Author Archive for Pharmboy

Will CRISPR fears fade with familiarity?

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Will CRISPR fears fade with familiarity?

Courtesy of Patricia StapletonWorcester Polytechnic Institute

File 20170822 8916 y977a5

With all these ‘test-tube babies’ grown up, how have our reactions to the technology evolved? AP Photo/Alastair Grant

The first “test-tube baby” made headlines around the world in 1978, setting off intense debate on the ethics of researching human embryos and reproductive technologies. Every breakthrough since then has raised the same questions about “designer babies” and “playing God” – but public response has grown more subdued rather than more engaged as assisted reproductive technologies have become increasingly sophisticated and powerful.

As the science has advanced, doctors are able to perform more complex procedures with better-than-ever success rates. This progress has made in vitro fertilization and associated assisted reproductive technologies relatively commonplace. Over one million babies have been born in the U.S. using IVF since 1985.

And Americans’ acceptance of these technologies has evolved alongside their increased usage, as we’ve gotten used to the idea of physicians manipulating embryos.

But the ethical challenges posed by these procedures remain – and in fact are increasing along with our capabilities. While still a long way from clinical use, the recent news that scientists in Oregon had successfully edited genes in a human embryo brings us one step closer to changing the DNA that we pass along to our descendants. As the state of the science continues to advance, ethical issues need to be addressed before the next big breakthrough.

Birth of the test-tube baby era

Louise Brown was born in the U.K. on July 25, 1978. Known as the first “test-tube baby,” she was a product of IVF, a process where an egg is fertilized by sperm outside of the body before being implanted into the womb. IVF opened up the possibility for infertile parents to have their own biologically related children. But Brown’s family was also subjected to vicious hate mail, and groups opposed to IVF warned it would be used for eugenic experiments leading to…
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Editing human embryos with CRISPR is moving ahead – now’s the time to work out the ethics

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Editing human embryos with CRISPR is moving ahead – now's the time to work out the ethics

Courtesy of Jessica BergCase Western Reserve University

File 20170728 15340 1460v93

There’s still a way to go from editing single-cell embryos to a full-term ‘designer baby.’ ZEISS Microscopy, CC BY-SA

The announcement by researchers in Portland, Oregon that they’ve successfully modified the genetic material of a human embryo took some people by surprise.

With headlines referring to “groundbreaking” research and “designer babies,” you might wonder what the scientists actually accomplished. This was a big step forward, but hardly unexpected. As this kind of work proceeds, it continues to raise questions about ethical issues and how we should we react.

What did researchers actually do?

For a number of years now we have had the ability to alter genetic material in a cell, using a technique called CRISPR.

The DNA that makes up our genome comprises long sequences of base pairs, each base indicated by one of four letters. These letters form a genetic alphabet, and the “words” or “sentences” created from a particular order of letters are the genes that determine our characteristics.

Sometimes words can be “misspelled” or sentences slightly garbled, resulting in a disease or disorder. Genetic engineering is designed to correct those mistakes. CRISPR is a tool that enables scientists to target a specific area of a gene, working like the search-and-replace function in Microsoft Word, to remove a section and insert the “correct” sequence.

In the last decade, CRISPR has been the primary tool for those seeking to modify genes – human and otherwise. Among other things, it has been used in experiments to make mosquitoes resistant to malaria, genetically modify plants to be resistant to disease, explore the possibility of engineered pets and livestock, and potentially treat some human diseases (including HIV, hemophilia and leukemia).

Up until recently, the focus in humans has been on changing the cells of a single individual, and not…
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Biologics: The pricey drugs transforming medicine

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Biologics: The pricey drugs transforming medicine

Courtesy of Ian HaydonUniversity of Washington

File 20170724 28293 q0p57w

The cells inside this bioreactor are the real pharmaceutical factories. Sanofi Pasteur, CC BY-NC-ND

In a factory just outside San Francisco, there’s an upright stainless steel vat the size of a small car, and it’s got something swirling inside.

