Thursday, 8 February 2007

Growth factor drugs boost leukemia risk after breast cancer

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Chemotherapy sent my blood counts spiraling on two separate occasions. Both times I landed in the hospital. And during my second stay, it took several daily injections of Neupogen -- a growth factor immunity drug -- to push my white blood counts from a low 1,200 to a whopping 58,000.

The only side effect I suffered as a result of this drug was aching bones and joints. This was temporary and not s uch a big deal. What might be a big deal for breast cancer survivors like me, however, is the result of a new study suggesting there may be a risk of leukemia from these immunity boosting drugs.

These drugs, G-CSF (such as Neupogen) and GM-CSF (such as Leukine) may cause rare cases of leukemia, says Columbia University's Dawn Hersmand whose study is published in yesterday's Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

It's already been established that chemotherapy itself can cause leukemia. And Hersmand's study showed 1.04 percent of women who did not receive growth factors developed leukemia from chemotherapy alone. But 1.77 percent of women treated with G-CSF or GM-CSF developed the disease. While the drugs appear to statistically double the risk, the actual risk still remains quite small. And researchers say the benefits of the drug right now outweigh the risks.

Reversing Autoimmunity Q & A

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Like a dog chasing its own tail (but nowhere near as funny), type 1 diabetes is caused by a self-imposed attack on insulin producing cells. Here's your chance to chat live and learn about the latest discoveries to interfere with the automimmune confusion. Chat live with the head of the Immunogenetics Program at the Diabetes Research Institute, Alberto Pugliese, M.D.

The DRI program is specifically focused on understanding how genetic and immunological factors play a role in the development of type 1 diabetes and how certain genetic and immunological factors may actually afford protection from diabetes. The program is uncovering ways to interfere with the immune cells that attack the insulin producing cells in the pancreas resulting in diabetes.

In plain English, join Dr. Pugliese to enlighten yourself and ask any questions you may have regarding this impressive research. The chat begins at 9pm EST and those who miss it can catch the excitement in the transcript, to be posted shortly thereafter. I hope to see fellow IDDMs on the chat roster.

Post-op diabetes risk factors

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In the January 2007 issue of the the journal Liver Transplantation, the official journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD), French scientists published an article suggesting a link between certain risk factors and new-onset diabetes mellitus (NODM) following liver transplantation.

Specifically, a history of impaired fasting glucose, obesity and hepatitis C infection -- when paired with the use of an of immunosppressant -- was shown to be associated with an increased risk of NODM.

The study, conducted by a team of researchers at the Hospital Paul Brousse in Villejuif, France, included 211 patients from 10 transplant centers who had undergone a liver transplant between October of 2003 and June of 2004. The patients' records were reviewed and their fasting blood sugar levels were recorded 3, 6, 12, and 18 months after the surgery. Those patients with NODM had their date of diagnosis noted, in addition to the immunosuppressive treatment and diabetes management they received.

The results demonstrated an incident of NODM of 22.7 percent, with most cases being diagnosed within three months after transplant surgery. Moreover, 12.4 percent of the patients with normal glucose levels before the surgery developed impaired fasting glucose.

Risk of high blood pressure in sedentary adolescents

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X-Box, Playstation, Wii, Game Cube -- oh yeah, and let's not forget the internet. Throw in some standard television programs and cartoons, and before you know it, every waking hour of a kids' day is spent doing something that involves zero physical activity. Some may argue that the Nintendo Wii system, which requires you to move in a manner that dictates the movement of the character on the screen (for example, if you are playing a tennis game, you have to "swing" the game controller), does involve physical exertion. But let's face it, it's still a poor excuse for exercise. Obesity rates continue to climb in youth and adolescents, and now research points to the fact that high blood pressure may also be on the rise -- all due to spending too much time engaged in sedentary activities.

Researchers from the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia and the University of Tokyo, Japan teamed up to examine the effects off too much TV/Internet/Video Games on kids. In their study of 4,500 American adolescents, the researchers found that sedentary lifestyles and higher body mass index (BMI) are associated with higher systolic blood pressure. Simply put, the more time spent in front of a screen of some sort (computer, video game, TV, etc.), the less healthy these 12-to-15-year-olds were.

