Friday, 4 May 2007

Genetic Modification to Control the Forces of Nature

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It's logical that the Nation is up-in-arms about putting genetically modified meats and produce on the shelves in grocery stores and getting due diligence from the government for it. It makes a lot of sense to test something you will use to fuel your body before it is permitted to penetrate the market. So how did genetically modified human insulin overtake the market again? Oh - there must not be any side effects like a diabetes epidemic or something crazy like that, right?

But I digress on the topic in honor of springtime, when "love is in the air". As we all know, love is one of the strongest forces of nature. So is it fair that it went unnoticed by the FDA that human synthetic insulin results in a loss of awareness of hypoglycemia, among other natural responses to hormonal precursors? This is due to a significant suppression of tachycardia.

Tachycardia refers to a rapid beating of the heart. This event may be a perfectly normal response to stress. A stressful event may cause the endocrine system to release hormones that regulate body functions related to mood, growth and development, tissue function, and metabolism, all of which are governed by blood sugar. The hormone that is critically important in tachycardia is epinephrine (adrenaline).

Epinephrine is a fight or flight hormone which is released from the adrenal glands when danger threatens (hypoglycemia, mating rituals, survival of the fittest). When secreted into the bloodstream, it rapidly prepares the body for action in emergency situations. The hormone boosts the supply of oxygen and energy-giving glucose to the brain and muscles; some bodily processes not vital to the response are suppressed. This is exactly what happens when animals become twitterpated in the spring (Bambi, Walt Disney - 1942).

As the birds and the bees go about their business, pollinating and procreating - I ask you think about the adulterated pharmacological intervention that has impaired such a natural phenomenon as love. Celebrate the body's natural response to tachycardia, and realize that our Creator made us perfectly. The longer you spend in the lab genetically modifying His work - the more you are fighting the forces of nature. Now please, put it back the way you found it.

Surgeon Urges Diabetics to Take GABA

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Dr. Daniel Johnson has been working to prevent lower limb amputation in diabetics and strongly urges all diabetics to start taking a nutritional supplement, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) twice a day. The supplement has clinically proven to prevent and improve diabetic vision loss as well as peripheral neuropathy that can lead to amputation.

Researchers discovered that the cells in the pancreas that make insulin also make GABA. When the body produces less GABA, the GABA C receptors in the retina of the eye and in a part of the pituitary gland are impaired from maintaining cell health. With GABA supplementation, the improvements were seen in the vision of patients with diabetic retinopathy and in restoration of feeling in the feet of those with diabetic neuropathy. Awaiting clinical trials by the FDA to provide reversal of complications from a naturally occurring enzyme is simply unnecessary.

The problem in taking GABA by mouth, Dr. Johnson advised, is limited absorption from the digestive tract. He has found that people who take 375 to 500 mg. of plain GABA twice-a-day with an acid-containing beverage (like grapefruit juice) get the best results. If the diabetic patient cannot drink orange or grapefruit juice because of the sugar content, he recommends that they take the GABA with a dose of ascorbic acid -- Vitamin C.

While he would not give an endorsement, Johnson did say that his colleagues had found that Source Naturals 750 mg. tablet form of GABA (half a tablet twice a day) or Solgar's 500 mg. capsule form, also twice-a-day seemed to work best. Please note that the results from Dr. Johnson's use of GABA in the treatment of peropheral neuropathy and diabetic vision loss were clinically recognized but not FDA verified.

Tart cherries may help regulate blood sugar

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As tasty as most incredibly unhealthy foods may be, there is some competition in the taste department from healthier eats. One that I feel is worth mentioning on both TheDiabetesBlog and TheCardioBlog (chiefly because it is germane to both) is the tart cherry; natures way of making healthy eating happy eating.

In a test involving lab rats, researchers from the University of Michigan Health System found tart cherries to lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar, lessen the amount of fat storage in the liver, lower oxidative stress, and increase production of a molecule that assists the body in metabolizing fat and sugar.

Antioxidant compounds known as anthocyanins are found in high amounts in tart cherries. Researchers say that a strong correlation appears to exist between the consumption of tart cherries and the clear changes in metabolic measurements such as those listed above.

Unfortunately, this study still remains at the rodent phase; it will take human clinical trials to determine if tart cherries carry similar benefits for us. FYI: U-M researchers already plan to launch a small clinical trial some time in the near future.

Diabetes Doubles in the Last 10 Years

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An area in Seattle, WA is reporting a two-fold increase in the number of diabetics, up from ten years ago. In addition to this -- type 1 diabetes is on the rise.

The numbers show that 84,000 adults (nearly 6% of the adult population of the county) were diagnosed with diabetes in 2006, compared with 2.8% in 1996. Even more are unaware they have the condition. Type 1 diabetes, for which there is no known prevention, is showing a dramatic increase in the area, as well.

A researcher involved in the study explains "this is not a question of raising awareness of diabetes anymore -- we're beyond that. We need to understand why people aren't listening." The comment pertains to type 2 diabetics and why they have not altered unhealthy lifestyles choices such as high-fat foods and not enough exercise. Both contribute to skyrocketing obesity rates. And obesity is a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, by far the most common form.

