Friday, 16 March 2007

Generex Regulatory Affairs Request

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At the request of the Regulatory Affairs Manager at Generex, I am posting the following to defend the accuracy of the packaging and the claim of the product. The initial blog addressed a product called Glucose RapidSpray. The reader feedback, as well as the regulatory affairs response, is listed below. In no way, does Generex imply this product is to be used to treat hypoglycemia.

The comment to the original post stated:

The nutritional label on the product (available as a PDF on their web site) says the product has 188mg of carbs (or .188g) per serving (5 sprays). A typical glucose tablet has 4g... that's about 21x more carbs in a single glucose tablet than in 5 sprays of RapidSpray. Considering you typically use at least 15g of carbs to treat hypoglycemia, you would need around 80 sprays to get 15g of carbs into your system! When you take into account the amount of sprays you need, the calorie count isn't very much different from glucose tablets.

Read the label carefully, and be very careful using this!

The response from the Manager of Generex Regulatory Affairs states:

The product, Glucose RapidSpray[TM], is to be taken at the first sign of needing additional glucose in the diet, either between meals, during exercise, and/or before bedtime. It is not intended to take people out of full hypoglycemic states that normally a full tube of glucose gel or a full dose of Glucose tablets would be needed for. Glucose RapidSpray[TM] product is meant to be a complement to meals in order to help with glucose levels. As such, a direct correlation of carbs associated with Glucose RapidSpray[TM] and typical glucose tablets or gel is not warranted based on the intended use of the product. If usage of the product is maintained by taking Glucose RapidSpray[TM] at the first sign of needing additional glucose, then the Nutritional Facts stated on the package labeling is adequate for determining caloric intake (be it 5 sprays, 10 sprays, 15 sprays or whatever is taken to address the situation).

I consider the proactive response of Generex a good sign of how a company is run. Without needing to do so, Generex went above and beyond the call to address an open forum about the efficacy and accuracy of the product. This is the kind of interaction that convinces me a company cares! Good job, Generex! Lest I NOT hold my breath for Eli Lilly to return my call about Super Insulin. Novo Nordisk was far more receptive to address my interests, as a diabetic. Stay tuned for my follow-up on the Eli Lilly vs. Novo Nordisk - Who Love You, Baby!?!

Medtronic seeks wider diabetes reimbursement

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Medtronic, one of the largest manufacturers of insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, issued a call to action request for insurance companies. The need for greater coverage on continuous glucose monitors is as important (and as necessary) as the rising demand for insulin pumps.

The president of Medtronic's diabetes division, Chris O'Connell, urged the insurance companies to consider the vast growth of the company - which was measured as considerably faster than the industry average, with sales climbing 24% in the last quarter. The device was approved for adult patients last year and U.S. regulators approved an expanded edition for use in children. The continuous glucose monitor alerts diabetics to dangerous spikes or dips in their blood sugar levels via wire-like sensors inserted under the skin that measure glucose levels and transmit the data wirelessly to a pager-size receiver.

The company plans to conduct clinical studies to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of the technology. Presumably, after two to three years of clinical trials, the evidence will be conclusive enough for insurance companies to consent to providing greater coverage for this continuous glucose monitoring.

Stop Your Insulin Inhibitions

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Knocking out the gene for a peptide associated with insulin was shown to protect mice against the harmful effects of a high-fat diet. Urocortin 3 plays a role in the increased production of insulin in response to high caloric intake in animals.

Scientists found that by removing the urocortin 3 gene from mice, they did not develop the age-related insulin resistance and high blood sugar observed in the normal control mice. The metabolisms of normal mice were compared to the metabolisms of those without the urocortin 3 gene. When placed on a high caloric diet for three months, the mice without the urocortin 3 gene packed on the same amount of weight but had lower insulin levels. But these mice also had lower blood sugar, improved glucose tolerance curves and they did not develop the fatty livers the control mice experienced.

Scientists hypothesize that by curtailing the abnormally high insulin levels, they were able to manipulate insulin sensitivity and avoid some of the untoward consequences of the high food intake and weight gain. Like many of us diabetics already know too well - while insulin is effective at lowering blood sugar it also promotes fat storage. This is a natural protective response to prepare for times when food may not be available. When insulin is produced at too high a level for too long, the body becomes insulin resistant and blood sugar and certain blood lipids gradually creep up, which can cause progressive damage to multiple organs.

Urocortin 2 and urocortin 3 are part of the system that governs the body's response to insulin. Scientists already know that mice on a high-fat diet do better if either urocortin 2 or urocortin 3 is removed. Now they want to know if the mice will respond even better if both are missing. Such results may instruct us how best to develop therapeutic means to exploit these powerful effects.

