Friday, November 14, 2008

Study Fails to Find Fertility Drug-Cancer Link

Alex writes: Most hormonal cancers occur in women post-menopause. So the story is not over as to whether these drugs increase cancer risk. There are tests to measure how estrogen is metabolized into protective and more proliferative metabolites and how well your liver enzymes break down estrogens. If you have a family history of hormonal cancer and you are using fertility drugs it may be reassuring to do these tests. It is also important to recognize that the treatment for abnormal test result finding are nutritional supplements.
June 15, 2004 -- Taking fertility drugs does not appear to increase a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer, a new study from the National Cancer Institute suggests.
Researchers found no associations between the use of medications that stimulate ovulation and ovarian cancer in a study involving more than 12,000 women who had trouble conceiving. However, a slight increase in risk was seen among women followed for the longest time, but researchers say this increase may not be related to the use of fertility drugs.
"In general our findings are very reassuring," lead researcher Louise Brinton, PhD, tells WebMD. "We failed to confirm a major increase with the use of these drugs, but most of these women are still relatively young. For this reason, the association warrants further follow-up."

Early Findings Mixed

Since their introduction almost four decades ago, ovulation-stimulating drugs like Clomid have been prescribed to millions of infertile women. Previous studies assessing the impact of these drugs on ovarian cancer risk have been mixed, with one study suggesting up to a 27-fold increase in cancer risk among treated women who never got pregnant and other studies failing to find any link at all.
The NCI trial included 12,193 women who were seen at five infertility clinics throughout the country between 1965 and 1988. Of these, more than 4,000 women had used a fertility drug.
By 1999, 45 of the women had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which was almost twice the number expected in the general population.
But when the researchers adjusted for other ovarian cancer risk factors, the use of fertility drugs was not found to significantly increase cancer risk.
In other words, ovarian cancer risks were similar regardless of whether these women used fertility drugs or not.
Clomid users actually had slightly fewer ovarian cancers than would be expected in the general population, while users of the protein hormone gonadotropin had slightly more cancers.
Fifteen years after treatment, the odds of developing ovarian cancer more than doubled among the small group of gonadotropin users followed for many years.
"These women are only now beginning to reach the age range where ovarian cancer is most often diagnosed," Brinton says. "That is why it is important to continue following them."

Women Who Don't Get Pregnant

Fertility expert Alan DeCherney, MD, says recent studies are consistent in finding no link between fertility drug use and ovarian cancer risk. It is now clear that women who never achieve a pregnancy are at increased risk, however, and DeCherney says earlier studies failed to take this into consideration.
"We now know that women who fail to get pregnant -- with or without fertility treatments -- are at greater risk," says DeCherney, who is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA School of Medicine and a past president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. "Since those who can't conceive are the ones who take fertility drugs, it is easy to see why the early studies made this association."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Evidence-Based Interventions for Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy

Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) continues to be a significant, debilitating symptom resulting from the administration of neurotoxic chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer.  CIPN is an important consequence of cancer treatment because of its potential impact on physical functioning and quality of life.  Oncology nurses play an important role in assessing, monitoring, and educating clients about CIPN.  Despite investigations concerning pharmacologic and nonpharmologic approaches to either preventing or minimizing the neurotoxicity resulting from certain chemotherapeutic agents, evidence to support the interventions is lacking.  This article presents information concerning CIPN and summarizes the pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic approaches to the prevention and treatment of CIPN.  

Alex writes:  Acupuncture and some nutritional supplements I have found are very effective for this problem.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tests Done During and After Breast Cancer Treatment

Here's a rundown of the tests you can anticipate both during and after treatment:
Click on the title of the post to go to the article.

Alex writes: In addition to standard medical tests. It may also be prudent to check vitamin and mineral status and other metabollic function tests to more objectively apply nutrition. One important test that is not commonly given is the 25 OH Vitamin D test. Vitamin D has a lot of research about its use in the treatment and prevention of cancer. A vitamin D test can generally be included in your standard blood work from your MD . Tests such as the Metametrix Comprehensive Metabolic Profile are urine and finger prick blood tests that do not require a phlebotomist that are available for purchase from my office.

A single urine specimen provides important information about:
• Insufficiencies of carnitine and NAC
• Specific markers of bacterial dysbiosis
• Lipoic acid and CoQ10 sufficiency
• Functional status of B-vitamins
• Neurotransmitter metabolism
• Mitochondrial energy production
• Methylation sufficiency status
• Detoxification adequacy
• Oxidative stress and antioxidant sufficiency

Urine Lipid Peroxides
In its efforts to produce the chemical energy to power cells and fight infection, the body produces harmful free radicals. Antioxidant supplements can help protect cells from free radical damage that can result in oxidation of cell membranes, forming lipid peroxides. High levels of lipid peroxides are associated with cancer, heart disease, stroke, and aging.