Seattle has one of the highest rates of type 1 diabetes in children under 5, and they don't know why. But early research shows that oral insulin in family members of those already diagnosed showed a 4 1/2-year delay in the onset of the disease.

Too Much Insulin could lead to Heart Disease

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Researchers defined a link between high insulin levels and defective lipid metabolism but the cause may not be exactly what you think. According to a study published in June, 2005 -- this could be due to their choice in blood sugar lowering medication.

The conclusion of the study identified obese insulin-resistant subjects taking metformin (brand names Glucophage, Diabex, Diaformin, Fortamet, Riomet, Glumetza) and rosiglitazone both improve insulin sensitivity (increase insulin production) but DO NOT improve lipid metabolism. Rosiglitazone (brand name Avandia) may have a detrimental effect on chylomicron metabolism

Blood vessels of insulin-resistant rats build up a substance called chylomicron cholesterol following a high fat meal. Because the rats are insulin-resistant, more insulin (in the form of an anti-diabetes pill) is required to clear sugars and fats from their bloodstream. Higher insulin levels reduced the rate of chylomicron removal from the blood stream following a meal. This slower clearing rate increased the chylomicron particles sticking around the blood vessels, leading to arterial plaque build up and heart disease.

Knowing that high levels of insulin are associated with elevated levels of chylomicron cholesterol, researchers will use this information to try to figure out how this happens.

Why would they do that? The answer was already explained in June, 2005. Oh it must be because arterial plaque builds differently in Australian's on anti-diabetic pills than it does in American's on anti-diabetic pills. We should all thank the good folks at GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer and Merck. Without their medicine -- how would anybody ever know about this stuff? First you're on an anti-diabetic pill, then you're on cholesterol lowing pill, what's next? Of course -- the blood pressure!!

How many people are Gold Star type 2 diabetic patients?

Dam(n) nutrients were supposed to be good for me

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Since we were kids, we heard from parents, teachers and even PSA characters like The Hanker For a Hunka Cheese guy that we need to get nutrients from food. But, what happens when we are getting too many? Couple that excess of nutrients and caloric intake with a lack of exercise, and you run the risk of an inflammatory immune response.

Sort of like a dam, if the body is overloaded with nutrients, it will eventually give out. However, unlike a breached dam, an overwhelmed body will result in low-grade inflammation characteristic of obesity and other metabolic diseases. This is why researchers from Harvard have been trying to come up with a treatment to reinforce this barrier, and they are doing so by paying close attention to a protein, enriched in fat cells, called STAMP2.

The researchers discovered that animals that lack STAMP2 develop inflammation in deep pockets of visceral fat. The animals also showed signs of metabolic syndrome; including insulin resistance and a propensity for type 2 diabetes. The scientists hope that finding a treatment to strengthen STAMP2 may help the body retain control. Essentially, add some reinforcement to the retaining walls of the dam. But, this treatment won't be coming any time soon, for the scientists admit that it may require years of further investigation to yield the results necessary to move forward.

Calcium may lower cholesterol

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Talk about annoying...I wrote this entire post toward the end of last week, only to have the whole thing erase on me just before it published. Oh well, I'll do my best to paraphrase from memory.

Let's see, where was I? Oh yes, I was going to point out some new-found benefits of calcium. Milk does a body good -- yes, we all know the trite tag lines. Got milk? Yeah, we've heard all about that one, too. The thing is, this push for people to consume more calcium rich products has a great deal of merit, for there is more and more research pointing to how it can help you lose weight and, believe it or not, help you reduce cholesterol.

Canadian researchers put 63 overweight women on a diet and gave half of them 1,200mg of calcium per day. The other half of the women took a placebo. Fast forward fifteen weeks -- the women who took the calcium supplements lost approximately 2 pounds more than the placebo group and, interestingly enough, also showed that they had dropped their cholesterol level by twice as much as the other women.

What we can take away from this study: If possible, consume at least 1,000mg of calcium per day (the Recommended Daily Allowance). Source it from low-fat dairy, green vegetables, orange juice with calcium, or through supplements that can be purchased at most grocery and health food stores.

Macadamia nuts shown to lower cholesterol

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Here's a piece of somewhat useless information: Macadamia nuts are native to Australia, but were brought to Hawaii and harvested starting in 1956.

Feel free to throw that factoid out there the next time you're at a bar trying to pick-up a girl or guy. Just don't blame me if it doesn't get you that far.

Now, here's a piece of somewhat useful information: Macadamia nuts have been shown to have cholesterol-reducing effects similar to other tree nuts. While it has been known for quite some time that almonds and walnuts help reduce LDL, there was little research into macadamia nuts' effectiveness in this regard. Penn State researchers changed that, and their research into this tree nut revealed similar benefits.

Not a fan of nuts? Honestly, neither am I. So, to get around the blandness of their taste, you can always try adding them to salads, mixed into meals, or even covered in cinnamon and baked.

Oh, and by the way, if the macadamia factoid doesn't land you the guy or girl at the bar, maybe this one will: All polar bears are left handed. It's true. Look it up if you don't believe me.

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Penn State goes nuts over pistachios

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What is it about nuts that researchers at Penn State find so interesting? After just finishing a post about their macadamia nut/cholesterol lowering study, I came across so information about their investigation into the stress reduction properties of pistachios.

