Monthly Archives: April 2012

I need a checklist!

Stefano and I spent the past couple of days (it’s a long weekend here in Italy) bird watching in two different bird reserves. On Saturday we went to the Parco della Piana, a public park…a real paradise for birdwatchers because the birds aren’t afraid but come very close to the huts…it’s located in the municipality of Sesto Fiorentino, just outside of Florence…

And yesterday we went to the WWF “Oasi di Gabbianello,” north of Florence, near Barberino di Mugello, for those familiar with Tuscany…(I’ve posted photos from both reserves here on the blog, incidentally, so if you’d like to see more bird photos, just do a Search of my blog.)

On Saturday we were in a bit of a hurry to leave the house, so I didn’t check my camera bag, as I normally do. Mistake! When we arrived at the Parco della Piana and settled in one of the bird watching huts that has a lovely a view of the lake (and the birds), I realized that my camera battery was blinking on “low.”

Ah well, no problem, I thought! I began fishing around in my camera bag but, to my absolute horror!, I discovered that I didn’t have any extra batteries…not even ONE. I’d left them all at home…

And that’s why I need a camera bag CHECKLIST, you see! 😉

I mean, there they were, all those splendid waders and water birds, right in front of me, providing photo ops that would have delighted any professional nature photographer. For instance:

  • A little grebe mamma feeding and teaching her three noisy chicks…(no photos, sorry.)
  • A white heron harassing a pair of black-winged stilts that had just finished building their nest…they were angrily flying around the heron, trying to shoo it away…photo no. 1, top left. The best I have.
  • Another female black-winged stilt who was already keeping her eggs warm on a nearby “island”…photo no. 2, right.
  • A great crested grebe swimming practically at our feet…photo no. 3, here on the right.

And I…I didn’t have an extra camera battery…

Blink blink blink.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

I did manage to take several photos before my battery kicked the bucket…but I have to admit at being very disappointed (and a tad envious!) just sitting there and watching the birds (some came sooo close!)…and listening to Stefano’s camera going tatatatatatata! Sigh…

Anyway, that was Saturday…

On Sunday, with my camera bag CHOCK FULL of extra batteries, we spotted fewer birds (at Gabbianello). Typical…

But, and this was terribly exciting!!!, we did catch sight of, and manage to photograph, two new (new to us, that is!) birds:

  1. a ruff, which in Italian is called “combattente” (=literally, “fighter”; see http://goo.gl/4alQG). See photo no. 5, bottom left. 
  2. a squacco heron (“sgarza ciuffetto,” in Italian; see http://goo.gl/A9Tg5). We’d seen a squacco heron at Gabbianello on one other occasion but didn’t know what it was back then. Now we do (sort of). Let me tell ya, a squacco heron isn’t that easy to spot unless you see it in flight (it has easy-to-detect white wings) and manage to follow it until it lands…That’s how Stefano first spotted it, in fact. Okay, now you can play my “spot the bird!” game–try to see where the squacco heron is in photo no. 4, just above, on the right. See what I mean??? Good luck! 😉 

Whenever and wherever we go birding, we bump into Fabio (you can view his photos here (not for sale, btw): http://goo.gl/L1bp0), a very friendly, cheerful and knowledgeable birdwatcher. In fact, Fabio identified the ruff for us on Sunday. It’s really handy to have friends like Fabio when you’re a birding beginner, let me tell ya! :)

Stefano and Fabio get along famously, since they both know everything there is to know (I mean that!) about camera equipment. While I’m checking out the birds on the lake, they begin blabbing about lens aperture, pixels, shutter speed, noise blablablabla. I tune it all out…

As I’ve written on previous occasions, I have one of those “point and shoot” digital cameras with a decent zoom, and that’s good enough for me! :)

Cancer-killing dandelion tea gets $157K research grant

A blog reader, thanks!, sent me the link to this CBC News article on the healthful benefits of dandelions (and here I thought they were just weeds…): http://goo.gl/yajZP

A research team headed by Siyaram Pandey, a biochemist at the University of Windsor, showed that even a low dose of a dandelion root EXTRACT can make leukemic cells commit suicide (= apoptosis). How about that???

I was also intrigued to discover HOW this research came about in the first place: Pandey admits he was skeptical when he was first approached by local oncologist, Dr. Caroline Hamm, who was curious about cancer patients who had been drinking dandelion tea and seemed to be getting better.