The vat is studded with gauges, hoses and pipes. Inside, it’s hot – just under 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Sugar and other nutrients are being pumped in because, inside this formidable container, there is life.

Scientists are growing cells in there. Those cells, in turn, are growing medicine. Every two weeks or so, the hot, soupy liquid inside gets strained and processed. The purified molecules that result will eventually be injected into patients with Stage IV cancer.

Drugs that are made this way – inside living cells – are called biologics. And they’re taking medicine by storm. By 2016, biologics had surged to make up 25 percent of the total pharmaceutical market, bringing in US$232 billion, with few signs their upward trend will slow.

Distinct from conventional drugs

Common medicines such as aspirin, antacids and statins are chemical in nature. Though many were initially discovered in the wild (aspirin is a cousin of a compound in willow bark, the first statin was found in a fungus), these drugs are now made nonbiologically.

Conventional medicines are stitched together by chemists in large factories using other chemicals as building blocks. Their molecular structures are well defined and relatively simple. Aspirin, for example, contains just 21 atoms (nine carbons, eight hydrogens and four oxygens) bonded together to form a particular shape. A single aspirin tablet – even kid-sized – contains trillions of copies of the drug molecule.

Biologic drugs are a different story. This class of medication is not synthesized chemically – instead they are harvested directly from biology, as their name suggests. Most modern biologics are assembled inside vats – or bioreactors – that house genetically engineered microbes or mammalian cell cultures. Efforts are underway to make them in
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A new vaccine is promising to advance the frontier of eliminating malaria

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A new vaccine is promising to advance the frontier of eliminating malaria

Courtesy of Simon KariukiKenya Medical Research Institute

File 20170630 8190 11ktn0z

A malaria vaccine will be piloted in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi to assess its suitability. Siegfried Modola/Reuters.

More than 30 malaria vaccine candidates are at various stages of development. The RTS,S vaccine is at the most advanced stage.

The World Health Organisation has recommended the introduction of the vaccine in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi as a pilot programme to assess its suitability in expanded immunisation programmes.

The vaccine could prove to be a powerful tool in sustaining the gains made in the last decade in reducing malaria related cases and deaths. Between 2000 and 2015, new malaria cases fell by 37% globally, and by 42% in Africa. This has been achieved through key interventions such as using treated bed nets, spraying houses with insecticides and effective antimalarial drugs.

Combined with existing malaria interventions, the vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa. It’s important for two other reasons too.

Firstly, it would reduce the cost of managing malaria. Historically, vaccines are more cost-effective in preventing the spread of diseases compared to other methods.

Secondly, the vaccine could deal with resistance to both drugs and insecticides that’s on the rise.

The vaccine’s history

The RTS,S malaria vaccine was created in 1987 by scientists working at GlaxoSmithKline laboratories. Early clinical development of the vaccine was conducted in collaboration with the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research.

In January 2001, GlaxoSmithKline and PATH’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative entered into a public-private partnership to develop RTS,S for infants and young children living in malaria-endemic regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

Phase I and II clinical trials allowed an initial assessment of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, initially in adult volunteers in the US and Belgium.

This was followed by adults, adolescents, children, and then infants living in…
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Immunotherapy: Training the body to fight cancer

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Immunotherapy: Training the body to fight cancer

Courtesy of Balveen KaurThe Ohio State University and Pravin KaumayaThe Ohio State University

Image 20170202 1665 nzadz6

An oral squamous cancer cell (white) being attacked by two T cells (red), part of a natural immune response. NIH Image Gallery, CC BY-NC

The human immune system is powerful and complex.

It can identify and destroy invaders of nearly infinite variety, yet spare the more than 30 trillion cells of the healthy body.

Unfortunately, the broken cells of cancer are able to retain, and boost, the “recognize and ignore me” signals of undamaged cells, letting them evade detection by the immune system. As a result, these damaged cells grow unmolested, destroying the normal physiological functioning of tissues and organs.