Pistachios -- now those are nuts that actually taste good. Salty like sunflower seeds, they remind me of little league -- only without having to dread facing pitchers who figured out how to throw curveballs by that age. Anyway, as I was saying before I drifted back to my childhood -- pistachios, yes, pistachios appear to aid in the relaxation of the arteries.

Using a physical and psychological test (involving some strange test that involved submerging the subjects' foot in ice cold water and asking them to do simple math problems), researchers found that subjects who consumed pistachios did appear to have some effect on acute stress reaction.

Considering that people who have large cardiovascular responses to stress tend to be more likely to contract hypertension later in life, it may be worthwhile to grab a handful of pistachios (and other foods that are high in unsaturated fats and antioxidants) fairly regularly.

By the way, I still can't hit a curveball.

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The flu linked to some heart attack cases

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Flu season just got a little more serious. Aside from running the risk of catching the debilitating sickness and finding yourself bedridden for several days, there may be more serious, heart-related consequences of influenza.

An estimated 10 to 20-percent of people living in the US catch the flu each year. On top of that, only about 60-percent of people who should get the flu vaccine actually get it (and even less people get it in Europe). Personally, I haven't had a flu shot administered since my junior year of college, so I'm not faring any better in that regard. But, maybe we should all think again about getting one next year.

It turns out that the flu may be a trigger of some sort for heart attack. Recent research, published in the European Heart Journal, suggests that influenza epidemics are associated with an increased number of deaths resulting from heart disease and, perhaps even scarier, is that flu can actually trigger the heart attacks that result in death.

The science of it breaks down like this, according to the researchers from the Texas Heart Institute: Flu can cause acute and severe inflammation in the body. In some people, this may lead to a destabilization of atherosclerotic plaque in coronary arteries, thereby causing heart attacks.

One doctor associated with the study went as far as to say that because "between 10 and 20% of people catch flu every year, I have estimated that we can prevent up to 90,000 coronary deaths a year in the USA if every high risk patient received an annual flu vaccination."

If he's right, which he very well may be, I think the next flu season may be the one where I get back in line for my shot.

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Put a Cherry on Top for Good Health

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As tasty as most incredibly unhealthy foods may be, there is some competition in the taste department from healthier eats. One that I feel is worth mentioning on both TheDiabetesBlog and TheCardioBlog (chiefly because it is germane to both) is the tart cherry; natures way of making healthy eating happy eating.

In a test involving lab rats, researchers from the University of Michigan Health System found tart cherries to lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar, lessen the amount of fat storage in the liver, lower oxidative stress, and increase production of a molecule that assists the body in metabolizing fat and sugar.

Antioxidant compounds known as anthocyanins are found in high amounts in tart cherries. Researchers say that a strong correlation appears to exist between the consumption of tart cherries and the clear changes in metabolic measurements such as those listed above.

Unfortunately, this study still remains at the rodent phase; it will take human clinical trials to determine if tart cherries carry similar benefits for us. FYI: U-M researchers already plan to launch a small clinical trial some time in the near future.

Two heart disease risk factors for healthy women

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Attention women: Even if you are a non-smoker, exercise regularly, eat healthy, and live a relatively stress-free life, you may still be at somewhat of a risk of heart disease.

Two specific risks are what you should be particularly aware of. The first deals with C-reactive protein (which indicates if you have inflamed arteries) and the other is hereditary -- whether your parents had heart problems before they turned 60.

Obviously it's much easier to determine the second risk factor I listed. All it takes is looking at your parent's medical history. The first risk factor, however, does require you to take a high-sensitivity CRP test.

To determine your overall risk for heart disease, you can visit the website:

Think about it

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For years, researchers and exercisers alike have spoken about a mind/muscle connection. The assertion is that by focusing on a particular muscle or group of muscles while you work them (for example, if you are doing squats you would focus on your leg muscles), you will stimulate a greater amount of muscle activity than if your mind was on, say, that presentation you have to do for the board of directors tomorrow morning. The same goes for your overall health.

Harvard scientists put this theory to task by explaining to a group of forty housekeepers that their work keeps them in shape. Then, they chose another group of forty housekeepers to study, only they did not say anything to these people. Four weeks later, the researchers found that the group that were told that their work was keeping them fit actually lost an average of 2 pounds and reduced their body fat, BMI, blood pressure, and even their waist size. The other group -- the housekeepers to whom the researchers did not say anything -- showed no sign of physical change.

Without a change of diet, exercise program or anything else, the mere thought that their work was making these forty housekeepers healthier actually made it come true. This clearly supports the mind/muscle connection, in addition to giving creedence to all that mumbo-jumbo I've been reading in the book "The Secret."

Thought for the Day: Never use tanning beds

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I remember a time when I visited tanning salons and was assured by those working the front desks that tanning beds were safer than the sun. Many years later, I know this is entirely untrue.

Think about this:

The New Zealand Cancer Society experts say sunbeds should never be used as a tanning method because the risk of skin cancer is too great.

Tanning bed UV radiation is five times stronger than UV from the sun, says one doctor who also suggests people wrongly assume sunbeds are safer than the sun. Instead, they place individuals at significant risk for harm. In fact, the risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest from of skin cancer, increases by 75 percent for those who use a tanning bed before the age of 35.

