Have I been deceived, too?

We’re back in Florence from our holiday in Austria (we got back last weekend, actually), and I’m trying to catch up with a million different things, including laundry…but a few days ago a big translation plopped into my lap. So my plan of sifting through my photos and posting about our trip has been postponed…until I get some of this big beastie translated, at least…

But I just read an article, a very negative article, about curcumin, one that I couldn’t ignore. It was published recently in the “Scientific American.” Curcumin is actually defined as a “deceptive spice extract.”

Deceptive? You’ve got to be kidding me. I was absolutely stunned…still am.

Where, in this review, will I find an explanation for my having managed to stay away from conventional treatments for multiple myeloma thus far (more than 10 years after my SMM diagnosis), in spite of being at high risk for progression?

Where will I find the explanation for the disappearance of my rosacea…although I am still prone to blushing easily (but hey, the horrendous pustules disappeared years ago, and my skin is smooth and soft).

And how would this review explain a host of other side effects that have made my life so much more comfortable? Just to mention one other thing: my recurrent, painful vaginal yeast infections completely disappeared after I began taking curcumin. I have written about this…

Oh wait, then there’s my familial hypercholesterolemia, which used to be really, REALLY, bad. My cholesterol levels aren’t back to normal, but I’ve reached the point where my family doctor has me tested only once a year.

Placebo effect for all this? Not according to my doctors…

But I felt I couldn’t simply ignore this article. After all, I don’t ONLY read and post about positive stuff about curcumin, That would be really silly of me. I mean, hello???, I don’t want to be taking something that will harm me!!!

So even though I think this article is potentially dangerous, in the sense that it might discourage people from taking curcumin, I decided to post about it. Here’s the link, by the way: goo.gl/iJSTLO

What do YOU think???

Cats and presents!

Oh, this is such an adorable video for anyone who has cats…and also for anyone who doesn’t have cats, come to think of it! 😉 Note: not my cats, btw! 

Okay, must get ready to leave now. Again, Happy Holidays to everyone…BUONE FESTE!!!!!

A new Italian study on the role of inflammation in myeloma progression

Well, since I have a gazillion things to do before leaving, I was going to forget about blogging until next year 😎 , but this morning a just-published Italian study caught my eye, and I just had to write about it: goo.gl/77intB

In a nutshell, the study proves that inflammation and the evolution of myeloma are closely connected. This is not entirely a surprise. I mean, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the word “myeloma” mentioned in the same sentence as “inflammation.”

But I found this study amazingly interesting and worth much more than a cursory look. So I’ll do my best to report on it, considering I’m a bit distracted (by the above-mentioned gazillion things 😉 ) at the moment…Please forgive me for any repetitions, etc.

This group of Italian researchers came up with and analyzed a short list of twenty genes, eventually identifying eight genes that showed there were clear differences between MGUS, SMM, and MM. These genes were also associated with MM patients’ survival: IFNG, IL2, CCL2, LTA, and CCL3, VEGF.

The “bad” ones are the last two, CCL3 and VEGFA, which are linked with inflammation in the bone marrow microenvironment (BMM) and with a host of negative occurrences (MM cell survival, etc.). Bottom line: patients with a high expression of these two genes have a worse prognosis.

And here is a very interesting bit of info: compared to MGUS, in MM these two genes were consistently upregulated. That means that they are not (consistenly upregulated) in MGUS…

The “good” genes, that is those linked to a MM patient’s longer survival, are IFNG, IL-2, CCL2, and LTA.

The patients who lived the longest had high levels of Th1 cytokines (the above-listed IFNG, CCL2, IL-2) and low levels of CCL3 and VEGFA. Oh boy, now I am getting into deep water. I just spent about an hour trying to write a simple explanation of how all this stuff works and so on, what all the acronyms mean (LTA stands for lymphotoxin-alpha, e.g.), but it got to be too complicated and involved, so I threw it into the trash. I’m no scientist, after all…

Let’s forget about trying to understand every single detail of the study. After all, what really matters is for us to GET the main concept.

Basically, the process has to do with proinflammatory responses, which are okay under normal circumstances (e.g. in the case of a viral attack), but not under others. Indeed, too much of a proinflammatory response can be damaging. In the words of the researchers, “inflammation has a critical role in MM patient progression and survival.”