Join Us! Dr. P and the Diabetes Community

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Chat live with Dr. Pugliese, an expert on the immunology and genetics of diabetes at The Diabetes Research Institute. His work has been focused on preventing the autoimmune attack that leads to diabetes. This research is very important for future prevention strategies, as well as stopping autoimmune destruction of transplanted islets.

Dr. Pugliese's has studied the role of the thymus gland in the immune system and he describes it as the "school for the immune system". All immune cells are forced to pass through the thymus gland where they are exposed to the antigens present throughout the body. Immune cells that bind to these normal antigens are destroyed, thereby preventing the later destruction of healthy cells. If no binding occurs, then the cell is deemed to be friendly to host tissue and is released to become part of the immune system. The insulin producing cells of the body - islets -- are not the only body cells that release insulin. Dr. Pugliese's research has shown that there are other cells that release tiny amounts of insulin, but not in response to blood glucose. These cells present insulin to the visiting immune cells in the thymus, and any immune cell that binds is killed. It is believed that a low insulin output in these decoy cells in people who develop diabetes may be the reason that immune cells are allowed to live that will later track insulin back to its source and destroy healthy islets. In people who have the genetic markers that protect against diabetes, these cells secrete more insulin than they do in people with genes that pre-dispose them to diabetes. The more insulin in the thymus, the more likely that insulin-specific autoreactive lymphocytes will be killed, with fewer chances of developing diabetes.

Confused yet? Yeah, me too - but my confusion feeds my insatiable curiosity. That is precisely why I will be joining the rescheduled chat with Dr. Pugliese. Please, be there on March 15th at 9pm Eastern Standard Time on Diabetes Talkfest. Make it a date: you, me, Dr. P and the most informed people in the diabetes community. Once again, thanks to Gina and Jon for Linking Diabetics Coast to Coast!

Diabetes, Depression and Heart Disease - A Dangerous Mix

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Here's one for the readers of TheDiabetesBlog as well as TheCardioBlog --

People who suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and depression (that's the third variable in this triumvirate of risk factors) have a 30 percent greater chance than the average person of dying, a recent Duke University study reveals. Studying 933 subjects with heart disease over a four-year period, the researchers found that 135 of the subjects who also had depression and type 2 diabetes died during the course of the study. These individuals were found to have a 30 percent higher mortality rate than people in the study who suffered from only one or two of these maladies.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), people with diabetes have a higher-than-average risk of developing depression -- due in part to feelings of frustration, sadness, and isolation in dealing with their illness. Adding heart disease into the mix, so this new study tells us, appears to create a potentially life-threatening synergistic effect.

The Diabetic Lojack

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Very much like a prisoner being tracked in a work-release program (except it's implanted on the inside of your upper arm) -- the VeriMed microchip stores your vital health information for times when you are unable to disclose it yourself. It's about the size of a grain of rice and VeriChip says the procedure is painless.

At the Diabetic Expo, held in Atlanta, Georgia -- VeriChip Corporation received the endorsement of the American Diabetes Association to test implant the microchip in 18 diabetics who signed up for the voluntary procedure. The implantable RFID microchip sends patient information to a handheld RFID scanner and a secure patient database. This system is intended to provide immediate access to important health information for patients who arrive at an emergency room unable to communicate.

The chip stores your personal health information and it can be transmitted (in theory) to a medical professional in an emergency room. However, given the fact that anyone possessing the handheld RFID scanner can access your personal health information on the secure database- I'm not so sure I'd want to leave that out there for the world of battery-operated busy bodies. I remember how violated I felt when my personal information was stolen from Ameriprise. How would you feel if your most personal information was tapped because someone left the emergency room RFID scanner unmanned? Your name would be worth a lot more than you realize!

Social Stress is Depressing - Be the Dog!

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Scientists have studied the effects of stress on glucose levels in animals and people. Diabetic mice under physical or mental stress have elevated glucose levels. And now, as if the aforementioned isn't bad enough - researchers have found that a single socially stressful situation contributes to depression in rats.

It seems this single socially stressful scenario is killing new nerve cells in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that processes learning, memory and emotion. In young rats, the stress of encountering older, aggressive rats didn't stop the creation of new brain nerve cells. It prevented the new nerve cells from surviving, which left the young rats with fewer neurons for processing feelings and emotions. Researchers anticipate that this impact on neurogenesis could be a cause of depression. The next step in this discovery is to correlate an effective plan of treatment to preserve the healthy development of nerve cells from the hippocampus.