The Cancer Society, wishing to ban the use of sunbeds for anyone under age 18, has commissioned further research into the use of this deadly practice.

Something up my sleeve

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I hadn't been on an airplane since 2001. So all of the customs and rituals of airport safety were entirely new to me. I had no idea I 'd be told to remove my shoes before walking through the security contraption or that my baggage would be opened, searched, and inspected. It was a whole new world for me. Prior to 2001, none of these security measures were necessary. A compression sleeve wasn't either.

A compression sleeve -- my own personal security device -- is my new travel companion. Designed to protect my arm from swelling caused by the combination of missing lymph nodes and airplane cabin pressure, this sleeve fits my arm from wrist to armpit. It's tight like a glove and while it's not a very apparent fashion statement, it's slightly visible with its darker-than-flesh color.

I almost forgot to wear my sleeve on my flight to Tucson because I sometimes forget about breast cancer and it's effect on my life still. I sometimes forget how unsafe this world can be too. Then I see barefoot travelers passing through an airport corridor just before a jolt sparks my memory, and I rush to pull on my sleeve before it's too late.

There are four missing lymph nodes up my sleeve. And I must never forget this.
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Why alcohol boosts breast cancer risk

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My fellow blogger Jacki recently posted about the effect of alcohol and breast cancer risk in her post titled Thought for the Day: Bingeing and breast cancer.

But why does alcohol consumption stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells?

A study in mice shows that alcohol consumption stimulated the growth and progression of breast cancer by the development of new blood vessels - a process called angiogenesis.

The article stated that "It does this by boosting expression of a factor known as vascular endothelial growth factor or VEGF". Dr. Jian-Wei Gu and colleagues from the University of Mississippi Medical Center examined the effects of tumor growth in mice.

For 4 weeks, 6-week old female mice consumed regular drinking water or water containing 1 percent alcohol, which is equivalent to about 2 to 4 drinks in humans. In week 2, the animals were inoculated with mouse breast cancer cells.

"We found after about 4 weeks that breast tumor size almost doubled in mice that drank alcohol compared to control mice given plain water," Gu noted in a telephone interview with Reuters Health. Moderate alcohol intake also caused a noteworthy increase in tumor blood vessels compared with no alcohol intake.

"VEGF can promote the formation of new blood vessels," Gu said. "This suggests that alcohol can induce tumor angiogenesis."

Thought for the Day: Another round of coffee, cancer

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More on coffee -- a topic of panel discussion at the recent Experimental Biology 2007 meeting in Washington, DC, and subject of nearly 400 studies investigating consumption and cancer risk.

Think about this:

No one claims coffee is the new health food. And non-coffee drinkers are not encouraged to drink the beverage for their health. Yet the beverage is certainly losing some of its negative health image.

But is it enough?

Some say coffee
protects against colon, rectal, and liver cancers (diabetes too). These same people recognize it also can increase the risk of leukemia and stomach cancer. Those at risk, like pregnant women and children, should limit their consumption.

Like many connections between cancer and diet, there just isn't enough research to tell a whole story. We can only take what's available and make our own educated decisions about our own individual lives.

What decision will you make about coffee?

Worthy Wisdom

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I am just back from four days at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. They were exhilarating, empowering, renewing, healthy, healing days. They were just as I'd imagined they'd be. And more.

Founders Mel and Enid Zuckerman say their commitment -- Canyon Ranch has been serving guests for 25 years and features destinations all over the country -- has set the standard for what has become a very large spa and health and wellness industry. With a focus on nutrition, stress management, preventative care, fitness, and a whole lot of pampering, the Zuckermans have inspired thousands of guests. I'm one of them.

I am spilling over with insight and motivation and wisdom I gathered at the Ranch. I want everyone to know what I know -- and I can't wait to start sharing my lessons for healthy living.

So the professionals at Canyon Ranch get the credit they deserve for beginning to transform my life -- and maybe yours too -- I will call my Canyon Ranch posts Worthy Wisdom. When you see these two words, you'll know the information that follows flows from the Arizona desert. I will also name Canyon Ranch in each post and will link to where a wealth of wellness resources await you.

"Canyon Ranch measures its value by what you do after you leave the Ranch -- what you take home in new awareness and a sense of control about issues in your life," writes Mel Zuckerman in The Canyon Ranch Story: A Passion for Healthy Living.

What am I going to do now that I'm home? I'm going to spread the word.

Drug combination improves survival in pancreatic cancer

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Cancer is a scary word -- pancreatic cancer is beyond scary. It has one of the highest mortality rates of all cancers. Symptoms of the disease usually are hard to recognize and most patients are diagnosed in the advanced stages.

Anytime I read about a new drug that can increase the survival of this deadly disease I get excited. An early online publication of the Journal of Clinical Oncology states that the addition to the targeted agent Tarceva (erlotinib) to Gemzar (gemcitabine) can improve survival in patients diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer.

The Phase III clinical trial included 569 patients who were either treated with Tarceva plus Gemzar or Gemzar plus placebo. At one year the survival of those treated with the drug combination reached 23 percent. Gemzar alone had a 17 percent survival rate at one year. The study also said that more patients treated with the combination of Tarceva/Gemzar achieved stabilization of their disease.