BloodspotSM Fatty Acid Profile (not available in NY)
From a simple finger stick, this unique test measures the ratio of the principle omega-6 (AA) and omega-3 (EPA) fatty acids. The AA/EPA ratio is a measure of the body’s eicosanoid balance, detecting “silent” inflammation that can lead to heart disease and other chronic and inflammatory processes. Also included is an Index of Omega-3 Fatty Acids: the sum of EPA and DHA as a percent of total fatty acids. Studies have shown that this index can be used to estimate a person’s risk of dying from coronary heart disease (CHD). A bloodspot Index of Omega-3 Fatty Acids greater than 1.6 is associated with the greatest cardioprotection, whereas an
index less than 0.75 is associated with the least cardioprotection. With many consumers loading up indiscriminately on fish oils, this profile can also detect omega-3 dominant patterns which can lead to increased peroxidation and immune suppression.

BloodspotSM IgG Food Antibody Profile (not available in NY)
Researchers estimate that at least 60% of the U.S. population suffers from unsuspected food reactions that can cause or complicate health problems. These reactions are difficult to identify since they can occur hours or even days after consumption of an offend-
ing food. In some cases, a person may eat a food for several days before developing a reaction to it, so they may not realize the link between the food and their symptoms. Symptoms can be extraordinarily diverse, ranging from arthritis to eczema to migraines.
For that reason, many health professionals routinely consider food allergies or intolerances when evaluating a patient’s health problems. The BloodspotSM IgG Food Antibody Profile tests for sensitivity to 30 of the most commonly positive food antigens, all
from a single finger stick.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Acupuncture Reduces Painful Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatments

See Video and short article from ABC World News Tonight an interview with the studies lead author, Dr. Eleanor Walker, Radiation Oncologist

click on title of article to see the video.  

For an article about the study click here.  

Thursday, August 07, 2008

American Cancer Society study finds high use of complementary methods among cancer survivors

Public release date: 4-Aug-2008
[ Print Article | E-mail Article | Close Window ]

Contact: David Sampson
American Cancer Society

American Cancer Society study finds high use of complementary methods among cancer survivors

A new study from researchers at the American Cancer Society finds many cancer patients use complementary and alternative methods, most often prayer, relaxation, supplements, meditation, and massage. Meanwhile, the use of other methods, such as biofeedback, homeopathy, and acupressure, are relatively uncommon. The study, appearing in the American Cancer Society peer review journal CANCER, also finds women, younger survivors, whites, individuals with higher income, and those with more education were more likely to use complementary methods (CM).

The study confirmed the findings of previous surveys that found cancer patients use the same complementary methods used among the general population and among people with other chronic diseases, such as spiritual practices, relaxation methods, and dietary supplements. "Our study found that several CM types are used by nearly half of cancer survivors," said Ted Gansler, M.D., American Cancer Society and study co-author. "Surprisingly, other methods such as acupuncture and hypnosis were used by fewer than 2% of cancer survivors, even though recent studies found them to be useful in relieving some cancer-related symptoms, such as pain. We also found that the use of various CM types is significantly influenced by gender, race, age, education, cancer type, and how far the cancer had spread."

Previous studies on the use of complementary methods have relied on data from patients at a single or a few centers, which seldom provide nationally representative samples. Those studies have used small sample sizes, have focused on a single or few cancer types, and have involved patients in active treatment. For the current study, researchers used data from more than 4,000 survivors of ten different cancers participating in the American Cancer Society's Study of Cancer Survivors-I (SCS-I) who were surveyed 10 to 24 months after diagnosis. Survivors were asked if they had used any of 19 CMs to deal with their cancer. The CMs most frequently reported were prayer/spiritual practice (61.4%), relaxation (44.3%), faith/spiritual healing (42.4%), nutritional supplements/vitamins (40.1%), meditation (15%), religious counseling (11.3%), massage (11.2%), and support groups (9.7%). The least prevalent CMs were hypnosis (0.4%), biofeedback therapy (1.0%), and acupuncture/acupressure (1.2%).

The study also found cancer type was a significant predictor of CM use. Melanoma and kidney cancer survivors were least likely to use CMs, whereas breast and ovarian cancer survivors were most likely to use them.

Alex writes: My eye immediately went to the poor showing of acupuncture and the discussion that follows. "Surprisingly, other methods such as acupuncture and hypnosis were used by fewer than 2% of cancer survivors, even though recent studies found them to be useful in relieving some cancer-related symptoms, such as pain." So the evidence is good for its use but it is not used much. I don't exactly know what to make of this finding. Whatever the case there is a tremendous benefit to improving quality of life, recovery from chemotherapy and radiation and even improving the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation with acupuncture and herbs. Anyone else have a read on this?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Vaccines, Immune Function and Disease

Endotoxins and vaccines may, unexpectedly, trigger the immune system to prevent cancer. The evidence in this article is interesting, and compelling. Click on the title of the article to follow the link.

Many believers in alternative medicine, especially many of our patients, devoutly avoid vaccinations. The point of this article is not to argue the pros and cons of vaccinations but to review some fascinating data on immune function and disease.

Before scientists knew that endotoxins in cow manure dust stimulated the immune system and lowered risk of lung cancer, they already knew of another dust that was protective. Back in the 1970s, data showed that people working in cotton factories had a lower risk of lung cancer. Cotton dust, like cow manure, contains endotoxins.