IMPORTANT: the MM patients who survived longer also had high albumin, low B2-microglobulin and low CRP (C-reactive protein) levels. To a significant degree. Food for thought!

And this paragraph provides more food for thought: “Although lacking the clinical features of symptomatic disease, both MGUS and sMM patients carry the same initial mutations and most of the chromosomal abnormalities of overt MM, suggesting that these events are necessary but not sufficient for disease progression. The evolution from MGUS to sMM and finally to MM relies on further complex conditions that include genomic instability, epigenetic and microenvironmental signals.” Well, well. Necessary but NOT SUFFICIENT.

And, further on, “MM cells grow and proliferate almost exclusively within the BM, where they produce an inflammatory/immunosuppressive milieu, which promotes disease progression, drug resistance, neo-angiogenesis, bone destruction and immune escape.”

The researchers “hypothesize that PCs progressively shift the BMM toward a pro-inflammatory and immunosuppressive shape, which drives disease evolution.” ( PCs are plasma cells, btw.)

Since not many conventional studies mention curcumin, but this one DOES, I thought I’d quote the entire passage: “Inflammation is an hallmark of cancer development. Indeed, different studies have already demonstrated a strong correlation between chronic inflammation and increased risk of cancer. Moreover, the chemopreventive role of aspirin and other NSAIDs has been clearly demonstrated. Along this line, recent clinical trials revealed a promising therapeutic activity of anti-inflammatory compounds such as aspirin and curcumin in both MGUS and sMM patients. Furthermore, inflammation could also reduce the activity of current anti-cancer treatment (both cytotoxic and immunotherapies), by impairing effective immune-response against tumor cells.”

The study highlights the best BMM conditions under which bortezomib, pomalidomide and other conventional drugs might be more effective. It also addresses the issue of its limitations—only certain genes were analyzed, etc. Those undergoing conventional treatments might want to check out and ask their specialists about that part…

Here’s the main thing I got from this study: REDUCE INFLAMMATION!!! And, of course, take curcumin…and perhaps aspirin, too.

Now I really must get going. Final thought: I hope everyone has a lovely and restful holiday. Take care!!! :-)

Happy Holidays!!!

img_20161219_0001Dear me, my poor, abandoned blog! Life just keeps getting in the way (of my doing research and/or writing for the blog, I mean)…piles of things to do, piles of work (translations, students…), piles of house-related projects…closely following the U.S. presidential elections (YIKESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!! Sorry, couldn’t help my horrified/terrified self…), and, well, having fun, too. :-)

Time just whizzes by, doesn’t it? 

Speaking of which, now I am getting ready to take off with Stefano for the Xmas holidays. Wait a sec, wasn’t it September just a week or so ago? How did Xmas sneak up on me? 😉

Until very recently, we didn’t have a cat sitter for the Xmas holiday, so we actually hadn’t planned to leave Florence. However, we got lucky almost at the last minute when I managed to find a highly recommended cat sitter who agreed to take on our family of 7 cats (plus one outside kitty to whom we give shelter and food). We’ve tested the cat sitter a few times, and she has done very well…

And so we’re driving to Austria for the holidays. We’re spending Xmas in Vienna and then New Year’s in Salzburg, where we will be joined by a couple of our best friends…Fantastic fun!

By the way, do you have any suggestions as to what we should see, do, eat in Vienna and/or Salzburg? Thanks!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS/TANTISSIMI AUGURI DI BUONE FESTE!!!!! And take care, everyone!

P.S. Sorry, today’s cartoon is really fuzzy (enlarging the original didn’t help at all!)…but I hope you can tell that the critters in front of (and on) the sleigh are kitties licking themselves, sleeping, and basically ignoring Santa. Typical. Anyway, I thought it was quite funny…. :-)

“Sometimes, whatever you do, things just don’t work out.”

I’ve been very busy in this period…and I have a couple of studies to post about, but I just can’t get to them…so it’s a bit frustrating. But there you go. Life gets in the way of the blog, sometimes…actually, often! :-) Anyway, today I decided to post the link to an absolutely fantastic BBC Earth video about the flame bowerbird’s (Papua New Guinea) strange and wacky, read: hugely entertaining!, courtship ritual.

I mean, check out those pupils! How does he do that??? Unbelievable. Never seen anything like it. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this video as much as I have: goo.gl/e0N5tL

Take care, everyone, and see you soon! Ciao!

