Lowering our IL-6 levels with…art, music, and nature

Today I came across some¬†rather curious results (I’m trying not to say “interesting results” all the time… ūüėČ ) of a UC Berkeley¬†study, which I just had to share with you: being exposed to art, music, and nature apparently¬†gives a boost to¬†the immune system. And, more interestingly for us, activities such as admiring Botticelli’s “Primavera” (or “Allegory of Spring”), see photo, or listening to Mozart or taking a walk in nature¬†appear to lower the serum levels of interleukin-6, or IL-6 for short. A brief reminder: IL-6 is an important growth factor for¬†myeloma cells, about which I’ve written¬†heaps of posts, so I won’t go over it again (if you’ve never heard of¬†it, just do a search of my blog for IL-6).

Here’s the Telegraph article discussing the findings of this study:¬†http://goo.gl/Vw5Yzu

Primavera_03What I’d like to see next would be a study testing these three activities on a bunch of myeloma patients at various stages. Now wouldn’t THAT be amazingly interesting? :-)¬†In the meantime, while I’m waiting for that study to take place (hah!), I’ll go for¬†a walk in the park while listening to Mozart on my iPod, on my¬†way to the Uffizi Gallery to check out Botticelli’s beautiful paintings (I love Botticelli!).
Oh, and while I’m walking, I’ll have to remember to strike some yoga poses, too (yoga reduces IL-6 levels, too…see the post I wrote on January 15, 2010). And…

Well, okay, I’m getting a bit too silly. ūüėČ But hey, we have absolutely NOTHING to lose here. There can be no toxic side effects¬†to listening to music or admiring a work of art.¬†The effects can only be positive. So why not give it a try?

Now, where’s my iPod?

Cannabidiol and myeloma

Not that it really matters, but, for the record!, I‚Äôve never smoked anything ‚Äď cigarettes or marijuana or anything else for that matter. So I wasn‚Äôt that interested in or paying much attention to medical marijuana‚Ķuntil August of 2013, when I watched Dr. Sanjay Gupta‚Äôs CNN ‚ÄúWeed‚ÄĚ documentary on the use of medical marijuana. Cannabis suddenly became an interesting¬†blip on my radar.

I mean, how could you NOT¬†be affected by¬†Charlotte‚Äôs story, for example? In ‚ÄúWeed,‚ÄĚ Charlotte is the¬†little girl who used to have 1200 seizures a month. After her parents began giving her¬†medical marijuana, that number went down to¬†2 or 3 a month. Unbelievable, simply unbelievable. For those interested, here is a good CNN article about Dr. Gupta‚Äôs change of heart:¬†http://goo.gl/lYjlJK

A blog reader who lives in Malaysia and was diagnosed with multiple myeloma more than ten years ago, at the age of 36, wrote to me in September 2014 about her use of hemp oil and how much it has helped her overcome her fatigue and bone pain. In her message, she reported feeling more relaxed and energetic thanks to the hemp oil.

She hasn‚Äôt been the only one to have gotten in touch with me. And so, two years (!) after watching ‚ÄúWeed,‚ÄĚ I have finally¬†decided to finish editing¬†the post I began writing on this topic a rather long time ago. Let‚Äôs begin‚Ķ

Last year I read a very interesting but complicated ITALIAN study on myeloma and cannabidiol, which is one of the¬†active components of cannabis, the plant from which marijuana is made. (Note: CBD will not¬†get you ‚Äúhigh.‚ÄĚ) You can find the abstract here:¬†http://goo.gl/gSo7GD.

The full study, which I managed to get my hands on about a year ago, is quite complex and took me some time to decipher. The good news is that the full study is now available for FREE online, so you can download/read the entire shebang here: http://goo.gl/8r6Fj2. This makes my task much easier…Since the study can now be read for free, I can, er, freely discuss it without fear of breaking any copyright laws.