I am hoping that sooner, rather than later this disease will not be beyond scary and will be something that can be treated, controlled and one day cured.

Leptin could be responsible for breast cancer in obese women

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I have heard many times that being obese or overweight increases the risk of developing breast cancer. It also has been said that it shortens the time between the return of the disease.

Why is this? It might be because of a hormone in our bodies called leptin.

Researchers are doing experiments on mice that might prove to be an important influence in developing drugs that target the mechanism that causes obese individuals to have a higher risk of the disease.

Italian researchers speaking at the Experimental Biology 2007 in Washington, DC, report evidence on how leptin, a hormone found in fat cells, significantly influences breast cancer development and progression in mice.

Leptin sends messages to the body that no more food is needed, a process that might not work well for those that are overweight or obese. Leptin also is involved with cell differentiation and proliferation in the body. Leptin has demonstrated to play a significant role in promoting breast cancer in obese women by increasing the amount of estrogen in the breast tissue.

Even though these are experiments done only on mice at this point, this learning process is what leads to new drugs and targeted therapies.

Thought for the Day: Something to bead about

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Breast cancer survivor Linda Griggs offers a wide variety of hands-on healing products for other survivors -- like an inner child notebook with markers for journaling and expressing emotions, a wooden box with instructions on how to create a healing shrine, a non-fiction account of her own cancer journey, and so much more. Griggs, who also teaches workshops and speaks out on cancer as a hero's quest, is now onto something new. She's stringing beads.

Think about this:

"After helping a young breast cancer survivor make a "power necklace" to help pump her up before chemo, I realized perhaps other survivors might benefit from having their own empowering necklaces," Griggs says.

Griggs has begun making necklaces from natural stones associated with chakras she believes are most relevant to survivors. The root chakra, for example is connected with survival, the sacral chakra with emotional balance, the solar plexus chakra with personal power, the heart chakra with giving and receiving love, and the throat chakra with free expression.

Each necklace -- there are earring sets too -- come with an explanation of the stones and chakras involved and each has its own unique name. There is the
Amazon Warrior, the Wild Woman, and the Heart Light.

Think about a visit to Griggs' website when you have a moment. And bead all about the resources this one survivor has crafted for those wishing to transcend the depths of cancer.

Breast cancer drug Herceptin approved in Europe

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Breast cancer drug Herceptin has been approved in Europe for use with hormonal therapy for postmenopausal patients with HER2 and hormone receptor positive metastatic disease.

Herceptin, made by Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG, is already approved in Europe for early and metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer.

This new approval is based on data from an international late stage clinical trial showing the combination of Herceptin with hormonal therapy doubled the median progression-free survival time.

Cancer Lifeline in Seattle

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Cancer Lifeline believes cancer survivors - from diagnoses - their families, friends and coworkers, and caregivers are all people living with cancer. They believe that emotional, spiritual, and mental components of health are as important as the physical. Cancer Lifeline values listening to the needs of their clients and creating excellent services to meet those needs.

One of the things I loved about reading and seeing on their website is the beautiful healing gardens. If you live in the Seattle area this is a beautiful place to visit.

  • The Earth/Sky Garden - is partly open to the sky and lovely views, and partly sheltered by an arbor.
  • The Celebration Garden - is completely open to the sun and sky and populated with a wide variety of colorful plants.
  • The Reflection Garden - is a place for contemplation and meditation. Quiet shadows mix with rich greens of shade-loving plants, while a small fountain bubbles across rocks and moss.

These gardens are just a small taste of what you can experience at Cancer Lifeline. Click here to find out all of what Cancer Lifeline has to offer.

All Cancer Lifeline services are free of charge.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Rats it's a Virus

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No kidding! The rats are leading researchers to triggering events causing diabetes. The new findings suggest that there is, indeed, a genetic susceptibility to diabetes, but that the precipitating event is a viral infection.

The virus in question is the Ljungan virus. Previous reports indicate that infections with the Ljungan virus can induce diabetes in laboratory rats, and that the diabetes can be reversed if the animals are treated with antiviral drugs before the destruction of insulin-secreting islet cells becomes widespread.

I'm not sure how everybody else out there got their D-card. My diagnosing event happened shortly after I had the chicken pox, back in '85. The childhood christening event apparently left me out in the cold and caused the love-hate relationship between my islets and my insulin autoantibodies. Lucky me. Thanks to all the readers out there who have already shared their sequence of diagnosis with me. What's your story? Please, share with us.

Novocell - A stem cell engineering company

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Novocell is the first company to use polyethylene glycol (PEG) to encapsulate clusters of insulin-producing cells. This biocompatible substance allows glucose and insulin to pass freely through the coating while preventing the body's immune system from destroying the islets.

The encapsulated islets release human insulin through natural mechanisms in response to the recipient's blood glucose. The islet cells used in this study are isolated from human cadavers. The implant procedure is performed under local anesthesia and the encapsulated islets are injected into a surgically formed micropocket in the subcutaneous tissues of the thigh or lower abdomen of the recipient. The patients received temporary low dose cyclosporine (50-100 ng/ml 12hr trough) and did not receive any other form of immunosuppression.