Photobombing Pammy

_1160933Just a cute post today…

In sequence, here are some photos I took last week of Piccolo (my black and white male cat) and Pammy.

 

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I found them lying side by side on our bed, and for some odd reason they stayed in the same position even after I’d grabbed my camera (you know how cats can be…)…

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But while I was busily snapping photos, Pammy got up, stretched her legs and started slowly walking toward me…and then…PHOTOBOMB!!!!! :-)

For me, the funniest part of this sequence is that the expression on Piccolo’s face never changes…

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“Curcumin induces cell death of the main molecular myeloma subtypes, particularly the poor prognosis subgroups”

I’ve written so many posts–more than 1500 since 2007–that I often can’t remember if I’ve already written about something or…not. So very frustrating sometimes…

Case in point: this morning I came across what for me sounded like a “new” study, that is, a study I hadn’t read yet. But it dates to 2015. How could I have missed it? I couldn’t remember posting about it, and searching my blog yielded nothing, nada de nada…

So here I am, sitting in front of my computer, puzzled (I mean, the more I look at this study, the more I KNOW that I have read it before…but perhaps…ah yes that might be IT!…perhaps I neglected to post about it, verybadbadbadofme!) but also amused. The joke’s on me! I should probably keep a record of the studies I post about…Sounds like a great idea, but since I haven’t done it thus far, I probably won’t do it in the future, either…

Well, I suppose it’s better to post about a study TWICE than not to post about it at all, so here goes, without too many details, just in case I’ve written about all this before. 😉

The full study is available online for free: goo.gl/LuSij2

In a nutshell, what the Université de Nantes researchers did was test curcumin on a “large panel of human myeloma cell lines.” And that is very important, since previous studies had tested just a few of these lines. The researchers discovered that curcumin killed most MM cell lines, including poor prognosis ones. Very exciting…

The most important part, as far as we are concerned, is the researchers’ conclusion that “Altogether, these results support clinical trials including curcumin in association with standard therapy.” Especially since “chemoresistance remains a major challenge in myeloma treatment.”

Indeed,

Normandy and Brittany…Mont-Saint-Michel…

_1150614Well, it’s taken a long time (!), but I finally got around to editing my second, and last!, post on our AUGUST holiday in Normandy (and a piece of Brittany, too). Here goes…

Honfleur. An absolutely lovely little town. Pretty Medieval houses. Well worth a stop and a tea break. See first two photos.

Caen. The Medieval part of this city was almost entirely destroyed during World War II, but I still very much liked it, its liveliness,  lots of cafés and good eateries. Stefano, _1150569however, had eaten something he shouldn’t have (!) back in the city of Le Havre and spent more than 24 hours in our hotel bed, quite sick, poor dear. Food poisoning. Ugh. So he missed our walk around Caen. My photo no. 3 depicts the Abbaye aux Hommes. Take the guided visit…it was fantastic.

Bayeux. Its main claim to fame, deservedly so, is its amazing Tapestry, measuring 70 meters long and illustrating the events that led to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. It has survived, incredibly, more than nine centuries. How about that??? Highly recommended. By the way, definitely get the audio guide!

D-Day beaches. And it is here that I got sick again. This time with a high fever, more than 39° Celsius. So I don’t remember much about the beaches. I mostly slept in the rental car while Stefano and our two friends went exploring. My photos from _1150949that day are terrible. I wanted to get a shot of Omaha Beach with all the flags and the memorial…but I was too dazed to get more than this one of the Les Braves Memorial…I have to admit, I got quite emotional…

The following two days are a bit of a muddle, since I slept, mostly, in the car and then in the hotels where we stayed. And then, bam!, I was fine again. Stefano and I had even considered returning to Italy with our friends (who had to leave), but we decided to prolong our stay for another week…after all, the time we’d both been sick added up to almost a week…We wanted that week back!

_1160038By then we were in Rennes, Brittany. After saying goodbye to our friends, Stefano and I took a day trip to Carnac to have a look at the thousands of standing stones dating to the Neolithic. Very interesting, but, I have to admit, I am still madly in love with Avebury, near Salisbury, in southwest England. And that is that.

Still, Carnac has its own charm, too. And it is near the first site that we had the BEST crepes of our entire trip, so let me know if you are traveling in that area, and I’ll give you the name of the place…yummy!

