Monthly Archives: July 2011

Hitting walls…and a new cancer-killing pepper plant extract…

Well, it’s been about a week since I last published a post. I’ve been busy, yes..but mostly I just haven’t felt like doing any research or even posting any silly stuff. Last week a wall drove into my sister’s car (well, I guess it was the other way around)…luckily, she wasn’t badly hurt, but the airbag deployed and broke a couple of her ribs and her sternum, so she spent a few days in the hospital and was in a lot of pain…still is…Sometimes it’s really hard to be so far away from my family (my sister and niece live in Arizona)…Well, the important thing is that she’s doing better…but her recovery will be slow…

That’s the main reason why I’m a bit distracted these days…

But, let’s see, I had a very nice birthday last week (this was before my sister’s accident), and a full-of-fun after-birthday party, too, with a group of best friends who clapped and cheered until my face turned the color of a very ripe beet. Very embarrassing…But lovely, too. :)

Okay, let’s hop on to my next topic, which concerns a new (?) natural extract that selectively kills cancer cells while completely ignoring normal cells. Familiar story, eh? 😉 This one is called piperlongumine (hey, try repeating “piperlongumine” ten times, fast! Hehe.), and it’s a constituent of the fruit of a hot pepper plant found in southern India and southeast Asia.

I learned of this compound from a Science Daily article, which provides a few more details, if you’d like to have a look at it: http://goo.gl/w10fR (the abstract: http://goo.gl/qOyab). In a nutshell, though, a group of Harvard, MIT and Mass General researchers discovered that piperlongumine blocked tumor growth and metastasis but showed no toxicity in normal mice. In contrast, the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel (Taxol) was less effective, even at high levels. Oh, another thing: the pepper extract also wiped out normal cells that possessed a cancer genotype, meaning that they would have turned into cancer cells at some point…Interesting… 

Not surprisingly (!), the fruit of this pepper plant has been used forever in traditional medicine, Ayurveda e.g., to treat a variety of ailments, from diarrhea to bronchitis and even viral hepatitis and, tada!, tumors…Check out this PubMed article (incidentally, there are 30 studies in PubMed on piperlongumine): http://goo.gl/iZm8v 

Now, while there are no specific studies on piperlongumine and myeloma (yet!), I would bet almost anything that it would smash MM cells to bits, too…

Hitting (and celebrating) 50!!!

Yesterday I wrote a rather personal post for my blog, to be published today, my 50th birthday (thanks, Paula, for imagining yesterday’s number to be my waistline or my weight, hehe…gave me a good chuckle! :) ). But between yesterday and today I received so many lovely comments on my blog’s Facebook Page that I decided to write a different post this morning. Yesterday I’d asked my readers the question: what should I do on my 50th birthday?

Here are some of the answers I got:

  1. Welcome to 50!
  2. (Translated by yours truly from the original Italian): In the morning, go buy something you like, not necessarily anything expensive. In the afternoon, take a nap…it’s hot. In the evening: go out for dinner up in the hills, al fresco, with a few well-selected friends.
  3. Go for a day drive to a place you have not been and enjoy a lovely dinner there!
  4. Cuddle with your cats and then get a massage and pedicure and eat gelato.
  5. Enjoy all those things during the day and top it off with a wonderful dinner out in the evening.
  6. What about kicking back on the lounge perusing a copy of Bharat’s “Healing Spices (50),” whilst consuming 50 gms of alcohol of choice with 50 gms of chocolate of choice…and perhaps an episode of “Absolutely Fabulous” or something ‘Jane Austen-ish’ playing on the telly
  7. However you celebrate, I hope you and your family enjoy it. I myself like going for a walk with my family in nature, talking, laughing, having a picnic. A massage doesn’t hurt :-). May you have wonderful dreams tonight, and may they all come true.
  8. I spent mine in Bali! There are $5 massages there! I guess it’s too last minute for you, though, lol. Take that nutre walk with family and have your picnic afterwards. Then go get a massage. As per drs’ orders… sort of… I hope you have a GRAND birthday however you spend it!! More Birthdays!!
  9. Enjoy the day with your family and cats. Eat Cake and take it easy!
  10. Unless there is something burning you want to do on “that day” otherwise, just pick something to mark the occasion you would like to do anytime this year! That’s what I do! haha.
  11. Let’s pick a new star sign for July. I seriously object to both “cancer” and “crab” – with C.R.A.B. being the myeloma markers. Your assignment is to come up with something better, possibly Italian, we can adopt. The Pleides?
  12. Have a wonderful day just enjoying—–whatever–jus?t enjoy! 50 is GREAT!

