Is it chemo brain or something else?

November 9, 2010 by  
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Chemo brain is common complain among cancer survivors who underwent chemotherapy. It is a condition described as “a mental fog and inability to concentrate that persist long after treatment” and has been assumed to be a side effect of chemotherapy.

A few examples of chemo brain manifestation (source: American Cancer Society, ACS) are given below:

But is it really the chemotherapy that causes this problem dubbed by experts as “mild cognitive impairment?”

Researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine looked at data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2001 to 2006. A total of 9819 adults aged 40 and older were studied. Of these, 1305 had a history of cancer. The subjects were asked the following question:

“Are you limited in any way because of difficulty remembering or because you experience periods of confusion?”

Results of the survey showed:

  • 8% of those without cancer history reported some form of memory impairment.
  • 14% of those with cancer history reported similar impairment.
  • After controlling for confounding factors, the likelihood among the cancer survivors to have memory impairment rose to 40%. Yet, some of these people have not undergone chemotherapy.

The researchers believe that this impairment may be due to a lot of things (and not only chemotherapy), such as:

chemotherapy, radiation or hormonal therapy, or to something about the disease itself which can change brain chemistry, or to psychological distress.

In fact, the term “chemo brain” is actually an inaccurate, even misleading term.

According to lead author Dr. Pascal Jean-Pierre, the so-called chemo brain is becoming national problem but can be treated by behavioral interventions and medications (e.g. antidepressants).

The ACS also lists the following factors that can contribute to cognitive impairment of cancer patients:

Cancer vs. Aging: take your pick

May 27, 2009 by  
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old_manIt is one of those biological paradoxes: what protects us from cancer early in life accelerate aging that makes us more susceptible to cancer later in life. This is according to a study by researchers at the Buck Institute for Age Research.

When the DNA in the cells gets damaged, the cells shut down and stop dividing. This shutting down provides protection against cancer. However, these cells also spew out proteins into the cells surrounding environment causing inflammation and creating conditions for the development of age-related diseases including, ironically, cancer. The process is called cellular senescence.

According to lead author and Buck Faculty member Dr. Judith Campisi

“We provide for the first time a broad molecular description of how this well known mechanism for cancer prevention drives aging and age-related disease by changing the local tissue environment.”

This is partly why treating cancer with chemotherapy leads to its severe side effects. The therapy forces both cancerous and non-cancerous cells into senescence, and blocks rapidly dividing cells such as those of the alimentary canal and hair follicles. The result is the severe nausea and hair loss that cancer patients on chemotherapy have to put up with.

Dr. Campisi continues to explain:

“The study has major implications for age research. This dynamic between cancer prevention and aging is exactly what is predicted by antagonistic pleiotropy, a major evolutionary theory of aging, which explains the trade-offs between early fitness and late life survival. The results suggest that a cellular response that likely evolved to protect from early life cancer can promote late life pathology, including, ironically, late life cancer. The challenge now is to preserve the anti-cancer activity of the senescence response while dampening its pro-aging effects.”

Indeed, life is full of ironies and this is one of them. It is basically a case of escaping cancer in your prime but growing old sooner. Luckily, there are research studies going on to unravel this biological paradox. The Buck Institute is the only freestanding institute in the United States that is devoted solely to basic research on aging and age-associated disease. The Institute is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to extending the healthspan, the healthy years of each individual’s life. The National Institute on Aging designated the Buck a Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Biology of Aging, one of just five centers in the country.

And the Buck researchers aren’t just stopping there with this research. They are investigating how to encourage the body to get rid of the senescent or aging cells faster. Hopefully, someday they will find a way to treat cancer and halt aging at the same time.

 Photo credit: stock.xchng

Green tea blocks effect of cancer drug Velcade

February 10, 2009 by  
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Green tea has been has been hailed as the wonder drink with health benefits ranging from to cardiovascular protection to anti-cancer properties. Tea contains large amounts of antioxidants that protect the body from oxidative stress.

However, a recent study showed that some components of green tea can interact with certain chemotherapeutic drugs and interfere with these drugs’ functioning.

Researchers at the University of Southern Carolina found that green tea interferes with the therapeutic effect of the drug Velcade (generic name bortezomib) and renders the drug ineffective. Velcade is used in the treatment of multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma

The culprit, the exact compound that counteracts the effect of Velcade has been identified as the green tea component EGCG. It seems that EGCG binds with the Velcade molecule so that the drug is no longer capable in binding with its targets in the tumor cells. The results of the study came as a surprise and a disappointment because the researchers actually hoped for the opposite effect.

According to lead author Axel H. Schönthal, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC

Our finding that GTE or EGCG blocked the therapeutic action of Velcade was completely unexpected. Our hypothesis was that GTE or EGCG would enhance the anti-tumor effects of Velcade and that a combination of GTE with Velcade (or EGCG with Velcade) would turn out to be a superior cancer treatment as compared to treatment with Velcade alone.”

The study was performed in lab mice with tumors and was part of a larger project called “Yin-Yang Properties of Green Tea Extract in Combination Cancer Chemotherapy: From Encouragingly Beneficial to Dangerously Detrimental.”