But for today I don‚Äôt want to go into too many details. I want to concentrate only on the abstract, which states¬†that cannabidiol (CBD), both in combination with bortezomib (BORT) but¬†also by itself, ‚Äústrongly inhibited growth, arrested cell cycle progression and induced‚ÄĚ the death of myeloma cells.‚ÄĚ Wonderful, no? I mean, cannabidiol killed myeloma cells even when tested on its own, without the bortezomib‚Ķ

This group of Italian researchers also discovered that cannobidiol ‚Äúmay help sidestep the problem of patients developing resistance to bortezomib.‚ÄĚ So, more fantastic news.

Conclusion: cannabidiol ‚Äúseems to help‚ÄĚ proteasome inhibitors such as bortezomib in the treatment of myeloma.

Interesting aside. There are currently four clinical ‚ÄúGraft¬†Versus Host Disease‚ÄĚ (GVHD) trials¬†testing cannabidiol. The¬†patients in these trials have undergone an¬†allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (using the stem cells from a healthy donor, in a nutshell). The idea is to see if GVHD can be prevented and/or treated with CBD. I should add that only one trial is currently recruiting patients.¬†If interested, all you need to do is go to clinicaltrials.gov and type ‚Äúcannabidiol AND allogeneic‚ÄĚ in the search box. No, apart from the GVHD trials, there are none testing CBD on myeloma patients. Not yet. But I bet it will happen at some point…It SHOULD happen…

Okay, at this point you’re probably wondering why it took me so bloody long to write such a brief, simple post. Well, if I had stopped at the abstract, you’d be absolutely right. But I didn’t. I wanted to understand what was going on, and why this ion channel process is so important in myeloma.

And so I studied how ion channels work, what the TRVP family is, and so on. It took me a while to figure it all out and put it in easy-to-understand language. When I read studies such as this one,¬†sometimes I get really frustrated and give up for a while‚Ķor even for a long time…or…forever! ūüėČ This is not my field of expertise, after all (my Ph.D. is in linguistics, nothing to do with science…).¬†Besides, hey, I do have a normal, busy life, and, to be honest, if I have some spare time I‚Äôd rather go play cards with my girlfriends or go out to dinner with Stefano…

That said, after TWO years, I’m finally close to finishing my more technical post on this topic…

So‚Ķstay tuned! I‚Äôm sure you can‚Äôt wait to read about all this stuff, eh? ūüėČ

Cancer cure hope and hype

I’ve written at least one post¬†about the dangers of¬†media hype, screaming headlines,¬†etc. This is the one I remember writing, but there may be others:¬†http://margaret.healthblogs.org/2010/12/01/holy-cats-holy-cats-holy-cats-this-is-bloody-amazing/

How many times have I read the sentence “a cure for myeloma is around the corner!!!!!!!!”? Too many to count. Not surprisingly, it’s¬†often used for fundraising purposes. I used to be a major donor fundraiser for a non profit organization, so I know how that system works. Anyway, that’s not the point today…

The point is that¬†this is the first time (as far as I can recall, that is) I’ve read an article about the dangers of media hype.¬†It was¬†published in Healthday just a few days ago:¬†https://goo.gl/qQL1gN¬†Very interesting read.


A new turmeric compound kills myeloma cells

A brand new study shows that another turmeric compound, which I shall refer to by its¬†acronym, SQP (much easier to remember than “beta-sesquiphellandrene”! ūüėČ ), has the same anticancer¬†potential of curcumin:¬†http://goo.gl/e2jBGe

turmericSQP kills human multiple myeloma, leukemia, and colorectal cancer cells, in a similar manner to curcumin. It also works in synergy with bortezomib (Velcade), thalidomide, and capecitabine.

Now, I haven’t read the full study yet, but if I can get my hands on it, I will certainly see if I can dig out a few more helpful and/or interesting details.

Of course, before getting all excited about this new compound, we should keep in mind that it could take some (a lot of?) time to transform¬†it into something useful–a pill, e.g. Besides,¬†as of now, we don’t know anything about its bioavailability, blablabla. So it’s really early in the game.