At the American Diabetes Association 66th Annual Scientific Session in June -- Novocell announced the progress of the study. No adverse events had occurred -- no news is good news. In addition, the company also has the fortune of existing in California - where they can prosper on further stem cell research. Novocell has developed a process that efficiently converts human embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells. Novocell believes this study will demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the encapsulation technology that can be used with the unlimited source of insulin-producing cells developed from stem cells to treat patients with diabetes.

Building Brown Fat Reduces Diabetes Risk

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Decreased brown fat markedly increass the risk to diet-induced obesity, diabetes, and elevated fats in the blood.

Brown fat tissue is present in newborn babies. People with a lot of brown fat have a "furnace" metabolism. They burn body fuels rapidly, and the more they consume, the more they burn, all the while maintaining a stable weight. A furnace metabolism thrives on carbohydrates. The more fuel they throw into the system, the more they burn, just like coals on a fire.

There are ways to change the percentage of brown fat in the body. Although most people normally do not advocate caffeine as a healthful food, research suggests that caffeine stimulates brown fat by increasing the metabolic rate. Caffeine, however, does other things that are not as positive. It can cause heart palpitations (especially in high amounts), and steals some of the vitamins in the body, such as C and B. Increasing multi-vitamins is helpful with any caffeine supplement.

Another way to increase brown fat is to exercise - specifically, to engage in aerobic exercise that uses oxygen. To be effective this exercise must raise the pulse rate from a resting level of about 70 up to 120 or so. A half-hour of vigorous walking four times a week can be very rewarding from a metabolic standpoint.

One last tip: too much sodium in the diet can deactivate the brown fat and promote water retention with consequent weight gain. So slow and steady exercises, pass on the salt, and make mine a Grande sugar-free vanilla latte. Thank you!

Thought for the Day: Could money have been everything?

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There's so much more to life than money. At the same time, the daily grind definitely depends some on this coveted staple. For one man, whose life did depend on money, it could have been everything. But it wasn't.

Think about this:

Wayne Schenk won $1 million in the New York lottery on January 12 after purchasing a $5 scratch-off ticket. His jackpot win came just five weeks after his diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer was delivered. His one wish: to receive a lump sum so he could receive specialized treatment for his advanced disease.

Lottery officials claim they were sympathetic but just couldn't give him a lump sum. The best they could do was issue him $50,000 annual installments for 20 years.

Schenk, 51, only survived for a little more than one year. He died on April 23 at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Syracuse. At the time of his death, he had received just $34,000.

So money isn't everything. But could it have been?

Sunday Seven: Status check on seven breast cancer survivors

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These seven breast cancer survivors have been featured on The Cancer Blog before, all because of their own personal blogs and their own personal battles with cancer. Today, I offer you an update on these remarkable individuals whose stories have undoubtedly touched many lives.


On April 26, 2006, Adriene wrote a final entry on her Survivor Blog. "This will be my last entry on the Survivor Blog," she writes. "I am finished. And I am complete, at least I feel I am. Now it's time to be in health and in love and in gratitude. To be at another level. It's time to move. Move. The wind beneath."

Breast cancer -- and writing about it -- is behind her. But Adriene is still inspiring readers on her blog. Check out her site's feature. It's nothing but moving.

Jen, a young wife and mom who blogs My Journey through Motherhood, once wrote about breast cancer every few days. Now she can't seem to find time to keep up with her entries. What good news for this survivor who is busy with life and not cancer.


Sandee, author of I Will Survive, is quite a breast cancer warrior. She has been fighting the disease and it's cruel spread for many years and finds herself living with constant treatment. Her most recent blog entry, posted on April 14, reads:
Feeling down, I just can't shake this tired feeling, cancer treatments may keep you alive but they totally change everything about you. I know I should be grateful but I miss the way I used to be. I miss my hair ... I miss my eyebrows ... I miss my eyelashes ... I miss my toenails ... I miss my slender body ... I miss my energy ... I miss shopping for hours ... I miss not being afraid ... I miss not taking medication ... I miss volunteering ... I miss working out ... I miss being pain-free ... I miss feeling pretty ... I miss wearing high heels ... I miss driving 5-speed ... I miss not being able to plan ahead ... I miss going to family functions ... I miss feeling immortal ... I miss my health ... I miss my old breasts ... I miss having flawless skin ... I miss a lot!

Despite her uphill battle, Sandee ends each blog entry with a random thought and something for which she is thankful. Her random thought on April 14: Regardless, I'm still happy to be alive! And then: Today I am thankful for my kids.


Valerie blogs The Beck Family and fills her space with happy photos and positive words. Busy recuperating from a hysterectomy, growing out her post-chemotherapy hair, and training to participate in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, Valerie is doing well -- and keeping busy going to baseball games and Las Vegas with girlfriends. She has a new puppy and a great outlook on life after cancer.

"Our life is back to normal and normal things are happening," she writes. "Our transmission went out on our Yukon last week, and it was under warranty, so it is in the shop. Our washing machine stopped working due to me overloading it too many times, so we went out and got a new front loading one. Its pretty cool!!! and that's it. Everyone else is doing great. We still love our new puppy.