Armed with new insights into the interactions between cancer and the immune system, research teams are developing novel treatments to harness the full potential of the body’s natural defenses. This is called immunotherapy.

In animal models and clinical trials, breakthrough immunotherapies are emerging, techniques that train the immune system to recognize and attack cancer as the enemy.

One way is through drugs that help the immune system find and destroy cancer cells. Another way is through vaccines that can teach the body to recognize cancer cells.

Recently, studies have paired immunotherapies with modified viruses that attack tumor cells and keep them from returning.

With promising results, such new weapons are providing hope that cancer can ultimately be defeated.

Harnessing the immune system

When foreign cells – like viruses or bacteria – infect the body, the immune system springs into action. It produces antibodies that bind to proteins called antigens on the surface of the foreign cell. Sometimes this is enough to neutralize the foreign cell. In other cases the antibodies bind to the antigen and mark the cell for destruction by T-cells, or both.

Cancer cells also produce antigens. But even though cancer cells are not normal and would otherwise be marked for destruction, antibodies don’t…
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We have a vaccine for six cancers; why are less than half of kids getting it?

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We have a vaccine for six cancers; why are less than half of kids getting it?

Courtesy of Electra D. Paskett, The Ohio State University

Early in our careers, few of us imagined a vaccine could one day prevent cancer. Now there is a vaccine that keeps the risk of developing six Human Papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers at bay, but adoption of it has been slow and surprising low.

Although it’s been available for more than a decade, as of 2014 only 40 percent of girls had received the full three doses of the vaccine, while only 22 percent of boys had received all three. That is far lower than the 87 percent vaccination rates for the Tdap vaccine, which prevents tetanus, diptheria and acellular pertussis. Rates of uptake are low in all population groups.

Some of the reasons include misinformation about the vaccine and why it’s administered to children. Because it is transmitted sexually in almost all cases, many parents assume their children do not need it until they are sexually active. Some believe that giving it will encourage early sexual behavior. Three separate doses on three separate doctor visits place a burden to many working parents. And, of course, there are those few who believe that vaccines are not good for children.

Now, however, with the approval of a two-dose regimen for children under age 15, we have an opportunity to revisit the conversation with providers and parents and reinvigorate efforts to expand HPV vaccination. If successful, we may save tens of thousands of Americans from cancer every year.

A common virus with an uncommon risk

Oncologists and cancer control researchers, including my colleagues at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, regard HPV as the leading cause of many cervical, anal, vaginal, vulvar, penile and oropharynx cancers, or head and neck cancers. In fact, studies are now revealing how HPV damages the genes in our cells and triggers the mutations of cancer.

The U.S. Centers for Disease…
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Even though genetic information is available, doctors may be ignoring important clinical clues

Reminder: Pharmboy and Ilene available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

Even though genetic information is available, doctors may be ignoring important clinical clues

Courtesy of Greg HallCase Western Reserve University

File 20170616 537 1l34by2

Digitized strand of DNA. Mathagraphics/From www.shutterstock.com

With the availability of home genetic testing kits from companies such as “23andMe” and “Ancestry DNA,” more people will be getting information about their genetic lineage and what races and ethnicities of the world are included in their DNA.

Geneticists, meanwhile, are also getting more tailored information about disease risk and prevalence as genetic testing in medical research centers continues.

Physicians accept that cystic fibrosis, for example, is much more common in people with Northern European ancestry and that sickle cell disease occurs dramatically more often in people with African origins. These commonly accepted racial and ethnic differences in disease prevalence are just the tip of the iceberg when looking at clinical differences that vary based on genetics.

But there’s a problem, a recent study from the National Institutes of Health found. Many physicians and other providers are uncomfortable discussing race with their patients, and also reticent to connect race or ethnicity to genetics and clinical decision-making, the study suggested.

Overall, physician focus groups “asserted that genetics has a limited role in explaining racial differences in health,” the authors added.

