Archive for August, 2008

A combination of two inexpensive existing drugs may offer a new way to treat breast cancer, according to UK and Finnish researchers.

The common chemotherapy drug and a brittle bone medicine almost completely stopped the growth of tumours in mice.

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute said the combination cost a twentieth of Herceptin, given to breast cancer patients by the NHS.

Specialists said the results of human trials now under way would be crucial.

In the UK, almost 46,000 new cases of Breast Cancer are diagnosed each year.

Although modern treatments mean that cases caught sufficiently early, some via breast screening programmes, have an excellent chance of being successfully treated.

The study was a joint project between Researchers at the University of Sheffield and the Kuopio University in Finland.

Its findings could offer an even more effective way to help some patients.

It used a dose of the drug doxorubicin, a common component of chemotherapy regimes, followed 24 hours later by zoledronic acid, currently given to Osteoporosis Patients.

In the mice, this stopped 99.99% of new cancer cell growth in tumours.

It is thought the first drug could be “priming” the tumour to be more sensitive to the cancer-cell killing qualities of the second drug.

Dr Ingunn Holen, who led the study, said that the study showed that the drug cocktail could “kill breast tumours”.

“These results show that a patient may benefit the most if these two drugs are given in this particular order.”

She said that the results of a human trial were expected later this year.


If that proves successful, the drugs would not have to undergo a lengthy licensing process, simply have the change of use included in their current licence.

Breast Cancer Campaign, the charity which funded the study, said it was encouraged by the potential for the drug to be made swiftly available to women.

Its Chief Executive, Pamela Goldberg, said: “The results of this study could change the way Breast Cancer Patients are treated.

“The good news is that the two treatments are relatively inexpensive and already used in the clinic.”

A spokesman for Cancer Research UK said that a study in humans would be important.

“Establishing the most effective combinations of drug treatments and the timings in which they are given is an important area of clinical research.

“But the benefits of giving zoledronic acid after doxorubicin have only been shown here in mice and now need to be evaluated more fully in people with Breast Cancer.”

(Source:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7558327.stm)

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Women who have a positive outlook may decrease their chances of developing breast cancer, say Israeli Researchers.

The small study, published in the BioMed Central journal, also found that getting divorced, or being bereaved could increase the risk.

But the Researchers admitted that women were questioned after their diagnosis, which might significantly change their outlook on life.

UK experts said it was hard to compare different women’s emotional stresses.

The role of mental outlook on cancer remains controversial, with some studies suggesting that it might play a role.

Meanwhile, others have found no significant effect, either on the likelihood of developing the illness in the first place, or on your chances of surviving it.

The latest study looked at 255 women with breast cancer and compared their answers in a questionnaire on mental outlook and life events with 367 healthy control subjects.

They found that a generally positive outlook appeared to reduce the chance of breast cancer by a quarter.

In addition, exposure to one or more of the traumatic “life events” such as loss of a parent or a spouse increased the risk by more than 60%.

Lead Researcher Dr Ronit Peled, from Ben-Gurion University, said that women who had been exposed to a number of negative events should be considered an “at-risk” group for breast cancer.

“We can carefully say that experiencing more than one severe and/or moderate life event is a risk factor for breast cancer among young women.

“On the other hand, a general feeling of happiness and optimism can play a protective role.”


But Dr Sarah Cant, from Breakthrough Breast Cancer, maintained that there was no clear evidence that positive or negative experiences could affect breast cancer risk.

“Emotional stress is highly subjective and is difficult to measure accurately.”

“Women in this study were interviewed after breast cancer was diagnosed when they may be more likely to recall feeling depression and anxiety.”

“The researchers also didn’t account for other factors known to affect breast cancer risk such as family history or weight.

“Breast cancer is a complex disease and there is unlikely to be one single cause.”

(Source:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7574938.stm)

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A new way of scanning joints which may reveal early warning signs of arthritis is being developed by US researchers.

The MRI scan looks for low levels of the chemical glycosaminogycan, which helps cartilage in joints hold the water that makes it tough and elastic.

New York University Researchers told the American Chemical Society Conference early diagnosis could reduce the need for surgery later in life.

The Arthritis Research Campaign said the scan could help assess treatments.

The weakening and breakdown of cartilage, which cushions the moving parts of joints, is a key factor in the development of osteoarthritis, which is common in the over-40s.

There are an estimated eight million people in the UK who have the problem in some form or another, and in severe cases patients can require constant painkillers or even joint replacement surgery.

Cartilage is tough and elastic because of its high water content, and existing MRI scans look for lower levels of this as a sign that the disease is developing.

The team is trying to spot the disease even earlier by looking for a substance called glycosaminogycan (GAG), which helps the cartilage hold plenty of water.

The scientists found a way to make the hydrogen atoms attached to GAG emit a signal which can be picked up by the scanner.

Dietary Supplements

Dr Alexej Jerschow, one of the researchers, said: “Our methods have the potential for providing early warning signs for cartilage disorders like osteoarthritis, thus potentially avoiding surgery and physical therapy later on.”

