How NOT to make a good impression on the greatest cancer scientist alive

October 31, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

I just got some really exciting news from some old labmates of mine: Judah Folkman, the father of angiogenesis therapy in cancer, has agreed to speak at my alma mater!

Who is Judah Folkman and Why Should I Care?

To understand the significance of this event, please allow me to give you a brief cell biology lesson: The body’s cells are surrounded by capillaries, or tiny blood vessels, which nourish the cells and carry off their waste. These capillaries are made up of endothelial cells, and because these endothelial cells generally never divide, the blood vasculature pretty much stays the same. Angiogenesis refers to the few times (like during wound healing or menstruation) when these sleepy endothelial cells actually do decide to wake up and start dividing. Like anything that has to go to work after a long nap, the cells get everything they need to get done in a short, controlled burst, and then tune right back out again.

Back in the 1960’s, it was generally thought that the living cells that comprise tumors were just feeding off the blood supply of normal tissue. Dr. Folkman was the first to hypothesize that perhaps these unwanted tumor cells were surviving due to angiogenic activity. Turns out that he was right, and a new way to approach cancer treatment was born.


A flurry of anti-angiogenic approaches have found success not just in cancer, but in but heart disease, obesity, and infertility as well. Researchers in Dr. Folkman’s laboratory have been in the forefront of the “stop ’em where it starts” approach to management and treatment, and both the man and his research have been highlighted in books both by him and others, a documentary, several news stories, and most recently, new business development.

The Judah Folkman Lunchbox

Because he was not afraid to try new approaches when almost everyone in his field thought he was wrong, I’ve considered Dr. Folkman to be a Rock Star Scientist in my eyes for years. Both my husband and I had done our graduate work in an cancer angiogenesis laboratory, so we used to joke that getting the thumbs-up approval from Dr. Folkman would trump even a Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Fast forward a few years to this past April when I presented my work at the American Association of Cancer Research Annual Meeting for the first time. Until my labmates and I got our conference programs in the Los Angeles Conference Center, I had no idea that it was the 100th anniversary of AACR and that Dr. Folkman had been invited to be a keynote speaker. After briefly hyperventilating, I planned my entire schedule around seeing him speak. When I saw him at his sunrise session talk, he was both humble and instantly likeable as he spoke not just about his recent work but that of his collaborators.

Since I figured I’d never get the chance to see him in person again, I hung around afterwards with a small crowd of scientists. As I eavesdropped on the other people talking to him, I realized that each person he was talking to was asking for his expert opinion on research approaches or clinical practices. They were all dressed up and from big-name institutions. I was some scruffy kid who came from an cancer center no one’s ever heard of — and I had nothing brilliant to say! When it came to my turn in line, I said, in true Lesly-fashion, the first thing that came to mind: “Dr. Folkman, I’m Lesly, and me and my husband think that you’re so great that we would buy a lunchbox with your face on it!”

And there it was for all to see: my pedicured foot inserted neatly in my mouth. Read more

Finding treasure in toxic waste: potential anti-cancer drugs isolated in cesspool

October 30, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

Nutritional polyphenol antioxidants have have been enjoying a renaissance of sorts in the arena of cancer drug development, and the evidence of the downstream ripples lies in the long list of results that a quick googling of “antioxidants + cancer” yields.  So naturally (heh heh), my interest was piqued when I saw the following headline:  “In the Battle Against Cancer, Researchers Find Hope in a Toxic Wasteland.”

The opening paragraphs:

BUTTE, Mont. — Death sits on the east side of this city, a 40-billion-gallon pit filled with corrosive water the color of a scab. On the opposite side sits the small laboratory of Don and Andrea Stierle, whose stacks of plastic Petri dishes are smeared with organisms pulled from the pit. Early tests indicate that some of those organisms may help produce the next generation of cancer drugs.

From death’s soup, the Stierles hope to coax life.

Creepy stuff, huh?  The life-giving properties of “death’s soup,” as described by Christopher Maag of the New York Times earlier this month, are the results of recent findings by Donald and Andrea Stierle.  The Stierles, a husband and wife time of scientists at Montana Tech of the University of Montana, have been hard at work for the last few years isolating extremely hardy compounds from the Berkley Pit Lake which previously served as one of the world’s largest copper mines before it was abandoned in the 1980’s. Read more

WARNING: Weak content, overgeneralizations may lead to misconceptions about cancer

October 29, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

When looking for quality information about medical or scientific breakthroughs, like most everything else in life, you have to sift through a lot of crap in order to find the good stuff. Unfortunately, for every good source on the internet about cancer like the American Cancer Society or WebMD, you have tons of sites and blogs with weak content or even misinformation.

Because physicians and scientists don’t often spend the time marketing their big ideas a la Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Edison, it’s often up to science writers, journalists, and bloggers to interpret their work and broadcast it for them. It is here where many roadblocks to good science communication can come up, including a lack of familiarity with a hyper-specialized vocabulary (be honest: do you recognize this?) or even a misintepretation of a data set’s significance (helpful hint for everyone who reports on medical breakthroughs in cancer research: correlation does not imply causation!)

Martin Fenner points out the difficulty of writing about cancer research science to a general audience in an interesting article entitled “Poor Media Coverage of Cancer Research: Are Blogs one Answer?” An excerpt:

For those of us working in cancer research, it is important to remember to communicate our research findings not only in journal articles and scientific meetings. We probably have to do a much better job in talking to the media and the public. One example would be to start a blog about a particular area of cancer research or cancer patient care. The number of quality blogs in this area could be much higher, and some blogs even had to close down.