In recent years, herbal supplements such as green tea has become very popular in the easing the side effects of cancer treatments. In the case of Velcade, the drug is rendered inactive when the patient drinks green tea. Being inactive also results in lack of side effects. That is why patients tend to feel better after drinking the tea. The side effects are gone but so is the therapeutic effect of the drug.

However, this blocking effect of green may be only unique to Velcade and similar drugs. Other studies show that EGCG – drug interactions may have some positive, even synergistic effects.

In the meantime, it is highly recommended that patients on Velcade should stop drinking green tea. As for those who are not on Velcade, check with your oncologists how green tea can affect your therapy.

For more information about green tea check out:


Photo credit: stock.xchng

Fruit and veggies and cancer prevention

November 20, 2008 by  
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Bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics. And tumor cells develop resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs. This resistance to chemotherapy is the leading cause of death in cancer patients.

There’s some good news though. Researchers at the University of California at Riverside may just have found the way to beat chemotherapy resistance in a very simple way – by sticking to a healthy diet!

The researchers report that intake of apigenin, a naturally occurring substance found in fruit and vegetables makes cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy.

Here is how apigenin works:

Normally, cells have low levels of p53 diffused in their cytoplasm and nucleus. When DNA in the nucleus is damaged, p53 moves to the nucleus where it activates genes that stop cell growth and cause cell death. In this way, p53 ensures that cells with damaged DNA are killed. In many cancers, p53 is rendered inactive by a process called cytoplasmic sequestration. Apigenin is able to activate p53 and transport it into the nucleus, resulting in a stop to cell growth and cell death.

Apigenin occurs naturally in your common fruit and vegetables, such as:

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Parsley
  • Artichoke
  • Basil
  • Celery

It is also found in nuts and plant-derived drinks such as fruit juices and wine.

However, you may ask, what can a cancer patient do when the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy unable him/her to take in healthy solid food?

This time it is researchers at the University of California at Davis which give the answer. If can drink your fruit in the form of fruit juices, why not drink your vegetables? The study indicates that “drinking your vegetables may be a solution to bridging the vegetable gap.”

This recommendation is not only for patients but for everybody who wants to stay healthy. According to the American Dietitic Association, 7 out of 10 adults do not meet the daily recommended vegetable intake as recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

Does drinking vegetables help?  Well, the study suggests it does. The most common barriers to vegetable intake are:

  • Convenience – buying, peeling, slicing vegetables are not so convenient for people constantly on the move. That’s why people tend to opt for vitamin supplement pills whose health benefits are controversial.
  • Portability – now, who would carry a cucumber or carrot in his/her laptop bag? And what about shelflife?
  • Taste – Not all vegetables are palatable to everybody. Ask any mom with littke kids.

The researchers believe that drinkable vegetables might overcome these barriers. “Changing dietary behavior is much more effective when dietary advice is complemented with tangible, real, easy and convenient solutions.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Know your carcinogens: the latest on BPA

November 18, 2008 by  
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Resource Post for November

Ever since it hit the news late last year, bisphenol A (BPA) is getting more and more notorious. The latest development in the BPA story is this – researchers at the University of Cincinnati reported that exposure to BPA may actually reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments among cancer patients.

Yet, plastic manufacturers all over are still using it in their polymerization process. And food manufacturers are using plastics with BPA in their packaging.

According to a report of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)

“BPA is a high production volume chemical used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins… The primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through the diet…BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure.”

According to the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU)

“BPA may cause changes in cells in breasts, the uterus, and the prostate which can increase risk of cancers. In addition, BPA has been associated with increases in developmental disorders of the brain and nervous system in animals. These developmental disorders in animals are like problems such as ADHD (attention deficit hyper-reactivity disorder) in humans.”

Let us back track a bit about what happened since last year.

November 2007
An article in Toxicology Letters (online edition) showed that BPA in polycarbonate bottles are leaching out of the containers into the drinks. The article goes on to say that BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) that mimics the hormone estrogen.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has detected BPA in infant formulas. 4 out of the top 5 companies questioned acknowledged using BPA in their packaging.

December 2007
Nalgene polycarbonate bottles were taken off the shelves in Canada.

April 2008
Canada announces its plans to ban BPA-containing bottles.

July 2008
European Food Safety Authority’s AFC Panel declared human BPA exposure is too low to cause any real harm. According to the panel’s report, the human body rapidly metabolises and eliminates BPA out of the body.

September 3, 2008
The NTP reported the following concerns about BPA:

  • “some concern” for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, babies, and children at the current levels of exposure.
  • “minimal concern” for effects on breast development and early onset of puberty in females
  • “negligible concern” that exposure of pregnant women to BPA will result in damage to the unborn child.
  • “minimal concern” BPA exposure will cause reproductive effects in workers exposed to higher BPA levels in their place of work but “negligible concern” that to adults exposed to BPA during normal daily activities

September 17, 2008
Researchers at the University of Exeter (UK) reported detecting BPA in the urine of a large portion of a test group of 1455 people. In addition, high levels of BPA in the urine were associated with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and kidney problems.