Still, I¬†always find it exciting to read about another multiple myeloma killer… :-)

Vitamin D deficiency in patients with multiple myeloma

I’ve written a bunch of posts on the link between vitamin D deficiency and icky happenings in myeloma.¬†Ever since my SMM friend “Sherlock” talked to me about the importance of taking vitamin D,¬†in fact,¬†I’ve been¬†“obsessed” with it, especially after reading, and writing a post about, the 2009 Mayo study on vitamin D and myeloma folks (click here to read the full Mayo study:¬†http://goo.gl/qfO9Bp)

I take vitamin D every morning. It’s important for so many reasons, many of which I’ve written about here on the blog. For more information on vitamin D or any other topic, for that matter, you¬†can do a search of my blog using¬†the handy Search Box on the right-hand side of the homepage.

So why am I picking up this topic again today? Because,¬†thanks to Frank’s post on Facebook, I just finished reading the abstract of a 2015 German study on, you guessed it!,¬†the importance of vitamin D for myeloma patients:¬†http://goo.gl/5InpVM

Important excerpt: “We found a widespread and alarming rate of vitamin D deficiency in patients with metastatic bone disease and multiple myeloma.

Well, it seems crystal clear (once again!) that the vitamin D test should be added to our routine series of blood tests. And we NEED to act quickly if we see signs of a deficiency, by asking our doctors to recommend a good vitamin D supplement.

For our health! :-)

Metabolic changes in the bone marrow could be an important key in the development of myeloma

The fact that multiple myeloma develops from¬†the¬†pre-existing condition known as MGUS is nothing new. I mean, I wrote about this very topic back in 2009 (remember that¬†cancer screening trial that allowed researchers from the Mayo Clinic and the National Cancer Institute to examine blood samples taken from patients¬†several years before they were diagnosed with MM? If not, have a look at the¬†post I wrote back then: “Does MGUS always precede MM?”).

IMG_5327But today I read something that adds a new piece to the puzzle of myeloma–a recent¬†discovery made by a team of researchers at the University of Birmingham: http://goo.gl/vE6PWU

It’s an easy read, but I¬†did want¬†to highlight a few points, such as this one: “Surprisingly, the researchers found that the metabolic activity of the bone marrow of patients with MGUS was significantly different to plasma from healthy volunteers, but there were very few differences at all between the MGUS and myeloma samples.” Ouch. See Priscilla’s expression? That was pretty much how I must have looked after reading that sentence…

Here’s an excerpt providing¬†more details: “The research team found over 200 products of metabolism differed between the healthy volunteers and patients with MGUS or myeloma, compared to just 26 differences between MGUS patients and myeloma patients. The researchers believe that these small changes could drive the key shifts in the bone marrow required to support myeloma growth.”

IMG_5315Things get a bit, er, alarming, though,¬†when Dr. Tennant, the head researcher, says that¬†“very few changes are required for a MGUS patient to progress to myeloma.” VERY FEW¬†changes? I had to let that sink in for a second or two before reading on. And at this point I probably looked like Prezzemolo (photo on the right)…

But then Dr. Tennant adds that a “drug that interferes with these specific initial metabolic changes could make a very effective treatment for myeloma, so this is a very exciting discovery.‚ÄĚ

Okay, so first he TOTALLY¬†freaks us out with the news that only a few metabolic changes in the bone marrow are required to jump from MGUS to MM. Then he reassures us that a “metabolic” drug might be able to stop said progression. Bad news¬†followed by¬†potentially good news…

Well, this is the most¬†interesting study I’ve read about in a while…a study that has given¬†my brain some real food to chew on…

Need to do some research now.

Any thoughts, dear readers and friends?

Box clever!!!

Very busy period, this one. Apart from our¬†usual activities, we’ve had quite a bit of work done on the house, maintenance work that began back in July, got paused for the three-week holiday period in August, then restarted in September. But we’re done now, fingers crossed.