AHA!!! It all began because of patients drinking dandelion tea and GETTING BETTER…A familiar story…

However, before you begin pulling up all the weeds in your garden, make sure you read Dr. Hamm’s warning: “dandelion extract tea could interfere with regular chemotherapy, and she urged patients not to mix the natural remedy with other cancer drugs without speaking to a doctor first.” Now, those of us who aren’t doing any conventional treatments can get a dandelion tea recipe online (I just checked, there are tons)…or, if we’re feeling a bit lazy/don’t have access to any dandelions, we can just buy some organic dandelion tea (heaps of brands out there…any suggestions?)…Easy peasy! :)

Anyway, I strongly recommend that we all read this article…very interesting…especially Mr. DiCarlo’s story at the end…

“You aren’t a sick man anymore.” Wouldn’t we all love to hear those words…

Phase I study of surface-controlled water soluble curcumin (Theracurmin CR-011L)

This morning I read an article about a new MD Anderson Phase I trial administering curcumin to metastatic cancer patients who have not responded to chemo and radiation treatments. NOTE: this is a new type of curcumin…a WATER-SOLUBLE, nanotechnology-enhanced type (no kidding), which basically means that it’s better absorbed into the bloodstream than regular curcumin. That’s what we want…

Here’s the link:  http://goo.gl/l9r6S  The article begins with a description of an organization called “Gateway for Cancer Research,” which funds promising cancer research…alternative, too. I really liked what the Gateway President (a 14-year cancer survivor) said: 

We support truly innovative and promising research that has potential to positively impact the lives of cancer patients at the earliest opportunity. We’re not interested in cancer research that experiments on laboratory mice for years and years without cures.” Excellent!

Reading on, the article tells us that two of the patients in the study have already responded well to this new type of curcumin: their tumors have shrunk…in one case, quite substantially. Wow. 

The last paragraph expresses my sentiments exactly: Patients want this information. They want less toxic, more effective treatment options. Indeed! Anyway, a good read. Highly recommended. 

And here is the direct link to the MD Anderson Phase I curcumin study, which, incidentally, is still recruiting patients: http://goo.gl/zTn4P

While I find this to be a verrrrry promising and exciting study, I have to add that I’m driven absolutely BONKERS by the fact that only metastatic cancer patients (with a short life expectancy) are allowed to enroll. Hellooooooo??? Since curcumin is non toxic blablabla (bla), then why can’t patients in early stages be part of the study, too? I mean, if we can stop cancer from spreading, if we can even shrink existing tumors in a non-toxic way, then why not “go get ’em!” in an early stage??? It makes sense, doesn’t it? If I lived in Texas, I’d be absolutely thrilled to participate in such a study…But, as things stand, I wouldn’t be eligible…I’m too “healthy”…

Very frustrating!!! (To say the least.)

Anyway, today is a national holiday in Italy, and the sun has just come out, so Stefano and I are about to set off for the Parco della Piana (near Florence) to do some bird watching. We hope to see some “babies”! That would be lovely. :)

How do we heal medicine?

I’m a huge fan of TED talks. I’ve posted some here in the past, notably the one about the JQ1 molecule, and I make sure to watch a few talks every month, if I have time…even on topics that are, or seem to be, completely unrelated to anything that is of interest to me. I remember watching a talk on bugs, e.g….and being compleeeeetely fascinated… :)

Today, though, I watched a talk that really resonated with me. Wait until you hear the final part…My reaction was to say “WOW!” out loud. And I think you will, too. This paragraph introduces Dr. Gawande’s talk: 

Our medical systems are broken. Doctors are capable of extraordinary (and expensive) treatments, but they are losing their core focus: actually treating people. Doctor and writer Atul Gawande suggests we take a step back and look at new ways to do medicine — with fewer cowboys and more pit crews. Surgeon by day and public health journalist by night, Atul Gawande explores how doctors can dramatically improve their practice using something as simple as a checklist.

Here is the link: http://goo.gl/CcW6G 

Hmmm. I have a final question: does oncology have checklists? 