Harvey Checkoway at the University of Washington has published a series of papers about this. He and his colleagues have followed the cancer rates of female cotton textile workers in Shanghai, China, for years. The more dust these women breathed, the lower their incidence of cancers. Note that I wrote the plural – cancers. The women had a lower risk for several cancer types including pancreatic, liver, lung and breast cancer.

Not all dust is protective. For example, workers in paper mills are at greater than average risk for cancer. This increase might be due to the dust or because of exposure to some chemicals used in the mill. Similar increased risk occurs in hard-metal workers.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Antacids for indigestion

If you’re about to reach for that bottle of antacids after the Christmas blow-out - think again. New research suggests that the world’s most popular drugs, used for heartburn and indigestion, can double the risk of pneumonia.

This is because these drugs suppress gastric acids, thereby allowing viruses and bacteria in the upper gastrointestinal tract to migrate up into the respiratory tract. read the whole study.

This comes from an English website called what Doctors Won't tell you. There is a lot of interesting information on this site.

Alex says: Antacids do a whole lot more than increase the potential for infection. They block the breakdown of proteins and inhibit mineral absorption (not good if you have osteoporosis). There are other ways to handle reflux that get at the root of the inflammatory problem without just symptomatically covering up the problem

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Vitamin D May Help Patients Survive Cancer

Vitamin D May Help Patients Survive Cancer

New Report Suggests Sunshine Vitamin May Have Significant Cancer Benefits


When Joanna Fuchs was diagnosed with colon cancer last year, a blood test revealed she was severely deficient in vitamin D.

Natural sunlight is one way you can get vitamin D.
(Jean Desy/First Light/Getty Images)

"I was obviously very concerned and very worried," Fuchs said.

So, too, was her husband, Dr. Charles Fuchs of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, who is the senior author of a study published today that found colon cancer patients deficient in vitamin D were almost twice as likely to die over a 10-year period than patients with healthy levels of the nutrient.

"These findings make considerable sense," Dr. Fuchs said, "because in the laboratory we find that vitamin D reduces the growth of colon cancer cells, prevents its spread to other organs, and actually reduces the growth of blood vessels to these tumors."


Fuchs' work is just the latest in a wave of new studies on vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a greater risk of autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. It has also been linked to a doubling of heart attack risk among men, a 73 percent greater risk of dying from breast cancer, and more frequent asthma attacks among children.

"Vitamin D seems to be very helpful in making your immune system do what it is supposed to do," Dr. Tanya Edwards, director of Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

The government recommends getting 200 to 600 international units of vitamin D a day. But those levels were set 11 years ago, primarily to keep bones healthy. To prevent other diseases, many researchers now say more is needed.

Alex's comment: I recommend 2000 IU's and if you have an autoimmune disease 5,000 Iu's. It is a cheap add on to a blood test and well worth getting checked out.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Acupuncture For Surgical Pain

Reported June 30, 2008

Acupuncture for Surgical Pain

Click a viewing speed on the right to watch Acupuncture for Surgical Pain!
Click here to watch Acupuncture for Surgical Pain in low speed: Use with an Internet connection using a modem.
Click here to watch Acupuncture for Surgical Pain in high speed: Use with a broadband Internet connection.
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DURHAM, N.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- For centuries, acupuncture has been used for its pain-relieving benefits. Now, doctors are using the therapy in a setting where pain management is crucial -- during surgery.

Lauren Hennessey is being prepped for surgery. And along with drugs to numb the pain, she's getting acupuncture. Duke University anesthesiologist TJ Gan said acupuncture sparks the release of endorphins and other natural pain killers in the body, making pain medication work more effectively.

"We have found that by using acupuncture, you can potentially reduce the amount of painkillers that you otherwise would need to use during surgery,” Dr. Gan told Ivanhoe. “Some studies suggest that accupuncture can also reduce the amount of anesthetic that you need to provide for the patients."

And fewer drugs mean fewer side effects.

"I never vomited,” Hennessey said. “I was nauseous for very shortly and my pain was very minimal."

Dr. Gan said the pain relieving benefits of pre-operative acupuncture may last far longer than the effects of any drugs.

"There is evidence to suggest that if you control the pain well during surgery, not only does it benefit the patient immediately post-operatively, but there is also increasing evidence to suggest that this will prevent longer-term pain problems," Dr. Gan said.

But even with the growing body of evidence of its benefits, Dr. Gan said acupuncture should only be used as a complement to traditional anesthesia.

"For most of the conditions, I think we still need powerful drugs to control pain, but I think acupuncture would be a very useful addition to that regimen," Dr. Gan said.

Dr. Gan said he targets both universal and localized acupuncture points in patients, depending on the part of body that will be affected by the surgery. Acupuncture for surgery pain is also used at Yale, Stanford and Massachusetts General, among others.