The timing of this Washing Post article and the topic of Lissa Coffey's latest Coffeytalk newsletter seemed to harmonize splendidly. Lissa is a lifestyle expert who offers interpersonal advice based on ancient wisdom eloquently packaged in modern style. Her latest piece of advice went out to a friend of hers that was feeling social friction from the other people at work. Her friend loved the job but wanted to feel more connected with the rest of her coworkers. Lissa advised her friend: be the dog. She continues..."go in and be the dog. Open that door with a big smile on your face, tail wagging, full of enthusiasm! Look at how dogs win people over just by being themselves, by being happy and comfortable right where they are. Be the dog." Great advice, Lissa!! I'd also like to thank Bean Bag for taking a moment out of her busy watchdog schedule to smile for the camera.

Regis Philbin to undergo bypass surgery

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TV celebrity Regis Philbin announced today that he will be undergoing bypass surgery later this week. The long-time host of the popular talk show "Live with Regis and Kelly" (which formerly featured Kathy Lee as co-host), stated that he has been suffering pains in his chest for quite some time and, at the behest of his doctors, has elected to go forward with the bypass.

Philbin explained in his very comedic, Regis way that he would have preferred to have done angioplasty (they way he put it "You know you get in, bang-bang-bang, they blow you open and you leave the next day"), it appears as though he has plaque in his arteries, which therefore make the bypass surgery necessary.

The recovery period for triple-bypass surgery is seldom quick, so it remains unknown how long Regis will be absent from his popular TV program.

Creating the right mix to help your outdoor workout

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After one last ungodly roar of sub-zero temperatures, it seems as though Old Man Winter has finally gone to bed. Believe you me, there is not a single tear of sorrow being shed from my eyes from his departure. The warm(er) weather is back, and besides being able to do just about anything outdoors without the fear of freezing to death, it's also a good time to start road work again. No, not construction -- well, come to think of it, construction actually is appropriate a term to use, because you can now resume construction on your bodies. Only now, it is safe to leave the confines of the gym and start walking, jogging and/or running (or hiking, biking, etc.) outdoors.

There is more than enough research circulating that stresses the important role that exercise plays in cardiovascular health, so to point to any would simply be redundant. That being said, our health should be the single greatest element of our lives, so getting your 'exercise on' should be just as much a part of your day as brushing your teeth. Okay, that's out of the way -- now back to the whole exercising outside bit. In the gym, the treadmills, ellipticals, recumbent bikes and such all have those handy readout screens. They tell us how much time has elapsed, how many calories have been burned (roughly, anyway), our heart rate, the winning lottery numbers, the meaning of life -- you name it, they tell you. But, when you're outside, you don't really have the information handy (other than time, which can be kept on a wristwatch). Another option is the new Nike/iPod combination that pumps your favorite tunes through your earbuds while keeping tabs on how many steps you've taken and how much further you have to go to complete your programmed goal. Again, this is an option, but it of course involves shelling out the dough to buy the special sneakers (and iPod, because it does not support any other .mp3 players).

Where does that leave us? In a good place, actually. If you want to keep tabs on your outdoor workout with the same precision that you did while using gym equipment, you can always create a timed mega-mix of songs for you CD or .mp3 player. Want to perform some interval training (where the intensity of your workout fluctuates during various intervals)? Would you like to create a steady climb of intensity? How about simply knowing how long you've been running/jogging/walking for? Again, the easiest solution is the mega-mix.

I was initially going to make a few mix lists -- each totaling out at around 30 or so minutes. One would incorporate fast songs being followed by slow songs (for interval training), while others would be a group of songs with tempos that became increasingly faster each song. But, what ultimately stopped me from making the list was the fact that I haven't a clue what type of music you may enjoy. Some people like to listen to techno while they exercise, while others still are more inclined to put together a score of country hits. Whatever gets you motivated, that's what you should choose.

So, with the warmer weather here, try bringing your workouts outside. And, with your pre-determined 30 minute mega-mix pumping you through your exercise program, you'll soon remember how much you missed the great outdoors.

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Danger in threes

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Here's one for the readers of TheDiabetesBlog as well as TheCardioBlog --

People who suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and depression (that's the third variable in this triumvirate of risk factors) have a 30 percent greater chance than the average person of dying, a recent Duke University study reveals. Studying 933 subjects with heart disease over a four-year period, the researchers found that 135 of the subjects who also had depression and type 2 diabetes died during the course of the study. These individuals were found to have a 30 percent higher mortality rate than people in the study who suffered from only one or two of these maladies.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), people with diabetes have a higher-than-average risk of developing depression -- due in part to feelings of frustration, sadness, and isolation in dealing with their illness. Adding heart disease into the mix, so this new study tells us, appears to create a potentially life-threatening synergistic effect.

The new 'benefits' package

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Maybe this is a sign of insurance companies finally starting to come around. Quite honestly, it never really made much sense to me that health care companies will fight you tooth and nail to cover smaller procedures, yet coverage is provided for more severe and complicated surgeries (in many cases, anyway). But, considering that the far more expensive major surgery could have been avoided in the first place if the smaller and less costly procedures were covered (and therefore taken care of by patients), it seems to only make sense that insurance companies are now beginning to reward healthy lifestyles.

