce the equivalent exposure of up to 4,000 x-rays.

So a simple blood test really is ideal: it’s easy and hardly invasive. Tzar expects their HrC test to be approved in India by the end of the year. They’ve filed for patents in the U.S., Europe, Japan, China, Singapore, and other countries. Tripathi didn’t provide a timetable beyond India, so I wouldn’t expect it to roll out widely before 2022 at the earliest, and probably later.

Yet this is just one of the things I learned at the conference, and it was relatively easy to explain it here, but it’s a small taste of what’s coming in the next five years to bring better health to all of us, not just the privileged few.

So as they say, don’t die in the next five years. Consider yourself warned.

The Show Notes for this episode are at thisistrue.com/podcast91, which has links, a couple of illustrations, and a place to comment.

I’m Randy Cassingham … and I will talk at you later.

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16 Comments on “091: Don’t Die in the Next Five Years

  1. Back in Jr High (middle school for those younger readers) we were given the assignment of writing our own obituary. Mine was that I died of a massive stroke at age 150 while in the office. Granted life hasn’t gone as expected, but I still see nothing that is going to knock me out any time soon.

    • Hey! I have someone “my age” to hang with. It’ll be fun to collect younger friends, like in their early 100s as we go.

      The year I was to go to Jr. High, the school system changed it to include 6th graders also, converting it to a Middle School. Missed it by *that* much! -rc

  2. I am 73 and am in reasonably good health. In high school I would answer ‘I’m going to live to be 125’ when people asked ‘What are you going to do in life?’ I felt that medical science would progress to make it possible. It seems I may have been right. It remains to be seen if we can cure obliviocy in time to keep the world climate in a state that will be conducive to life.

    There’s probably not a cure for obliviocy, but there are ways to lessen its impacts. -rc

    • I reached my conclusion on longevity based on how much my grandparents outlived their parents and my parents their parents. I calculated that gave me to 125. Then I decided to me more positive and upped that age of demise to 150. Watch me go!

  3. Some interesting info here.

    As extra info: in Japan 63.8 out of every hundred thousand people are older than 100. In the USA it is about 42, Portugal 38. I was surprised to see South Africa at 30/100,000.

    Add to this developments in gene therapy, neutrigenomics, 3d printing of body parts, stem cells, detection technology like Randy mentions, computational advances, robotic surgery….

    Each of these advances in their own is amazing. As they get integrated, life expectancy will grow in leaps and bounds.

    As long as the advances are accompanied with the insight to make them readily available, affordable, and tho use preventative measures everywhere possible.

    The U.S. spends the most on healthcare in the world, yet we rank LAST among 11 “rich” countries studied (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.) We are not getting our money’s worth. -rc

  4. Excellent series, thanks Randy & Kit! May i suggest a page with links to each of your exploratory transcripts? Reason: I learn better through reading than listening, & i’ve been waiting to go a little deaf for decades so i’ll stop hearing all there is to hear in a 100-yard radius. FYI i clued in at five years old that i was going to have a long life while looking right at the huge tummies of the older folk talking above me so i’d better exercise & eat moderately to get there. Your research will help since i’m less than halfway to Kit’s goal ~ mine was only 95!

    I’m not sure what you’re suggesting, since all podcasts already have a full transcript. But starting at age 5 is awesome! -rc

  5. Quality of life has to be a key to any longevity programs. If your joints are blown and every day of life for 50 years is lived in pain is that really life? If you live to 150 and 75 of those years are not quality years is that a benefit to society or a massive burden? Do we make it okay to “opt out” of life at any point without the stigmas we have around doing so today?

    150 years is a LONG TIME! If you were 150 today you would have been born in 1870. France declares war on Prussia, Brooklyn bridge is started, Out west in Montana troops are fighting the Indians. John D. Rockefeller incorporates Standard Oil. Could you handle the progress that is made in 150 years?

    What is the impact of this extension when we have a near net zero population increase today? Do we suddenly have a massive increases in population as we are living 1.5X as long as we previously did? How do we feed that many more people? Do we limit who can get this extension as result. Is it “fair” to limit it and who would you trust to make those decisions. Clearly not politicians! Educators, the horror! Scientists? Well we never have before and with good reason.

    The questions this topic can drive are nearly endless and before we go down the path maybe we should ask is, “should we” before we do so. A lot like AI….

    • Doug, you bring up good questions. I’m reminded of Ann Rice’s Vampire novels — the vampires have a hard time adjusting as times change. Some of us complain about the tech changes over the last 50 years already; in 150 years — yikes! And if those around you aren’t living till 150, what does that mean for one’s emotional life? Might get lonely.

      And then there’s the SG1 episode — an alien race extends human life by 2X. But the tradeoff (which they don’t bother to warn about up front) is that they engineer a huge increase in sterility… no more (or very few) kids. There is no way to support the population otherwise.