“Better is possible. It does not take genius. It takes diligence. It takes moral clarity. It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try.” Atul Gawande

Parsley, cayenne pepper, cancer-fighting cholesterol, a dancing kitten and Pinga in a hammock…

Whenever I decide it’s time to do some research and writing for the blog, something always seems to pop up (work, mainly…which is good, of course!), and I’m forced to abandon my good intentions. Well, “things” have been popping up all week, and now it’s Friday! How did that happen??? 😉

Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy it’s Friday. Friday means that Stefano and I will be spending two full days together, plus there’s lots going on in Florence this weekend. The 2012 edition of the city’s “Mostra Internazionale dell’Artigianato” (one of Italy’s oldest and famous arts and crafts fair) opens on Saturday, e.g. It’s tiring but (almost) always interesting. And fun…But take my advice: if you’re going to the Artigianato, wear super comfy shoes…there’s a lot of walking involved…

Let’s see, what else? Later today I’m playing cards and then having dinner with a group of funny gals at my best friend’s house.  Fun fun fun. 

Anyway, point is: no time for research. Not today.

And so I’m going to give you the links to a couple of interesting Natural News articles posted by a blog reader (thanks) on Facebook:

A write-up on parsley (good source of apigenin): http://goo.gl/Ejt58 And here is a bit of info on parsley “safety”(source: Drugs.com): http://goo.gl/Uka2H 

A write-up on cayenne pepper (capsaicin kills MM cells!): http://goo.gl/v24WN 

I just read another really interesting bit of news…Cholesterol, a cancer-fighter? 😯 Here’s the link: http://goo.gl/gubei

Okay, now for some fun. Here is a really CUTE kitten video that I watched this morning…Made me chuckle: http://goo.gl/LMGdY 

I’d like to end this “post” by adding a photo of my own real-life kitty, my crazy and irresistible Pinga, quietly resting in the hammock of the new, ceiling-high cat tree (= a big hit with our furry ones, by the way). Awwww…

Well, if we decide to skip the Artigianato, and/or if the weekend weather doesn’t allow us to go birding (it’s been raining almost nonstop all week), I’ll probably have time to post some research-related stuff this weekend. In the meantime, have fun, y’all, and take care! 😀

Lucy, a dog in remission from nasal cancer…

Sometimes I get notes from readers with pets. Pets with cancer. The readers usually ask me about curcumin doses for animals. It’s a tough topic, but I have written a few posts about it (see, e.g., my March 11 2010 and October 11 2007 posts).

Well, today, thanks to a Google Alert, I stumbled across the story of a dog named Lucy. For the past year, Lucy has been in remission from nasal cancer. She has taken a combo of natural extracts, including curcumin. Luckily for us, her “owner” decided to post her story on a blog, with videos and photos: http://goo.gl/f5Swt Three cheers for Lucy!!!

Speaking of dogs, today I watched a video showing a playful dog trying to get a “stranger” (…) to throw him (her?) a stick: http://goo.gl/UnF9x Very high on the cute factor! :) Enjoy!

Meriva…

Some blog readers have asked me to ask all of you out there if by any chance you’ve tried the “Meriva” curcumin. If so, do you have any results? I’m curious, too, even though I have such a huge supply of Doctor’s Best (the 500 mg capsule form) that I won’t be trying anything new for months…But still, I’d love to know…Thanks!

A reader sent me the link to this “Medical News Today” article about a recent, comparative Meriva study: http://goo.gl/bhGiE Since I don’t have access to the full study, I don’t know what type of “corresponding unformulated curcuminoid mixture” was used in this comparative test…that would be a bit of interesting info, methinks…oh well…

The abstract of the original study can be found here: http://goo.gl/QldHu Interesting quote: …the major plasma curcuminoid after administration of Meriva was not curcumin (1a), but demethoxycurcumin (1b), a more potent analogue in many in vitro anti-inflammatory assays. Well, well…

Anyway, for the first time since I tested BCM-95 (with terrrrrrrible results), I am tempted to try something new…But not until I finish what I already have…especially since the price of curcumin has soared in recent months…mamma mia!  😯

Anti-myeloma vaccine trial data…

At the beginning of April, Vaxil BioTherapeutics released the interim results from its Phase I and II vaccine trial in multiple myeloma patients. The full shebang is available online for free, so I don’t need to do much…commenting (though I probably will, hehe): http://goo.gl/ec1ZI