In a recent edition of the Los Angeles Times, several businesses were highlighted that are receiving extra "benefits" from their health insurance provider. In addition to their normal insurance coverage, companies such as Ottawa Dental Laboratory employees receive "bucks" - a point accumulation system wherein said points can be redeemed for merchandise - for getting in shape, lowering their cholesterol, smoking cessation, or controlling their chronic conditions such as diabetes.

To help verify that an employee truly is becoming more fit, Destiny Health Insurance (Ottawa Dental's health insurance provider) require that fitness tests be performed twice a year - measuring agility and flexibility. Workers' blood pressure and cholesterol are also measured regularly, just as those claiming to have quit smoking must submit blood samples to test for nicotine. On top of all that, Destiny Health Insurance has partnered with Life Time Fitness. So, every time a member who is insured by Destiny scans their card at the gym, the instantly become accounted for in Destiny's database.

Is all of this 1984, Big Brother type stuff worth it? Well, many of the employees at Ottawa Dental Lab seem to think so. Their "bucks" have bought them big screen TVs, GPS systems, Xbox 360, Bose speaker docks and iPods, and more. Other insurance companies, as well as employers, have followed suit, offering actual cash rewards and the like to incentivize employees to stay healthier, for they know that ill health can end up costing them more in the long run.

With the country's aggregate medical expenses expected to reach $4 trillion in about a decade, this 'give a little to save a lot' approach may be the insurance company's first smart move in a while.

Thought for the Day: When options run out

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Today I offer you not so much a Thought for the Day but a Question for the Day. Before I ask my pressing question, though, I want you to consider this story.

Diagnosed with a rare malignant melanoma on her retina in 2001, Ann Guthrie, a South Carolina wife and mother of two grown sons, endured radiation and chemotherapy. The treatments shrunk Guthrie's tumor, but another mass appeared two years later, forcing the removal of her right eye.

At about the same time Guthrie lost her eye, cancer was discovered in her lungs. It was inoperable. Then cancer landed in her brain. And now, without any approved treatment avenues, Guthrie is out of options.

Like many people with terminal illnesses, this woman is willing to try just about anything -- a clinical trial, experimental drugs, risky treatments -- to extend her life. If she's going to die anyway, why not? She just might live longer. And if she doesn't, she could at least help advance science by offering herself up as a sort of guinea pig.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed changes that would make it easier for patients to access options like these, it's just not that simple right now.

There are ethical issues -- like weighing the needs of people who think anything is better than death against the need of society to prove drugs and treatments work safely. The only way to ensure a sort of balance is through clinical trials -- and letting anyone participate in clinical trials, for example, would make the results harder to interpret.

And there are medical and legal risks. What if terminally ill patients end up in worse shape after a treatment with an experimental drug, for example? What if the FDA or a physician is considered responsible for adverse drug reactions?

Denying terminal patients their last bits of hope is difficult. "It's a hard discussion to have with a patient and his family," says one doctor. "There's a lot of tears. We all would love to be able to get them access to some form of therapy."

And now for my question:

What do you think about terminally ill cancer patients and their access to anything that might extend -- or save -- their lives?

Florida Gator victory sparks vivid cancer memory

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I often note the passage of time according to events. My husband does it with songs -- if he hears Cheap Trick's I Want You to Want Me, for example, his mind takes him back to a buddy's basement in Jersey where he played pool with a bunch of other 10-year-old boys.

Music just doesn't do it for me. It has to be some sort of happening for my mind to travel back in time -- something like the Florida Gators SEC victory over Arkansas on Sunday.

Last year, the Gators were also SEC champs. And the year before that too. And I think I'll know the status of this team at this same time every year for as many years as I survive cancer -- because two years ago, I sat cooped up in a University of Florida hospital room trying to recover from the effects of chemotherapy and the only real excitement piped into my cubicle of a room was the thrill of a big Gator win.

It was the same kind of win the team repeated the following year -- the win that marked my first year of survival. And now, the Gators win again. And so do I.

While the defending National Champions celebrate their accomplishments and head into the first round of NCAA tournament play in New Orleans, I celebrate my accomplishment -- surviving cancer for two years. And when the Gators play in whatever game comes their way next March, I will be reminded of that same hospital room, that same dark and dreary time in my life. And then I will marvel at the power of time and the unlikely collision of cancer and college basketball.

And then I will pause, reflect, and head straight into my third year of survival.

Go Gators!
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Football, wrestling star Ernie "Big Cat" Ladd dies of cancer

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He first played on professional football teams -- the San Diego Chargers, the Houston Oilers, and the Kansas City Chiefs -- and then found fame and fortune in professional wrestling, a sport that landed him in the World Wrestling Federation Hall of Fame.