I agree with Martin that there aren’t nearly enough high-quality news outlets for cancer research, and we’re not alone. This past year, one of the biggest powerhouses in scientific publications, the Nature Publishing Group, has made some pretty bold steps in making strong, evidence-based information about science easily accessible through their development of the Nature Network, an open-access social network and blogging platform geared directly to scientists and other professionals (including Martin).

In the spirit of promoting strong content in the world of cancer research, I’d like to point you to a few recent posts on some of my favorite blogs: Read more

Rainy, Cold Weather: Not Good for People with Arthritis?

October 28, 2007 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Excuse my recent absence, I’ve been under a literally bad weather. You see, I work in our not-fully finished house near an open window where there is an optimum signal for my 3G signal. When it rains (especially if directed sideways) the cellphone (my modem) and the back of my PC (monitor and CPU) will get wet.

The last couples of days , we had to endure dark gray skies and continuous heavy downpour. You know… that kind of downpour that has no intention of stopping, like the heavens has a big hole in it. This kind of weather is our normal this time of the year, we are just thankful the rains and winds didn’t brew into a full-blown storm. While in the temperate countries, it must be starting to get really cold, temperatures dropping continuously it won’t be long before it starts snowing.

I haven’t been in any temperate country so I have no idea how cold cold can be in winter. But here in the tropics, this time of year until sometime in February is relatively cold, isn’t good for people (young and old) who are suffering from arthritis. For once, if it keeps raining, it is a hassle to go outside to stretch your legs. Besides, during cold weathers, arthritic pains seems to escalate, aging bones need some warmth.

If arthritic people in the tropics are suffering how much more those people in temperate countries.

Today, the weather finally hold up. Skies are still gray, we haven’t been grazed by sunlight yet but at least it has stopped raining.

Exercise – The Diet Partner

October 27, 2007 by  
Filed under OBESITY

Most people will try a hundred different fad diets, at least as many nutritional supplements and even all sorts of wacky alternatives. But, getting them to exercise can be a real challenge.

Nevertheless, it’s an inescapable fact that proper diet has to be accompanied by an age-appropriate, regular exercise program – if the goal is good health and an attractive body. Diet is essential, but exercise is its essential partner. Diet provides the proper fuel, but exercise uses that fuel to generate health and fitness.

There’s no need to become a fitness fanatic, but there are several simple exercises you can begin today. Start a daily stretching routine of at least 10 minutes before doing any vigorous training. A 20-minute walk every other day is a great beginning for those not used to exercise.

Work up to more effort slowly. Most of those new to exercise get discouraged and quit too soon because they try too hard at first. This produces soreness and sometimes injury. That reduces the motivation.

Instead, start with some light weight training, using 5lb, 10lb, then 20lb weights. Curls, squats and other exercises are simple and you’ll soon graduate. Then add a 10-minute jog, a 20-minute jog, then 30-minutes. Once you hit an hour-long run, you’re into the serious workout category.

If you can, invest in equipment that may help you get motivated. Others will need the social stimulus of a gym to keep their willpower up. But in either case, don’t let your money go to waste. Make a commitment to regular workouts, whether at home or away. If you do join a gym, don’t be shy. Take advantage of the expertise of more experienced fitness enthusiasts and the staff.

In order to lose weight, you want to be sure to include some cardiovascular exercises in your routine. That can be running, cycling or any number of alternatives. To tone muscles and tighten the slack skin that will result from major body fat reduction, you’ll need to add resistance and weightlifting exercises. You can use stretchers, rope and pulley or other equipment to supply the resistance. Weight machines are great for lifting exercises.

As you get into the routine, you may or may not actually lose weight. If you’re not obese but merely overweight, you may not see much loss. As you reduce fat deposits the difference can be made up by gains in muscle mass. Don’t pay much attention to early losses, they may well be due as much to water loss as anything else.

But as you reduce excess body fat and tone muscles you’ll experience many side benefits beyond a more attractive body. You’ll feel better overall, be more energetic and should experience a heightened mood.

Feel good about it. You worked hard for the results.

What Your Friends and Family With Cancer Want You to Know

October 26, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

I met my friend M. while she was doing an undergraduate summer internship in a cancer research at the university where I worked. A year later, she joined my school as a PhD student and I trained her when she did a research rotation in my laboratory. About this time last year, she had a night on the town cut short by sudden, uncontrollable bleeding. She went home feeling pretty sick, and later that night, her boyfriend rushed her to the emergency room. Later on that week, she was told that that she had cancer.

We were friends — not best friends, but close enough where we regularly shared stories about our wacky families and our mutual fear that a life at the bench might not be for us, met for lunch, and watched basketball games when we could. In the months that followed, we got a lot closer. I visited her in her emergency hospitalizations, helped her sort through the business of hospital billing, and drove her to her specialist appointments four hours away at Johns Hopkins University. We even ended up being interviewed for a “Dateline” special together for a documentary on cancer patients!

In the time that she wasn’t in the hospital or at home recovering from procedures, we spent a lot of time talking. She told me all about how she wanted her life to be as normal as possible, so whenever I called her, we talked about the most mundane things like the latest gossip about our coworkers and the quirks about our bosses.