As a primary care physician who teaches urban health to medical students and as a state minority health commissioner who advocates for health equity, I see this as a problem that health care systems, and their providers, need to address.

The state of the science

Commercial DNA tests, such as those provided by 23andMe, not only give people their racial and ethnic lineage but also can provide a weighted risk for diabetes, stomach ulcers, cancer and many other diseases. In April, the FDA granted approval to 23andMe to sell reports to consumers that tell them whether they may be at heightened risk.

These companies already have the data that describe the risks for health problems based on the percentage of their…
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Expert conversation: using open source drug discovery to help treat neglected diseases

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Expert conversation: using open source drug discovery to help treat neglected diseases

Courtesy of Gaëll MainguyCentre de Recherches Interdisciplinaires (CRI)

File 20170614 15456 3fcw3z

Professor Samir Brahmachar: ‘Why should drug discovery be kept in the Wright brothers’ era of trial and error?’ Alchetron.com

The Open Source Drug Discovery project, launched in 2008 by biophysicist Samir Brahmachari, aims to develop low-cost treatments for neglected diseases using an open-source approach. Brahmachari is founding director of India’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology. He was interviewed by Gaëll Mainguy, director of development and international relations for the CRI (conversation has been edited and condensed for publication).

Gaëll Mainguy: Professor Brahmachari, can you introduce yourself in a few words?

Samir Brahmachari: I have dedicated most of my career to DNA structure and function, and in particular to repetitive sequences – long before the discovery of trinucleotide repeats, a major cause of neurological and neuromuscular diseases. I got hooked to the subject of the potential functions of the so called “junk” portion of the genome when I was a post-doc in Paris in Jacques Monod’s laboratory. The field was virtually blank and not yet competitive – a real bonanza for a young researcher looking to start a scientific career. This uncharted territory was fascinating.

In 1997, I moved to Delhi and founded the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, associated with a large number of hospitals and doctors, to annotate and analyse the functions of genome variations. I led the Human Genome Variation project for Asia and mapped the Indian genomic diversity to identify predictive markers for complex diseases and pharmacogenomics studies.

That’s when I decided to move to bacteria: as people were discussing the need for modelling an entire human genome, I realised that the complexity of our species and the paucity of data would preclude such an endeavour for a long time to come. The question was: is it possible to build a computational model of 4,000 genes?

Right now I’m in Paris as a member of the Scientific Advisory…
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How ‘cannibalism’ by breast cancer cells promotes dormancy: A possible clue into cancer recurrence

Reminder: Pharmboy and Ilene are available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

How 'cannibalism' by breast cancer cells promotes dormancy: A possible clue into cancer recurrence

Courtesy of Thomas BartoshTexas A&M University

Image 20170305 29017 s8nb4v

Cancer cells, in red, cannibalize a type of stem cell, shown in green. The red cells with small specks of green are breast cancer cells that have “eaten” the stem cell. Author provided. 

Breast cancer death rates overall have steadily declined since 1989, leading to an increased number of survivors. But while breast cancer survivors are grateful their bodies show no trace of the disease, they still face anxiety. Breast cancer can and does return, sometimes with a vengeance, even after being in remission for several years.

By studying the “cannabilistic” tendency of cancer cells, my research team has made some progress in finding out why.

The chances of recurrence and disease outcome vary with cancer subtype. About one-third of patients diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, the most aggressive subtype, may experience a recurrence in another part of the body. This is called distant recurrence.

It has been difficult, if not impossible, to predict if and when the same cancer will recur – and to stop it. Recurrent disease may arise from just a single cancer cell that survived the initial treatment and became dormant. The dormancy allowed it to hide somewhere in the body, not growing or causing harm for an unpredictable amount of time.

Determining what puts these dormant cells to “sleep” and what provokes them to “wake up” and begin multiplying uncontrollably could lead to important new treatments to prevent a demoralizing secondary cancer diagnosis.

Recently, my research team and I uncovered several clues that might explain what triggers these breast cancer cells to go dormant and then “reawaken.” We showed that cell cannibalism is linked to dormancy.