High blood pressure in adolescents is predictive of hypertension in adulthood. Furthermore, adolescent obesity is an indicator of adult obesity and cardiovascular risk factors in young adulthood and beyond. So, maybe it's time kids started getting back to basics -- and by basics, I don't mean an Atari system, I mean actually going outside and playing.

Medicare covers aortic ultrasound for those at risk of aneurysm

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Approximately 15,000 Americans die each year from ruptured aortic aneurysms, making it the 10th most common cause of death in the U.S. Doctors assert that routine screenings are vital in early detection and treatment of aortic aneurysms, especially since the treatment itself is such an easy process. Involving an abdominal ultrasound, not at all unlike the painless ultrasound a pregnant mother may have performed, doctors are able to monitor the size of aneurysms. And now, making this early detection even more of a possib ility, qualified Medicare patients will be able to receive screenings for aneurysms as part of their "Welcome to Medicare" physical exam.

Men 65 and older who are, or at one time were, smokers are eligible for the free screening, as are both men and women who have a family history of aortic aneurysms. These factors are of great importance, for it is possible to inherit genes making one more prone to aneurysms, and people who smoke or used to smoke are at an elevated risk. What's more, people who have high blood pressure and/or raised cholesterol levels are also at risk.

On average, men are four times more likely than women, especially men age 65 and older. For women, aneurysms are more likely to occur after the age of 75. But, as stated, smoking or a history of smoking and high blood pressure/cholesterol can factor into these averages.

For more information on the Medicare screening and eligibility, visit: http://www.vascularweb.org/patients/medicarescreening/index.html

Bone loss halted in breast cancer patients treated with Risedronate

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The January issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reported that once a week treatment with Risedronate prevents bone loss in breast cancer patients who underwent treatment with chemotherapy.

Risedronate, a bisphosphonate used to strengthen the bone, is shown to increase bone mineral density (BMD) in the spine by 1.2% after one year of treatment. Markers of bone resorption decreased significantly in the treatment group compared with the placebo group.

The authors noted "These results have important clinical ramifications for breast cancer survivors who go into remission after aggressive therapy. Because of the long-term survival of this cohort, they are at risk for bone loss and osteoporosis. Skeletal integrity needs to be assessed and considered as part of their long-term management."

Some other topics on The Cancer Blog concerning bisphosphonates:

Premenopausal breast cancer patients and bone loss

Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Survivors at Risk for Osteoporosis

Duchess Sarah Ferguson accepts Mother of the Year honor

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When she asked her teenage daughters whether or not she should accept the American Cancer Society's Mother of the Year award, the response was a resounding, "Mom, of course." So Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, accepted the anti-cancer honor this week and told ABC's George Stephanopolous on Sunday why she is a good mom and a healthy role model.

"They see that I go running, I get on my bicycle, I do yoga, pilates, whatever else I do," Ferguson said. "Do you know what they do? Get up off the sofa, turn the television off, walk to work, walk around the block, more vegetables, more fruits at school, less soda pops, less fast food."

Ferguson, 47, says cancer prevention starts with good role modeling -- which is exactly what she has done as mom to princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

"I can safely say one of the best things I've done is be a good mother," Ferguson said.

Ferguson, author of memoir My Story and spokeswoman for Weight Watchers, first became known as the wife of Britain's Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. The pair divorced in 1996, but Ferguson's positive public persona has remained untarnished.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Zinc Does Not Prevent Diabetes

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Despite claims by zinc supplement manufacturers that the pills can help prevent type 2 diabetes, clinical trials do not support this hypothesis.

Laboratory research suggests that zinc helps promote the production and action of insulin. A four-week study of 56 obese women found that zinc did not have an effect on factors associated with the development of diabetes. This study was an example of one trial that treated 56 people with either zinc or a placebo for four weeks and found no effect. This single trial is too small and too short to tell us anything about the effectiveness of zinc in preventing the development of type 2 diabetes.

Research does support that zinc plays a key role in the regulation of insulin production and glucose utilization. Diabetics have shown a zinc deficiency, which impairs their ability to use glucose. However this fact does not confirm zinc as a supplement to prevent the development of diabetes. I apologize it's a nonevent insofar as news. But look at it this way - it's one trial. Nobody says you have to cross it off your list because 56 obese women didn't see a change in their risk factors for developing diabetes. One study is not gospel.