      I do think living “well” — keeping our faculties and as much health as we can — while we live is a good goal. And I know I’m not ready to die yet — too much still to see! What happens next in the world? But I am beginning to see that I might get tired of living after another few decades… So excellent questions, Doug.

    • Yeah, Doug, there are lots of unanswered questions on this topic. And, people are working on those issues. All of the scientists we listened to are working on improving quality of life. We are already living longer — they want to make it better. Your car has better diagnostics than your body and scientists are aiming to change that. You deserve to as well analyzed as your car.

  6. I’m 77, been through hell physically but still functioning fairly well. I plan to live forever. So far, so good. If it weren’t for the advances made in my lifetime I wouldn’t have made it this far. Randy please keep up the great work. It gives us hope.

  7. I’m quite impressed with what’s happening with cancer now. I was diagnosed in April of 2019, after turning up with anemia at my regular visit to the Red Cross to donate platelets.

    When I was told they were starting chemo the following week, I was expecting to be dead tired, sick as a dog, have my hair fall out, the works. The drugs I’m on have been quite tolerable. Medical science is getting really good at targeting cancer and leaving alone the tissues we want to keep. The only drug that hit me hard was the Melphalan they gave me for my stem cell transplant. That’s an old-fashioned chemo that poisons everything with the aim of poisoning the cancer more.

    (They have a new form of Melphalan that was approved a month or so after my transplant. It’s Melphalan wrapped in a protein shell, so it doesn’t do anything until it’s unwrapped by a particular enzyme. The enzyme is common in the cancer cells and rare in other tissue. It’s kind of like being able to send a letter bomb to everyone, and only terrorists have letter openers.)

    I’m receiving immunotherapy, and the proteins that indicate cancer have dropped down to the “normal” range. I’ve had a month of such readings, and we’ll see how long it lasts, but there’s an amazing amount of research going on. Three or four new drugs are developed every year, and a lot of these are attacking the cancer by different mechanisms, not just hitting the same target in different ways. Indeed, I expect the mRNA vaccines to be adapted to targeting cancers of all kinds very soon.

    When I was first diagnosed, I was told they might be able to get me a decade, even though this is a “high risk” form of the cancer. Let’s see what they have in five years.

    Love the letter bomb analogy! And yeah, a decade is very hopeful: a lot can happen in that time. -rc

  8. Well, Randy, before I read your piece (but *after* reading about telomers &c., trying to eat less and being *only* “fattish” {i.e., pudgy w/nice legs}, doing tai chi moderately for the last few decades & having in recent days read that the best way to normalize weight & body shape is the meat diet — which I may give it a shot, I unthinkingly (& ignorantly) decided I would try to live to 120. Kudos to Kit for being courageous enough to shoot for 150.

    I just (31 August) turned 80; have never knowingly broken a bone (if you don’t count falling gut-first one story onto a concrete ‘block’, part of a basement wall under construction when I was about 7 y.o. or so, thus knocking my last vertebra 25% out of alignment, which I only realized nearly at the end of the millennium when I required hydrotherapy to correct a certain ‘pain in the ass’ which I had previously only been accused of being; more recently, I have stopped smoking (an occasional cigar, as an adjunct to my vitolphilia {cigar band collecting}, a hobby I picked up at about the same time as I creamed my vertebra); from here on, I will try to eat more meat and fewer carbs: and thanks, Kit, for giving me a new goal, and seemingly a possible one. Especially if I don’t go back to the occasional cigar.

    I’ll have more about diet in later episodes. There are definitely reasonable adjustments to try that will help with both weight and longevity. -rc

  9. Really looking forward to hearing more on this. You’ve opened my eyes twice in the past 24 hours about healthcare — first Carbon Health and now Tzar.

    There are a lot of interesting developments coming. -rc

  10. I’d certainly question why anyone would look forward to living another 80-85 years from now. With a combination of unabated population growth, and increasingly disastrous impact of climate change, the prospects don’t look at all appealing for enjoying that longer life.

    While I agree not everyone will want to, certainly no one will be forced into it. That said, there are a lot of smart people around who can help solve the many problems we face, who can work on them longer if they have more productive time. -rc

    • That’s a fair point. I look at the world some times and think “thank goodness I won’t be here in 50 years”. But I don’t know if that is part of getting older and moving toward acceptance of death … maybe this happens with every generation.

      Randy, you are an optimist! I’d like to think the people who can solve the problems are the ones who will live longer; but I fear it’s more likely to be the people who cause the problems… the tyrants, the rich who abuse people and the world, etc.

      That’s a fair point! I’m sure there will be some of each. May the good overpower the evil. -rc

  11. I’m 77 and have a 40-year life plan. I may not make it but at least I have an outline of my possible and potential future.

    There is a concept called “longevity escape velocity” which posits that as each year passes and technology and research find ways to continually extend our current lives, each by a little bit more than last year, we will reach a point where lifespan increases without end.

    Yep, and it’s SO intriguing! And perhaps within our grasp already. Remind me to buy you a drink on your 117th birthday. -rc


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