Acupuncture for Surgical Pain -- Research Summary

BACKGROUND: The ancient Chinese art of acupuncture can be traced back to the Stone Age. Stone acupuncture needles from 3000 B.C. were discovered by archaeologists in Mongolia. The art has come a long way from there, but the principles remain the same. Based on the principles of yin and yang, the theory is that the thin needles (0.18 millimeters to 0.51 millimeters thick) create a balance between blood and energy to relieve pain. The technique has been theorized to treat a wide array of ailments, ranging from stress to indigestion to infertility, but there has been little evidence to support these claims, making it a controversial technique in the medical community, but recent clinical studies have produced results convincing some of the world's brightest minds to believe there may be some science behind the technique for certain conditions.

NEEDLES RELIEVING PAIN? During surgery, anesthesia and pain-killing medications are often used to make patients comfortable and make invasive surgery possible. After surgery, patients are often left with post-operative pain requiring additional medication. These drugs, ranging from narcotics to opioids, can cause unpleasant side effects like nausea, vomiting, constipation and hallucinations. A 2007 study out of Duke University Medical Center suggests acupuncture may reduce patients' post-operative pain, therefore reducing the amount of painkillers needed.

After analyzing 15 studies on acupuncture for surgical pain, Duke researchers found performing acupuncture before or during certain operations reported significantly less pain afterwards than patients who did not receive acupuncture. The patients also required less painkillers after surgery, thereby reducing related side effects. Acupuncture patients experienced 1.5 times lower rates of nausea, 1.6 times fewer reports of dizziness and 3.5 times fewer cases of urinary retention compared to the other patients, the study found; however, it was used as a compliment to traditional surgical anesthesia and painkillers -- not a replacement.

CONVINCING FOR SOME: While many will continue to discredit the controversial practice, T.J. Gan, M.D., vice chair of the department of anesthesiology at Duke University School of Medicine, is convinced it's right for some cases. "There has been a fair amount of evidence both in animals and humans that stimulating the acupuncture points can result in the release of body own pain killers systems such endorphins and enkephalins," Dr. Gan told Ivanhoe.

"The acupuncture needs to be inserted about half an hour to 45 minutes before surgery because it typically takes about five or 10 minutes for the body to start releasing some of these pain killing effects of the acupuncture," Dr. Gan explained. "We typically maintain the acupuncture throughout the surgery to the end of surgery. And during that period there is the release of body’s own endorphins."

Acupuncture programs are also in place at Yale, Stanford, Bringham and Women's and Massachusetts General Hospital, among others.


Melissa Schwarting

Senior Media Relations Strategist

Duke University Medical Center

(919) 660-1303

Alex's comment: It is much easier to treat pain before it starts than chase it afterwards. This is true with medication and as this article demonstrates with acupuncture too. For my patients that are going into surgery there are homeopathics that can be safely taken prior to surgery that are very beneficial in reducing or even eliminating the use of pain medications afterwards. Send me an email if you would like my pre and post surgery protocols.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Chinese medical herbs for chemotherapy side effects in colorectal cancer patients

Plain language summary
Chinese herbal medicines are widely used to counteract the side-effects of chemotherapy in patients being treated for cancer. As yet, there is no clear evidence that herbal medicines are effective in this role. We have performed a systematic review of the potential benefits of Chinese herbal medicines in patients being treated with chemotherapy for colorectal cancer. We identified four relevant studies, which included a total of 342 patients, with adequately reported data. We conclude that, from the limited information available, there is some evidence of benefit from decoctions of Huangqi compounds. Compared with patients treated by chemotherapy alone, patients treated with chemotherapy and Huangqi decoctions were less likely to experience nausea and vomiting or low white cell counts. There was some evidence to suggest that the decoctions also stimulated cells of the immune system, but did not affect the levels of antibodies in the blood. We could find no evidence of harm arising from the use of Huangqi decoctions. Our results suggest that further, larger-scale, trials of the use of Huangqi decoctions in the prevention of chemotherapy-related side-effects are needed.

For the whole Cochrane Review click on the title of the article

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Breast Cancer in Pregnancy: Chemo OK

Researchers Say Aggressive Treatment Is Safe for the Babies of Pregnant Women
By Salynn Boyles
WebMD Medical News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 18, 2008 -- Facing a diagnosis of breast cancer is challenging enough, but facing breast cancer during pregnancy can be nothing short of devastating.

Can I have chemotherapy? Will the treatment hurt my baby? New research helps to answer these questions, and the findings should serve to reassure patients and their doctors.

In a German study examining outcomes among 122 pregnant breast cancer patients, researchers concluded that pregnant patients can often be treated as aggressively as non-pregnant patients, with little evidence of ill effects to their babies.

The findings were presented this week at the 6th European Breast Cancer Conference in Berlin.

Sibylle Loibl, MD, of the University of Frankfurt, tells WebMD that it is now clear that most pregnant breast cancer patients do have options.

"The evidence now shows that women who are pregnant are often good candidates for standard breast cancer treatments," she says.

For the rest of the story click on the title of the post.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cancer Pain

This comes from Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, a really wonderful M.D. whom I have seen speak.