He is Ernie "Big Cat" Ladd. And on Saturday night, he died of cancer at the age of 68.

Ladd's battle with cancer began in 2004. It started in his colon and later spread to his stomach and bones.

"The doctor told me I had three-to-six months to live," Ladd said in 2005. "I told him Dr. Jesus has the verdict on me."

It seems the great doctor gave Ladd, the 15th player taken in the 1961 AFL draft, more than a few months -- proof that numbers are not everything in the game of cancer.

Ladd, almost 6-foot-10 and more than 300 pounds, started making appearances at wrestling events during his football career. He was first a special events referee and then became a wrestler. It was both a knee injury and the lure of the lucrative wrestling industry that ended Ladd's football career.

"In what other sport can you pick up a $14 pair of boots, $0.59 socks -- spend maybe a total of $50 -- and convert it into $100,000 a year, if you are sharp and train?" Ladd once said. "My intention was to go back to football, but pro wrestling was so good to me."

HPV vaccine bill approved in New Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico is on the verge of becoming the latest state to require sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against the HPV virus. Currently only Texas requires the vaccine, other states are in the process of considering having the vaccine become mandatory.

Federal regulators have approved the vaccine, made by Merck & Co, but the issue of making it a requirement for girls has been surrounded by controversy. The federal government approved Gardasil, a three-dose vaccine that protects against the human papilloma virus, or HPV, in June 2006 for females ages nine to twenty six. The vaccine protects against the HPV strains that cause cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers.

Some states want the drug to be free to all girls who want it and other states are considering making the cervical vaccine mandatory for girls entering six grade unless their parents sign a form refusing it.

More of The Cancer Blog's coverage of this issue can be found here:

Merck stops cervical cancer vaccine campaign

Texas first to mandate cervical cancer vaccine

Cervical cancer vaccine discount pursued for poor nations

New Hampshire first to immunize young girls

Girls should see gynecologist in early teens

Thirteen year old girl is the first in Britain to have the new cervical cancer vaccine

Vaccine for cervical cancer to be administered to sixth graders

Concerns raised about new cervical cancer vaccine

Cervical cancer vaccine available for college students

Cancer vaccines virginity and sex: a battle first for acceptance

Women In Government applaud FDA approval of cervical cancer vaccine

First cervical cancer vaccine approved

Zometa and Aredia go head to head to treat bone mets

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Bisphosphonates are medicines that help build bone mineral density and strengthen bone. When breast cancer travels to the bone, it can weaken them and may cause them to become brittle.

A Phase III study has reported that two years after starting bisphosphonate treatment, women who took Zometa went longer without bone difficulties that those who took Aredia.

The study compared the effectiveness of the two bisphosphonate medications to see which worked better when given over a two year period. The results, after 13 months, showed Zometa did better than Aredia at reducing overall risk of weakening, pain or fracture of bone.

The two year results showed that those who were treated with Zometa had a 45 percent average reduction annually in the number of bone weakening, pain or fractures compared to Aredia.

The most important part is what this can mean for you -- This study suggests that Zometa may be a viable long-term option for women with ER+ advanced breast cancer to the bone. If you have ER- disease, this study suggests you may receive an equally good result from Zometa or Aredia.

Older breast cancer patients benefit from radiation therapy

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Women sixty five and over with early stage breast cancer who do not have radiation after surgery may have an increased risk of a local recurrence or development of a new primary breast tumor.

Half of the women diagnosed with breast cancer are sixty five and over. Past studies have shown that older women are less likely to be offered chemotherapy, hormonal treatments or radiation. Young women are more likely to receive aggressive treatment for their breast cancer.

This study showed some important things:

  1. Women in the study who had a lumpectomy without radiation were found to have an greater risk of a local recurrence.
  2. Women in the study who received hormonal therapy and stayed on their treatment for the full five years had less of a recurrence rate than those who prematurely stopped the medication.

If you are over the age of sixty five and have been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of receiving radiation after surgery.

Breast cancer drug Tykerb wins FDA approval

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Tykerb has been approved by the FDA for use in conjunction with the chemotherapy drug Xeloda. Tykerb is a cancer medication that more precisely targets tumors without killing lots of healthy cells in the process.

Herceptin and Tykerb target a protein called HER-2/neu but work in different ways. Herceptin targets the outside of the HER2 protein and Tykerb works from the inside of the cell. This difference can give advanced breast cancer patients another drug to switch to if Herceptin stops working for them.

Glaxo said that Tykerb will be available in two weeks. The results of a study showed that Tykerb worked so well that the international study was stopped early and all the participants were offered the drug.

The FDA said it was too early to know if women taking Tykerb and Xeloda would live longer than those taking the latter drug alone.