Great suggestions, thank you all so much. :)

A few months ago, I decided to celebrate my 50th with a BANG…with a big, no a HUGGGGGE party to which I’d invite all our friends and all my students. But, to be super honest, even though everyone would have brought food and wine, a big party always means a big clean-up afterward. As much as I love my friends and family, is that what I really want?

No.

You see, I’m really a lazy bum at heart. And this is my birthday, so I can be lazy all I want! 😉 Besides, I’m seeing my girlfriends for dinner and a card game tomorrow evening…I’ll celebrate with them tomorrow…

Another problem: my 83-year-old Mom pulled a muscle near one of her ribs last week, so we can’t go out for dinner as originally planned (we were going to go to one of Florence’s best Indian restaurants)…

After giving this a bit of thought, this is what I’ve decided to do today: stay at home with my parents and my cats (Stefano’s at work, but he’ll be here for dinner, of course) and watch one BBC television drama series after another. A BBC marathon. Yeah! I have the 3rd and 4th seasons of “Larkrise to Candleford” (not my favourite BBC series, but I do want to know what happens to Dorcas and that prissy young gal…).

And I just picked up a HUGE “bongo” (= chocolate-covered, pastry cream-filled profiteroles, surrounded by blobs of chocolate pastry cream…yummmmy! See photo) from one of my favourite pastry shops. So we’ll just lounge around all day, as one of my blog readers suggested, and eat cake. Yeah! (By the way, that tray of small sweets, cream puffs and whatnot, were “pre-birthday” and made by another favourite pastry shop…)

Oh, one more thing. This is really important. On your 50th birthday, sugar apparently is verrrrry healthful…the best thing you could possibly eat, in fact. I read a study about that recently…yes…now, what was the name of the journal?…

P.S. Loved this video about robins, thanks Donna! http://goo.gl/qzLfN

Wowser trivia…

My UK photographer friend sent me the following list of trivial facts. I knew some were true (the honey bee one, e.g.), and I checked a couple of others…for example, the Mona Lisa one, which I thought HAD TO be wrong…well, it isn’t! I didn’t check all of them but left the amusing ones in, anyway. Oh, and I added a few random ones that I found online here and there…