October 8, 2008
The University of Cincinnati reports about BPA’s effect on chemotherapy. In the study, BPA seems to mimic estrogen’s action on cancer cells – which is the induction of proteins that can protect the cancer cells from the effects of chemotherapy agents.

October 10, 2008
The American states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware, through their attorney generals officially asked in writing 11 manufacturers to eliminate BPA from milk formula packaging as well from baby bottles.

October 2008
This study demonstrated that when pregnant mice were exposed to low-dose BPA, changes in the neurobehavioral development of the offsprings were observed.

Another study in mice should that BPA exposure during pregnancy altered the cellular structure of the breasts.

October 28, 2008
Based on a review by a subcommittee, the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) stated that

“consumers should know that, based on all available evidence, the present consensus among regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan is that current levels of exposure to BPA through food packaging do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population, including infants and babies.”

In addition, the US FDA thinks the Canadian restrictions on BPA are “out of an abundance of caution.

Although the US FDA tries to reassure the public’s concerns about BPA, concerns about BPA is increasing and this latest findings on chemotherapy resistance “provide considerable support to the accumulating evidence that BPA is hazardous to human health.”

So how do you protect yourself from the potential hazards of BPA?

For your safety, PEHSU gives the following advice:


Photo credits: stock.xchng

Hair or There

May 12, 2008 by  
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hair.jpgHair loss during chemotherapy is a hugely overwhelming issue on top of everything else going on in the cancer patient’s life. The approach to the topic is as individual as your cancer treatment plan.

Hair loss is dependent upon the type of chemo you receive. Loss usually begins one to three weeks after the initiation of chemo. Hair loss will affect eyebrows, eyelashes, armpit and leg hair, as well as your head.

Hair loss can be the most distressing side effect of chemo. That’s understandable, as it puts you and your diagnosis out there. That which you wanted to keep private is now exposed.

We hide behind our hair, we take pride in our hair, and often hair defines us– and loss translates to loss of self esteem.

Many people find it less traumatic to prepare with a shorter haircut first. Remember the cancer support system you have in place can help you through this difficult time. Talk about it. Blog about it. Share with others who understand.

For more information on what to expect during treatment, visit the Mayo Clinic site.

Read more

Cancer, Chemo and Sex

January 30, 2008 by  
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I have been asked recently whether frequent guest-poster Amanda is my outspoken secret identity. The answer is, “No.” Amanda is very much a real person, and you’ll soon be able to see her writing on a new blog that will be launching soon. In the meantime, read her take on some of the little-known aspects of cancer treatment here:Let’s play an association game. I give you a word, and you record the first thing that comes to mind. If I say “hammer”, you might say “nail”. Another example would be if I said “oxygen”, and if you are an utter science geek like me, you might be thinking respiration (or maybe not). Now, what if I said “chemotherapy”? The last thing to cross your mind would probably be “sex”. But maybe it should be.Chemotherapy, while a necessary evil in the fight against cancer progression, is absolute hell on your body and your mind. You may feel nauseous and sick all the time, you are going lose weight, and you may even lose your hair. In addition to all this, you can also experience a complete loss of sexual desire, vaginal infections, dryness, and impotence. With all you are experiencing relating to the battle with cancer, this additional load is the last thing anyone needs to deal with.I am all for sex, believe me. Sex is great!! However, when a loved one is undergoing chemotherapy, they are probably not feeling very desirable or attractive. They are probably nauseous and have a headache. The important thing is that you don’t have live without sex while fighting your cancer. Now, if you just went through a cycle of chemo, and the mere thought of sex makes you want to throw up, DON’T have sex. The choice is yours. But if you do want to have sex with your partner, but don’t know how to get past the chemo-induced obstacles, talk to your doctor. Burst through the waiting room, screaming “I want sex!!! Give me sex!!”  Well, maybe that is a bad idea, but you get the point. Cancer does not have to be the end of your sex life. You just need to learn to outmaneuver the treatment.Like what you’re reading? Consider subscribing to our feed

Battling Cancer asks: Can You Put a Price on Life?

December 12, 2007 by  
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Today’s guest commentary is by Amanda, a cancer research scientist, on the high cost of anti-cancer drugs.

Can you put a price on life? What a complex and interesting question, and one that I have never really thought much of before. But this is the question that many cancer patients face when considering the coming months of costly treatment options after their initial diagnosis.

While many insurance companies cover a percentage of the drug treatment costs, the price of new cutting-edge treatments are astronomical. For example, herceptin is a drug that prescribed to women who have breast cancers that overexpress a receptor called HER2. This type of cancer is very aggressive, and tends to grow and spread more quickly than HER2-negative tumors. Treatment with herceptin is the only option for women having this type of cancer. However, the drug is by no means cheap. Months of treatment can reach $25,000-$50,000 a year. The approximate cost of a three week infusion of herceptin is about $5,000. If the insurance company covers 70% of the cost, you will still be left with $1,500 that is not covered.

This figure only takes into account type of treatment. Depending on the type of cancer, combinational therapy may be the only option for patient survival, with two to three different types of drugs that the patient must pay for or face certain death. After a few months, this adds up, and most working class families cannot afford it. And the question once again returns: can you put a price on life?