Miracle Muffins sent from the Heavens

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Realizing how influential carbohydrates can be on blood sugars - I swore myself to celibacy from bake goods long ago. However, my closed-door policy underwent peace talks after I had the pleasure of speaking with Ramsey Makar, founder of Miracle Muffins. Mi racle Muffins are diabetic friendly premium muffin mixes with a plethora of wholesome goodness. Fresh baked, every time - all you have to do is add water!

Miracle is a strong word. However, when you see the impact these muffins have on blood sugar --- you'll agree it's miraculous. Ramsey wanted to create a muffin that his diabetic mother could enjoy without the rise in her sugar. He concocted a recipe that contains generous amounts of fiber, healthy soy protein, low-glycemic sweeteners, and very low in fat. Another fact for good measure - the muffins fit comfortably into the diet programs of Weight Watchers, Atkins, South Beach, LA Weight Loss, Nutra System and Zone.

I saved the best part for last - the flavors! Each muffin is fresh baked so you spare nothing on taste. The flavors available are: banana, blueberry, black cherry, chai spiced black tea, cinnamon green tea, chocolate black cherry and gingerbread. The muffin mixes have two versions based on the sweeteners used - Spnenda or Xylitol. It says something profound about a product that actually helped an Olympic athlete lose weight! When you visit the Miracle Muffin site, take a peek at the You Tube video, read the mesmerizing nutrition details, and indulge yourself in the Miracle Muffin experience. You'll be a believer, too!

CLA - Losing Weight but Gaining Fat?

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According to research conducted by Ohio State University, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) may help reduce body fat, but it also increases your risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

In 2003, a study showed that a 2 month supplementation of CLA lowered body mass and blood sugars in diabetics. The recent studies conducted on mice fed a CLA supplemented diet lost weight very fast, but also accumulated excessive amounts of fat in their livers - a side effect of rapid weight loss. In addition, excessive accumulation of fat in the liver is associated with insulin resistance, a factor exacerbating type 2 diabetes.

Although the recent findings were conducted on mice, CLA may or may not have a similar effect on humans. CLA has been a hot selling item in supplement stores for years. I wonder what the results would be if people who have taken CLA (the t10c12 variety) for years were to discontinue use for 4 weeks. I would be curious to see the baseline and follow-up tests for body mass, insulin sensitivity and fat accumulation in the liver. Any med students out there interested in setting-up a lab profiling hepatic function in CLA poppers?

FDA gives go ahead for breast cancer prediction test

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Women with early stage breast cancer now have a new tool at their disposal. The tool -- called MammaPrint -- is newly approved by the FDA and while it is not yet a perfect measure, it can be used along with other information to estimate whether breast cancer is likely to return in five or 10 years.

The value of this test, that measures through computer analysis the activity of 70 genes using a sample of tissue removed from a breast tumor, is that doctors and patie nts can better determine course of treatments.

MammoPrint offers two results -- high risk and low risk -- and accurately picked in studies which women were at low risk at least 90 percent of the time. However, for women who were told they were at high risk for recurrence as a result of the test, just 23 percent experienced a relapse.

"You can't go all the way to the bank with this test," says FDA official Dr. Steven Gutman who argues the test is still better than having no information at all.

Agendia, the Dutch maker of MammoPrint, is exploring ways to make this one-of-a-kind product available in the United States. It has been used in the Netherlands since 2005.

"This test has enormous implications for the short-term future of cancer research in general, and is one of the truly great breakthroughs of our time," says Cancer Blog reader Gregory Pawelski with whom I am gratelful for sharing this story tip wi th me.

Cancer death rates higher in African-Americans

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It's been reported before and sadly, it's still true -- African-American cancer death rates are higher than for the overall population.

A new report from the American Cancer Society reveals the death rate is 35 percent higher in African-American men and 18 percent higher in African-American women. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death among this population.

While the cancer plight of this group is improving, African-Americans are still more likely to be diagnosed at later stages of the disease. And late diagnosis often translates into a decreased chance for survival.

Hollywood star Barbara McNair loses her battle with cancer

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Barbara McNair, 72, started out as a nightclub singer and moved into film and TV as more opportunities for black women opened up in the 1960's. She eventually hosted her own show in 1969 called The Barbara McNair Show.