How do bone stem cells affect breast cancer?

Breast cancer can recur in the breast or in other organs, such as the lungs and bone. Where breast cancer decides to grow depends largely on the…
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As scientists train the immune system to fight cancer, others look to combat costs

Reminder: Pharmboy is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

As scientists train the immune system to fight cancer, others look to combat costs

Courtesy of Ian HaydonUniversity of Washington

File 20170513 3682 14mgxoi

Poison, radiation or surgery.

For decades now, these have been the only weapons available in the war against cancer. But everyone who has known cancer up close – patients, their loved ones and physicians – has longed for a better way.

Immunotherapy is emerging as the so-called fourth pillar of cancer therapy, alongside chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Unlike these older approaches, immunotherapy works with your body by boosting your immune system’s natural ability to detect and eliminate cancer.

“Boosting your immune system” might sound cheap, but with a foe like cancer, simply upping your vitamin C intake won’t cut it.

Billions of research dollars, including from the Obama administration’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative, are being poured into finding new, molecular tools to enhance the immune system’s ability to fight cancer of all types. Now that these new therapies are starting to work, some researchers are turning their attention to something else: driving down costs.

Engineering antibodies to better recognize cancer

Antibodies are a natural part of the immune system. Their job is to physically adhere to specific molecules, including to proteins found on the surface of cells. If antibodies are able to stick to their target, they can (in some cases) recruit other parts of the immune system to take it out.

Perhaps the most famous anti-cancer antibody drug available today is trastuzumab, or Herceptin. In certain forms of breast cancer, a growth-related protein called HER2 is extra abundant on the surface of cancerous cells. Herceptin is engineered to bind to HER2, which not only slows down tumor growth, but also allows the rest of the immune system to mount an attack.

Cancer cells displaying an Achilles’ heel – the HER2 biomarker (red dots). Journal of Pathology Informatics CC-NC-SA

Herceptin has proven effective…
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Phil's Favorites

Machine learning and big data know it wasn't you who just swiped your credit card

 

Machine learning and big data know it wasn't you who just swiped your credit card

Courtesy of Jungwoo Ryoo, Pennsylvania State University

You’re sitting at home minding your own business when you get a call from your credit card’s fraud detection unit asking if you’ve just made a purchase at a department store in your city. It wasn’t you who bought expensive electronics using your credit card – in fact, it’s been in your pocket all afternoon. So how did the bank know to flag this single purchase as most likely fraudulent?

Credit card companies have a vested interest in identifying financial transactions that are illegitimate and criminal in nature. The stakes are high. According to the ...



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Zero Hedge

Will Bitcoin Mining Consume All The World's Current Electricity Production By Feb 2020?

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Via PowerCompare.co.uk,

Bitcoin’s ongoing meteoric price rise has received the bulk of recent press attention with a lot of discussion around whether or not it’s a bubble waiting to burst.

However, most the coverage has missed out one of the more interesting and unintended consequences of this price increase. That is the surge in global electricity consumption used to “mine” more Bitcoins.

How ...

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Digital Currencies

Bitcoin & Fiat Paper Dollars

Courtesy of Zero Hedge

By Chris Whalen

This past week on Bloomberg Television, I referred to bitcoin as "a fraud decorated with technology." The fraud comes about because the exchange of a fiat legal dollar for a token, to use the kind description adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission, seems unfair and frankly incomplete. But since the dollar itself is a product of government fiat, the subject seems open to debate.

The fact that a growing crowd of people have decided to speculate in this modern day version of tulip bulbs does not alter the unfairness of the exchange.  Our friend Jim Rickards recently squared off against four bitcoi...



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Chart School

Happy Thanksgiving :) Friday Should Be A Winner

Courtesy of Declan

Thanksgiving Wednesday was never going to generate an exciting day but it was good to see early week gains retained. Upcoming Thanksgiving Friday is typically a day when Junior traders go wild and decent gains are posted - even if trading volume is light. With last week's lead action I wouldn't be surprised if this pattern was to repeat.