Why are these treatments so expensive? Read more

Breast cancer patient gives birth while undergoing chemotherapy

November 28, 2007 by  
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Moving from a state inhabited by less than 2 million people to a city that’s home to more than twice those numbers is quite a shock, and little drives that point home more for me than the news.  Since I’ve spent the last few days parked on the couch with my laptop (I’ve got strep throat — it’s my right to stay in my pajamas all day), I’ve seen video footage of arson, murder, suicide, a hostage crisis at the mall, and a building collapsing in on itself.  It can be downright numbing to see all those bad vibes. 

But today, I just heard the most uplifting news from that little clinic down the road:  University of Texas-MD Anderson breast cancer patient Linda Sanchez gave birth to healthy baby Isabella Marie last night after having been in chemotherapy while pregnant.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Isabella became the 70th baby born under a University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center program that once was controversial, but which last year formed the basis of the first national guidelines for the treatment of pregnant women with breast cancer. Until this program, women with cancer who learned they were pregnant were told to abort.

[Isabella] was delivered with a full head of hair, a trademark of babies born in the program and a sign that the chemotherapy doesn’t have the toxic effect on them that leaves their mothers bald.

Sanchez will resume chemotherapy next week, then have surgery at its conclusion. She had six rounds of one therapy, then was off treatment for 7 1/2 weeks before Monday’s delivery. Ultrasounds showed the cancer, which has shrunk to about one-third its original size, didn’t increase during that time.

News like this is truly amazing to me, and I’m sure that everyone at the MDA is buzzing right now.  I’m supposed to be volunteering there today, but opted out due to this annoying cough-wheeze.  Congratulations to the Sanchez family! 

Battling Cancer will soon be getting a content makeover, including regular features like Research Roundup, Living with Cancer, and Ask the Experts.  Don’t miss a thing — subscribe to our RSS feed!

Taking pills with food, grapefruit juice may be promising way to cut prescription costs for cancer patients

November 20, 2007 by  
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New studies reveal a promising new ways to keep prescription drug costs down for cancer patients — and it could be just as easy as taking pills on a full stomach rather than an empty one as prescribed.

In general, patients who are advised to take drugs on an empty stomach are done so because it helps physicians better predict effects without having to worry about multiple variables. However, new clinical studies have revealed that certain drugs that are taken with food could be found at much higher blood levels than they are when taken on an empty stomach. Also, some drugs may be more effective at lower doses when taken with grapefruit juice by taking advantage of changes in blood composition. Changes like these can help save patients $1700 or more on their costly cancer drug costs.

From The New Scientist:

The approach, which might also work for other drugs, is based on the fact that certain foods can delay the breakdown of medications in the body. Doctors stress, however, that people should not yet attempt this cost-cutting method until studies demonstrate its safety.
In general, taking pills with food against the label’s advice can lead to an overdose. For this reason, pharmaceutical companies must provide the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with information on how eating a meal can influence the absorption of their products.

While physician researchers warn patients not to experiment with their own drug routines before further studies are made, they hope that these recent studies help create cheaper cancer treatment alternatives for patients.

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

October 30, 2007 by  
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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

Breaking developments in combination therapy and new chemotherapeutics

October 25, 2007 by  
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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!

Chemotherapy Treatment Options for Breast Cancer

October 11, 2007 by  
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Experts agree that for most breast cancer cases, chemotherapy is not the first treatment of choice. But for those for whom it is appropriate, it can provide effective, long term results.

Chemotherapy consists of using drugs to combat cancer. With the increasing sophistication of pharmacology, those drugs are safer, more effective and more targeted, with fewer side effects than ones of the past. Today, it’s common to use a drug ‘cocktail’ in order to offset side effects and provide a more effective treatment.

The drugs used typically interfere with the cells’ ability to divide, since that is one of the chief characteristics of cancers, an uncontrolled growth from abnormal cell division in breast cancer tissue.

Chemotherapy is often chosen when the cancer has become more advanced, requiring more a rigorous response to eradicate cancer cells. Cancer cells clumps can grow and metastasize (spread of a primary tumor to other areas, forming secondary tumors of similar type). That condition may indicate that chemotherapy is an appropriate regimen.

Cancers can recur. The causes are still poorly understood. In some cases it may be that the initial cancer wasn’t entirely eradicated. Or, it may be that the underlying cause that generated the tumor is still present and active, causing the cancer to regenerate. But whatever the basic reason, chemotherapy is often used in such cases.

But one of the more serious complications with chemotherapy treatments is related to its side effects. Though the drugs are improving in this regard, chemotherapy treatments sometimes affect healthy cells as well as cancerous ones. That results in healthy systems being harmed and lessened in function.

Since some of that function is to fight disease such as the cancer itself, a double harm occurs. Radiation therapy has a similar drawback in that it compromises the immune system, which is part of what helps to fight the cancer and its effects.

The digestive system is often affected in negative ways, leading to nausea, common among those undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Hair loss is a by-now familiar effect. But chemotherapy can even affect the composition of bone marrow, which leads to a number of harmful effects. Bone marrow performs several functions in the body. Foremost among them is aiding in the production of red and white blood cells.