The thing that she didn’t know was that it was actually really hard for me to act like things were normal. I didn’t know why, but sometimes the prospect of talking to her was sometimes really daunting for me. Sometimes I wouldn’t respond to her email and phone calls right away. I hated it because I wanted to be a good friend to her, but I didn’t know how to deal with what I was feeling. I’m ashamed to say that the reason was that I just felt uncomfortable being reminded with the fact that she had cancer — and it could have been me!

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Fighting The Good Fight – Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

October 26, 2007 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

By Sarah Shepherd

In 1901, a German physician was presented with an unusual and never before seen case. His patient was a 51 year-old woman who seemed to be suffering from mental problems. In addition to having several bouts of memory loss, she accused her husband of being unfaithful. She had difficulty understanding simple things that we being said to her and she could no longer perform certain actions. The physician attempted to treat her as best he could, but never before seeing these symptoms together in one person proved to be a major stumbling block. He monitored her as these symptoms intensified, and within a few years she was completely bedridden. Less than 5 years later, the woman was dead. The causes of death were pneumonia and infections caused by bedsores. The doctor published his findings after the autopsy, and in 1910 it was suggested by a fellow physician that the disease be named after this German doctor. The debilitating brain disorder was henceforth known as Alzheimer’s Disease.

According to the National Alzheimer’s Association, a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 72 seconds. The disease affects the brain by destroying brain cells. This leads to memory loss and causes problems with things such as motor skills and thinking processes. The cause of Alzheimer’s has yet to be determined. Even worse, no cure has been found. Approximately 5 million Americans are living with this disease, which is unfortunately a fatal illness. It is estimated that over 500,000 people are living with early onset Alzheimer’s, which affects people under the age of 65.

Every one of us knows someone or knows of someone who has been touched by Alzheimer’s disease. Whether it is a person suffering directly, or a family member dealing with the illness of a relative, it affects millions of people every day across the world. Not only is this disease absolutely devastating for those suffering from it, but usually more so for the family and friends of the person affected. It’s for this reason that Alzheimer’s Awareness Month was created.

Commonly recognized during November, Alzheimer’s Awareness Month brings attention to a disease that desperately needs it. Because there is no cure and the cause has not yet been found, Alzheimer’s Awareness Month serves as a yearly opportunity to raise money for research. Just like Breast Cancer Awareness month, there are several walks that are sponsored across the country, along with many other events. The money raised not only assists in research, but also in treatment. In addition to the fundraising opportunities that Alzheimer’s Awareness Month brings, it also serves as a time to recognize those living with the disease and those caring for them. For every person that lives with the disease there are several more that care for them, whether they are family members, social workers, or health care staff. In addition to honoring the living and their caregivers it also serves as a time to remember those that have lost the battle.

Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness Month can be done in several ways. Promotional t-shirts and caps can be purchased to be worn at walks. Since Alzheimer’s is usually associated with the color white, it’s not uncommon for white awareness bracelets to be worn in remembrance of those who have been lost. The most common purchasers of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month products are people that are directly involved in the cause, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Choosing to buy promotional awareness bracelets or t-shirts is an excellent way for businesses to align themselves with this worthwhile cause. Stores can create a “Gift with Purchase” program. For example, if a customer spends $50, they receive an Alzheimer’s Awareness t-shirt. Awareness bracelets are still extremely popular, so they can be offered to customers by keeping them available at the register. Try selling them for two dollars, and donate $1 to an Alzheimer’s foundation. Not only will you be raising money for a worthy cause, you will be showing your customers that your business cares about important issues.

Sarah Shepherd is a e-marketing specialist for Motivators, Inc., a Long Island based promotional products distributor. The company’s website, Motivators Promotional Products boasts over 30,000 e-commerce enabled promotional products and features an Alzheimer’s Awareness section.

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6 Risk Factors for Multiple Sclerosis

October 25, 2007 by  

By Robert Groth

There are several recognized risk factors in Multiple Sclerosis, although there is not a definite known cause. These risk factors do not guarantee that you will be diagnosed with the disease, but they do increase your chances.

Heredity is the first of the known risk factors for Multiple Sclerosis. If no one has Multiple Sclerosis in your family, then your chances of having MS are only 1 in 750. Having a parent or sibling with MS increases the odds to 1 in 100. If you have an identical twin with MS, your chances are 1 in 4, although both twins do not always have MS. For this reason, many researchers believe that Multiple Sclerosis is not just a genetic disease, although heredity does affect the chances you will have it.

Environmental factors are the second risk factor for Multiple Sclerosis. Research shows that bacteria and viruses, especially at certain ages, can increase your chances of having MS. Alone these infections should not cause MS, but when combined with other risk factors for Multiple Sclerosis, especially heredity, they can greatly increase the odds of having it. The infections that could be related to MS are measles, herpes, chickenpox, rubella, mononucleosis, chlamydia, and some types of flu. These may have the most risk when they are contracted as a teenager.

Geography is the third risk factor in Multiple Sclerosis. For some unknown reason, MS is more common in temperate climates such as Europe, southern Canada, northern United States, and southeastern Australia. This geographical factor seems to be most important during puberty.

Gender is the fourth risk factor for Multiple Sclerosis. Women are 2 to 3 times more likely than men to have MS. This is believed to be due to hormonal differences. Men who smoke are twice as likely as men who do not smoke to be diagnosed with MS.

Age is the fifth risk factor for Multiple Sclerosis. Usually MS is diagnosed to people between 20 and 50. It is possible to be diagnosed during childhood or after the age of 50, but this age range seems to be the most critical.