Patty's husband blogs Patty's Journey. "Patty hasn't been feeling great the last few days," he writes on April 25. "She's had a light headed feeling and can't seem to get a deep breath. She's not sure if she's just become acutely aware of her breathing or what. I've read that the Herceptin can cause dizziness in 13% of patients so I'm not sure if this is what this could be or not. Hopefully, it is nothing. She's sees the doctor tomorrow so we'll see what he says. Pray that these issues resolve for her."

Patty, a mom to four young daughters, is finishing up radiation while receiving Herceptin treatment.


Marjorie and her husband Gordon take turns updating Beating Breast Cancer. But the last entry on this site was posted on November 28 and other than what Marjorie writes on this date, I am not sure how she is doing.

"On the day of the poisoning by taxotere I feel OK," writes Marjorie on this November day. "Next day my body feels strange and tired. The answer should be wee nap in the afternoon, but NO. My mind is so wired and agitated I found myself planning next year's Christmas dinner -- not this year's. This goes on for two or three days then WHAM, I'm the most depressing person to be around."

I hope Marjorie's absence from writing is an indication she is thriving and is too distracted by the joys of life to take a seat at the keyboard.


Kristina blogs for The Cancer Blog -- and also for herself, her friends, and her family on her personal site.

Kristi, who calls herself a young Breast Cancer Survivor, Freethinker, New Marine Aquarist, Reach for Recovery Volunteer, reluctant accountant, freelance writer, voracious reader and cancer blogger, most recently is mourning this loss of her beloved cat Cleo, making a difference with the Young Survival Coalition, and laughing it up with friends traveling similar breast cancer paths.
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Thought for the Day: Ordinary Miracle

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In response to the post Thought for the Day: These Small Hours, a song by Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas, reader Mary H. shares the name of another beautiful song by artist Sarah McLachlan. The song, Ordinary Miracle, is from the Charlotte's Web movie soundtrack and for Mary -- and me too -- it evokes an inspiring live-for-the-moment type of message.

Think about this:

It's not that usual when everything is beautiful
It's just another ordinary miracle today

The sky knows when its time to snow
You don't need to teach a seed to grow
It's just another ordinary miracle today

Life is like a gift they say
Wrapped up for you everyday
Open up and find a way
To give some of your own

Isn't it remarkable?
Like every time a raindrop falls
It's just another ordinary miracle today

Birds in winter have their fling
And always make it home by spring
It's just another ordinary miracle today

When you wake up everyday
Please don't throw your dreams away
Hold them close to your heart
Cause we are all a part
Of the ordinary miracle

Ordinary miracle
Do you want to see a miracle?

Its seems so exceptional
Things just work out after all
It's just another ordinary miracle today

The sun comes up and shines so bright
It disappears again at night
It's just another ordinary miracle today

It's just another ordinary miracle today
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Weight no longer, says American Cancer Society

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Don't delay. There's no better time than the present to get your weight in check. Especiallly now that The American Cancer Society is reporting that maintaining a healthy weight is at the top of their cancer prevention list.

"We know that obesity is related to a number of different cancers, breast cancer among post-menopausal women, colon cancer, esophageal, kidney cancer," says Colleen Doyle of American Cancer Society spokeswoman.

This makes the ACS recommendations more urgent than ever.

The ACS urges individuals to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and to exercise at least five days per week.

There are no guarantees, of course, that these practices will hold off cancer. But "the good news is that a lot of people think they don't have any control over their risk of cancer and we're here to tell people that absolutely you do have some control," says Doyle.

It is estimated that poor diet and lack of physical activity cause about one-third of cancer deaths each year, about the same number of cancer cases caused by smoking.

Find A Cure Stables

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Call Me Larry, that is his name. This remarkable young racehorse came in first in the sixth race at Aqueduct Raceway. His owner Suzie O'Cain, will donate ten percent of his earnings to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

The horse is named after Dr. Larry Norton, Breast Cancer Research Foundation Scientific Director and Chairman of the Medical Advisory board, in a cute story. Suzie felt obligated not to use Dr. Norton's first name when addressing him. However, he kept urging her to 'Call me Larry'!

So the horse was named Call Me Larry in honor of Dr. Norton and to raise funds for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Press Secretary Tony Snow returns to work

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Five weeks after doctors discovered that Tony Snow had a diagnoses of metastatic colon cancer -- he is back at work.

I just watched a briefing by Mr. Snow. He seems very optimistic about his treatment plan. He will receive chemotherapy and then maintenance chemotherapy to try and keep the cancer at bay.

Tony advises anyone with cancer to "not go it alone". He feels very supported by his colleges and family. He also stated that he feels very lucky and he has the gift of life and is going to make the most of it.

Mr. Snow was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2005 and has recently went through exploratory surgery to confirm his cancer recurrence. He did say that there are new chemotherapy drugs that were not available when he was first diagnosed, that he will be treated with at this time.

He seemed a bit choked up in the interview, but only because he is humbled by the love and support he has received.

Toenail fungal drug can block angiogenesis

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Researchers at Johns Hopkins discovered that a drug commonly used to treat toenail fungus could block angiogenesis, blood vessels that feed a tumor.

The drug, itraconazole, is FDA approved for human use, which may fast-track its availability as an anti-cancer drug.

If you are interested in reading more about Angiogenesis and cancer growth you can read my post back in July.