Damage to heart, kidney and other organs is possible, though this is uncommon since cells in these organs don’t divide as frequently under natural circumstances. In some studies, memory and concentration loss were associated with chemotherapy treatments. Older female patients often find the reproductive cycle altered, bringing on premature menopause. ‘Female patients’ is specified here since men, too, can contract breast cancer.

Still, drugs in use today are better tolerated and more targeted that those of previous generations. They may help cut off vessels that supply blood to the tumors which encourage the growth of just such vessels to feed themselves. There are a variety of chemotherapy regimens, with each one designed for the individual patient and his or her circumstances.

Though never pleasant, chemotherapy provides an important tool in the fight against what was once an almost always fatal disease. Today, long term survivability is greater than ever with fewer long-term side effects. Chemotherapy is one of the reasons.

4 Steps for You to Help Yourself During Chemotherapy

May 26, 2007 by  
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By Dave Saunders

Chemotherapy is a word that causes dread in most who hear it. It is a time of stress as well as risk. If you, or someone you know, are facing chemotherapy, these four simple steps may help get through the process with better spirits and better results as well.

1. Tell your doctor if you get side effects from treatment

You can’t expect the possibility of relief from side effects if you do not share them with your doctor. Be sure to communicate with your doctor. Some people keep a health journal during and after treatment to improve the information you have to present to your doctor if problems arise more gradually. Discuss what you might keep in a health journal that might improve the effectiveness of your treatment.

2. Ask your doctor before you take any other medicine

All drugs operate by manipulating some normal cell function. This includes the chemotherapy drugs as well. These manipulations may conflict with the intended effects of your chemotherapy treatment. Even herbals, or an over the counter pain reliever can lead to unintended consequences. Always inform your doctor before taking any other medications.

3. Take care of your health

There are many things you can do to support the natural ability of your body to restore, protect and defend itself from the effects of injury and disease. Seek to improve your diet, find ways to reduce other sources of stress in your life and be thankful for the hope and opportunity you have because of your treatment. These things can have a remarkable affect on your body and your feeling of good health.

4. Talk about your feelings

These are stressful times. Don’t keep your feelings bottled up. People you know and love are probably feeling stress too. Help each other by being open about what you are going through. By being open with others, you can feel more in control of the stress and trepidation you’re feeling, instead of those things being in control of you.

Self-help can never take the place of professional health care. Ask your doctor and nurse any questions you may have about chemotherapy. Also don’t hesitate to tell them about any side effects you may have. They want and need to know.

Dave Saunders is a professional lecturer, and certified nutritional educator. He enjoys creating interconnections through his writings and lectures to help others create context and see new discoveries and technologies in more a practical light. You can find out more about new discoveries in cancer research at

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Walking Positively Forward Through Chemotherapy

May 10, 2007 by  
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By June Carr

There is nothing more important in life than our health. Yes, it’s more important than money, since without it, we may not be able to work or earn a living, and with it, we can participate in society and live our lives the way we desire. Years ago, when I heard that my father had cancer, I was devastated and from that day till now, I’ve learned all that I can about cancer, and how we can live our lives in a beneficial way, that will allow us to journey forward through the trials we face. What I’ll mention are not cure alls, and of COURSE see your doctor, these are simply tips for a healthy life.

If you find yourself in the middle of cancer treatment, don’t stop what before you knew to be healthy. Drink water it will help your system to stay flushed, will keep your intestines open and aid your kidneys in dealing with medications you may be taking.

Along with the above, cut out (or at least cut down) on your caffeine intake. I know I love a cup of java, but put getting better in the forefront of your mind. Down the road you can reward yourself, right now, stick with the water (or what your doctor recommends).

A close friend of mine recently went through a bout of breast cancer and chemotherapy and with that she knew she’d lose her hair. Instead of waiting for the inevitable to happen, she immediately changed her hair style, cutting it close, giving herself a new look and allowing friends and family to see her with the new style. When the rest of the hair departed; we hardly even noticed.

Even though most of now know this, most low grade infections are passed through our hands. We touch something or someone, then transfer the infection to ourselves. Wash your hands; possibly carry one of the antibacterial gels with you. Better safe than sorry. And if you have a friend or loved one is has a cold or the flu, talk with them on the phone, but hold your in-person visits till they are feeling better, you do not want to add their cold or flu to what you are already going through.

This next one is going to be difficult, since your appetite will be diminished, but EAT… Eat three meals per day; even if they are small, you need nutrition to maintain your strength. And believe it or not, nausea will be lessened rather than increased.

Allow your friends and loved ones to help you. While it’s necessary to keep our egos intact, you have nothing to prove, take a break your friends and loved ones will feel good to be helping, and you’ll enjoy the fact they care enough to be there.

Live life. While these days may seem dark, appreciate the life that is around you. Play (to the degree you can) with your friends, loved ones and children. Take a walk in the park; enjoy the sunshine on your face. Sure, your walk might not be as far or brisk, but breathe, live, enjoy the beauty that is around you.