The vaccine, called ImMucin, targets something called MUC1 (the “Muc” in “ImMucin”!) = a gene that can cause cancer also known as an “oncoprotein.” As we can read in the above-mentioned press release, MUC1 is present in 90% of all tumors. OF ALL TUMORS. Myeloma, too, of course. Myeloma cells thrive on MUC1…but when this oncoprotein is blocked, they all die (see this Dana Farber 2012 study, e.g.: http://goo.gl/zmvNR). A no-brainer, eh…

I’ve already written about this vaccine (see my January 19 2012 “apigenin” post: http://goo.gl/X01ht), mainly because apigenin—a natural compound found mainly in celery and parsley—also inhibits MUC1…How about that? So hey, this is something we can all do…I mean, while waiting for more info to be released, it can’t hurt to increase our intake of celery and other apigenin-containing foods (but please be careful about eating too much parsley, which could be toxic in high doses…My above-mentioned post includes a bunch of warnings, so please have a look at it first…). 

Back to the Vaxil press release now. Only seven multiple myeloma patients have thus far been treated with the ImMucin vaccine. And here are the preliminary results: the vaccine has a very high safety profile. No side effects were observed with the exception of minor local irritation which all resolved themselves within 24 hours without the need for any additional treatment or medical intervention. Sounds good…

And, after only being given 2-4 doses (out of 12), all the patients had a robust and specific immune response. Indeed, some of the patients’ cancer markers stabilized or even decreased. And three out of seven patients are in complete response now. No news on how the four others are doing, though. But this is a press release whose main goal seems to be that of announcing a company merger, so I suppose the lack of medical details is to be expected.

Now here is a really interesting…and important titbit: Firstly, ImMucin can be offered to a very wide section of the population with no need for complicated and expensive personalization or prior selection based on the patient’s immune system. Second, ImMucin has the ability that may enable it to cope with the tendency of the tumor to evade the immune response and develop resistance to treatment. Aha!

Well, that’s what we know so far. It looks very good on paper, but of course we have to keep in mind that the vaccine producers themselves are releasing their own data. So before getting too excited, I’d like to see some independent trial data. Still…

Fingers crossed! :)

P.S. I almost forgot to mention that my blog’s commenting problems seem to have been solved (thanks, Beth!)…shhhht, don’t let the spammers know! 😉 So go ahead and post a comment, if you wish. Oh, if you notice that it isn’t published immediately, that simply means that I’m not at the computer (I have to approve all comments, you see…). 

Piccolo’s birthday and a few other things…

Today I meant to read and post about one of the full studies lying on my desktop, but a blog reader sent me the link to a video that made me laugh out loud, especially at the end. I just had to share it! And, while I’m at it, I might as well post the link to almost too-incredible-to-believe story that I read yesterday…

First, the funny link: http://goo.gl/MDyBC 

And now you can watch a video and/or read about a teenager who, 18 years ago, ran from chemotherapy treatments, chose alternative remedies (including diet) and is now, at age 34, cancer free: http://goo.gl/xC4AD An interesting story, for sure…

P.S. This morning I received (more) messages from blog readers telling me that they aren’t able to post any comments on the blog. Okay. Well, at least we now KNOW there is a problem. The Healthblogs manager will fix it, and I’m sure things will get back to normal soon. Thanks for your help (and your patience!). :)

P.P.S.S. Today is Piccolo’s birthday (here’s a recent photo of my boy on the new cat tree). He’s nine years old. We know the exact birthDAYS of only two of our cats, simply because they were born in a neighbor’s garden: one of them is Piccolo, of course; the other is Peekaboo, five years old. As for our other three cats, we “rescued” them  from the street, so we can only guess at their ages: Puzzola, Priscilla and Pinga, respectively eleven, seven and almost three, more or less…we think…

Anyway, happy birthday, auguri!, Piccolo! My handsome boy who still brings toy balls to me and “asks” me to throw them down the stairs so he can retrieve them…who fills our bed with balls during the night…who”skypes” with my parents and watches nature documentaries on TV. I think he’s the smartest cat I’ve ever had…certainly one of the most affectionate (loves forehead “bumps”!) and loudest purrers (though perhaps not as loud as Smokey, the world’s loudest purrcat: http://goo.gl/YwIxs  😉 )…

Okay, I’m off to read a full study! Yay!