Tech Indices have been leading the charge in recent days and I would look to the Nasdaq and Nasdaq 100 to be the primary chargers on Friday. Technicals are firmly in the green.

The Nasda...



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Insider Scoop

8 Stocks To Watch For November 22, 2017

Courtesy of Benzinga.

Related CRM 9 Stock's Moving In Tuesday's After Hours Session Salesforce Falls Despite Q3 Beat The Vetr co...

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Biotech

The two obstacles that are holding back Alzheimer's research

Reminder: Pharmboy and Ilene are available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

 

The two obstacles that are holding back Alzheimer's research

Courtesy of Todd GoldeUniversity of Florida

Family members often become primary caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. tonkid/Shutterstock.com

Thirty years ago, scientists began to unlock the mysteries regarding the cause of Alzheimer’...



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ValueWalk

Robert Mugabe Under House Arrest, Military Takes Control Of Zimbabwe

By Andjela Radmilac. Originally published at ValueWalk.

Zimbabwe’s head of state, 93-year-old Robert Mugabe, has been placed under house arrest after what seems to be a military coup took place in the nation’s capital.

By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsRobert Mugabe is safe

Following numerous reports on social media late Thursday night about the increased military presence in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, the country’s military took...



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Members' Corner

An Interview with David Brin

Our guest David Brin is an astrophysicist, technology consultant, and best-selling author who speaks, writes, and advises on a range of topics including national defense, creativity, and space exploration. He is also a well-known and influential futurist (one of four “World's Best Futurists,” according to The Urban Developer), and it is his ideas on the future, specifically the future of civilization, that I hope to learn about here.   

Ilene: David, you base many of your predictions of the future on a theory of historica...



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Mapping The Market

Puts things in perspective

Courtesy of Jean-Luc

Puts things in perspective:

The circles don't look to be to scale much!

...

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OpTrader

Swing trading portfolio - week of September 11th, 2017

Reminder: OpTrader is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

 

This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current  trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).

We also indicate our stop, which is most of the time the "5 day moving average". All trades, unless indicated, are front-month ATM options. 

Please feel free to participate in the discussion and ask any questions you might have about this virtual portfolio, by clicking on the "comments" link right below.

To learn more about the swing trading virtual portfolio (strategy, performance, FAQ, etc.), please click here ...



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Promotions

NewsWare: Watch Today's Webinar!

 

We have a great guest at today's webinar!

Bill Olsen from NewsWare will be giving us a fun and lively demonstration of the advantages that real-time news provides. NewsWare is a market intelligence tool for news. In today's data driven markets, it is truly beneficial to have a tool that delivers access to the professional sources where you can obtain the facts in real time.

Join our webinar, free, it's open to all. 

Just click here at 1 pm est and join in!

[For more information on NewsWare, click here. For a list of prices: NewsWar...



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Kimble Charting Solutions

Brazil; Waterfall in prices starting? Impact U.S.?

Courtesy of Chris Kimble.

Below looks at the Brazil ETF (EWZ) over the last decade. The rally over the past year has it facing a critical level, from a Power of the Pattern perspective.

CLICK ON CHART TO ENLARGE

EWZ is facing dual resistance at (1), while in a 9-year down trend of lower highs and lower lows. The counter trend rally over the past 17-months has it testing key falling resistance. Did the counter trend reflation rally just end at dual resistance???

If EWZ b...



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All About Trends

Mid-Day Update

Reminder: Harlan is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

Click here for the full report.




To learn more, sign up for David's free newsletter and receive the free report from All About Trends - "How To Outperform 90% Of Wall Street With Just $500 A Week." Tell David PSW sent you. - Ilene...

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About Phil:

Philip R. Davis is a founder Phil's Stock World, a stock and options trading site that teaches the art of options trading to newcomers and devises advanced strategies for expert traders...

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