Our bodies need sleep that is the same in all of us, and while the hours needed may be different depending on our age and physical health, around 7 to 8 hours is the norm. Make sure you don’t overextend yourself, give your body time to rejuvenate itself with the blessed sleep and rest.

Don’t grit and bear it! And by that I mean if you need something for pain, by all mean take it. Modern science may not have the answer for everything, but they have made leaps and bounds in the area of pain management. Call your doctor if necessary he/she will understand.

Keep your mind active. Don’t sit in a room and let your mind drift toward the negative. Play games, watch a movie, read an uplifting book, talk with friends and family. Stay connected and keep your mind occupied with a variety of activities. This is a difficult time, of that there is no doubt, but it is a journey toward the sunlight at the end of the tunnel.

Keep walking forward, YOU WILL reach the other side.

June writes for a variety of websites and directories across the net. She is particularly interested in the cancer research since losing her father to the disease years ago. She believe that life should be lived to the fullest and be a blend of Wealth, Health and Success.

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Adverse Effects of Breast Cancer Chemotherapy

March 17, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

By Michael Russell

Undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer patients will definitely increase overall survival; the occurrence of adverse events is inevitable. Of all the side effects of chemotherapy, bone marrow toxicity. The bone marrow primarily functions as the production site of white and red blood cells. Most women treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer will experience a decline in their white blood cell count, most often seven to fourteen days after treatment. This drop of cell count is known as leucopenia. Thus, while on chemotherapy, the breast cancer patient should be alert for any infection, which is the first sign of bone marrow suppression. The most immediate symptom of an infection will be a fever.

As a cancer patient, it is important that you alert your physician at the first signs of infection and to receive antibiotic therapy. There are some clinical protocols that routinely put women on antibiotics the second week after each chemotherapy session as a prophylactic measure against infection. Gene technology is now trying to get into the picture of safer chemotherapy. There are genetically engineered bone marrow stimulants available for women who develop severe depression of their white or red blood cell counts. Drugs like Neuprogen and Epogen are some of these agents. Fortunately, the toxicity to the bone marrow that occurs after chemotherapy is temporary and reversible. If an infection occurs, it is potentially very serious and must be addressed immediately to avoid fatal complications.

Also showing sensitivity to anticancer drugs are the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus, which undergo cell division regularly and which the body manufactures and replaces every few days. Some anticancer drugs interrupt this production of cells, causing small ulcers. Fortunately, this is quite unusual in breast cancer chemotherapy, but can still occur. The mouth and the rectal areas are the most susceptible.

The most common gastrointestinal symptom of cancer chemotherapy is nausea and vomiting, most often during the week immediately following treatment. This is primarily due to a massive mediator release of substances called histamines, which are stored in the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract. New drugs can now prevent the release of histamines for patients undergoing chemotherapy. Since the discover and appropriate use of supportive medications, the nausea and vomiting accompanying chemotherapy is much less of a problem than it used to be. The incidence of these adverse events varies depending on the drugs used and the dose intensity with which they are used.

For most women, hair loss (alopecia) is a very distressing side effect of a few anticancer agents. Some of the agents such as doxorubicin, paclitaxel, docetaxel can cause uniform temporary alopecia, especially from the scalp. Other drugs only cause minimal hair thinning. Many of the breast cancer chemotherapy regimens have doxorubicin and some of the newer ones have paclitaxel or docetaxel, so temporary hair loss should be anticipated after undergoing chemotherapy.

Because side effects can be debilitating, many women want to know if they can continue to work while on chemotherapy. The answer varies depending on the regimen used and the stress and demands of the particular job. Whether the patient decides to continue working or not, it is important that during the several months of chemotherapy, she should plan to take it easy – reduce as much stress as she can. She should engage herself with loved ones, friends and extend support system especially during the periods when she is down and not feeling well.

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Breast Cancer

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Green Tea’s Influence On Chemotherapy

March 3, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

By Marcus Stout

For the last several years, there has been an abundance of research on the effects of green tea and its possible ability to prevent cancer. There has been a lot of focus on Asian culture, where the incidence of cancer is significantly lower that that of the Western world.

For centuries, the Chinese have used green tea for health. It is used not only to protect health and slow down the aging process, but also to treat illness. It appears that there is some very good science behind what Asians have been relying on for years.

Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. There are many different types of tea, but they all come from the same plant. The differences occur from the differences in how the tea is processed. Green tea is not fermented during processing, but black tea does go through a fermentation process.

Tea leaves naturally contain catechins, which belong to the flavan-3-ol class of flavonoids, which are anti-oxidants. EGCG is one of the catechins contained in tea, and is one of the most powerful anti-oxidants around.

Fermenting the tea leaves, converts the catechins to other compounds. These new compounds are not as healthy as the unaltered catechins in a tea leaf in its original state. For this reason, green tea has more healthy anti-oxidants and therefore more health benefits than black tea.

Each day, as we convert food to energy, we create free radicals in our body. These free radicals can damage our cells and our DNA if we don’t combat them. It is believed that unchecked free radicals contribute to the development of cancer. They also speed up the aging process and contribute to clogged arteries and other maladies that plague us as we get older.

