Monthly Archives: January 2012

Test results & snow in Florence!

Yesterday I didn’t check our mailbox until late afternoon. Then, just as a friend arrived to pick me up, I had a quick look, and boom!!!, there it was: the familiar fat hospital envelope. My January 12 2012 results. Let me tell ya, I almost fainted on the spot. Ignoring all the alarm bells going off in my head (= “noooo, it’s too bloody early! If I’d opted to go to the lab to pick up my results, I’d have waited until February 17! Something’s terrrrribly wrong!”), I ripped it open and glanced at a couple of results. Floods of relief. My m-spike was down, based on what I remembered about my most recent tests (= last June). So was my total IgG. I immediately told my friend who was just as thrilled as I was…

Going down down down! Little dance of joy (for Springsteen fans: http://goo.gl/cYaxh)! 

When I got home later in the evening, I checked these results against previous ones. Everything is more or less stable, yahoooooo!, so I’ll just point out a few things that weren’t, mostly in a good sense:

  • my blood viscosity is still a bit above normal, but I would like to mention that it is the lowest it’s EVER been (well, slight correction: since 2005, anyway…my earlier, before-2005 tests are in an old file that I haven’t opened in ages): 34 mm/hour. The high end of the normal range is 25; mine has been known to go over 90!
  • total protein is down from 9.8 to 9.2, which is still above the reference range but not by much. 
  • B2M is down from 2.9 to 2.6. Squeals of joy! 
  • total IgG went from 3930 to 3640. Holy cats. It hasn’t been that low in more than a year. More than a year! MORE THAN A YEAR! Going down down down down…yeah!
  • my albumin/globulin ratio is the closest it’s been to the normal range since 2009: 1.06 (= not far from 1.10!). 
  • monoclonal component: also the lowest it’s been since 2009: 29.7. I mean, it’s UNDER 30. :)
  • Vitamin D is fine, totally within the normal range. 
  • No change in my IgA and IgM, which, according to the range, are similar to the IgA and IgM of a 0-1 month old baby…Uhmmmm, no comment! 

Let’s see. You might want to know if I was testing anything extra. No, I wasn’t. I was just taking my usual doses of curcumin, fish oil and quercetin. However, I was putting Nigella sativa (black cumin) in our food…I mean, in almost everything I made. (If you want a reminder about Nigella sativa, scroll down my Pages on the right) No idea, though, if that made any difference. But even if it didn’t, we both love this spice’s peppery taste, so I’m going to keep using it…And in my heart, I feel it did make a diff…

So, in conclusion: I’m still stable and going strong…AND tonight it’s supposed to snow in Florence. We should be getting quite a bit of snow, if the forecasts are right.

Yes. Life is good…

Guggulsterone also inhibits osteoclastogenesis in multiple myeloma and breast cancer cells…

Yesterday I forgot to give proper mention to a 2006 “Clinical Cancer Research” study showing that guggulsterone also inhibits osteoclastogenesis, which is, in very simple terms, the process of bone destruction that has such terrible consequences in multiple myeloma…So the fact that guggulsterone inhibits this process could be super important…

I wrote about this study in my June 8 2007 post, but now that I’m actually taking this supplement, I thought I would re-read it: http://goo.gl/MypXc And it reminded me that Ayurvedic medicine has used guggulsterone (well, the gum resin, rather) to treat bone fractures and osteoarthritis. So my hope right now is that the fabulous guggul extract has a preventive effect on bone resorption.

That would be very nice indeed! 

Google Guggul!

A few days ago I decided to check the expiration dates of all my supplements. At the top of the gonna-expire-soon list was gugulipid, which I began taking a few days ago. What is it? Well, I’ve written about it, so one thing you can do is do a search of my blog (using my “Search” box on the right) for the word “guggulsterone”…And you can also read this quickie:

Guggul (not Google! :) ) is the common word for a tree called Commiphora mukul, which grows in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It produces a resinous sap that has been used forever in Indian traditional medicine (Ayurveda) to treat a variety of ailments, from obesity to atherosclerosis and osteoarthritis. Haven’t I heard that story before? Hmmm. At any rate, in modern times this sap has been processed and purified, and its active constituents have been isolated, extracted and encapsulated. 

Now, why am I writing about it today? Because when I found that gugulipid bottle in my cabinet, I decided to check PubMed to see if there was a more recent something-or-other on it. And, tada!, I found a study on guggulsterones, STAT3 and myeloma cells that was published in 2008: http://goo.gl/gCh1L Verrrrrry exciting!