The sixth risk factor in Multiple Sclerosis is giving cow’s milk to babies. This is a newly discovered risk, and the reasons are not yet known. It may be proven in the future to be in no way linked to MS. Pediatrician’s advise against cow milk for infants under one year of age, anyway, so it would be best to be careful. Breast milk is believed to be the best food for infants because it helps the brain develop faster and more fully. This may be the link between cow’s milk and MS, since the brain would not be as developed.

Heredity is probably the only risk factor for Multiple Sclerosis that may cause the disease on its own, but combining several of these factors together may greatly increase your odds. Since many of these things are beyond your control, if you meet several of these risk factors for Multiple Sclerosis, you may want to consult a doctor. At the least watch for any symptoms related to the disease. Anything you can due to reduce your chances or your loved one’s chances of meeting these risk factors for Multiple Sclerosis would be worth the effort.

© CG Groth 2007

Robert Groth, author and speaker was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1990. Receive more information and a free inspirational daily email on how you can beat multiple sclerosis at

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Breaking developments in combination therapy and new chemotherapeutics

October 25, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

Hi everyone,

As I mentioned yesterday, tomorrow is first day of volunteer orientation at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. MDA is nestled within the depths of the The Texas Medical Center, a system of over 40 government and not-for-profit institutions making it the largest medical center in the world. As a small town girl, it’s a pretty amazing sight to see (except around rush hour when it loses its charm just a little).

MD Anderson has some of the best and brightest cancer physicians and research scientists in the world. This week, many of them are in San Francisco, California discussing their findings at the International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics, the joint meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, and the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer. This annual meeting is one of the world’s leading conferences covering breakthroughs in new developments in chemotherapeutics. Here’s some of the latest daily headlines from the meeting, courtesy of AACR:

Clinical Studies in the Pipeline: The Therapies of Tomorrow in Trials Today

Studies presented at the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics demonstrate the flexibility of targeted therapy techniques, where new drugs can be developed and tested in human trials more quickly and safely than ever before.

Advances in Drug Screening: Building a Better Haystack for the Needles of Tomorrow

With the discovery of suitable molecular targets – cellular molecules along pathways crucial for sustaining the life of cancer cells – comes the perplexing dilemma of where to find the next therapeutics that will bind to and disable those targets. While the possibilities for drug designs are near-limitless, the methods to screen drug databases and repositories are often problematic or ill-suited for the particular needs of researchers. . . Researchers report new means of delving into vast stores of data in search of potential therapies, whether to find the next natural cancer fighter or to discover new classes of therapeutics.

Combination Targets: Some Drugs May Work Best When They Work Together

While some targeted therapies – drugs developed to attack specific molecules in the critical chemical pathways occurring within cancer cells – work well by themselves, increasingly researchers are finding that they work better when teamed with other targeted and conventional therapies.

Reported today at the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics, multiple-target applications of new and existing drugs are offering new hope in the fight against cancer and drug resistance, from lung and breast cancer to rare tumors of the bile duct.

Experimental Cancer Pharmaceuticals under Trial

Advances in drug development have enabled scientists to attack new and unconventional cancer targets, leading to better treatments for cancer patients with fewer unwanted side effects. The following items highlight the early results from two experimental therapeutics, currently involved in Phase I or II trials, which are being presented today at the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics.

A Fresh Look at Existing Therapies: Researchers Explore Ways to Teach Approved Drugs New Tricks

Although all cancers are not alike, most share common causes, whether it is the result of a genetic mutation or faulty biochemical signaling pathway. For that reason, drugs developed specifically for one disease might have an impact on many others. Increasingly, researchers are discovering ways of combining new and existing drugs to fight cancer – broadening the targets of already-approved targeted therapeutics.

Today at the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics, researchers present the results of some of these investigations, whether it is finding a new use for the immunosuppressant rapamycin or adapting the use of approved antibodies to reach the same targets within different cancers.

Targets on the Horizon: Emerging Therapies and Novel Targets

New targets, such as cell signaling receptors found on cancer tumors, provide tantalizing targets for engineered antibodies and small inhibitory molecules. New therapeutic technologies, such as virus-based therapy against cancers metastasized to nerve cells and a unique two-headed antibody that attaches killer T cells to tumor cells, offer promising methods for controlling disease

Lots of cool stuff out there, and it makes me miss being in the lab a little bit. Wish me luck for tomorrow!

Two Genes Related to Ankylosing Spondylitis, Discovered

October 25, 2007 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

A disabling form of arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis is a painful and progressive disease in which some or all of the spine’s vertebrae fuse together.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that not only affects the spine but also can attack other joints and organs, including the heart, lungs and eyes. The condition afflicts an estimated one in 200 males and one in 500 females and typically strikes during adolescence and young adulthood.

Now, an international team of researchers (led by a Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center geneticist) has discovered two genes associated to ankylosing spondylitis.

The study revealed two genes linked to ankylosing spondylitis: ARTS1 and IL23R, both of which influence immune function. Together with the previously known gene HLA-B27, the new findings increase to three the number of genes known to be involved in the disease. A person who carries all three genetic variants would be expected to have a one-in-four chance of developing the disease.

What does finding a gene associated to a disease mean actually? It means that anybody can get tested for said genes to determine their risk of a certain disease — such as ankylosing spondylitis and the genes associated with it as recently discovered. In the long run, this disease may be treated or prevented by gene therapy, once research become successful in this department.