Her best known film role came as Sidney Poitier's wife in the classic crime drama They Call Me Mister Tibbs. She played on Broadway, posed in Playboy and was cast along Elvis Presley in his last film, Change of Habit. She also accompanied Bob Hope on a tour of Vietnam.

Barbara died on Sunday after a long battle with cancer, her husband said.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Super Bowl Diabetes Sighting

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Yes sports fans -- diabetes did make a cameo at the Super Bowl. Did you see her?

The notorious commercials-- costing several million a pop- livened up the intensity of the game. The K-fed commercial had a reputation a long time ago - and passed it, with flying colors! The commercial of diabetic interest was paid for by King Pharmaceuticals. It featured a man dressed as a heart, being chased by different factors that can wear and tear on your little pumper. Of course, the role of "diabetes" was portrayed wonderfully by a woman. Hell hath no fury, people. And the message?

The ad is promoting an educational site that King Pharmaceuticals has partnered with the American Heart Association to launch. The site is named beatyourrisk.com. The chief commercial officer for King Pharmaceuticals said, "The purpose of the ad is to raise awareness for the Web site to any extent possible and educate people that they are at serious risk. This is not toenail fungus. People can die." So true! And after you finish cleaning up the remains of the potato chips, wings, and beer - check out the site and rejoice in preventative education!

Small change may help in a big way

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Sometimes change can come in the form of something mammoth in size, while other times it can appear as something simple. Regardless of the scale, it is the totality of the effect that change that matters most. And, insofar as smaller, simpler changes go, a recent classification of infections may have a profound effect on the future of diabetes complications.

This change comes as the result of a joint effort by several research groups, hailing from as far and as wide as Texas to the Netherlands. Publishing their landmark study on the classification of diabetic foot infections has validated and tweaked the Infectious Disease Society of America's already standing system of labeling infections as mild, moderate or severe. The doctors involved in the study see this study as having a dramatic impact on predicting hospitalization and amputation. Furthermore, it will assist doctors in communicating with their patients and guiding them most effectively through therapy.

For more information on this classification system, visit: www.diabetic-foot.net

A little bit of codebreaking may be involved

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If you haven't noticed, there are always Spam comments left on this blog. It seems as though they are able to pinpoint specific words that are written in the posts, and their subsequent, automated response typically has something to do with that word or group of words. And, you probably also noticed that, in most cases, these comments don't make any sense or, worse yet, have nothing to do with the post at all. Well, there's not too much I can do about that. But, for just this one time, I've decided that I want to try to trick these automatic Spam comments while still passing along to you all of the information.

This may not be as easy as I think it is going to be. We'll see how it goes.

In the country that borders THE STATES THAT HAVE BEEN UNITED to the north, researchers have discovered that taking THE KIND OF HEALTH PRODUCT MADE FAMOUS BY CENTRUM AND THE FLINSTONES (especially the one that ends with the letter "D") and THE BENEFICIAL COMPONENT FOUND IN DAIRY supplements can lower the risk of THE HUMAN ORGAN MOST TALKED ABOUT ON THIS BLOG + ANOTHER NAME FOR AN ONGOING PHYSICAL MALADY.

The researchers examined 63 women with a THIS TYPE OF GUARD PROTECTS SOMEONE IMPORTANT + ANOTHER NAME OF A CHURCH SERVICE + A PART OF A BOOK WHERE YOU CAN LOOK UP TOPICS BY SUBJECT of 30 or more who were on a 15-week THE OPPOSITE OF HIGH + A FOOD MEASUREMENT THAT RHYMES WITH THE NAME MALLORY diet. In addition to the diet, the participants were given daily tablets containing either a placebo or 1,200mg of THE BENEFICIAL COMPONENT FOUND IN DAIRY with THE KIND OF HEALTH PRODUCT MADE FAMOUS BY CENTRUM AND THE FLINSTONES (especially the one that ends with the letter "D") to facilitate the absorption of the former. At the end of the 15-week period, researchers observed greater drops in LDL (bad cholesterol) and an increase in HDL (good cholesterol) in the group that took supplements containing THE BENEFICIAL COMPONENT FOUND IN DAIRY and THE KIND OF HEALTH PRODUCT MADE FAMOUS BY CENTRUM AND THE FLINSTONES (especially the one that ends with the letter "D").