Dear Reader,

Besides concerns related to dying, the main fears and problems facing people with cancer are the fear of pain and the fear of social isolation. The latter often occurs because people are afraid to talk about death and dying, and therefore have trouble being present with those with cancer. Because of this, I encourage you to let those you know with cancer talk about their feelings, fears, concerns and hopes. It is not as necessary to offer them hope and reasons for optimism (though these can be helpful after they've shared their feelings) as it is to let them express how they feel and know they've been heard. A simple hug after hearing them out (or even crying with them) can be very healing and set the stage for healing.

I personally believe that death here is simply a rebirth elsewhere (whether one chooses to call it heaven or another name) and is not the enemy—simply a transition to be made when the time is right. For those who hold this belief and a belief in God, talking about this can also be healing. For those who do not believe in an afterlife, a key is letting the person know how they have positively impacted your life, that they are loved, and that they will be remembered lovingly—while giving both the person and the listener the chance to share whatever feelings are present (even if this means "clearing the air"). In this way, they know they will live on in the memories of those who love them. Either way, let them know they will not be alone, and that you will be their advocate to be sure they stay pain free. At the same time, take care of yourself as well (see "Caring for the Caregiver in Chronic Illness").

Let me make a simple statement. It is never acceptable for cancer patients to be in ongoing pain, and the treatments discussed in this article and my book "Pain Free 1-2-3" can be very helpful in eliminating cancer pain. In addition, cancers that physicians have no treatment for are often still very treatable.

Read more »

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Preventing Cancer Is More Possible Than You Think

By Hillary M. Wright, M.Ed., R.D., L.D.N., Harvard Health Publications
Harvard Health Publications//Harvard Medical School

2Next >

A recent survey by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) found nearly half of Americans think that preventing cancer is either impossible or highly unlikely. This is despite the belief that cancer is our number one health concern. The survey also found that Americans' awareness of several proven links between diet and cancer remains alarmingly low.

  • Only 49% were aware that diets low in fruits and vegetables increase cancer risk.
  • Only 46% cited obesity as a risk factor for cancer.
  • Only 37% knew of alcohol's link to cancer.
  • Only 36% were aware of the link between diets high in red meat — particularly processed meat — and cancer.

At the same time, Americans are increasingly likely to attribute cancer to factors that lack a proven link to the disease. For example:

  • 71% view pesticide residue on produce as a carcinogen.
  • 58% see food additives as causing cancer.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

N-Acetylcysteine prevents ifosfamide-induced nephrotoxicity in rats

British Journal of Pharmacology (2008) 153, 1364–1372; doi:10.1038/bjp.2008.15; published online 18 February 2008

Ifosfamide nephrotoxicity is a serious adverse effect for children undergoing cancer chemotherapy. Our recent in vitro studies have shown that the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC), which is used extensively as an antidote for paracetamol (acetaminophen) poisoning in children, protects renal tubular cells from ifosfamide-induced toxicity at a clinically relevant concentration. To further validate this observation, an animal model of ifosfamide-induced nephrotoxicity was used to determine the protective effect of NAC.

NAC is a common nutrient that I often use to thin mucous secretions for people with colds, and to help balance the immune system for autoimmune conditions.

For more information about this abstract as always click on the title of the post.

For detailed information about NAC and many other herbs and supplements click on the Memorial Sloane Kettering website. Here you will find monographs, with footnotes and their studies. Good stuff

Friday, April 18, 2008

Acupuncture relieves hot flushes in breast cancer patients taking tamoxifen

Berlin, Germany: Acupuncture provides effective relief from hot flushes in women who are being treated with the anti-oestrogen tamoxifen following surgery for breast cancer, according to new research presented today (Friday) at the 6th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-6) in Berlin.

Mrs Jill Hervik, a physiotherapist and acupuncturist at the Vestfold Central Hospital (T�nsberg, Norway), told a news briefing that breast cancer patients who received traditional Chinese acupuncture had a 50% reduction in hot flushes, both during the day and the night, and that this effect continued after the acupuncture ceased.

Other recent post-breast cancer acupuncture studies:
Randomized, controlled trial of acupuncture for the treatment of hot flashes in breast cancer patients.

search for more studies.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

PBS Documentary: The Truth About Cancer

About the Program


Emmy Award-Winning Filmmaker Linda Garmon Takes on the Question "How Far Have We Come in the War on Cancer?"

News Journalist and Cancer Survivor Linda Ellerbee
Hosts Post-Broadcast Panel Discussion

What is the truth about cancer? Is it the same deadly killer it was 30 years ago - or are we making progress? Find out through the poignant stories of patients battling the disease. Written, produced, and directed by award-winning filmmaker Linda Garmon, The Truth About Cancer premieres nationally on PBS Wednesday, April 16, at 9:00pm ET (check local listings). Comprised of a 90-minute documentary followed by a 30-minute panel discussion, the two-hour broadcast event takes a deep look inside the cancer field gauging how far we have come in this decades-old war and asking, "Why does anyone still die of cancer?"

There is a lot of information here in addition to the documentary itself that is worth checking out, particularly the Resources section.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Will Chinese Medicine Help Basketball Star Yao Ming?

The decision of NBA superstar Yao Ming to head to China to seek traditional Chinese medical treatment for his stress fracture has orthopedic physicians and traditional medicine experts at odds over whether the healing techniques will do any good.