Indeed, genes are important, as my friend Hsien always tells us.

According to principal investigator and corresponding author Lon Cardon, Ph.D (a member of the Hutchinson Center’s Human Biology Division, a statistical methodologist who last year came to the Hutchinson Center’s Human Biology Division from the University of Oxford, where he conducted the research and retains an academic post, also a professor of biostatistics at the University of Washington):

“Clinically these diseases tend to occur together — people with inflammatory-bowel disease also tend to have a higher probability of having ankylosing spondylitis and psoriasis. The IL23R gene provides a genetic link that sheds new light on their co-occurrence.

This is an exciting time for genetics. The Wellcome Trust Case Consortium has yielded more genetic discoveries for common diseases in 2007 than have been made in the entire history of the field.”

Do not get tired ever of hearing about genetics and stuff in any other disease or health condition, because the breakthroughs are admirable, not to mention awesome. Not all people (not even me!) may understand it and the research involved, but it is paving the way to prevention and cure of serious diseases. Yes, including arthritis and its many forms such as ankylosing spondylitis.

Ankylosing spondylitis. What a mouthful! But now we know that it is a form of arthritis.

Find more details from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center press release.

Volunteer for breast cancer: Six ways you can start today!

October 24, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

I’ve been fortunate in the last month to be blessed with some really good circumstances: a relocation to a new city with great opportunities, employment in a situation that lets me blend the two things that I’m most interested in (science and writing), and the welcome surprise of moving into a great apartment that me, my husband, and my two parrots love.

My family has always instilled in me the sense of giving back when one has been so blessed, so in that spirit of giving, I signed up today to be a volunteer at my local hospital. Incidentally, my local hospital happens to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Clinic, America’s #1 Best Hospital for cancer treatment according to the 2007 US News & World Report. My orientation session is this Friday, and I’m really excited to start. . . and I’d like you to come and join me as a new volunteer!

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Top 10 Online Resources on Arthritis

October 24, 2007 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

If you search the web for the top 10 online resources for arthritis, the following will come out:

  1. Arthritis Foundation ( whose tag lines are: Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention Tips and Pain Relief Advice — A foundation whose mission is to improve lives through leadership in the prevention, control and cure of arthritis and related diseases. From the page’s about section: The Arthritis Foundation is the only national not-for-profit organization that supports the more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions with advocacy, programs, services and research.
  2. Arthritis definition at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia — who wouldn’t know wikipedia? It will come out up in the results page whatever keyword you put in the any search engine. Have you read wikipedia’s about page? It says there the wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free content encyclopedia project. The name Wikipedia is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a type of collaborative website) and encyclopedia. Wikipedia’s articles provide links to guide the user to related pages with additional information. Wikipedia is written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world. Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference Web sites.
  3. Arthritis at MedlinePlus — a trusted source of health information on the web that is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. The credibility of this page is backed by the NIH, so how can you not trust the information on this page, right? From MedlinePlus’ about page: MedlinePlus will direct you to information to help answer health questions. MedlinePlus brings together authoritative information from NLM, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations.
  4., your online arthritis resource — from the website’s disclaimer that can be found at the bottom of the home page: This Web site is intended for residents of the United States only. The health information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider. Decisions regarding patient care must be made with a healthcare provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patient.
  5. Arthritis article at brings doctor’s information to the readers. From its about page: MedicineNet, Inc. is Owned and Operated by WebMD and part of the WebMD Network. is an online, healthcare media publishing company. It provides easy-to-read, in-depth, authoritative medical information for consumers via its robust, user-friendly, interactive web site.
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Can detecting breast cancer be as easy as putting on a bra?

October 23, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

Women:  Are you looking for the newest tool in early breast cancer detection?  If Dr. Elias Siores had his way, you might not have to look further than your own lingerie drawer.

According to, a team of researchers led by Dr. Siores at the United Kingdom’s Centre for Research and Innovation at the University of Bolton has developed a new “smart bra” that they hope will alert women of any microscopic changes in body temperature.  Small changes in temperature such as these may be correlated with early tumor development, and this new foray into women’s clothing design hopes to take advantage of that fact by using passive microwaves that are embedded into the fibers of the bra.

But is such an easy solution accurate?  The Mayo Clinic thinks that women should be weary of such one-size-fits-all approaches to tumor detection.

Sandhya Prudhi, MD, a breast health specialist at the Mayo Clinic, had this to say about the use of thermography for early breast cancer detection:

“There is no evidence that breast thermography is an effective screening tool for early detection of breast cancer. . . This technology is most effective in detecting tumors that are close to the skin surface but not tumors deeper in the breast. Also, breast thermography is not sensitive enough to detect small cancers. Breast thermography is not routinely used for breast cancer detection and should not be used instead of mammograms.” 

New research suggests, however, that more advanced integrated techniques in breast cancer thermography still have a lot of promise. An August 2007 study reviewing recent advances in breast cancer thermography in the Journal of Medical Engineering Techology states:

“Technological advances in the field of infrared thermography over the last 20 years warrant a re-evaluation of the use of high-resolution digital thermographic camera systems in the diagnosis and management of breast cancer. . .   Of particular interest would be investigation in younger women and men, for whom mammography is either unsuitable or of limited effectiveness.”