This comes as further evidence to support the benefit of taking these two supplements, of which scientists involved in the study claim people do not get enough of.

Well, hopefully this all made sense. I just realized that the Spammers probably work off of keyword tags instead of what's in the body of a blog post, so this may not yield the results I was hoping for. Oh well, it was worth trying at least once.

TNFa linked to age-related vascular diseases

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As the Super Bowl ad I spotlighted in my previous post made pretty clear, there are a number of risk factors that can increase one's chances of developing some form of vascular disease. Nonetheless, even people who do not face increased risk from these factors can still develop high blood pressure or suffer from heart attack or stroke. This is especially true of older people, whose advanced age is also associated with increased levels of TNFa -- a protein that can attack and destroy tumor cells (which is a good thing) but can also exacerbate chronic inflammatory diseases (not a good thing at all).

To full examine the detrimental effects of TNFa, scientists from the Department of Physiology at New York Medical College looked at the potential benefits of this protein being inhibited. To do so, they used an FDA-approved drug called Etanercept (Enbrel), known to bind and inactivate circulating TNFa. The found that by blocking TNFa using etanercept treatment, there was a decrease in cell death in aged blood vessels. This, in and of itself, suggested that raised TNFa levels likely contribute to age-related cardiovascular disease. To demonstrate the opposite, cell-killing effects of TNFa, the researchers administered this protein to young arteries, finding that it reproduced the features of vascular aging.

The hope is that by developing a further understanding of the role that TNFa plays in vascular disease, age by itself will become less of a risk factor.

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Super Bowl heart attack

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The rain, the game, the parties -- and of course, the commercials. That's what yesterday's Super Bowl was all about. In a departure from last year's collection of "guy-getting-kicked-in-the-groin" advertisements, this year boasted a more diverse assemblage of Madison Avenue brainstorms. And, mixed right in with the fifteen or so ads for Budweiser, the three or four for Doritos, and the one or two for Chevy, was one for the American Heart Association high blood pressure website: www.beatyourrisk.com

Supported by King Pharmeceuticals, who have committed to a three-year sponsorship agreement with the AHA, the commercial followed a giant heart (who was actually a many dressed in a giant heart costume, similar to the way the Fruit of the Loom men are dressed as apples and grapes) who was being targeted by potential threats; Diabetes, High Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure, etc. Each of these thuggish characters chased the heart around town and down dark alleys, until they finally caught him and beat the tar out of him. In sum, the heart was attacked.

My first reaction to the commercial was, Um. Yeah, that's it -- Um. I used that quasi-word/time stalling device to formulate my opinion. Then, about a minute later, I decided that I did enjoy the commercial. I felt that it passed along the information in a way that has a more lasting effect than, say, issuing yet another public report on research. The message was to be aware of risk factors that can lead to heart attack, and to do what you can to keep your heart as safe as it can be. As remedial as that explainatin probably sounds, that was sort of the point with the commercial -- keep it simple. Keep it easy to remember, which means in doing so, it is also difficult to forget. The finer points, the minutia, and the data aren't exactly the best way to get people's attention. A giant heart being attacked by Diabetes, Weight Problem, and High Blood Pressure? Um -- yeah, I'd say that got my attention.

Olympic gold medalist retires due to heart problems

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In what is already shaking up the Olympic world, Chinese swimmer Luo Xeujuan has retired as a result of discovering that she has a potentially fatal heart problem.

A hopeful for the Chinese in the 2008 Olympics, Luo had previously won the 100m breaststroke gold medal in Athens in 2004 and also took home four golds at the 2001 and 2003 World Championships. According to Lou's coach, Zhang Yadong, China's chances of winning a gold at the 2008 Olympics are diminished greatly as a result of Lou's forced retirement.

Evidently, problems started for Luo back in July when she missed two months of training due to "physical problems" and "mental stress." A successful return months later at the Asian Games trials was cut short after fainting during a training session in November. Doctors diagnosed her as either suffering from exhaustion or low blood pressure (it was never reported which of the two it was, though her retirement announcement seems to point to the latter). She was subsequently taken off the roster for the World Championships in March.