Anti-oxidants are powerful free radical combatants, and are linked with preventing cancer, as well as with decreasing your risk of stroke and heart disease and with lowering your cholesterol. For this reason, drinking green tea is a simple and effective way to slow down the aging process and prevent disease.

But, recently there has been even more powerful news about the possible effects of green tea on cancer. Many studies have been conducted on mice that were already diagnosed with the disease. In some cases, the studies have shown that green tea can help kill cancer cells or slow down the progression of the disease.

One particular study of interest was conducted by the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Shizuoka in Japan. In this study, mice that were infected with carcinoma tumors were fed green tea along with a chemotherapy drug called doxorubicin. The doxorubicin had more than doubled the effectiveness in the mice that were also fed green tea than in the mice who received their doxorubicin treatments alone.

The tumors showed a higher concentration of the drug itself in the tumor tissue when the mice ingested green tea. As an interesting side note; normal tissue did not show a higher concentration of the drug as a result of the green tea – only the cancerous tissue.

This may be good news, too. Since chemotherapy is known to have many side effects and to sometimes damage normal tissue as it’s killing cancer cells, this is important. Because the concentration of the drug is not higher in normal cells, the drug’s side effects might not increase with the use of green tea as an adjunct to therapy.

These same results were found in patients who had ovarian sarcoma, too. This news is important because ovarian sarcoma is usually very resistant to doxorubicin. So, it appears that when used with green tea, doxorubicin may become an effective treatment for ovarian sarcoma.

In another study, adriamycin, another popular cancer drug was also found to be more effective at treating ovarian sarcoma when it was paired with green tea. Rats in this study that were not fed green tea were found to be unresponsive to the drug, but when the drug was administered along with green tea, the rats became very responsive to the treatment.

There’s a second component of these studies that may have a positive effect on cancer patients. During chemotherapy, patients are often advised not to drink coffee or tea, due to its caffeine. This can be difficult for patients who are used to these beverages, as it disrupts their daily routine. Allowing patients to consume green tea during treatment could provide a positive emotional boost to patients.

In addition to helping to keep a patient’s daily routine normal by allowing tea as a morning beverage, patients may feel a sense of control of their own destiny when they understand that drinking green tea can help improve the effectiveness of their cancer treatment. This ability to have a hand in their treatment can be a very powerful tool for cancer patients, since this insidious disease often makes people feel out of control of their own life.

Of course, as with many other early results, more research is needed. However, the news is very promising in the fight against cancer. We are likely only beginning to understand the many ways in which green tea can help preserve our health and prevent and fight disease. There is little doubt that we will find more uses for this healthy beverage and its components.

About the Author: Marcus Stout is President of the Golden Moon Tea Company. For more information about tea, green tea and wu long tea go to

10 Home Remedies for Chemotherapy Side Effects

January 12, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

By Donna Parra

This is my second “go round” with cancer and chemotherapy, this time I’m much more educated in helping myself deal with side effects and would like to pass my remedies on to others.

Chemotherapy affects the stomach in a very devastating manner from the top to the bottom and though the prescribed Katrill was a life saver, it doesn’t do it “all”. Here are a few home remedies your oncologist will not tell you about…he’s busy with the chemical aspect of treating the disease and not much into home remedies….I am!

1. Ginger
Ginger has long been known as an anti-nausea agent….I used fresh ginger, sliced it up thinly and put it in the freezer. I would put a few slices from the freezer into a cup of hot water and sip it as tea. I was surprised to read that they have a clinical trial going on using ginger in capsule form to treat nausea in chemo patients…worked for me!

2. Aloe
Aloe is another soothing agent to the stomach and intestinal tract and aloe water is tasteless and can be found in any supermarket in the produce department. It’s inexpensive and helpful…I personally know a man that cured himself of bleeding ulcers with aloe juice, his doctor was amazed.

3. White food
Now for eating….I read many years ago that eating “white food” was a good idea as most white food doesn’t have a strong smell or strong taste….I can’t say that it worked for me but it could work for you. I’m a believer in organic food and foods made from scratch….we have enough chemicals racing around our body, we don’t need more. You might want to check out the “Budwig Diet” on the internet.

4. Baldness
Your oncologist will tell you if you will lose your hair….for me it was somewhat of a blessing, not having to shave my legs, no blow drying etc. Cut your hair very short and once it starts falling out, shave it! The American Cancer Society will give you wigs free of cost….I prefer my baldness as I live in Florida and I also have a nicely shaped head. My eyebrow are very sparse and rather than pencil them in, I use eye shadow that I apply with a brush….it’s more natural looking.

5. Attitude
Should you experience depression…fight it, talk to yourself, convince yourself that depression will not help you and imagine yourself healthy again….and smile as you talk to yourself…I don’t know why, but it works.

6. Acupuncture
I went to an acupuncturist during my first experience with cancer….it helped so much with the horrendous headaches and the nausea. I don’t know why I didn’t do it through this battle.