And so the cleanup begins. I spent hours yesterday scrubbing and re-scrubbing, and then re-re-re-re-scrubbing!, our terraces, e.g….cement dust and filth everywhere…Mamma mia, never seen anything like it…It will take a while to get the house back in shape, I’m afraid.

Result: I’ve had no time to do any research, as you can imagine….but as soon as things quiet down and get back to normal, I will get back to posting. And that is a promise.¬†IMG_5090

In the meantime, I want to give you the link to¬†a hilarious (IMO) video¬†by¬†“Simon’s Cat.” As you (probably) know, Stefano and I have SEVEN¬†cats, yes, seven!, and they all hate, HAAAAAAATE!, the cat carrier. So¬†whenever one of them has to go to the vet, we have to be as sneaky as snakes in the grass. One trick we’ve learned is never EVER let them see the cat carrier until the last second…But somehow…they KNOW. Even the slightest rattle from the carrier is enough to send them¬†into hiding, and then you have to hunt them down, all over the house.

And that is why this video about Simon’s cat and the cat carrier¬†made me laugh out loud. I hope you will enjoy it, too:¬†https://goo.gl/c3jrS7¬†:-)

P.S. This is a photo of our eldest cat, Puzzola, putting her nose on the camera lens just as I was trying to take a photo of her. Typical. :-)

Back from Cape Cod


I can’t believe that I haven’t posted anything on my blog for MORE than a¬†MONTH. That’s never happened, methinks. Yikes.

Well,¬†basically, in a nutshell, I took¬†a holiday from my eloma. Oh, sorry, from my myeloma. ūüėČ In the past four weeks, I’ve barely given a thought to it. Can’t say I’ve missed it, either! :-)

_1060974Stefano and I spent three of those four weeks with my parents on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. We had a quiet holiday and didn’t do much in terms of sightseeing, but we did do one fabulous thing: we hired a private charter to go whale watching off the coast of Provincetown. We’d never done anything like that, mainly because of the cost…We’d always gone¬†whale watching with¬†the Dolphin Fleet, which I highly recommend since you learn a lot about these magnificent creatures, the whales. And of course we strongly support the type of research done by the Dolphin scientists…But there are a few _1070622drawbacks to going on such big boats–mainly, they’re always crowded, which makes it difficult to get decent photos. Another thing that I hadn’t considered before¬†is the noise made not just by the above-mentioned crowds¬†(kids screeching¬†with excitement, e.g.) but by the boat’s motors. Those powerful motors make a lot of noise, let me tell ya…

Our private charter was worth every single penny.¬†It was fantastic¬†to be seated¬†on a small boat, almost at the level of the whales, and¬†take photos without anyone in front of us._1060483 And…tada!…no noise. The captain of our boat kept¬†the engines at a minimum whenever we were near the whales, so the only noises we heard were¬†the whales¬†expelling air through their blowholes and the rippling sound of the waves around us. Unbelievable. Magical…

We mainly saw humpback whales, including¬†three mamas with their calves (see photo no. 1). We also saw a few minke whales from afar and a couple of¬†fin whales (the second largest living mammal…), which was a big¬†treat…

_1070650And we¬†saw tons of shearwaters and other sea birds. That was a big bonus¬†for Stefano and me…and for our cameras. I haven’t been through my hundreds of photos¬†yet, because ever since we’ve returned to Florence, I’ve had a zillion things to do, busy busy busy all day every day!, but here are a few photos, which I hope will give you an idea of the magic we experienced…

Speaking of things to do, I must rush off now. But I did want to say that all is well. I’m feeling and doing splendidly…Okay, must dash…Take care, everyone!!! Ciao!!! :-)

Off to Cape Cod…

Well, after a long, tiring, and¬†record-breaking¬†boiling hot July–the hottest on record, apparently, in the past 150 years!–Stefano and I are finally leaving tomorrow for the U.S. to visit my parents. Can’t wait!!! ūüėÄ

While we are gone, our cats will be¬†surrounded by an army of caregivers, including my next door neighbors who will be checking in on them at least once a day, plus our regular cat/house sitter AND¬†our¬†vet who will keep on administering IVs to Piccolo, my 12-year-old male cat with chronic kidney disease (he’s doing so well, I am thankful to report…!). The kitties will end up having more company and entertainment than when we’re around!