Since the full study is available for free online, I don’t have to give you an indigestion of details. So, in a nutshell, guggulsterone suppressed the super-hyperactive transcription factor known as STAT3 (both constitutive and IL-6-induced) and also had a similar effect on all the gene products that help myeloma cells survive and proliferate…(By now we are familiar with all of them…from the Bcl family to VEGF…I’ve written posts on ‘em all…) 

Well, what happened? As a result of all this inhibiting, the myeloma cells simply gave up and died. Need I say more? 😀

Let’s skip through all the technical bits (it’s Sunday, after all!) and go directly to the Discussion section, which reminded me that guggulsterone also strongly inhibits NF-kappaB activation. Absolutely glorious. Yes, glorious…

Now, I wanted to mention that I’d planned to write this post yesterday. But yesterday morning I woke up with a horrific headache, which didn’t respond to Tylenol and kept me in bed for a good part of the afternoon, surrounded by my faithful furry nurses (cats love it when you’re in bed with them). At first, I thought the headache might have been brought on by the guggulsterones, but, on reflection, I don’t think that makes much sense. Headaches, as far as I know, are not listed as possible side effects. Just to be safe, though, I didn’t take any gugulipid yesterday. I waited until this morning. So far, so good. Must have been a fluke. So my experiment continues…And, by the way, I also read that guggulsterone might lower C-reactive protein levels: that would be excellent. We’ll see…

NOTES. In my June 7 2007 post (check my “Page” on guggulsterone, on the right, scroll way down), I discussed a study showing that guggulsterone has a strong effect against a variety of cancer cells, including multiple myeloma. Among other things, it inhibited the proliferation of dexamethasone-resistant myeloma cells, aha!!!: http://goo.gl/s6DS9

Guggulsterones are synergistic with bortezomib (=Velcade) in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cells: http://goo.gl/RqzgW

And they reverse chemo drug resistance in MCF-7 cells (= breast cancer cell line): http://goo.gl/BBOH8

A few words of caution. As for possible side effects, you can check out this, for starters: http://goo.gl/7Qcta 

If you’re taking any sort of thyroid meds, please check with your doctor/do your research before even thinking of taking guggulsterone…Be careful also if you’re taking statins, since guggulsterone might possibly interfere with them…Goes without saying that one must always be super careful when on chemotherapy… 

Okay, it’s lunchtime…then I’ve planned a lazy afternoon watching movies in bed with my cats…Purrfect!

Workworkwork…

Busy days. Lots of work…teaching, translating…which doesn’t leave much time for research. Too bad, because I have quite a number of fascinating studies lying on my desktop…hope to get to them tomorrow…yes…

In the meantime, here is a photo I took just two days ago of Pinga, my baby, at play. She’s such a clown! :) And that reminds me of this video, posted today on my Facebook profile by Lori (thanks!): http://goo.gl/GggN5 Hehe. 

 

Chamomile inhibits COX-2 and other pesky thingies…

It’s really true that you learn something new every day. Until now, I thought that a cup of chamomile tea was useful only to help you relax. But it turns out that it might do much more than that.

A few days ago I received an alert leading me to a 2009 (!) study on chamomile and COX-2, which is one of the unbelievably bad guys in myeloma (just do a search of my blog for COX-2, which, among other things, is a predictor of a poor outcome in myeloma…). The full text is available for free online: http://goo.gl/5SJk2…Yes, it’s a bit technical, but if you read the important bits here and there, you will find out that chamomile inhibits a pesky inflammatory enzyme known as COX-2.

(Please note: there are quite a few of these natural COX-2 inhibitors. Again, do a search of my blog. For example, thyme oil, sesamin, ashwagandha, boswellic acid and apigenin. Oh, almost goes without saying: curcumin! :-) )

Chamomile, the authors tell us, has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It is consumed in the form of tea at a frequency of more than a million cups per day. Chamomile has been approved by the German Commission E for oral consumption in the management of various inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, and for topical application in the treatment of various skin disorders and inflammatory disorders of certain mucosal surfaces, such as the oral cavity and ano-genital areas. Wow, I had no idea. And…and…and…more than a million cups A DAY?  😯

It has antioxidant, hypocholesteroemic, anti-parasitic, anti-aging, and anticancer properties. Again, I had no idea.