Basketball star Yao Ming has returned to his home country of China, reportedly to seek traditional treatments for a stress fracture in his foot.
(ABC News Photo Illustration)

The 27-year-old, 7-foot-6 all-star center for the Houston Rockets was forced out of the season by a stress fracture in his left foot — specifically, a crack in the tarsal navicular bone, between the ankle joint and the middle of his foot.

Yao underwent surgery early last month when surgeons inserted a screw to stabilize the bone. Doctors involved with the surgery reported that the procedure was successful and that Yao would begin an aggressive rehabilitation program once he was up to it.

The surgery carries with it a normal downtime of four months. But it appears Yao is also looking to traditional Chinese medicine — a system that includes acupuncture and herbal remedies — to help speed his healing. On Friday, the Associated Press reported that Yao had arrived back in his home country to consult with the nation's top experts.

For the rest of the story and to read the differing opinions from medical experts click on the title of the article.

I think what is interesting here is the preliminary scientific research, the long empirical history of the use of traditional Chinese Medicine and the Western Doctor not knowing anything about it. This is a typical pattern. Plus think about this: Yao does not have anything to lose by doing TCM. He can do his rehab exercises anywhere. To spend a bit of time taking herbs, and getting acupuncture has very little downside. And of course following his own culture's medicine has the added benefit of a very strong placebo effect (not to mention home cooking). This is not to be discounted. If the normal recovery time is 4 months for his injury and he feels he can shorten that with TCM treatment, than that idea alone is very important. This is true in all human endeavors particularly medicine. It will be interesting to see in Yao's case if he is actually able to shorten his recovery time. Let's see what happens.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Why Is Some Alternative Medicine Still Alternative?

Despite significant research showing the benefits of some complementary and alternative treatments such as acupuncture, they are still considered outside the mainstream...

Follow the link to the audio podcast from Dr. Michael Wilkes. He does a weekly commentary on politics and ethics in medicine on KCRW.

Good stuff!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Prescription drugs found in drinking water across U.S.

(AP) -- A vast array of pharmaceuticals -- including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones -- have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.


Officials in Philadelphia say testing there discovered 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in treated drinking water.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs -- and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen -- in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas -- from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit, Michigan, to Louisville, Kentucky.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Acupuncture Regulates Many Aspects of The Immune System as Measured in the Blood

Acupuncture Regulates Leukocyte Subpopulations in Human Peripheral Blood

Acupuncture has recently been attracting more and more people throughout the world as an alternative treatment, however little is known about its physiological activities (i.e. immune system). We examined acupuncture both quantitatively and qualitatively by measuring CD-positive cell counts and cytokine expression levels in the blood, to determine the activity of T cells, B cells, macrophages and natural killer (NK) cells. Fifteen milliliters of peripheral blood obtained from 17 healthy volunteers aged 21–51 years, were analyzed using flow cytometry before and after acupuncture treatment. There was a statistically significant increase in the number of CD2+, CD4+, CD8+, CD11b+, CD16+, CD19+, CD56+ cells as well as IL-4, IL-1β and IFN-{gamma} levels in the cells after acupuncture stimulation of meridian points. These observations indicate that acupuncture may regulate the immune system and promote the activities of humoral and cellular immunity as well as NK cell activity. In this article, we discussed how acupuncture regulated leukocyte numbers and functions since they are considered to be potential indicators for evaluating complementary and alternative medicine.

For the full text article click here

Acupuncture shines in this kind of basic research of objective changes. Acupuncture is amazing. Can sticking a needle in the skin really have all these effects? Apparently, Yes it can!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cancer and the Bacterial Connection

A very interesting article. I have seen this phenomena in a patient of mine. Whenever she caught a cold her tumor burden would drop significantly.

Cancer and the bacterial connection

Lee Bloomquist / Associated Press
Exposure to high levels of manure dust is linked to decreased incidence of lung cancer among dairy farmers, Italian studies have found. The flip side: Respiratory problems are common.
Germs may actually help our bodies fight tumors -- which means an infection-free lifestyle comes at a price
By Brendan Borrell, Special to The Times
February 18, 2008
IN the 1890s, a New York surgeon named William Coley tested a radical cancer treatment. He took a hypodermic needle teeming with bacteria and plunged it into the flesh of patients.

After suffering through weeks of chills and fevers, many showed significant regression of their tumors, but even Coley himself could not explain the phenomenon.

His experiments were sparked by the observation that certain cancer patients improved after contracting infections. One patient experienced regression in a tumor in her arm after developing Saint Anthony's fire, a streptococcus skin infection.

Doctors at the time considered Coley's bacterial mixtures to be more black magic than medicine, and with the advent of radiation therapy, the well-meaning doctor was soon consigned to the annals of quackery.

But today, some scientists think Coley had it right: Germs can teach our bodies how to fight back against tumors. Dr. John Timmerman, a cancer immunotherapy expert at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center, says this revolution has produced "the most exciting sets of compounds in cancer immunology."

These scientists have not yet proved their case. But new studies are revealing that certain cancers may be reduced by exposure to disease-causing bacteria and viruses, and pharmaceutical companies are testing anticancer treatments that capitalize on the concept by using bacterial elements to boost the body's natural immunity.