I would like to apologize for not having written any research posts lately. I have some studies on my desktop that I have been intending to read and comment on, but the horrendous heat (see above) has turned my brain into mushy oatmeal, so any serious research will have to wait for cooler temperatures.

Before rushing¬†off¬†on the last-minute errands I need to do today, I would like to wish¬†you all¬†a wonderful, relaxing, and fun month of¬†August…I will be checking my blog every day, of course…but I probably won’t be writing any posts or answering any messages (but I’ll try to read all of them!)…So, take care, everyone! Ciaooooooo!


I have been absolutely shocked and outraged for days over¬†the killing of Cecil the lion by¬†a¬†dentist, a so-called ‚Äútrophy‚ÄĚ hunter from Minnesota, a man¬†who already has a felony record¬†in connection with the illegal killing¬†of a black bear in Wisconsin back in 2006…

I don‚Äôt think I need to go into any details, since in the past few days this dentist-lion story has been all over the news (even here in Italy) and social media…

But I do feel the need to write a post about it. My outrage needs an outlet, and my blog is a clear choice for that, even though this story has nothing to do with myeloma. So here goes.

Something clearly needs to be done. Lions may well be EXTINCT by the year 2050‚Ķand that isn’t¬†too far from now. Indeed, scientists predict that many of the species that are currently targets of these¬†so-called ‚Äútrophy‚ÄĚ hunters will be extinct three generations from now.

Extinct. In just three generations. WHY???

I‚Äôm not asking for Walter Palmer‚Äôs head on a platter as others have done on social media. Or for the head of any other “trophy” hunter, for that matter. Reacting with violence puts us on the same level as these sick folks.

However, the nincompoop Minnesotan dentist¬†needs to be punished in some way AND, most importantly, he must be stopped from killing animals, any animals!, in the future. cecil-lion-zimbabwePerhaps, like Cecil, he could be fitted with a GPS collar or ankle bracelet to ensure¬†he never harms an animal again. Anyone who enjoys tracking a wounded lion for 40 hours, shooting it, then beheading and skinning it, while attempting to destroy its GPS collar so as not to get caught (and then, when he gets caught, says he is “sorry”??? Hello??? That does not correspond to¬†the definition of “sorry” in my book!), is someone who should be kept as far away as possible from any sort of weapon.

And perhaps someday, with some form of rehabilitation (a few suggestions: working, under strict supervision, in a national park;¬†joining anti-poaching teams all over the world, at his own expense, of course;¬†donating huge sums of money to the Oxford University project that was studying Cecil, and so on…), this¬†dentist might be brought to¬†realize all the harm he has done in his life thus far. He might even reach out to pick up a camera instead of a crossbow. That wouldn‚Äôt bring back Cecil or the countless other animals that have been victims of all the¬†unbelievably¬†stupid “trophy”¬†hunters,¬†but…but it‚Äôs a start.

And things in fact¬†seem to be¬†moving in that direction now, so I can only hope that Cecil‚Äôs death will mark the beginning of the end of senseless, cruel, and ILLEGAL ‚Äútrophy‚ÄĚ hunting.

Shoot photos, not bullets!!!!!! No more illegal poaching!!!!!

And now for a couple of links…

Jimmy Kimmel‚Äôs perfect thoughts on this story:¬†https://goo.gl/HSW4vC¬†(For the record, I agree with everything he says, except for the bit about hunting. Hunting ‚Äúbecause it‚Äôs part of your culture or something‚ÄĚ is also abhorrent, IMO‚Ķsee the yearly cruel pilot whale slaughter in the Faroe Islands, e.g.).

There are many petitions you can sign online. Here is one of them: https://goo.gl/KWqqM8

The Oxford University project’s website: www.wildcru.org  In case you have any extra money lying around…