And there’s another thing. Until I read this study, my brain had not registered the fact that chamomile’s most active ingredient is APIGENIN…Remember my posts on apigenin (parsley, celery…) and myeloma? One by one, the lights go on…

Chamomile also (see page 6) inhibits iNOS, which means “inducible nitric oxide synthase.” iNOS is a pathway linked to inflammation, which is , quelle surprise (not), also involved in myeloma, and not in a good way, believe me.

Another good bit of news is that chamomile also inhibits something called PGE2, which is secreted by some types of myeloma cells (=the mutant RAS ones). PGE2 contributes to the cells’ resistance to melphalan, among other things. See: http://goo.gl/ArzGi Ah. 

And hey, check what the “Blood” study authors say at the end of the “Discussion” part: A recent study confirming the involvement of cox-2 and PGE2 in osteoclastogenesis suggests that up-regulated activity in mutant RAS myeloma could also contribute to progressive lytic bone disease. cox-2 inhibitors may, thus, be worthwhile agents for future therapy.

So the hyperactive COX-2 and PGE2 also seem to help myeloma cells destroy our bones. Not good! 

Let’s compare that to the Conclusions of our “chamomile” study: The mechanism of action of chamomile on the inhibition of PGE2 production was due to the suppression of the COX-2 gene expression and direct inhibition of COX-2 enzyme activity. This may be important in the prevention of inflammation and may contribute to the antiinflammatory, anti-neoplastic and immunoregulatory effects of chamomile. Yay! 

I don’t know if my type of myeloma is mutant RAS or not…I read that 30-40% of myeloma patients have this sort of mutation, which is linked to not-so-lovely things such as disease progression and resistance to treatments. Well, one thing’s for sure: I’m going to begin drinking chamomile. Organic only, of course! 

Can’t hurt…

Could help…

P.S. Note: from what I’ve read, the type of chamomile with the strongest medicinal activity is the German Matricaria Recutita

Afternoon tea in Arezzo, teardrops kill harmful bacteria, immune suppression in cancer, dexamethasone and MUC1, and the piano stairs (fun theory)…

I actually don’t have a huge amount of free time today. But I’m on a break, so here’s a quick post.

First, Arezzo: yesterday we spent a lovely relaxing day with friends (photo no. 1 is of Arezzo’s sloping and splendid Piazza Grande), which ended with a superb afternoon tea. Yes, I know, there is no traditional three-tier cake stand on the table, but there were eight of us, and we were all quite hungry, so it made more sense to arrange the food on plates and platters.

As you can see, we had four different types of homemade sandwiches, heaps of scones (lower right corner), shortbread (lower left, next to more sandwiches, and upper right), apple pie (upper left corner), one of my best coffee cakes (big hit, I’m happy to report; it’s that dark thing, next to the apple pie, going clockwise), muffins, small fruit tarts, whipped cream instead of clotted cream (we can’t get that here), homemade jams, crème anglaise to go with the pie…and five different types of tea, including an herbal one. My favorite: Simo’s traditional scones, the absolute best! 

Art left a comment on my January 19 “Cancer vaccine” post that gave me some food for thought. He’s right: dexamethasone induces MUC1. 😕

Well, without more ado, here is Art’s link to the relevant “Blood” article: http://goo.gl/bfC9m I checked PubMed briefly and, unfortunately, found that the “Blood” study is not an isolated case. Hmmm. I don’t know what to do with this info…So I’ll just leave it at that…

The other day I read an interesting Science Daily article on tears. Well, well, we learn something every day…Check it out: http://goo.gl/yPkYn Hey, too bad we can’t have those lysozymes latch their jaws onto a bunch of our blasted myeloma cells, eh!!! 😉

This is something I am still checking out…a new target = myeloid-derived suppressor cells, or MDSCs, which play an important role in immune suppression: http://goo.gl/G6C8U Not surprisingly, curcumin prevents these pesky cells from interacting with cancer cells, which is obviously a good thing: http://goo.gl/9E8iq Will I ever cease to be amazed at the extraordinary properties of curcumin? Probably not.

Now for something fun: http://goo.gl/EBKLH

Well, I am also looking at other things, but my free time is up for now. So…off I go! :)

Updates and photos…

Update on Lucy, the Canada goose: she’s going home where she belongs! Yaaaaay! Not sure exactly when that’s going to happen, but the important thing is that it’s going to happen!!!  So happy about that! This bit of good news put a smile on my face first thing this morning…

Thanks to everyone who signed the petition, by the way! Without you, this result would not have been possible! :)

Let’s see. It was a lovely sunny day here in Florence. So Stefano and I went for a nice stroll in the center of Florence. These are some of the photos I took…

We spotted a coot swimming on the river Arno (can you believe that?) as well as several egrets, but the best part of our time in town was visiting the church of Santa Maria Novella (first photo). 