The studies also imply that our cleaner, infection-free lifestyles may be contributing to the rise in certain cancers over the last 50 years, scientists say, because they make the immune system weaker or less mature. Germs cause disease but may also fortify the body, a notion summed up in a 2006 report by a team of Canadian researchers as "whatever does not kill me makes me stronger."

Almost a century after Coley, in the 1980s, dermatologists began noticing that patients with severe acne, which is caused by another type of bacterium, have reduced rates of skin cancer, lymphoma and leukemia. According to a paper by Dr. Mohammad Namazi at the Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in Iran, studies showed that these bacteria, when injected into animals, appear to stimulate the immune system and shrink tumors.

More recent evidence for this phenomenon comes from studies on cotton and livestock workers, who are constantly breathing endotoxins, a component of bacterial cell walls that causes swelling of lung tissue.

In reports published in the last two years, Harvey Checkoway, a University of Washington epidemiologist, has found that female cotton workers in Shanghai have a 40% to 60% lower risk of lung, breast, and pancreas cancer than other factory workers.

Other recent studies by Giuseppe Mastrangelo at the University of Padua in Italy found that dairy farmers exposed to high levels of manure dust are up to five times less likely to develop lung cancer than their colleagues who work in open fields.

For the dairy farmers and cotton workers, "it's good news and bad news," Checkoway says. They have lower rates of cancer but tend to have higher rates of other respiratory problems. Sniffing cotton dust or inducing pimples is never going to be a therapy, he says, but studying the body's reactions to bacteria could explain why cancer rates go down upon endotoxin exposure. And that might help in developing anticancer drugs.

Dr. Arthur Krieg, chief scientific officer of the Boston-based Coley Pharmaceutical Group, thinks the success of Coley's toxins comes largely from a difference between DNA of humans and bacteria and viruses.

In 1995, Krieg was at the University of Iowa working with strands of DNA created in the lab, hoping to find a way to turn off genes involved in the autoimmune disease lupus. To his surprise, this DNA stimulated the immune cells he was studying in lab dishes. "I got interested, and I got puzzled," he says.

His synthetic DNA contained several regions called CpGs. In humans, that region has a kind of chemical "cap" on it, but bacteria -- and Krieg's synthetic DNA -- lack that cap. Thus, in effect, exposure to that CpG makes the body "think" it's being assaulted by pathogens, and triggers the immune system to shift into attack mode -- and, in doing so, more effectively battle cancer cells.

Krieg saw medical potential: Maybe one could design small drugs with CpGs in them and use them as immunity boosters. After patenting the method, he left his university job and founded Coley Pharmaceutical Group, which was acquired by the New York-based drug company Pfizer in January.

Five years after his discovery, Krieg's first compound has proved safe in early trials but has not yet been proved effective. Last year, the injected compound failed to increase survival time in a trial of 1,600 lung cancer patients also undergoing chemotherapy. But Krieg thinks it will prove effective in other patients: "It's just a matter of finding the right way to use it," he says.

Timmerman is a strong believer in CpGs, and has been using them with the antibody drug Rituximab in his lab research on mice. Finding the right drug combination is key, he says: "It's very naive to think that a single off-the-shelf immune stimulant is going to magically treat cancer."

Krieg's CpG-based chemicals have proved useful in another arena. Because CpGs boost the immune system, they also can enhance certain vaccines. In a trial sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, one of Krieg's chemicals, VaxImmune, accelerated the body's response to anthrax vaccine by a factor of two -- from 40 days to 20. Other collaborations are exploring using CpG-containing DNA to develop hepatitis B vaccines and anti-asthmatic drugs. (The company has many CpG compounds, four in clinical trials.)

But Don MacAdam, chief executive of MBVax Bioscience in Ancaster, Canada, is not sure that the healing properties of Coley's fluids are due to a short strand of DNA. "The immune system is very complicated," he says, "Any of these therapies that are doing one little thing are very likely to fail."

And so MacAdam wants to revive the formulation that Coley himself found most effective -- a mixture of two kinds of bacteria, Streptococcus and Serratia. Such an extract would contain naturally occurring CpGs, endotoxins and other bacterial components that may have therapeutic potential.

MacAdam has solved Coley's major difficulty: maintaining consistency of the brew from batch to batch. His preparation has been tested on terminal cancer patients outside the U.S. and Canada, and he contends that 24 in 38 patients have shown signs of tumor regression, although nothing is published yet. Dr. Vikas Sukhatme, a professor at Harvard Medical School, says he hopes to run clinical trials once the product has been manufactured according to Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

Other groups have been experimenting with injections of other types of heat-killed bacteria, including Myobacterium vaccae, a tuberculosis relative. In two studies in January's European Journal of Cancer, researchers report that these bacteria may help fight certain lung and renal cancers.

The first study is a reanalysis of a trial with 162 patients who received heat-killed bacteria (and chemotherapy). In the original study, the treatment didn't seem to improve survival and in 2004, the company developing the therapy, London-based Silence Therapeutics, gave up on Mycobacterium.