  • If you are right handed, you will tend to chew your food on the right side of your mouth. If you are left handed, you will tend to chew your food on the left side of your mouth. [Don’t know if this is true, but I’m right handed and do tend to chew on the right…]
  • Six-year-olds laugh an average of 300 times a day. Adults only laugh 15 to 100 times a day. [We need to laugh like six-year-olds! Yeah!]
  • To make half a kilo of honey, bees must collect nectar from over 2 million individual flowers. [Hope at least the pay is good!] 
  • At room temperature, the average air molecule travels at the speed of a rifle bullet [Gives a new perspective on someone sneezing near you in a movie house or on a plane, eh?]
  • Manufacturing recycled goods uses up to 95% less energy than using raw materials. [Recycle recycle recycle!]
  • The Mona Lisa has no eyebrows. In the Renaissance era, it was fashion to shave them off. [She doesn’t appear to have eyelids, either…ouch, I don’t even want to think about that!]
  • Because of the speed at which Earth moves around the Sun, it is impossible for a solar eclipse to last more than 7 minutes and 58 seconds. [Precision is everything…]
  • Antiperspirants are classified as drugs by the FDA. [Weird, but true…]
  • A strawberry is not an actual berry…but a banana is. [How many of you knew THAT? 😉 ]
  • If you stop getting thirsty, you need to drink more water. When a human body is dehydrated, its thirst mechanism shuts off. [Is this true? Eeek!]
  • Zero is the only number that cannot be represented by Roman numerals. [True!]
  • The average cat can jump five times as high as its tail is long. [My youngest cats are amazing jumpers, so I’d say it’s true…]
  • A herd of goats can also be called a trip. [Hehe.]
  • Nine out of every 10 living things live in the ocean. [I’d have placed my bet on bothersome insects, but…]
  • The commercial banana cannot reproduce itself. It can be propagated only by the hand of man. [Bananas…again!] 
  • The tooth is the only part of the human body that cannot heal itself. [Lucky break for dentists!]
  • The Swine Flu vaccine in 1976 caused more death and illness than the disease it was intended to prevent. [Food for thought…]
  • Astronauts can’t belch – there is no gravity to separate liquid from gas in their stomachs. [Now, did I really want to know that???]
  • Caffeine increases the power of aspirin and other painkillers, that is why it is found in some medicines. [Hey, how about curcumin? I’m going to try it…But I’ll stop when I begin turning orange…]
  • It takes about 20 seconds for a red blood cell to circle the whole body. [Not sure what to think about this one…]
  • The Earth gets 100 tons heavier every day due to falling space dust. [Yippeeeee!, I finally have an excuse for not keeping up with all the dust in my house…! :) ]

Food wonders that may do wonders for us…

I spent two hours this morning waiting for our car insurance rep to show up at the body shop and check the damage my car sustained in last week’s accident (see my July 7th post).

TWO HOURS. I mean, two hours spent in this horrendous, emergency-level heat. Well, okay, so I was inside an air-conditioned office, and I had a book to read, but still…I really hate to have my time wasted. Oh, and when the guy finally arrived, he barely even looked at my car. He whipped out a teeny tiny camera, took six quick photos of my bumper and hatchback and said, “That’s it.” That’s IT? He vanished, or rather, he disapparated (HARRY POTTER…THE FINAL CHAPTER…CAN’T WAIT TO SEE IT! :) ) before I could say “but…” I mean, after making me wait so long, I felt that he could at least have poked around under the car hood or something… :)

The horrendous heat wave that is baking me (and most of Italy) like a pizza should be subsiding soon, so my temper should be improving. I’m usually such a positive happy gal, but I tell ya, this heat is aggravating and debilitating. Day after day…relentless…no respite…not even at night. Oh, and my poor cats…they look like limp little flowers…Oh and did I tell you that I waited TWO hours in the sun earlier today? 😉

(Okay get a grip, Margaret, stop being silly and get to the point!)…Speaking of the heat…a related topic is the sun, which we are getting full blast these days (…). If you would like to protect your skin from the potentially damaging sun rays, have a look at this article: http://goo.gl/fsEHU Especially number EIGHT. I wasn’t expecting that one! :)

And here is another interesting article titled “The 7 food wonders of the ancient world.” Food WONDERS, huh? Can hardly go wrong, then: http://goo.gl/6LYWR 😉  

Another curcumin-myeloma study…

Today is going to be the hottest day of summer in Florence thus far. It was already muggy and awful when I woke up at 6 AM…but the worst is that the ceiling fan in my study seems to have decided to die. Today. Noooooo…

Things could be worse. I could be a tourist visiting the center of Florence today (hi, Deirdre!)…YIKESSSS! 😉

But the title of my post today isn’t “how to whine about boiling hot weather.” So let’s get to the point…

I actually have not one but TWO studies on curcumin. The first is specifically myeloma-related. The full text is in Chinese (so I won’t even bother looking it up…Now WHY didn’t I study Chinese in college? Duh…), but the abstract is in English…luckily: http://goo.gl/WYx70

It’s another in vitro study, showing that curcumin and bortezomib (=Velcade) together can exterminate a myeloma cell line called H929. Synergistically. When used together, they also more effectively increase the levels of a pro-apoptotic protein called Bax (you can do a search of my blog for more info on Mr. Bax…but in a nutshell, he’s one of the really good guys…).