Dr. Steven Galson, FDA drugs chief, said "Today's approval is a step forward in making new treatments available for patients who have progression of their breast cancer after treatment with some of the most effective breast cancer therapies available."

Something of unknown significance

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A doctor found something suspicious when she read the results of the breast MRI I had on Friday. What she found is of unknown significance. This means something caught her attention. She just isn't sure what it is.

This doctor does know that whatever it is inside my right breast appears to be a low-risk something. But still, there's a concern looming in the air -- for her and for me.

I spoke with my oncologist about this concern, and he told me anything suspicious must be pursued by further testing. I'm thankful for that. He also said he expects that nothing actually significant will come of this. But if it does, it will have been caught early.

On Friday, I will report for further testing -- a mammogram and an ultrasound -- and then I will learn more about this unknown something that inhabits my breast, this something that takes me back more than two whole years when another something turned out to be what I feared more than anything. Breast cancer.
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Thought for the Day: See how the flesh grows back

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I'm in another hospital lobby -- this time waiting while my three-year-old son has surgery to repair a hernia.

So I'm back to reading a magazine. This time I brought my own not-so-outdated publication -- The Oprah Magazine, April 2007. And as I sit here flipping and turning the pages, there is so much I want to tell you.

I'll be back with more. But for now, think about this:

"...see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh.
as all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest."

Jane Hirshfield, From What Binds Us

I have a few small triumphs pinned to my chest -- they show in the form of surgery scars and radiation tattoos and puckered skin where a port once lived. Proud flesh. Stronger than the once untested surface. My honors for having survived a battle.
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Journalist Leroy Sievers may just crush cancer

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As Leroy Sievers says, "Most of you know me as someone with cancer. Google my name -- and yes, I confess, I've done that -- more often than not, it comes up linked to one other word: cancer. But what about all the other things I've been?"

Sievers has been a journalist for most of his adult life. He's also been a baker, a short-order cook, a teacher, and an aspiring author. Yet cancer is the word most often used to describe this man.

But maybe not for long.

Could it be that Sievers -- a man whose life has been derailed by a deadly cancer traveling throughout his body, a man who has been contemplating death with each passing day -- may soon be rid of cancer altogether?

Actually, Sievers already sees glimpses of cancer falling to the wayside.

Having undergone a new procedure called Radio Frequency Ablation -- where needles are stuck into tumors, burning them away from the inside out -- Sievers sees a brighter future. He's seen his latest scans. He's seen the black holes where tumors once lived. He's seen that no new tumors have appeared. He's seen that he may actually survive cancer.

Months ago, this man, who blogs his cancer journey for NPR, was told he would likely not survive the year. Now he realized he may outlive this prediction. And while this is great news, Sievers finds himself a bit unsure about a life without cancer.

"Will I be somebody who used to have cancer?" he says. "I think most cancer patients don't ever think it's really gone. It's just hiding, waiting to jump out and scare us when we least expect it. Will I be able to resume my old life? To rebuild my battered body into what it was before? I don't know. But I know this disease has changed me dramatically in so many ways. I am a different person. Hopefully a better person. You cannot go through an ordeal like this and not be profoundly affected."

Now that's what a call a fresh perspective.

To read previously-written posts about Leroy Sievers, click here.

Depression in breast cancer moms affects kids

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Cancer sent me into a state of depression. And it took more than a year of counseling and treatment with an anti-depressant to bring me back to a balanced and healthy level of functioning.

My type of depression -- the kind that shows up just after a cancer diagnosis -- is not uncommon. And neither is the spillover that depression can leave on the children of moms depressed because of their disease.

A study at the University of Pittsburgh -- the first to examine the relationship between children's concerns and a mother's cancer-related depression -- found children of depressed breast cancer patients were more likely to be concerned or anxious about their mother's cancer and about how the disease affects their families.

It's not surprising that kids worry about their moms during times of illness. What startled researchers, though, is the fact that children's' anxieties extended to concerns about the entire family.

The results of this study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, has clear implications. As a society, we need to think about how depression affects whole family units. Oncologists must learn to spot depression early and must swiftly assist women in finding appropriate treatment. And parents should talk openly about cancer and it's emotional side effects with their children in an effort to protect them from withdrawing, hiding their concerns, and suffering in silence.

Most estimates indicate nearly one quarter of women diagnosed with breast cancer have young children. And about 100,000 kids will be affected by a cancer diagnosis this year alone.

Five minutes of exercise could help smokers quit

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Research published in the international medical journal Addiction showed that moderate exercise, such as walking, significantly reduced the intensity of smokers' nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Just five minutes of exercise can get the smokers past that need for a nicotine fix.

