Archive for July 28th, 2008

It is great to be well aware of what you can do.

And it’s even better to also acknowledge & accept of what you can’t do.

By Ralph Marston


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Ovarian Cancer is often referred to as the silent killer due to the advanced stage at which most cases are discovered. In the last 30 years, however, medical advancements have allowed us to wage a better fight against the disease, thereby increasing survival rates.

According to Julian Schink, MD, Chief of Gynecologic Oncology at Chicago’s North-Western Memorial Hospital, “Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer today live an average of five times longer than women affected by the disease 30 years ago due to significant advances in how we detect and treat ovarian cancer, and increased awareness of warning signs.”

Warning Signs

Diagnosing ovarian cancer is difficult because there is no reliable screening test. In addition, there were no officially recognized symptoms associated with ovarian cancer until 2007, when the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, and American Cancer Society issued a statement formally noting the following:

• Bloating

• Pelvic or abdominal pain

• Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

• Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

Doctors stress that the frequency and number of symptoms are key and that women who experience a combination of these symptoms almost daily for two to three weeks should see their doctor. “Patients should listen to their bodies, be assertive and tell their doctor if a change occurs. It’s important to investigate symptoms thoroughly in order to catch ovarian cancer early,” says Schink.

Reducing Your Risk

One in 55 women will develop ovarian cancer in her lifetime and the risk increases for women who are genetically predisposed. However, Schink notes there are steps you can take to lower your risk:

• Oral contraceptives – women who use birth control pills for at least five years are three times less likely to develop ovarian cancer.

• Tubal ligation-permanent forms of birth control such as tubal ligation reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by 50 percent.

• Removal of ovaries-women with an extensive family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or who carry altered versions of the BRCA genes, may opt for a prophylactic oophorectomy to remove both ovaries, lowering the risk of ovarian cancer by up to 80 percent.


While difficult to detect, specialized centres such as the North-Western Ovarian Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Program, a collaborative effort between the hospital and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Centre, have strategies for monitoring women at risk.
Patients are monitored with ultrasound and blood tests every six months. “The goal of the program is to catch cancer that may develop early, so patients can receive treatment before it reaches an advanced stage,” says Schink. “Studies show that patients who go to a centre of excellence committed to treating ovarian cancer have better outcomes and a greater chance that their cancer will be successfully removed.”

Treatment for ovarian cancer includes surgery to remove the ovaries, uterus and tissues that ovarian cancer often spreads to, the appendix and, in some cases, lymph nodes in the pelvic region. Doctors at North-Western Memorial also use a form of chemotherapy called intraperitoneal chemotherapy, which is injected directly into the abdominal cavity and has been linked to a 15-month improvement in survival.

When asked about the future of ovarian cancer, Schink states he is encouraged by the progress that has been made and that with new drugs, treatments and surgical strategies on the horizon, he is optimistic. “The best scenario would be to prevent this cancer entirely. Until that day comes, we will continue to aggressively seek the best treatment and provide the highest level of care possible to our patients.”

Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer today live an average of five times longer than women affected by the disease 30 years ago.

(Source:  http://www.HealthNewsDigest.com)


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Critics of conventional cancer therapy identify the three main treatment modalities thus: slashing (surgical removal of affected tissue), burning (radiation), and poisoning (chemotherapy). While these descriptions might be extreme, they do point out that traditional methods damage a goodly number of healthy cells, along with the cancerous ones. The holy grail of cancer therapy is to selectively attack the tumour cells, and not affect surrounding healthy tissue.Recent research coming out of the University of Texas, presented in a paper entitled “Thermal ablation of tumour cells with antibody-functionalized single-walled carbon nanotubes,” and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that we could be closer to that goal.

A carbon nanotube is a long cylindrical arrangement of carbon atoms, that can be thought of as a sheet of graphite rolled into a cylinder. Perhaps the most studied tubes are the single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT). An SWNT can be likened to a nano-sized piece of chicken wire, whereby each “cell” is formed of a hexagonal ring of carbon atoms. One of the many interesting properties of SWNTs is that they emit heat when exposed to near-infrared light.

The most common application of near-infrared is to enable TV remote controls to do their thing. Near-infrared can also penetrate human tissue to a depth of about 1½ inches (3.8 cm).

In this study, cultures of lymphoma cells were utilized. Nanotubes were coated with monoclonal antibodies, that targeted specific sites on the cells. A monoclonal antibody is the real-life embodiment of the magic bullet proposed by Nobel prize winner Paul Ehrlich in the early 1900s. The idea is that should it be possible to create some compound which selectively targeted a certain pathogen, then a toxin for that organism could be delivered—along with the agent of selectivity. As such, this “magic bullet” would kill only the targeted organism.

As it happened in this experiment, the antibody-coated nanotubes did attach to the surface of the lymphoma cells. Upon exposure to the near-infrared light, the tubes heated up and killed the cells. In a control group with nanotubes coated with a different antibody, binding did not occur, and the tumour cells were left unharmed.

Listen to Dr. Ellen Vitetta, Director of the Cancer Immunobiology Centre at UT South-Western and Senior Author of the study:



“Using near-infrared light for the induction of hyperthermia is particularly attractive because living tissues do not strongly absorb radiation in this range. Once the carbon nanotubes have bound to the tumour cells, an external source of near-infrared light can be used to safely penetrate normal tissues and kill the tumour cells.Demonstrating this specific killing was the objective of this study. We have worked with targeted therapies for many years, and even when this degree of specificity can be demonstrated in a laboratory dish, there are many hurdles to translating these new therapies into clinical studies. We’re just beginning to test this in mice, and although there is no guarantee it will work, we are optimistic.”


Of course, one problem that needs to be addressed is the matter of how nanomaterial introduced in vivo could harm the recipient. In other words, what are the side effects of nanotherapy, and how can they be minimized or even eliminated?

Dr. Rockford Draper, another of the lead scientists on the project answers that, “There are rational approaches to detecting and minimizing the potential for nonspecific toxicity of the nanoparticles developed in our studies.”

That sounds promising, but also indicates that much work still remains. The good news is that nanotubes also show promise against a variety of pathogens such as E. coli and B. anthracis. In this era of emerging antibiotic resistant infections, consider it excellent timing.

How long it will take before nanotherapy is actually practical is anybody’s guess. Still, the spirit of Paul Ehrlich must be smiling.


 (Source:  http://www.healthnewsdigest.com/news/Cancer_Issues_660/Killing_Cancer_Cells_-_Selectively_-_With_Carbon_Nanotubes.shtml)

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