I recognize the value in having an easy-to-use early cancer detection tool, but I’m still not sure that I would rely on a thermography in an undergarment. It seems like there could be a lot of room could be attributed to human error, especially for a klutz for me who routinely spills coffee down the front of my shirt.  Readers, would you consider using a tool like this?

Voltaren® Gel: First US FDA Approved Topical Treatment for OA-Related Pain

October 23, 2007 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

The recent approval of Voltaren® Gel makes it the first USFDA –approved prescription NSAID (non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drug) treatment that can be applied directly to site of osteoarthritis pain.

Voltaren® Gel is the only prescription topical medication proven to significantly reduce osteoarthritis pain in both the knees and the joints of the hand that offers highly effective pain relief with minimal drug absorption throughout the body – shown to be 94% less than comparable oral diclofenac treatment.

Voltaren® Gel (diclofenac sodium topical gel) 1% is a product of Novartis.

Previously, we only know Voltaren® (diclofenac sodium) (a pdf file) as a popular treatment for osteoarthritis pain. Voltaren® Gel is its topical gel version.

According to Roy Altman, MD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology and Immunology at UCLA in Los Angeles and past President of the Osteoarthritis Research Society International:

“Voltaren Gel is proven to be effective for osteoarthritis of the hand and knee and has a favorable safety profile.

The combination of benefit and safety provides a welcome new treatment approach for osteoarthritis, offering patients an alternative to oral therapies.

Voltaren Gel delivers the proven efficacy of diclofenac with significantly less systemic absorption, minimizing the risk of side effects.”

Indeed, most often it is safer to apply a topical treatment instead of taking in an oral pill.
Apparently, Voltaren® Gel is the first prescription topical osteoarthritis treatment that has shown effectiveness in both the knees and joints of the hands from the clinical trials conducted.

Voltaren Gel delivers effective pain relief with a favorable safety profile as its systemic absorption is 94% less than the comparable oral diclofenac treatment.

Given the choice, what would you prefer: topical or oral treatment?

Voltaren Gel provides 1% diclofenac sodium in a topical gel formulation. It is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication indicated for the pain of osteoarthritis in joints amenable to topical treatment, such as the knees and those of the hands.

Voltaren Gel delivers highly effective pain relief with a favorable safety profile as its systemic absorption is 94% less than comparable oral diclofenac treatment.

However, may it be oral or topical treatment, remember always, always to consult your doctor. Avoid, self-prescription, as most people do especially if the drug can be bought OTC or even online from foreign countries.

Remember that Voltaren® Gel (diclofenac sodium topical gel) 1% is a prescription treatment.

To be on the safe side, consult your doctor all the time before administering treatment.

Source: CNN Money

Future Planning for a Loved One With Alzheimer’s Disease

October 22, 2007 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

By J. Trevey

If you have a loved one who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you may initially be filled with questions about what the diagnosis means for your family. If you have spoken with the doctor and performed your own research about Alzheimer’s disease, you have likely realized that the diagnosis will undoubtedly bring about some changes in the lifestyle of your loved one. Your loved one will need more care and support as time goes on, not to mention the financial implications of medical visits and eventual fulltime care. Though you may be faced with a barrage of emotions at first, it is important to remember that you are in the company of millions of other people in the same situation, as made evident by the plethora of organizations, support groups and associations that exist to help people like you understand and respond to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Besides educating yourself about Alzheimer’s disease, it may also be beneficial to begin planning for the future now, while your loved one is the most independent and able to provide input about decisions affecting his or her future. Creating a plan for your loved one’s medical and other care expenses and establishing how decisions will be made on his or her behalf in the future can help ensure that your loved one has access to proper care and prevent you from encountering a gray area that leaves your hands tied in the future.

Arranging for healthcare is an important stage of planning for your loved one’s future. Establishing a situation in which long term medical care is available and affordable can benefit anyone, but is especially important for people with a long term illness such as Alzheimer’s disease. If your loved one currently has a long term care insurance policy, carefully read over the policy as it relates to progressive or long term illnesses. Clarify with the provider any portion of the policy about which you or your loved one have questions. If your loved one is uninsured, you may consider the possibility of obtaining the best policy that is affordable, paying particular attention to the coverage of medical care for long term illness outlined by the policy.

If your loved one is over the age of 65, he or she should qualify for Medicare, a federal health insurance program that covers some hospital, medical and prescription expenses. You may want to investigate your loved one’s eligibility for Social Security and Medicaid benefits as well to ensure that he or she receives the maximum assistance for which he or she qualifies.

The progressive nature of Alzheimer’s disease results in a decreasing decision-making ability over time. For this reason, it is important to discuss financial planning with your loved one as early as possible, and establish how and by whom he or she would like financial decisions to be handled. The procedure through which future financial, medical and other decisions will be made on behalf of the patient can be officially established by a document called a power of attorney. A power of attorney, often a component of a person’s estate plan, gives an appointed person or organization the authority to make decisions on behalf of your loved one when he or she is no longer able to do so. Talk to a trusted lawyer about the type of power of attorney that is appropriate for your individual situation.

Planning for the future is an important step in caring for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Taking the initiative now to plan for future financial, medical and decision making needs will provide numerous benefits to yourself and your loved one moving forward.