_1160358In fact, that reminds me of a nice little story: after we had finished our crepes in this small, ancient farmhouse, our waitress asked us if we wanted anything else, but we were too stuffed so we declined. I proceeded to tell her, though, in my rusty French, that those were the best crepes we’d had in France. She looked amazingly pleased and thanked me over and over again…and then I overheard her telling the cooks in the kitchen. But it didn’t end there.

A short while later the head cook came out and THANKED me for my kind words. I was quite overwhelmed, overwhelmed in a good sense, of course._1160345

It really takes so little, a few words, a small gesture, to put a smile on someone’s face.

Food…or rather, crepes for thought. :-)

After Rennes, which is nothing to write home about (we stayed in a lovely little inexpensive hotel, though), we stayed in Saint-Malo for three nights. As it happened, our hotel was located outside the town walls…about a 20-25 minute walk from the town. Lucky us, since we didn’t care for the Saint-Malo at all…too touristy and crowded for us. That said, we _1160256had a nice rest there (with day trips to Dinard and Dinan, both very cute and worth a visit, especially Dinan.

But the promenade (see photo on the right, below) along the beach in Saint-Malo is indeed quite something. I remember walking back to our hotel after dinner one evening and hearing someone belting out a familiar Italian tune (not “O sole mio” but something similar).
And so we ran into a group of loud and Venetians who were ready to party. I guess they hadn’t heard yet about the earthquake that had hit the region of Abruzzo in Italy earlier that day and that had killed almost 300 people. But we had, and our mood was somber. We walked past the Venetians without telling them…_1160599

Mont-Saint-Michel. Talk about crowds, mamma mia! But we stayed there one night, and the hotel staff had given us an upgrade, so our room was on the third floor with a great view of the bay.

In mid afternoon we went down to the tourist office to find out about the guided crossings of the bay that Stefano had read about and wanted to do. _1160641We found out that the final tour of the day was about to leave. Now, I had no idea what this tour was all about. I thought we would merely step outside the walls and take some photos, and that our guide would help us avoid stepping in the quicksand that can easily form thanks to the shifting sands surrounding the town. So we were not prepared for what was to come…

The guide instructed us to take off our shoes and sandals. But we hadn’t heard his presentation (in French), since we were the last to join the group, so we looked at each other and said, in Italian, “no way we’re taking off our shoes. There is horse doo doo in the square outside the main town gate.” 😉 And so we were the only ones to keep our shoes on. But as soon as we got outside and began walking off to the left, we realized why the guide had said that: _1160690the dry caked mud began getting wetter and slippier. So off came our sandals, which we attached to our knapsacks. The trek outside the city walls ended up lasting more than THREE hours. Three hours of walk walk walk WALK in slippery mud and sometimes in water up to mid-thigh.

We saw people doing the crossing on their own, but that would not be my choice at all. The guide at one point gave us the experience of getting sucked in by quicksand, and it was not nice at all. So be safe!

At one point I turned to Stefano and said, almost panting, “there’s no bloody way the guide is going to take us all the way to that little dot in the distance, right?” And Stefano, equally out of breath, replied, “no, I don’t think so.” Well, we were both wrong…He did! That little dot turned out to be a tiny island, mainly inhabited by nesting birds today…Our guide told us all about the history…very interesting. Anyway…

The tour is really worth it, in spite of the slightly negative aspects (the slippery mud, _1160720mainly…almost lost my footing a couple of times…that would have totaled my camera, for sure!). We were able to take photos of Mont-Saint-Michel from a completely different perspective compared to the regular tourist who might spend just a few hours inside the town. Not to speak of the spectacular views we had (see the first photo of Saint-Michel, above).

All in all we had an enjoyable holiday…Okay, time to prepare my lessons for tomorrow. Ciao! P.S. if you drag your mouse over the photos, you will find a bit of info about ’em. :-)

“This pill could make your dog (and maybe you) live longer”

That is the title of a FASCINATING article by CNN’s senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, about an experiment involving a few very sick dogs and a compound–also a drug–called rapamycin, discovered in the dirt of Easter Island (it’s a bacterial by-product…yum yum!) and mainly intended for humans with cancer and transplant patients. The article is so full of twists and turns that I am not even going to try writing a synopsis…Here is the link: goo.gl/Tdsis8

But I do have a few comments, as always. Ah yes, rapamycin is being studied in myeloma treatment, too…A number of clinical trials testing rapamycin, and its analogs, such as temsirolimus, on MM patients are going on right now, in fact.