He said that a patient given early notice of impending arthritis could take steps to protect their joints, perhaps using dietary supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, which may be able to slow or halt joint degeneration.

The next stage now is to test the technique in trials.

However, Professor Alan Silman, the medical director of the Arthritis Research Campaign, said that the practical implications of the research were “currently very limited”.

“Unfortunately at the moment there is no treatment that could be offered that would change the situation.

“What it may prove to be is a very sensitive test of drug treatment response as new agents are developed.”

(Source:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7574707.stm)

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(1) Touch the beauty and truth within, to reveal and liberate our natural joy.

(2) Have hope for the future, but do not forget about today.

(3) Every day make a fresh beginning.

(4) When there is compassion, giving is not a burden, but a joy.

(5) Even the smallest act of kindness is worthwhile.

(6) To find happiness, focus not on what we want, rather on what we have.

(7) Powerful people are concerned with winning, while those with little, hope for kindness.

(8) By forgiving others for having hurt us, we can let go of the painful past and create a happier future.

(9) Always remember others’ kindness, while forgetting their weaknesses.

(10) For good or for bad, everyone is someone we can learn from.

(11) What matters is that we act with sincerity, respect and honesty, doing so, others will treat us likewise.

(12) Pursue wholeheartedly that which is worthy, put down completely that which is not.

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Nutritionist and Author Jonny Bowden has created several lists of healthful foods people should be eating but aren’t. But some of his favourites, like purslane, guava and goji berries, aren’t always available at regular grocery stores.

Here’s his advice.

1. Beets:

Think of beets as red spinach, Dr. Bowden said, because they are a rich source of folate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancer fighters.

How to eat: Fresh, raw and grated to make a salad. Heating decreases the antioxidant power.

2. Cabbage:

Loaded with nutrients like sulforaphane, a chemical said to boost cancer-fighting enzymes.

How to eat: Asian-style slaw or as a crunchy topping on burgers and sandwiches.

3. Swiss chard:

A leafy green vegetable packed with carotenoids that protect aging eyes.

How to eat it: Chop and saute in olive oil.

4. Cinnamon:

May help control blood sugar and cholesterol.

How to eat it: Sprinkle on coffee or oatmeal.

5. Pomegranate juice:

Appears to lower blood pressure and loaded with antioxidants.

How to eat: Just drink it.

6. Dried plums:

Okay, so they are really prunes, but they are packed with antioxidants.

How to eat: Wrapped in prosciutto and baked.

7. Pumpkin seeds:

The most nutritious part of the pumpkin and packed with magnesium; high levels of the mineral are associated with lower risk for early death.

How to eat: Roasted as a snack, or sprinkled on salad.

8. Sardines:

Dr. Bowden calls them “health food in a can.’’ They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins.

How to eat: Choose sardines packed in olive or sardine oil. Eat plain, mixed with salad, on toast, or mashed with dijon mustard and onions as a spread.

9. Turmeric:

The “superstar of spices,’’ it may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

How to eat: Mix with scrambled eggs or in any vegetable dish.

10. Frozen blueberries:

Even though freezing can degrade some of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables, frozen blueberries are available year-round and don’t spoil; associated with better memory in animal studies.

How to eat: Blended with yogurt or chocolate soy milk and sprinkled with crushed almonds.

11. Canned pumpkin:

A low-calorie vegetable that is high in fibre and immune-st

(Source: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/30/the-11-best-foods-you-arent-eating/?em)

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(Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/12/health/12well.html?)

Sometimes what you don’t know might end up being better for you.

For years patients have been told that early cancer detection saves lives. Find the cancer before the symptoms appear, the thinking goes, and you’ve got a better chance of beating the disease.

So it might have seemed surprising last week when a panel of leading medical experts offered exactly the opposite advice. They urged doctors to stop screening older men for prostate cancer, which will kill an estimated 28,600 men in the United States this year.

Their advice offered a look at the potential downside of cancer screening and our seemingly endless quest to detect cancer early in otherwise healthy people. In this case, for men 75 and older, the United States Preventive Services Task Force concluded that screening for prostate cancer does more harm than good.

“We’ve done a great job in public health convincing people that cancer screening tests work,” said Peter B. Bach, a pulmonologist and epidemiologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York City. “We’re uncomfortable with the notion that some screening tests work and others don’t. That seems mystifying to people.”

But the reality is that while some cancer screening tests — like the Pap smear for cervical cancer or mammography for breast cancer — clearly save lives, the benefits of other screening tests are less clear.

Studies of lung cancer screening, for instance, have failed to prove that it prolongs life. A mass screening for neuroblastoma in Japanese infants was halted after it became clear that the effort wasn’t saving children and worse, led to risky treatments of tumors that weren’t life threatening.

The case seemed stronger for screening for prostate cancer. By some measures, death rates from the disease in the United States have plummeted since the introduction of the screening test for prostate specific antigen, which detects levels of a protein that can signal prostate cancer.