About the Author: John Trevey is the manager of The Breckinridge, a Kentucky assisted living home specializing in Alzheimer’s care. For more information, please visit

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Tips for a Multiple Sclerosis Diet

October 22, 2007 by  

By Christine Groth

A good Multiple Sclerosis diet is believed to help control and possibly eliminate many of the symptoms that come along with the disease. This can help slow the progression of the disease. While you should check with a doctor for specific suggestions or guidelines, there are some basic tips to a good MS diet.

A key factor in a healthy multiple sclerosis diet is to eliminate all gluten. In general, you should avoid eating anything with flour, but you can check package ingredients if you are unsure of their content. Many diets besides the MS diet do not allow gluten, so this is now easily found on many packages. Avoiding wheats, barley, oats, or rye is another way to cut gluten.

For a successful diet you should also limit or avoid animal fats, including dairy products and margarine. Olive oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil are suitable alternatives for cooking or salads. For good digestion, you should try to avoid fried foods in general.

Avoid highly saturated fats in your diet. White meat skinless chicken, seafood, and fish are the best meat choices. Make sure to always completely remove any fat. Try to replace the saturated fats you cut out with unsaturated fats.

Anyone, but especially those on a Multiple Sclerosis diet, should try to completely eliminate refined sugar. There are many healthier alternatives. Honey, fructose, or natural unsweetened fruit or vegetable juices would be ideal for a person on this diet.

Obviously, any foods you are allergic to should be cut from your diet. If you are unsure of allergies, try consulting a doctor or allergy specialist. You may also try eliminating all of the most common problem foods from your diet, and after two weeks bring them back one at a time. If you have a bad reaction to any food, then you should probably eliminate it from your multiple sclerosis diet.

You should increase the amount of fresh vegetables and fruits in your MS diet. Try to always eat freshly cooked food when you must cook it. This will increase the amount of vitamins and minerals your body absorbs. This will help to make up for some of the nutrients you lose by cutting certain things from your diet. Vitamin supplements may also be beneficial or even necessary for your Multiple Sclerosis, but you should consult a doctor to make sure you take the right vitamins.

Always drink lots of water. It is very easy for a person with Multiple Sclerosis to become dehydrated, so make sure to drink at least 8 large glasses of water every day. As strange as it sounds, this may help to improve the incontinence that many people with MS suffer from.

These tips for improving your Multiple Sclerosis diet are intended to help you control many common problems such as fatigue, incontinence, and constipation. Adjusting your diet may also help to avoid making other problems worse. Many of these tips are included in other diets, and even people without special dietary needs may benefit from following these suggestions.

(C) CG Groth Inc 2007

The “Daycare Diva”, Christine G. Groth, is the creator of “The Guide to Instant Daycare Profits”. To learn more about this step-by-step program and to sign-up for her FREE “How to Start a Daycare” tips and articles, visit

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Tackling Stress in the Modern World

October 22, 2007 by  
Filed under STRESS

In the fast-paced world nearly everyone lives in today, stress is an ever-present possibility. Just-in-time manufacturing, instant news from around the world, computers and a host of other modern technologies are a great benefit. But along with them comes quicker deadlines, instant notification of bad news and more communication to deal with.

But no one is going to slow down the world, nor would many of us want to. At the same time, it’s helpful to realize that with more technology comes more options. Some of those options allow us to find new ways to deal with the internal and external factors that can form the basis of stress.

You may be unlucky enough to have a boss who imposes unreasonable deadlines to meet pointless work milestones. But many have the option now to telecommute, work flexible hours and take extended leave for pregnancy and other family situations.

There may be myriad challenges in the modern world, but there are a variety of new tools to deal with them. Computers can pile up work faster, but they also allow us to get more done with less labor. They also enable us to find those with similar interests who may live thousands of miles away. In decades past, that would have been nearly impossible, except for the occasional convention in a distant city.

Psychology, though still in its infancy as a science, is starting to compile a set of good data on neurobiology, nutrition and a host of other factors relevant to stress. Figuring out useful treatments from this bewildering array of studies will take time, but progress is being made.

Sports and diet have become much more scientific than they were a generation or two ago. As tools to fight stress, exercise and a proper diet are now recognized as twins in one of the most effective strategies for combating stress.

While millions still work hard, basics like housing and food, transportation and medical treatment constitute a smaller percentage of income for most than they did in generations past. It’s not uncommon for two-driver families to have more than two vehicles today.

Certainly there is no shortage of potential stressors. To listen to the nightly newscast is to see a picture of a world about to come apart at the seams. And, yet, we endure. It may be that there is more to the lives most people live than we see on the TV.

Dealing with difficult problems is, well, difficult. But that need not lead to stress. That results from a viewpoint that sees the dilemma between “I must” and “I can’t” as unsolvable. But there are many more methods available today to overcome “I can’t” and much more freedom to deny that “I must.” Toss the dilemma aside and declare your independence from stress.

Cancer patients pay less for surgeries, feel better when hypnotized

October 22, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

Bergh - hypnotic seance

Image: Hypnotic Seance, Richard Bergh (1887). Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Looks like it’s time to break out the dangling watch — a new article in the The Journal of the National Cancer Institute reports this week that women who participated in a brief hypnosis session prior to breast cancer surgery experienced fewer reported side effects such as pain, nausea, and fatigue. Also intriguing was that the surgical costs per patient were on average $772 less than for patients who did not undergo hypnosis prior to surgery.For certain types of cancers where surgery is the first line of defense like breast cancer or head and neck cancer, this mix of eastern and western medicine has the potential to make a wide impact.