Luo was very saddened by these turn of events and publicly stated "I am very competitive, but I have no other choice than to quit."

Texas first to mandate cervical cancer vaccine

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Come September 2008, 11 and 12-year-old girls in Texas entering the sixth grade will receive three shots of the Gardasil vaccine used to prevent cervical cancer.

Texas is the first state to require that young schoolgirls receive the cervical cancer vaccine, approved for use by the FDA in June and proven to protect against the most common strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) -- the cause of most cervical cases cervical cancers.

Texas governor R ick Perry (R), who just signed an executive order making this mandate official, believes the high cost of treating diseases and ensuring the health and well-being of our population justifies the vaccine requirement.

Perry, who has been met with opposition from those concerned that HPV vaccination of young girls promotes premarital sex and interferes with parental rights, will allow parents to opt out of the vaccination requirement with documentation citing religious or philosophical reasons. But he hopes most will comply with the cervical cancer vaccine he believes is no different than immunization against diseases such as polio.

Gardasil drugmaker Merck stands to make billions if the vaccine is made mandatory across the country. The series of three necessary shots cost $360.

Perry, who received $6,000 from Merck's political action committee during his re-election campaign, has other ties to the company. His former chief of staff is one of Merck's three lobbyists in Texas, and his current chief of staff's mother-in-law is state director for Women in Government -- a group active in introducing bills across the country that affect women.

Lab mishap leads to shocking cancer discovery

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Katherine Schaefer was investigating methods for treating the inflammation seen in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis when something terrible happened -- she noticed her carefully cultured cells were dead. And then something wonderful happened -- she real ized she had stumbled upon a potential new method of attacking cancerous tumors that have become resistant to existing drugs.

Schaefer and her colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York were testing a compound called a PPAR-gamma modulator -- a compound never considered a cancer drug, or a drug of any kind really -- when Schaefer made a calculation error and used a lot more of the compound than she should have. And her cells died.

Upon further study, Schaefer found the compound killed just about every possible epithelial tumor cell. These cells line organs such as the colon and also the skin. The compound, that works like taxane drugs but without eventual tumor resistance, also killed colon tumors in mice without making them sick.

The research team, whose findings are published in the journal International Cancer Research, plans more safety tests in mice. And eventually, if their outcomes are promising, they plan to design something they can patent as a new drug -- because they would love to see this disastrous lab experiment one day lead to treatment for cancers of the colon, esophagus, liver, and skin.

Chicago Bears player Brian Piccolo comes to mind

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Watching the Superbowl yesterday made me think of Brian Piccolo. Brian played for the Chicago Bears from 1965 until 1969. He was diagnosed with embryonal cell carcinoma, it was almost 100% fatal at the time of his diagnosis. Sadly, Brian Piccolo died on June 16, 1970 at the age of twenty six, leaving his wife and three daughters.

Chicago mourned the death of Brian Piccolo and he became a legend when the television movie Brian's Song was released in 1971. I remember the showing of that movie in my grade school years. There wasn't a dry eye in the auditorium.

Bears running back, Gale Sayers uttered these famous words in May 1970, as he accepted the NFL's most Courageous Player award. Sayers told the crowd that they had selected the wrong person for the honor, and would accept it only on Piccolo's behalf. He said " I love Brian Piccolo, and I'd like all of you to love him. When you hit your knees to pray tonight, please ask God to love him, too".

After Piccolo's death, the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund was established, and millions of dollars have been donated to the cause of finding a cure to various forms of the disease. Thanks in part to those funds raised in the Piccolo's name, with early detection and treatment, this disease is now almost completely curable.

There are also a few books you can read about Brian:

Brian Piccolo, A Short Season

Gale Sayers' autobiography I am Third.

Bill Clinton mourns loss of stepfather

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Bill Clinton, mourning the loss of his stepfather, joined family and friends and hundreds of others who gathered on Saturday for the funeral of a man the former president says brought his mother the best years she ever had.

Richard Kelley, 91, died Wednesday at home after a long battle with cancer of the colon and liv er. He was a retired salesman and was married to Clinton's mother, Virginia, for 12 years before she died in 1994 from breast cancer.