Nearly anything that distracts people from smoking is thought to help, but scientists have long suspected that exercise might have a more potent effect. Exercise could produce a mood-enhancing hormone dopamine, which could, in turn, reduce the smokers' nicotine dependence.

When you're dying for a cigarette, try some exercises or a walk to get past the craving. Remember, if you are trying to quit, a craving will only last about three minutes!

Can laughter help you live longer?

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I'm a bit skeptical just reading the article titled A Laugh a Day Might Keep Death Further Away. In a recent Norwegian study, adults who have a sense of humor showed to outlive those who don't find life funny. I don't know about this -- I can think of a lot of miserable people who lived very long lives!

I love to laugh. Watching comedians is one of my favorite things to do, however I don't think that is going to make me live any longer than other breast cancer survivors.

The study said that the survival edge is particularly large for those with cancer. In this study the researcher claims that a great sense of humor cut someones chances of death by about seventy percent compared with adults with a poor sense of humor.

Sven Svebak, of the medical school at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, says that past studies have shown that humor helps people cope with stress and keep a healthy immune system during stressful times. He believes that could promote survival.

William Breibart, psychiatry chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York city, is skeptical also. Breibart says that in the twenty two years of treating cancer patients he met a lot of funny people who died of cancer pretty quickly. He says that stage of disease and aggressiveness of tumor matter far more than a person's sense of humor.

He did add that someone who can see humor in bad side effects of chemotherapy might stick it out more for treatment and that can be a way humor affects survival.

This sounds too much like -- you need to have a positive attitude -- cancer survivors are not particularly fond of hearing that our cancer came back because we didn't have a positive attitude or we didn't have a great sense of humor -- but laughter does make life more enjoyable!

Thought for the Day: The burden of cancer

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There are many burdens that come with cancer. But there is one burden gaining in strength as we age. It's become a topic of recent study and appeared Tuesday in the online Journal of Oncology Practice.

Think about this:

The graying of America will grow the number of cancer patients and survivors 55 percent by the year 2020. And some believe doctors might not be able to cope with the increasing burden.

It's the increase in cancer diagnoses, the growth in the number of Americans over the age of 65, and higher cancer survival rates due to early detection and better treatments that together will cause a shortage of doctors and nurses to care for so many sick people.

In addition, more than half of medical oncologists are older than 65 and could retire soon. And while there are more than enough younger doctors to replace these retirees, they still won't be able to keep up with the demand.

By 2020, the country could be short 4,000 cancer specialists.

Mustang goes pink for breast cancer cause

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Seven years ago, my husband and I owned a Mustang GT. A black one with black leather interior. Our car was clean and waxed and clear of clutter. It was small and sporty and we loved it. Others loved it. We were cool. We thought so, anyway.

We don't think we are so cool now, however. We are happy, with our two children, our dented and dirty Honda Odyssey mini-van, and all the gear -- books, toys, wet wipes, a scooter, a Big Wheel, and even a little potty -- that fills the vast space of our latest vehicle. But I am not sure anyone would ever call us cool as we cruise around town in our family ride.

My husband, John, dreams of getting another Mustang. And he's primed our three-year-old son for the same dream. Danny can spot a Mustang a mile away, regardless of its year, its color, or its condition. He loves a rag-top. He prefers yellow. And he promises to buy his daddy a black Mustang as soon as he wins the lottery.

I told John last night that Ford is about to release a new Mustang, with both the exterior paint and interior stitching trimmed in pink. "Let's get it," John said, without hesitation. He isn't worried he'll look less than macho in a pink Mustang. He just wants one. And while his intentions faded a bit when he learned Ford will offer only V6 models, he still thinks a pink pony car is a cool concept.

Not everyone likes the idea of a Mustang marketed at women, says analyst Erich Merkle of IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids who adds that the Mustang is an iconic brand based on a special mix of speed and testosterone. Ford should not mess with success, he believes.

But Ford expects its Warriors in Pink trim package, slated to release this summer, to be nothing short of a success -- in more ways than one.

A portion of Mustang profits will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure for breast cancer research. Ford has long been a sponsor of this organization and over the years has donated $87 million. In addition, the pink initiative could attract new buyers to the car, marked by slipping sales in recent months.

While all details have not been released, the newest Mustang will be available in a few colors, and customers will have the choice of convertible or hardtop.

Recipe for Healthy Living: When a salad isn't a salad anymore

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When you plan to go on a diet or want to start eating healthier, salads seem like the perfect lunch to shed some unwanted pounds. The problem with salads is they can easily deceive the most well meaning dieter.

They say they are salads -- in a way they are -- but not in the eating healthy sense that we associate with it. Just because it has salad in the name on the menu does not mean it is healthy.

Some of you might be saying that you know this already. Believe me when I tell you that some people don't know this or are in some way in denial about the whole salad situation. A taco salad may contain greens and some tomatoes but it also can have ground meat, lots of cheeses, tortilla chips and sour cream.