7. Water
Drinking water is of the utmost importance and I’m sure your doctor will tell you that, but he doesn’t tell you to drink mineralized water which will put your body in an alkaline state…for more info on this subject you can e-mail me at

8. Exercise
DO NOT let yourself become a couch potato….even if you must force yourself to walk around the block, it will be helpful. Somedays you must force yourself to put one foot in front of the other….but do it. Exercise helps your body, but it also helps your mind. You will feel good about yourself and proud.

9. Grooming
Keeping yourself well-groomed can be an effort on some days, but it’s a must! I found on the days I HAD to go out and groom myself with make-up etc….something magical happened and I’d feel better….the effort was great but well worth it……I try and do that everyday now. I mean beyond taking a shower and brushing my teeth.

10. Power of Prayer
I think one of the most important remedies is prayer….it has such power and has gotten me through some really rough times. I don’t know how it works, IT WORKS.

Oops! Forgot something…..dealing with constipation. I hate the thickness of prune juice and read on the internet to combat that… put dried prunes in a cup, pour boiling water over them… drink the liquid while warm and then eat the prunes. One woman told me her nurse told her to add a bit of butter to it… I chose to pass on that one but the woman found it quite effective. Flaxseed is also quite effective and you can add them to your cereal or mix them in a salad or just eat a teaspoonful… of course, taking laxatives work but they are not a good idea unless it’s an emergency as your body will come dependent of them.

Good luck to all you “warriors” and I hope that I’ve helped you in your battle… it’s a tough battle but it can be won… keep positive… it’s the attitude that will get you through this… fight on and beat it!

I’m a single woman battling cancer for the second time….and winning. I feel if I can help someone in anyway, then I must. My computer has been a blessing through all of this and I have researched the internet and have gained so through all the knowledge compiled. If you’d like to contact me you can do so at

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Reflexology and Chemotherapy

May 14, 2006 by  
Filed under CANCER

Reflexology and Chemotherapy

By Amy Brennan

Reflexology is a gentle non intrusive treatment carried out upon the feet alone, using reflex points that correspond to the body systems.

Reflexology is highly beneficial in alleviating adverse side effects of chemotherapy, by helping the patient to deeply relax, it also helps to reduce the level of anxiety, helping patients cope with the distressing symptoms of pain and nausea, the results reveal that treatments produce a significant and immediate effect on the patients’ perceptions of pain, nausea and relaxation.

There is a myth that because reflexology rids the body of toxins, that the chemotherapy won’t work properly. There is no evidence to support this and there is a wealth of evidence about the positive results patients have felt.

Many people who have cancer and who have used Reflexology say that they find it helps ease some of their symptoms or helps them cope with the side-effects of treatment. Other people say that they just find it a very pleasant way of relaxing.

Reflexology is used by many people under going treatment for cancer, and Reflexology is included at complementary therapy centres within cancer units at Charing Cross Hospital, Hammersmith Hospital, Harley Street Clinic, and Lister Hospital as well as being offered at many Macmillan cancer relief hospices and day care centres, with very good results.

Many patients say that as well as enjoying the relaxation and stress relief they also feel able to cope with the physical side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Its also an important factor in having time for themselves and a person to talk to that is not a part of their family and in many cases, being able to voice their problems and fears without worrying about the effect on close relatives or friends.

Reflexology is a good treatment for helping those that suffer with lymphoedema (swelling of limbs) after surgery to remove lymph glands, as it helps improve circulation and lymph flow and the Reflexologist can work over the specific reflex points for the effected area. In some cases the limb affected with lymphodeoma can be quite painful, Reflexology is very gentle and effective and in such cases is a good compliment to lymphatic drainage massage.

Overall Reflexology helps to improve the circulation and lymph flow, which benefits all body systems and organs and aids deep relaxation and better respiration and mobility, helping patients to relax and cope with the physical side effects of their treatment.

Amy Brennan is the Director of Find a Reflexologist Ltd, UK register of fully-qualified Reflexologists, and hub of Reflexology on the web:

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Cancer drug may end side effects

April 3, 2006 by  
Filed under CANCER

Last Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK

A new device for cancer patients could end the side effects of chemotherapy such as hair loss and vomiting, researchers say.

The revolutionary new method uses an implant made of tiny fibres and beads soaked in chemotherapy drugs.

The device, which was developed at Bath University, dissolves internally, releasing the chemotherapy chemicals directly into the cancer site.

It is set to begin clinical trials in the next few years.

The usual way of delivering chemotherapy to patients is by injecting the drugs into a vein, meaning they are carried throughout the body, affecting all body parts.

Reduce deaths

The Bath University team claims the new method – known as Fibrasorb – could also cut the number of patients who die from the harmful side effects of chemotherapy because they need such high doses.

Dr Semali Perera said: “Side effects from chemotherapy can be very unpleasant and sometimes fatal.

“The new fibres and beads could cut out some side-effects entirely, including nausea and vomiting, and could reduce the number of people who die each year.”

The new technology was welcomed by Breakthrough Breast Cancer on Friday.

Dr Sarah Rawlings, of the charity, said: “This new research is at an extremely early stage but Breakthrough welcomes any research into new treatments which may be less debilitating than those currently available.”


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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.