It’s a strong immune suppressor, and it’s also a mTOR inhibitor (like quercetin, I would like to add). I mentioned rapamycin years ago in my quercetin post, which you can find by using the blog’s Search box on the upper right. In fact, if you type mTOR into the above-mentioned Search box, you will also come upon my mTOR-rhubarb post. Hey, I’d forgotten about rhubarb…!!!

At this point you might be wondering what mTOR is. Well, quoting from my 2007 quercetin post, it’s “a really nasty pathway involved with myeloma disease progression. When mTOR is activated, you see, MM cell lines resist being killed.” Bad, bad, bad.

I haven’t done any followup research on this topic, but you can bet your basket of ripe bananas that I am going to have another look at PubMed. And a look at those MM patient trials, too. Very interesting…

Sorry if I sound a bit hurried, if not a bit on the rambling side!!!, but it’s getting late over here, and I must go feed the cats and get dinner started. I’m suddenly STARVING! So…off I go! Ciao! Oh, MANY thanks to Stan for letting me know about this article, btw! :-)

Does turmeric really help protect us from cancer?

That is the question posed by a program called “Trust me, I’m a doctor,” which was recently broadcast on BBC2, a channel that I cannot get here in Italy, unfortunately. I heard about it from some friends in the UK, and then I got to work and found a bunch of articles about the program, one of which I will share with you today. turmeric

The program’s presenter, Michael Mosley, and his team of doctors decided to look into the claims that turmeric can “cure” everything from depression to cancer. So they devised an experiment, which they carried out on 100 volunteers. You can read about it here: goo.gl/zBs2pz

They split the 100 volunteers into three groups–one group took a placebo, another a teaspoon of turmeric powder (mixed in with their food), and the third one took the same amount of TURMERIC in the form of a supplement.

My first note: it appears that the third group didn’t take CURCUMIN, but turmeric, the spice. We’ll get back to that later on.

Blood samples were taken at the beginning of the experiment, then after six weeks. As far as the immune system was concerned, there were no significant changes.

But the results from the DNA methylation test were compleeeeetely different. Methylation, in a nutshell, is a process that can stop genes from working. That can be a bad thing…or a good thing. An example of “bad” is that methylation is can be a BIG trigger for the development of cancer.

I like the way Michael Mosley describes methylation, as “a dimmer switch that can turn the activity of the gene up and down.” Images can really help us understand complicated processes, methinks. Anyway, as far as this experiment is concerned, all we need to know is that, as I said before, methylation can trigger the development of cancer.

The BBC experiment showed no “methylation” difference in the placebo group, and no significant difference in the supplement group, BUT there was a “very significant change in the methylation patterns” in the group using the turmeric powder. And, remember, they were taking just one teaspoon of turmeric a day…

“This is a really striking finding,” said the professor in charge of the experiment.

Indeed!

One gene was affected, in particular…the SLC6A15 gene, which is associated with 1. depression and anxiety, 2. asthma and eczema, and…3. CANCER.

Now, as I mentioned above, my only problem with the experiment is that they apparently tested turmeric, not curcumin, supplements. Had they used a curcumin supplement, I have a feeling that the results would have been different.

That said, the fact that the turmeric powder users cooked with the spice and had this amazing result in such a short period of time confirms what we already knew: that turmeric (and therefore, curcumin) becomes more bioavailable when taken with heat and/or fat.

Another important result of this experiment: for perhaps the first time ever, scientists have shown that a change in diet can have an important effect on gene methylation and, consequently, on our risk of developing cancer. Amazing, eh?

I thought I’d write this post on this rather cloudy/rainy, lazy, and cool autumn morning in Florence…A few hours from now Stefano and I are having lunch with a Harvard classmate of mine (arriving in Florence today), and then the three of us are going to an exhibit of little-known works by Botticelli and Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio (isn’t the latter a simply wonderful name? Love how it sounds!). Should be interesting and lots of fun, too…Oh, the sun just came out! Off I go, then. Have a great Sunday, everyone! Ciao! :-)