Clinton spoke to more than 600 people at Kelley's funeral, sharing his love for the man he said left the world with grace.
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Breast cancer drug Tykerb looks good in trials

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If the experimental breast cancer drug Tykerb continues to prove successful in study participants, it could be headed for FDA approval.

Tykerb, now in international study, showed in early studies to be even more effective and to have fewer side effects than similar breast cancer drug Herceptin. Both drugs are part of a cluster of targeted therapies that attack cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. Designed for use on women whose breast cancer is HER2 positive -- meaning it contains too much of an aggressive protein -- Tykerb may be a wonder drug, with the capability of effectively keeping breast cancer at bay.

Dr. Paul Goss of MA General Hospital says, "We're seeing Tykerb, which is a pill, which is easier to take, has a broader attack and gets inside cells. It's like an electrical circuit that's turned on, and Tykerb can pull the lever, the circuit breaker, and switch it off."
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Markers may predict risk of cancer recurrence in bladder cancer patients

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Bladder cancer is diagnosed in 55,000 - 60,000 individuals annually in the United States. Patients whose cancer has spread to deeper tissues in the bladder and/or nearby lymph nodes may be treated with a radical cystectomy, the surgical removal of the bladder and nearby lymph nodes.

This approach may be able to cure the patient, however recurrences do occur. Researchers want to find out which patients may be more susceptible to a recurrence so that they can either monitor them more closely or treat them more aggressively to reduce the risk of recurrence.

An article was published in Lancet Oncology saying that markers may help predict the risk of cancer recurrences in patients who are treated with a radical cystectomy. Researchers from Texas and Canada conducted a clinical study to evaluate markers found in the the tissue samples taken after surgery. The markers tested included the expression of Bcl-2, caspase-3, P53, and survivin.

The study found that those patients that had an altered expression of Bcl-2, caspase-3, P533 and survivin were associated with over four times the risk of cancer recurrence. Also, the altered expression of all of these bio-markers was associated with nearly seven times the risk of death from cancer.

The researchers conclude that these findings support other studies that show these bio-markers can help predict who will remain cancer free. They look at this as moving forward towards more individualized treatments for the patients.

It did not say in the article whether using this test after the surgery would help them to determine if chemotherapy or radiation would be something that could reduce the risk of recurrence if the markers would show a high risk category of recurrence. I think this these studies are great but we need to be moving forward to get the patients to benefit from this vital information.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Sunday Seven: Seven fears left by breast cancer

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Cancer-related fear once consumed my mind. Now it sits lodged in the back of my brain and only presents itself on rare occasions.

I handle my fears so much better now than when cancer was new and fresh and raw. My fears hardly ever cause me real anxiety, they don't cripple my mental functioning anymore, and more than ever, they serve to focus my efforts in life. When fear strikes, it's usually a wake-up call of sorts, a reminder to leave no stone unturned, a summons to keep on living.