The researchers at this point have yet to determine exactly how itraconazole works to stop vessel growth.

Study finds receptor responsible for Herceptin's poor anticancer response

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Twenty to thirty percent of breast cancers over express a protein referred to as the human epidermal growth factor receptor, better known as HER2 over expression.

Herceptin is an agent that is targeted against the HER2 receptor and helps to slow or stop the spread of cancer cells that over express this protein. Unfortunately, some women that do have the over expression of HER2 on their breast cancer cells do not respond to treatment with Herceptin.

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute has published a report that says among breast cancer patients with HER2 over expressing cancer cells, those whose cells also express a receptor called p95HER2 have a poor anti-cancer response rate with Herceptin.

The study included forty seven women with metastatic breast cancer. All were treated with Herceptin. Nine of these patients also expressed the receptor p95HER2.

The results showed that only 11 percent of the women with the p95HER2 expression showed an anti-cancer response to Herceptin. Of the patients who did not express p95HER2 demonstrated a response of 51 percent. The report also showed that laboratory testing of cancer cells that do express p95HER2 demonstrated anti-cancer activity with a drug called Tykerb.

The researchers concluded that patients with HER2-over expressing breast cancer who also express p95HER2 appear to be more resistant to treatment with Herceptin and "may require alternative or additional anti-HER2-targeting strategies." Patients with HER2-over expressing breast cancer may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating biologic markers that may help predict responses to certain therapies.

Thought for the Day: Bingeing and breast cancer

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It only takes two bottles of wine consumed over the course of one weekend to more than double the risk of breast cancer, according to a Danish study of 17,647 women which breaks down like this: women who drank 22-27 drinks per week had twice the risk for the disease compared to those who drank only one to three drinks.

Think about this:

More than a quarter of participants, age 44 and older, drank more than the recommended 14 drinks per week. One in 10 were binge drinkers -- they had more than four drinks per day. Thirteen percent were weekend bingers -- they had more than 10 drinks between Friday and Sunday. A drink is considered one bottle of beer, wine, or spirit. In Denmark, each unit translate into 12g of alcohol.

Published in the
European Journal of Public Health, this study found breast cancer risk is greatest when drinks are consumed in a short period of time. This is because the concentration of alcohol in the blood peaks, making it more harmful to the body.

"What our study suggests is that the total amount of alcohol consumed has a detrimental effect on the risk of breast cancer, but also the drinking pattern seems to have an impact," says lead researcher Dr. Lina Morch.

The bottom line: to reduce the risk of breast cancer, women must limit the amount of alcohol they drink.

So long, sweet things

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I've passed the two-year breast cancer survival mark and finally, I'm making a major life change. Why has it taken me so long? I'm not sure. I guess the time is right and it never was before. There's no reason to dwell on what I could have done sooner. What matters is that I'm taking charge right now.

First it was soda. I totally eliminated it from my diet. It wasn't such a big hurdle, though, because it was never much of a habit. But sweets -- another story entirely.

I love -- or shall I say loved -- sweets. Brownies, especially the gooey variety, were my favorite sugary treat. My oldest child loves them too and together, we would occasionally mix up a batch, wait impatiently while they baked, and then scarf down the whole pan.

There's a brownie mix in our pantry right now. Six-year-old Joey keeps asking me if we can make them. I keep telling him, "No, mommy is not eating sweets anymore." Which means he is not eating sweets anymore -- unless they come from a secret source. It's killing him that I won't give in and make our cherished chocolate dessert. So I promised him I will make the brownies one day soon. We have an upcoming party to attend and this will be my contribution. I just can't make them, keep them at home, and expect not to eat them.

It's been two weeks since I've consumed anything remotely sweet -- like candy, cakes, ice cream. I'm not counting sweeteners that are surely buried in the foods I normally eat -- I'll get there eventually -- but I am committed to passing on anything obviously dripping in sugar. That means no chocolate chip cookie bars that greeted me at work one day. No dipping into the mint bowls at restaurants. No bulk-sized bag of M&Ms sitting in my kitchen cupboard.

Nothing. I can't do it any other way. All or nothing. I'm going with nothing.

I like how I feel. The headaches I suspected were fueled by sugar are less frequent. My stomach feels less full. I know I am headed for better health. My kids are too. My body and my wallet should lighten up a bit too.

When I long for that sweet something, I reach for fresh fruit. Strawberries, apples, pears, bananas, and cantaloupe fill our kitchen now. Joey ate three bananas last night. I figure it would have been three brownies if he'd had the choice. For his sake and mine, I'm glad he didn't.
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Risk of head and neck cancer reduced with fruits and veggies

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Researchers have found a link between intake of fruits and vegetables and decreased risk of developing head and neck cancer. The study results were presented at the 2007 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

The study included more than 490,000 individuals aged 50 or older. Over a five year period, 787 participants developed head and neck cancer. Individuals with higher intake of fruits and veggies were less likely to develop head and neck cancers. Overall, vegetables appeared to offer more protection than fruit.

Plant groups that were linked with a reduced risk included string beans, peas and dried beans. Apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, pears and strawberries were the important fruits.

We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us. This is just one more study to prove that eating a diet with fruits and veggies can help us to prevent cancer.