As reported at the American Cancer Society website:

“Such findings argue strongly for making hypnosis part of standard care for breast cancer patients,” says lead study author Guy H. Montgomery, PhD, associate professor of Oncological Sciences at Mount Sinai.

“Breast cancer patients are going through a lot,” he explains.

“It’s a distressing and difficult period to get through. They’re worried about themselves, they’re worried about their families. So if there’s something we can do to make them feel better …we should translate this from a research protocol to actually doing something for breast cancer patients every day.”

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Understanding Eye Care

October 22, 2007 by  
Filed under VISION

Routine eye exams are important even for people who are not experiencing eye trouble. These are in-depth procedures that are usually performed by either an Ophthalmologist or Optometrist. How often a person needs an eye exam depends on a number of factors including age, overall health and whether or not eye disorders run in the family.

Children with no eye trouble need only have their eyes checked during routine visits to their pediatrician. This evaluation is commonly referred as a vision screening and should take place at a minimum, every 2 years. A vision screening is not as comprehensive as an eye exam, but it is invaluable in detecting early signs of eye/vision trouble.

For adults without eye trouble, eyes should be examined one time between the ages of 20-29, two times during the next 10 years, 2-4 times during the next 10 years and after age 65, eyes should be examined once every 1-2 years. People wearing corrective lenses should have their eyes examined yearly. Those with eye disorders should work out an examination schedule with their eye doctors.

What to expect from an eye exam

Using a light source, an external examination ensures the eyes ‘look’ right. You’ll follow the doctor’s pen (or other object) with your eyes to ensure the eye muscles function properly. When you read the illuminated chart with letters that get smaller the further down you go, your doctor is checking your visual acuity. If you need corrective lenses, you’ll get a refractive assessment, a test that determines how light wave bend. The results of these tests help the doctor determine your prescription. He may put a Phoroptor, a device that resembles a big black mask, over your eyes in order to fine-tune these measurements.

Your peripheral vision will be tested. A slit lamp exam uses a microscope that emits a sharp beam of light to evaluate the cornea, lens and iris. The back of the eye is also examined and finally your eyes will be tested for glaucoma.

Ophthalmologist vs. Optometrist

The responsibilities and skills of an Ophthalmologist and an Optometrist are usually different, yet most people mistakenly use these terms interchangeably. Both professions involve eye care however the primary difference between the two is the presence of a medical degree. It is this degree that designates an Ophthalmologist as a medical doctor who has been trained in all areas of eye care including the ability to diagnose and treat eye disorders and diseases.

Ophthalmologists are qualified to perform eye surgery and they also know how to take proper eye measurements so they can accurately prescribe corrective lenses. Their training helps them dispense advice for preventing blindness and also enables them to assist those who are blind. In addition to advanced educational training, Ophthalmologists must be trained in clinical and surgical settings.

Optometrists routinely perform eye examinations. During such eye examinations, Optometrists will also determine the need for, fit and prescribe corrective eyewear and/or lenses. Optometrists can also screen patients for certain eye disorders.

An Introduction to Diabetes

October 22, 2007 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Diabetes – An Introduction to Diabetes

Diabetes, a disease characterized by chronic high levels of glucose in the blood, is not the major problem it once was. Prior to the end of the 19th century, it might well have been a death sentence for many. Excess glucose can have a number of ill effects, including poor cut healing or kidney damage, even coma. With the advancement of monitoring and insulin delivery methods, it’s often now little more than another daily task to perform.

Though the underlying causes are not fully understood, diabetes results from either too little insulin being produced or ineffective use of it by the body. In Type 1 diabetes, for example, the islet cells of the pancreas fail to produce an amount of insulin adequate to allow blood glucose to enter cells where it’s used for energy. In Type 2, the cells may resist insulin’s action, once again leaving too much glucose in the blood.

But though they’re not completely known, experts agree that the causes of the different types of diabetes are generally a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental or lifestyle factors. In some cases, one or the other may dominate. Gestational diabetes, for example, affects about 3% of pregnant women usually from around 24-28 weeks into term. But it goes away after birth. Type 1, on the other hand, affects mostly juveniles and is largely genetic.

In all cases, the symptoms are usually roughly the same: excessively frequent urination, unquenchable thirst, sometimes accompanied by dizziness or stomach pains. Naturally, these common symptoms can have a number of causes. Anyone suspecting he or she has diabetes should be tested by a physician.

Those tests are simple and relatively painless, only requiring a small blood sample. Blood glucose level is measured, with normal running around 99 mg/dL, while diabetics have a level of 126 mg/dL or above. It may require more than one test to confirm the disease.

Once confirmed, regular blood glucose monitoring is a must. Fortunately, there are today many convenient ways to do that. Testing devices the size of a cell phone are common. A small sample of blood is smeared on a strip fed into the instrument, which delivers a number within seconds. Some recent devices measure glucose level through the skin using an infrared beam.

Treatments are equally easy for most diabetics. In some cases careful diet and appropriate exercise may be enough to keep the right glucose-insulin balance. In the usual case, insulin delivery is called for. But that too is much easier than in generations past. Small insulin-containing pens can deliver the exact right dose painlessly. Newer oral inhalers are on the market that have met with success.

Though no one wants to have to deal with diabetes, managing the disease is now easier than ever. The possible long term complications of untreated diabetes remain what they always were. By keeping them at bay with simple techniques, most diabetics can enjoy an active fulfilling life just as anyone else.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.