Although so much less threate ning than they once were, my fears still exist. And I like to review them once in awhile, lose myself in a little emotional housekeeping, tidy up some of the mess cancer made. I always feel better when things are in order -- fears included.
  • I fear a breast cancer recurrence, the return of a tumor that rises to the surface of my skin and presents itself again underneath my fingertips -- or in my worst-case scenario is lost among dense breast tissue, undetected by self-exam, and caught too late by some combination of mammogram, ultrasound, and MRI.
  • I fear more than anything another cancer -- something entirely different from breast cancer, something buried in my body and not as responsive as breast cancer to treatment. I am prepared for a second visit from breast cancer because I know how to proceed, know I will succumb to treatment that is familiar, know I will remove both breasts in the most radical of life-saving approaches. But cancer in my lungs, brain, bones, blood, ovaries is out of my realm. And these cancers -- among many others -- really scare me.
  • I fear that my mom and my sister -- my first-degree female relatives -- will one day follow in my breast cancer footsteps. I once thought family history trickled down from above, from older family members. Now I know the disease can start with anyone. I am the anyone in my family. I am the reason my mom and sister are closely watched and monitored and tested. I am the one that put the fear of cancer into their hearts and minds -- and into mine.
  • I fear having another baby. I fear the return of cancer during pregnancy, leaving me with difficult choices regarding my health and my baby's health. I fear cancer returning after a baby is born, leaving me with one more child and more treatment to manage. I fear another cancer would lead to a decreased chance of survival and another baby would leave my husband feeling stranded should I die too soon. And I fear having a baby girl who would inherit the very real chance of developing breast cancer at some time during her life.
  • I fear not having another baby. I fear the regret I may feel one day, perhaps 50 years from now when I am healthy and cancer-free and without the child I longed for. I fear I am being overly cautious, too tentative, a bit selfish. A fellow cancer survivor once wrote me, "I learned that my family continues, even if I do not. I also learned that they are at least as tough as I am so will cope with the genes I pass to them and their own cancer battles if needed. Finally, I learned they look out for each other just as I looked out for them. No matter what your future, you will never regret giving another child a place in your family." I fear this man may be right.
  • I fear the potential long-term effects of treatment. I fear the chemotherapy that saved my life in the short-term may come to haunt me in the long run. I fear the radiation that zapped my breast and a piece of my lung and part of my ribs and possibly my heart will cause me problems in the future. I fear the effects of Herceptin -- the drug that dripped into my veins for one whole year with the purpose of keeping cancer at bay -- and worry my heart my fail me when I am old and gray because of the toxicity of this drug.
  • I fear dying at a young age. I fear leaving my children before they are grown. I fear leaving my husband a single parent, my mom someone who has lost a child, and my sister an only child. I have been told over and over again that my chances of survival are great, fantastic even. I have a 93 percent chance of not dying from breast cancer. This does seem great -- until I take into account that this percentage is good for only five years. My five years will expire when I am 39 years old. What happens then, I am not sure. The only thing I am sure about is that five years is not enough time. I want more, need more, demand more. Yet I fear my days may be numbered.
These are the fears that keep me focused. And while they are sometimes not-so-pleasant, I am in no hurry to resolve any of them. I am thankful really to have these fears swirling in my head -- because it means I am alive. And for me, being alive with fears is better than not being alive at all.
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Farrah Fawcett is 60 -- and cancer-free

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Farrah Fawcett turned 60 on Friday. And she's been celebrating this milestone along with a very important message she just received -- she is cancer-free.

Fawcett, former star of the hit 1970s TV drama Charlie's Angels, was diagnosed with anal cancer four months ago and has been enduring an aggressive treatment protocol to treat the disease -- a treatment that appears to have worked.

Her physician, Dr. Gary Gitnick at the University of California, Los Angeles, medical school reports Fawcett "has had a full and complete response to treatment." Recent tests show her cancer is gone -- and Gitnick calls her prognosis excellent.

Fawcett calls the whole experience a hopeful one.

"In the face of excruciating pain and uncertainty, I never lost hope," she said. "I hope that my news might offer some level of inspiration to others who unfortunately must continue to fight the disease."

Happy World Cancer Day!

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I guess the concept is happy -- the public urging for our world's policy makers to make cancer a top priority -- but the fact that becomes all too apparent on this World Cancer Day is quite sobering. More than seven million people die from cancer and close to 11 million new cases are diagnosed worldwide each year. In 2006, cancer killed more people than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

So today is both happy and sad. But for now, let's focus on the happy.

The Geneva-based International Union Against Cancer (UICC) and member organizations in 86 countries are launching a five-year campaign to impart life lessons to children so they can prevent cancer later in life. Parents are critical in this campaign and must take an active role in teaching their children techniques for saving their lives.

Forty-three percent of cancer cases can be prevented through healthy lifestyles that begin in childhood. The World Cancer Campaign slogan -- Today's Children, Tomorrow's World -- underscores the possibility that a concerted effort among world leaders, parents, and their children can make a real difference through four key actions -- providing a smoke-free environment for children; ensuring children keep physically active, eat a healthy diet, and avoid obesity; educating children about vaccines for virus-related liver and cervical cancers; and limiting children's exposure to the sun.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, Her Royal Highness Lalla Slama of Morocco, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and tennis star Steffi Graf are some of the powerful voices powering this campaign that UICC president Dr. Franco Cavalli says can save so many lives if embraced by those at the highest decision-making levels.

"Complacency and inaction on the part of world community will effectively contribute to more than 10 million deaths every year by 2020," he said.