Salad dressings are another problem, they can sometimes be the same amount of calories as a fast-food meal. Instead of reaching for the ranch dressing which can contain 110 calories and 12 grams of fat per tablespoon, try and make your own salad dressing so you know exactly what your putting in your salad. You can do this when dining out, restaurants usually offer vinegar and oil as a dressing choice.

A few good ideas for a healthier salad:

  • Stay away from salads that have meats or cheeses
  • Spice up your salad with different greens like arugula or watercress, you won't miss those creamy dressings with all that flavor
  • Make your own dressing using a small amount of extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and some fresh ground pepper.
  • If you buy a salad-to-go in a convenience store, compare the calorie content between the light salad dressing to the creamy dressings. I have seen differences of 200 calories or more
  • Skip the croutons and put in some crunching veggies instead

If you want that taco salad then go at it but if you are trying to lose weight or eat healthier then thinking about what is going into your salad can make a huge difference.

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Iditarod winner and cancer survivor

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Lance Mackey beat cancer back in 2001 and on Tuesday he won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska. Mackey was diagnosed with neck cancer in 2001 and received surgery and radiation for his treatment.

Lance owns a kennel named Lance Mackey's Comeback Kennel. He indeed made a comeback, he has back to back wins in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

Mackey's status as a cancer survivor and champion musher will inspire other people with cancer, said Christine Schultz, 42, of Nome, a medical social worker who stood out in subzero temperatures with co-workers from Norton Sound Regional Hospital to watch Mackey cross the finish line. "I think it gives people hope they can overcome cancer and live their dreams," she said.

Don't ever doubt I can't do something," Mackey said in Nome after his win. "I lived through cancer."

Thought for the Day: Consider this a wake-up call

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Fewer women are getting mammograms. Facilities offering mammograms are closing. Mammogram machine usage is declining. And we don't really know why.

"We're heading in the wrong direction," says Carol Lee, professor of radiology at Yale University School of Medicine and chair of the American College of Radiology's commission on breast imaging.

"If this decline holds up, it will be very worrisome," she says.

"We're looking at a possible increase in deaths if we see this continue," according to Diana Balma, vice president of public policy at Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Studies don't show which women -- rich or poor, young or old, educated or uneducated -- are skipping these critical screenings, but there are a few possible reasons for this dangerous drop.

Think about this:

Perhaps there are fewer facilities, staffed by fewer radiologists and technologists due to high lawsuit rates and modest reimbursement. This is scary -- because the number of women old enough to get screened is increasing.

Women may be missing out on all sorts of necessary medical care because of inadequate health insurance or other access problems.

Women may be choosing, for whatever reasons, not to get mammograms, despite strong public urging that women age 40 and older get screened one time every year.

And now think about this:

Recent news about declining breast cancer rates may not be all that good. It may not be that fewer women are developing breast cancer. It may simply be that fewer women are getting early diagnoses because of irregular or nonexistent screening.

Pick up the phone for the Colorectal Cancer Coalition

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On February 5, the President cut about $11 billion from the National Cancer Institute budget. On March 20, one group -- the Colorectal Cancer Coalition or C3 -- will ask Congress to return some of this money.

Colorectal cancer advocates from all over the country will descend upon Washington DC on this day, in honor of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Their plan of action on behalf of C3's first-ever Call-On Congress includes meeting with members of Congress face to face, discussing cancer research and prevention funding, and informing these powerful people that the time to cure cancer is now.

These advocates have a lot to accomplish -- and they need your help. So they ask that while they are rallying in DC that you lend your support with a few simple phone calls.

On Tuesday, March 20, between the hours of 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time, pick up your phone and call two Senators and one Representative. Tell them now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the cancer cause.

C3 offers a step-by-step guide for making yourself heard. The group will help you locate your specific legislators and provides a script for what to say and how to say it.

"The more people who call on March 20th and ask for Congress to make funding the war on cancer a priority, the better for us all," says one advocate.

Ovarian cancer vaccine waiting in pipeline

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There's been much press lately about the cervical cancer vaccine, its merits, its implications, and the debate surrounding the issue of vaccinating young girls against the sexually transmitted virus HPV.

Enter a new vaccine -- the ovarian cancer vaccine.

Early clinical trial results are promising for this vaccine, intended to fight off ovarian cancer tumors with patients' own cells -- but without the toxicity of traditional chemotherapy.

Says Dr. Ed Staren of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, "We're able to identify the specific components of the tumor and target it for individual therapy for the patient."

Doctors would surgically remove a patient's tumor and then send it to a lab where tumor cells would be used to create a vaccine specifically for the patient.

A second round of clinical trials to study the effectiveness of this vaccine will begin this summer.