It’s hard to miss…I mean, you can see it from Florence’s main train station, which in fact is called “Stazione di Santa Maria Novella.” 

I hadn’t visited Santa Maria Novella in ages, mainly because in recent years Florence residents had to pay to visit it, and I thought that wasn’t fair. But last week a friend told me that it’s free now…for us (not for tourists). So today, since we were nearby, we went inside, and wow, it’s such a pretty church…I’d forgotten! Lots of important artwork, too (check  http://goo.gl/AZBYt).

Lovely day…really enjoyed it…and our quick and cheap lunch (falafel and hummus and yummy sauces) in our favorite kebab place just put the cherry on the cake. :) 

Okay. Just for laughs, now. Cat people out there, have you ever been stared down (for no apparent reason) by your cat/cats? Well, then check out this cat, hehe: http://goo.gl/92qqV

And many thanks to Lori for posting this on Facebook. Very funny. It’s a Super Bowl commercial (I’ve never watched a football game in my life, but I find the Super Bowl commercials very funny): http://goo.gl/BQryi

Tomorrow we’re visiting friends in the city of Arezzo. They are preparing and hosting a REAL British afternoon tea…yummy, can’t wait! We’re leaving early, so that we will have enough time to walk around Arezzo, another lovely Tuscan city… :)

So I should have more photos on Monday. Unless I decide to do a serious post, of course! 😉

Please sign this petition!

Once again, I would like to go way off topic to ask for your help in bringing Lucy, the Canada goose, home to her human family (for more info, see my January 17 2012 post). 

You (and your neighbours and friends and colleagues and…well, everyone!) can now sign an online petition to help Lucy: http://goo.gl/ym3nN

Two weeks ago, Lucy was free to fly/go wherever she wished…at any time. Now she is locked up, unable to fly. Does that make any sense? No…didn’t think so. 

So let’s send Lucy home…before she dies from all the stress (she’s being moved around a lot, apparently…Again, does that make any sense? Sheesh…)…

Please sign this petition and ask everyone you know to sign, too! Thanks! 

Cancer vaccine being tested on multiple myeloma patients…

Back in mid November, a blog reader (thanks, J!) posted a link on my blog’s Facebook Page about the development of a cancer vaccine called ImMucin, which, and here’s the exciting part!, was being tested in clinical trials on patients with multiple myeloma. Very exciting news. 

Now, I’d known for a while that a vaccine was in the works. But the 2005 clinical trial testing the vaccine (same thing, same company etc.) had been “withdrawn prior to enrollment”…no explanations given. It might have been a simple sort of bureaucratic hiccup…I mean, they might simply have run out of funds or whatnot. But, lacking an explanation, I stopped following this “case.” 

And that is why I’m very grateful to J for bringing the vaccine to my attention again. I noticed that this second trial (still recruiting, btw) has added something to the mix, something called “recombinant human granulocyte-monocyte colony stimulating factor.” Drat, I don’t have the time right now to check on that…oh well. But it left a question in my mind, since the first trial was only going to test ImMucin by itself…hmmm…

I’m also verrrry grateful to another blog reader, L, for pulling together a whole bunch of links for me. Back in November, however, I have to confess that I was overwhelmed, so I postponed writing a post on this topic until I had more time to check out all L’s links and do more research. Of course, time passed, life got busy and eventually, well, I forgot about it (my deepest apologies both to J and L). 

Until today.

Today a third (!) blog reader sent me a link providing an update on the clinical trial: http://goo.gl/O4kRc (you can also check the Clinical Trials website: http://goo.gl/uNyMs). Here’s an interesting excerpt: The new vaccine works by activating the immune system by “training” T-cells to search and destroy cells with the MUC1 molecule, typically found only on cancer cells. More than 90% of common solid tumor cancers bear the MUC1 molecule, as well as many non-solid tumors, including lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma.  

Okay, so we know that the vaccine blocks a thingy called MUC1. Well, back in November, my above-mentioned blog reader L had the absolutely brilliant idea of checking to see if there were any natural MUC1 blockers. Success! Wonderful L found a study (full text available online: http://goo.gl/3b0yn) showing that apigenin blocks MUC1.