The data, in fact, are highly misleading. The introduction of screening can trigger big statistical fluctuations that can be difficult to interpret. But if you look at prostate cancer statistics in the 1970s, long before screening was introduced, death rates have dropped only slightly since then. The small decline seems largely because of improvements in treatment, many experts say, though others point to early detection as the reason.

Whether there really is a measurable benefit from PSA screening for younger men won’t be known for a few more years, after data from two major clinical trials studying the test are reported.

How can it be that finding prostate cancer early doesn’t help save lives? For starters, a large percentage of prostate cancers aren’t deadly. They are slow growing and unlikely to result in any symptoms before the end of a man’s natural life expectancy. By some estimates, as many as 44 percent of the men who are treated for prostate cancer as a result of PSA testing didn’t need to be. Had they been left alone, they would have died of something else and never known they had cancer.

“Screening tests don’t only pick up life-threatening cancers, they pick up tumors that look identical to traditional tumors, but they don’t have the same biologic behavior,” said Dr. Barry Kramer, associate director for disease prevention at the National Institutes of Health. “Some are so slow growing they never would have caused medical problems in the person’s natural life span.”

In the case of PSA testing, the Preventive Services Task Force, an expert panel that makes recommendations about preventive care for healthy people, said there was not enough evidence to recommend for or against screening of younger men, although they urged doctors to advise men of all the risks and benefits of screening. But they did conclude that 75 is the age at which the risks clearly begin to outweigh the benefits, and the disease, if detected, would most likely not have a meaningful effect on life expectancy.

Another problem with determining the value of screening is that it results in “lead time bias.” For instance, someone diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 65 may die at 67 and be remembered as a two-year survivor. If the same man had been diagnosed at 57 through screening and died at the age of 67, he would be known as a 10-year survivor. That sounds a lot better, but the reality is that diagnosis and treatment didn’t prolong his life. He died at 67 either way.

“Even a harmful screening test could appear on the surface as a helpful test,” Dr. Kramer said. “Because you measure survival from the date of diagnosis, even if the person dies of the same cause on the same day they would have without screening, it looks like survival was longer.”

Any screening test can lead to false positives, followed by invasive and risky tests. Large numbers of people often end up being poked, prodded and tested only to discover they’re fine.

Biopsies to detect prostate cancer get mixed reviews. Some men find them to be a minor discomfort; others say they were left in debilitating pain. Once cancer is found, surgery, radiation or hormone therapy, or “watchful waiting,” may be advised.

Treatments for prostate cancer can cause significant harm, rendering men incontinent or impotent, or with other urethral, bowel or bladder problems. Hormone treatments can cause weight gain, hot flashes, loss of muscle tone and osteoporosis.

“It’s just a needle stick, but the cascade of events that follows are fairly serious,” Dr. Bach said. “I think the burden is on medicine to try and generate some evidence that the net benefits are there before drawing that tube of blood.”

The problem with prostate screening is that some men are very likely to have been saved by early detection. But how many have been hurt?

“I’m a little worried we may look back on the prostate cancer screening era, after we learn results of clinical trials, and see that we’ve harmed a lot of people without doing them good,” said Dr. David Ransohoff, a Professor of Medicine and Cancer Screening Researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “By being so aggressive with so many people, did we do the right thing? I don’t know that it’s going to turn out that way.”

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Running on a regular basis can slow the effects of ageing, a study by US Researchers shows.

Elderly joggers were half as likely to die prematurely from conditions like cancer than non-runners.

They also enjoyed a healthier life with fewer disabilities, the Stanford University Medical Centre team found.

Experts said the findings in Archives of Internal Medicine reinforced the importance that older people exercise regularly.

Survival of the Fittest

The work tracked 500 older runners for more than 20 years, comparing them to a similar group of non-runners. All were in their 50s at the start of the study.

Nineteen years into the study, 34% of the non-runners had died compared to only 15% of the runners.

Both groups became more disabled with age, but for the runners the onset of disability started later – an average of 16 years later.

The health gap between the runners and non-runners continued to widen even as the subjects entered their ninth decade of life.

Running not only appeared to slow the rate of heart and artery related deaths, but was also associated with fewer early deaths from cancer, neurological disease, infections and other causes.

And there was no evidence that runners were more likely to suffer osteoarthritis or need total knee replacements than non-runners – something scientists have feared.

At the beginning of the study, the runners ran for about four hours a week on average. After 21 years, their weekly running time had reduced to around 76 minutes, but they were still seeing health benefits from taking regular exercise.

Lead author Professor James Fries, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Stanford, said: “The study has a very pro-exercise message. If you had to pick one thing to make people healthier as they age, it would be aerobic exercise.

“The health benefits of exercise are greater than we thought.”

Age Concern says many older people do not exercise enough.

This research re-confirms the clear benefits of regular exercise for older people.

Exercise can help older people to stay mobile and independent, ensure a healthy heart, keep weight and stress levels under control, and promote better sleep.

While younger people are barraged with encouragement to lead healthier lifestyles, the health needs of older people are often overlooked.

(Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/health/7554293.stm)

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