Point is, these two substances, curcumin and Velcade, work well together. And kill more myeloma cells than when used alone. By the way, this merely confirms what we knew from previous studies…

Of course, as my blog reader Pan would point out, this is only an in vitro study. Still, if I’d waited for the curcumin-myeloma trial at MD Anderson to release its data before starting the curcumin protocol (that is, if I hadn’t tested curcumin on myself), where would I be today? I don’t want to answer that question…or even think about it! 

The second study (http://goo.gl/0uegS) discusses curcumin’s effect on bone loss, which, as we saw just recently (see my July 7th post), is a colossal problem in myeloma. This was a study done on mice, = a step up from in vitro, that is.

Excerpt: The bone mineral density of the femurs of curcumin-administered mice was significantly higher than that of vehicle-treated mice after ovariectomy (OVX) and this was accompanied by reduced amounts of serum collagen-type I fragments, which are markers of bone resorption. So, in a nutshell, curcumin increased the mice’s bone density. Super! You can read the abstract for more technical details…Again, previous studies have already informed us that curcumin can probably help prevent bone destruction…

Now, I don’t mean to whine again, but whenever I read abstracts like these I get sorely irritated…

To think that we might have THE PERFECT extract, indeed SEVERAL extracts (!), at our fingertips…hence, possibly a CURE…but that almost nothing is being done about it. Only a few brave researchers, such as Prof. Aggarwal, care enough to keep plugging ahead and publishing their research. There are a few encouraging signs: if you have a look at PubMed, as I did just a couple of days ago, curcumin research has increased quite a lot since 2001, a year that saw the publication of only 41 curcumin-cancer studies. For comparison purposes, in 2010 there were 239 curcumin-cancer studies. But this increase is merely a drop in the bucket…Just a drop in the bucket…

Our big pharma-connected/financed myeloma foundations (=hate to admit it, but it’s painfully and glaringly obvious, so why should we stubbornly stick our heads in the sand…) keep repeating that a cure is on the horizon, blablabla…–you can imagine what I think of that statement…!!!–yet they invest NOTHING in what I consider to be THE MOST PROMISING research to date. Most (all?) of the myeloma funds are directed towards toxic conventional drug research, which, upon close examination, consists mostly of combinations of relatively “old” drugs or their derivatives that may work for a while on some patients…but in the long run…

It’s frustrating. Verrrrrry frustrating.

But all I can do, at least for now, is let off a little steam now and again here on my blog…

Comic relief…

This boiling afternoon, sitting under my ceiling fan in a vain attempt not to melt in the horrendous heat wave that has hit most of Italy (we’re on “red alert” in Florence…), I watched a really cute kitten video (=the first one on the list below). If I can’t have any heat relief, I might as well have some comic relief… :)

George’s AntiCancer website…

Today I’d like to mention the website set up by a blog reader (with whom I have corresponded privately for the past couple of years) together with his son, George, who had THREE different types of cancer in his much-too-short life…He died at the end of April 2011…

It’s a new project, but Pan has already written a few interesting articles, including the one in which he describes his young son’s medical history…Pay particular attention to the part about George’s having a defect in an important tumor suppressor gene, = TP53, which led to his being so susceptible to cancer invasion…This apparently is an inherited condition…

Anyway, here’s the link to the homepage: http://goo.gl/fdaoJ 

I look forward to reading more of your posts, Pan! :)

Getting rear ended…also, an Italian study looks at the effect of plant extracts on bone destruction…

This afternoon, as I was driving home from running an errand with my mother, I got rear ended. I had stopped to let a pedestrian cross the street, but the guy behind me, Mr. Distraction (big time!), didn’t notice and just rammed into me. The main thing is that nobody was hurt. And my FIAT Panda didn’t sustain much damage…Its bumper will most certainly have to be replaced, but everything else seems to be in working order, and in fact I was able to drive home. Mr. Distraction’s car, on the other hand, was practically totalled. The entire front was smashed to bits, and it had to be towed away. He was very upset and kept repeating how sorry he was. I instead was calm and collected. These things happen…sigh…

What does this little accident have to do with the above-mentioned Italian study? Nothing. I just felt like writing about it, that’s all. Venting a bit, I suppose…My poor little Panda (but what a tough girl, eh!)…

Okay, now for the study that I read in part this morning, in part just now. I’ve actually known about Emblica officinalis for some time. I simply haven’t gotten around to posting about it, since I hadn’t come across any specific Embelica-myeloma studies. Until this morning, that is.