But John Stanford, a shareholder in the company and a researcher at University College London, says these studies were poorly designed and analyzed. When he and collaborators re-analyzed the results, they found that Mycobacterium injections could increase survival of adenocarcinoma patients by four months. Stanford believes that part of the bacterial cell wall switches the body from producing ineffective antibodies to sending out cancer-killing blood cells.

In the second study, researchers reported that 60 renal cancer patients injected with Myobacterium survived just as long as those treated with standard chemotherapy.

Stanford has formed a company, Immodulon Therapeutics, and wants to run trials with a stricter and more intense injection regime, to repeat the results and, hopefully, extend patients' lives longer.

Although both Krieg and Timmerman are inspired by Coley's work, they question the philosophy behind reviving Coley's preparation and using other bacterial extracts. But, Krieg says, "as a physician you have to maintain a sense of humility and avoid being overly skeptical."

Dr. Revicis Approach to Cancer

The following comes from a newsletter written by Dr. Harold Kristal. He was a practicing dentist who became very interested in Metabollic nutrition. Dr. Kristal's book and work is not original but it synthesizes systems of metabolic typing. In other words, defining the right type of diet for the individual based upon their individualized metabolism.

Approximately twelve years ago, I had a chance to meet the late great Romanian physician Dr. Emanuel Revici at a gathering in San Francisco to honor his extraordinary research work. Dr. Revici, who developed the theory of anabolic and catabolic imbalances as a factor in disease progression, was a genius whose monumental contribution to medicine and to our understanding of the disease process has yet to be widely recognized. Recently I had a chance to meet with Dr. Revici’s niece, Elena Avram, who is proudly carrying on her uncle’s work at the Revici Metropolitan Center in New York City. She gave me a copy of The Doctor Who Cures Cancer by William Kelley Eidem, a book about Dr. Revici’s work, as well as a short monograph titled Cancer: Causes and Implications for Treatment that she herself had written summarizing Dr. Revici’s observations about the pathogenesis and progression of cancer. I will be drawing primarily on this short essay in the following discussion of Dr. Revici’s research, and how it dovetails with my own work on Metabolic Typing.

There is a widespread bias among alternative health practitioners favoring anabolic processes over catabolic ones. This, however, is an oversimplification that Dr. Revici went to great pains to clarify. Both processes are vital to the survival of the organism, and need to be in proper balance for optimal health to be maintained. A persistent anabolic imbalance is equally undesirable as a persistent catabolic imbalance. In fact, up until the shock or terminal phase, the progression of cancer is marked by an imbalance of anabolic factors, which push the cell in the direction of unregulated growth, beyond the original need of the body to heal itself from the damage caused by the initiating insult. It is only in the shock phase that the catabolic processes start to dominate the anabolic, and the organism begins to break down at a systemic level. However, even at this stage, the cancer process itself remains anabolic; but it has so deranged and destabilized the metabolism that the body systemically begins a downward catabolic spiral.

Conventional treatment focuses exclusively on destroying the cancerous cells, but in so doing it fails to address the underlying anabolic imbalance that set the stage for the development of the cancerous condition in the first place. It is well known that cancerous cells are found in most healthy middle aged or elderly people, but they are usually kept in check or destroyed by a well-functioning immune system. It is only where an anabolic imbalance persists, or when the various lines of defense between the different levels of bodily organizational are compromised, that cancer can take hold and spread. An effective treatment protocol must therefore address the underlying imbalances if it is to have a reliable success rate.

This bias in favor of the anabolic in alternative health circles parallels another widespread misunderstanding that I constantly encounter in teaching my own Metabolic Typing work to other health practitioners. There is a widespread belief abroad that most people are too acid and need to be alkalized. In point of fact, an overly alkaline condition (as measured at the level of the blood pH) is almost as common as an overly acid condition (acid and alkaline being here defined relative to the perceived ideal venous blood pH of 7.46, as defined by the groundbreaking work of George Watson, Ph.D.). Furthermore an overly alkaline condition can have equally dire consequences as an overly acid condition in terms of disease progression.

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I have used Dr. Revici's instrument to analyze anabolic vs. Catabolic metabolism and to metabolically type patients in the development of specific nutrition plans. This is another valuable piece.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cancer Experts: Don't Look To Supplements For Cancer Protection

Experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) said that whole foods, and not dietary supplements, play a role in lowering cancer risk. Citing a huge and comprehensive AICR report on cancer prevention, the panel of experts cautioned against relying on pills and powders as a means of protection.

"When the panel examined the accumulated evidence from almost 50 different supplement trials, cohort studies and case-control studies, the results were simply too inconsistent to justify using supplements to protect against cancer," said AICR Nutrition Advisor Karen Collins, MS, RD

Under certain conditions, some high-dose supplements seemed protective at specific doses, some did nothing, and some actually increased the risk of cancer. In contrast, the research was much more consistent when the AICR expert panel examined over 440 studies on cancer risk and foods that contained specific vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. These widely different results led them to conclude: "Dietary supplements are not recommended for cancer prevention."

For the rest of the story click here