I’ve written a few posts about apigenin, a compound that can be found mainly in parsley but also in other foods and herbs (do a Search of my blog for “apigenin”). The most important one would be my August 30 2011 post in which I reported about a Chinese study showing that apigenin kills myeloma cells on its own (full text available online for free: http://goo.gl/Rqs02).

L also sent me the link to a 2009 study linking MUC1 to the NF-kappaB pathway, which is one of the main bad guys in myeloma: http://goo.gl/RJ3JI As the study’s title suggests, MUC1 activates NF-kappaB, which is clearly BAD. The great news therefore is: if we can stop MUC1, we can block NF-kappaB, too. Theoretically. 

So, given all this great info about apigenin’s dual activity (= blocking MUC1 AND killing myeloma cells), why wait until 2017 for the vaccine to be available on the market? Why can’t some of us go ahead and increase our daily intake of apigenin? I’m referring to those of us who aren’t on any chemo or other drugs whose activity might be hindered by apigenin. And here I must tell you this: before imbibing huge quantities of apigenin via parsley or a supplement, please keep in mind that it might possibly interfere with the drugs you are taking. Wonderful L sent me a list that you can check out: http://goo.gl/p5MFK She also pointed out that parsley is loaded with vitamin K, which can interfere with coumadin or blood-thinning meds.

Bottom line: do your research…ask your doctors before taking anything…and please be careful. 

L also found out that dried parsley actually contains a higher amount of apigenin than fresh parsley. She calculated that 2.4 grams of dried parsley has the same amount of apigenin (300 mg) as 100 grams of fresh parsley

She didn’t stop there. She went into her kitchen and did some measuring for us (love that!). She calculated that each gram of dried parsley yields 135 mg of apigenin. And one gram of dried parsley = two level teaspoons. So that seems to be an easy way to get more apigenin into our body. I mean, two teaspoons of dried parsley added to a glass of water (L tried it and reported that the taste was okay) will give us 135 mg of apigenin, based on L’s calculations. 

My own very quick bit of research this morning led me to a Chinese study on EGCG and the wayward MUC1 protein: http://goo.gl/uCs0b So yay, we can add another readily available item to our natural, anti-MUC1 list.  

Well, this post is not exhaustive by any means, but it gives us a start, at least…

Your comments and contributions are greatly appreciated…Thanks! :)

Save Lucy!

This morning on Facebook I read a sad goose story. An outrageous story that I hope will have a happy ending. But in order for that to happen, Lucy, the Canada goose, needs your help. First, here’s the link to the newspaper article: http://goo.gl/KRVpY

There is no reason for Lucy to be killed. No reason at all. It makes no sense.

She should instead be returned to the Vander Wiel family in Fort St. James. Immediately. If, after reading the article, you agree with me, then why don’t we get a “Save Lucy!” campaign going? You can do what I did, that is, write to the Minister of the Environment, the Hon. Peter Kent, and ask him to intervene in this case. His contact information is:

Tel.: 819-997-1441

Fax: 819-953-0279

E-mail: Minister@ec.gc.ca

I also cc’d the generic Environment Canada address: enviroinfo@ec.gc.ca And I cc’d the Vancouver Sun reporter, Kelly Sinoski: ksinoski@vancouversun.com Same e-mail message. Easy peasy. 

When I belonged to Amnesty International, I learned to keep letters short and simple. So this is what I wrote (you can edit it, make it better and/or use it as you wish…hmmm, now that I have reread my message, I realize I could have done better…oh well, too late…but you can do better, of course!): 

Dear Minister Kent,

I just read the story of Lucy, the Canada goose that was saved from certain death by Diane Vander Wiel a few years ago, when it was a mere chick. Well, last week federal wildlife officials took Lucy from the only home she has ever known, in Fort St. James. The reason I am writing to you is that there is a risk now that she will be killed.

That’s outrageous. Simply outrageous. There is no reason for that.

I would like to join the thousands of people who believe that Lucy should be given back to the Vander Wiel family.

I hope you will intervene as soon as possible, before it’s too late.

Yours faithfully,

YOUR NAME 

Link to Lucy’s story: INSERT LINK

With all the horrible things that happen every day, I know it may seem silly to get all upset over a goose, but this story struck a chord with me. I put myself in Diane’s shoes: if federal authorities decided to take one of my cats away from me for no good reason at all (as in this Canadian case), well, I’d like someone to stick up for me. So that’s what I’m doing today.

I’m sticking up for what is right, which is: give Lucy back to her family! Go after poachers, not well-meaning individuals…