Let’s see. Wikipedia offers some general information on the extraordinary healing properties of this plant: http://goo.gl/0Cufb. And, according to Sloan-Kettering (http://goo.gl/J5eEe), in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that this Indian plant, also known as Indian gooseberry, has antioxidant, antibacterial, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, radioprotective, antiulcerogenic, antitumor, analgesic, antidiabetic, and antihyperlipidemic properties. Wowsers! Radioprotective, huh? That reminds me of the curcumin, black raspberry and neem leaf study I posted about recently. Anyway, the Sloan Kettering write-up mentions that none of these effects have been studied in humans. Well, that’s not entirely true (I checked quickly, out of curiosity): a Chinese study tested EGCG and Amla (=Embelica officinalis) on uremic patients with diabetes for three months, observing a positive response. (http://goo.gl/qtGJv) And here is another study: http://goo.gl/IcbsM.

But it’s true that it hasn’t yet been tested against any type of cancer, as far as I can tell (I checked the Clinical Trials website and found nothing).

Typical. I mean, after all, this plant is non-toxic…has been used forever in traditional Ayurveda medicine…works against heaps of ailments…BUT is probably not patentable…

A familiar story…sigh…okay, okay, okay…moving on…

Before launching into the full study, let’s refresh our memories about osteoclasts and osteoblasts. These are two types of bone cells…cells that, in healthy folks, work as a team to keep bones strong and well. While osteoclasts break down old bone, osteoblasts create new bone. In a normal situation, therefore, when old bone is destroyed, it is soon replaced by new bone.

But what happens in a myeloma situation? Well, basically, those flaming myeloma cells interfere with this normal bone-destroying/bone-replacing process by increasing the formation of osteoclasts, the destroyers, that is. So the osteoclasts keep breaking down bone, but the osteoblasts aren’t able to replace it fast enough. As a result, our bones become weak and prone to fractures. This is an enormous problem in myeloma, as you can imagine, but also in rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, osteosarcoma and even breast cancer.

Here’s the Italian study abstract: http://goo.gl/dMtmC The parts that I was able to understand (!) of the full text were very interesting. As we can read in the abstract, Emblica officinalis extracts were able to induce specifically programmed cell death of mature OCs without altering the process of osteoclastogenesis. Now that’s an important bit of information…since, as I understand things, we don’t want to stop the breaking-down-bone process entirely…we just do NOT want it to go crazy…

Then we have a lot of technical details…skipskipskip. There is an interesting part, though, about various plant extracts that stimulate osteoblasts while inhibiting osteoclasts. All these plants have strong anti-inflammatory properties. I’ll have to check it out (including all the plant names) more carefully at some point…but not today…

The authors focus on Emblica officinalis, which has played an important medicinal role for centuries in the Indian system of medicine. Now, where have I heard that before? Hmmm. Gee. Can’t think of an example… 😉

Seriously, now… according to the study, Emblica officinalis has been used in traditional Indian medicine to treat dyslipidemia (abnormal amount of fat in the blood…usually, = high cholesterol), atherosclerosis…it also protects the liver and has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. And finally, it has been shown to be a potent free-radical scavenger agent, thereby preventing carcinogenesis and mutagenesis. Sounds GOOD to me!!!!!

Well, this is very encouraging data. As a blog reader (hi, Pan!) wisely pointed out recently, though, one must treat in vitro studies with a certain degree of caution. However, it is also true that, like curcumin and ashwagandha and many other anti-myeloma non-toxic extracts, Emblica officinalis has been used forever in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, even serious ones. So at least we know it’s non toxic. That’s a good start. Let’s see. Oh, I think that’s it for today…plenty, rather! 😉