Ancient viruses buried in our DNA may be raising our risks for cancer

Thanks to a friend, I also read this New York Times Science article on ancient viruses and their possible link to cancer: goo.gl/akhVZp

Did you know that our “DNA contains roughly 100,000 pieces of viral DNA”? No, I didn’t, either, yikes. That’s one of the things I learned from this article…

Anyway, I hope you enjoy yet another very interesting reading…a rather scary one, too, when you think about all the ancient retroviruses living inside of us, and what they might be doing, but, as I always maintain, it’s better to KNOW than not to know.  🙂

New study: polydatin blasts myeloma cells to smithereens

First, what is polydatin? Have you ever heard of it? I hadn’t…before this morning. Well, in short, it’s extracted from Japanese knotweed, a large, herbaceous perennial plant of the knotweed and buckwheat family Polygonaceae. japanese_knotweed-2The description sounds quite innocuous, but in fact this plant is far from innocuous. It’s a terribly invasive, almost impossible-to-get-rid-of WEED that can take over huge expanses of land if unchecked, and its rhizomes can even cause extensive damage to building foundations, walls, and whatnot. Okay, well, there go my first thoughts of planting some in the back yard. Oooops, not happening!!!

But forget the plant. What should interest us is Its extract, polydatin, which has been shown to inhibit “the proliferation of leukemia, breast cancer, lung cancer, cervical cancer and liver cancer.”

So the newly-published Chinese study I read this morning on the effects of polydatin and myeloma didn’t just come out of the blue but is backed by a number of scientific studies…In fact, I just found a study on polydatin and laryngeal cancer in PubMed…published just two days ago…

Oh, before I forget, the full polydatin and myeloma study is available for free on PubMed. Just click here: goo.gl/kZex2M

Interesting aside: as we can read in the abstract, in addition to its anti-cancer effects, polydatin has a bunch of other abilities, such as reducing blood lipids (and that is a great bit of info, considering what we know now about cancer cells and lipids, see my March 4 2017 post) and protecting us from strokes. Yes, interesting indeed…

Note: this study tests polydatin on cells, not people. But even so, the results, on the myeloma RPMI 8226 cell line, are quite amazing: the more polydatin was added to the mix, the more these myeloma cells stopped proliferating. The MM cells eventually died. DIED.

Super duper.

Now, the only thing that slightly concerned me was in the Discussion part, where the researchers state that polydatin was found to be less toxic to normal cells. Does that mean it was somewhat toxic to normal cells, though less so, compared to cancer cells? I couldn’t find an answer…can anyone else find it?

Reading on, we see that polydatin (or PD, for short), “functioned as a tumor suppressor in MM cells.  The proliferation of MM cells decreased and apoptosis increased progressively along with the increasing concentrations of PD.” Super duper…again.

The study concludes that “PD effectively suppressed cell growth and induced apoptosis and autophagy in MM cells through mTOR/p70s6k signaling pathway in vitro, which indicates that PD could be used as a potential anticancer drug for MM treatment. However, further research is needed to explore the anticancer effect of PD in vivo.”

Just one last comment on mTOR, that is, polydatin’s target. And here I’m taking from my own research: mTOR is a really nasty pathway involved with myeloma disease progression. When mTOR is activated, MM cell lines resist being killed. Obviously, not good at all. And, in fact, if you do a search of PubMed, mTOR inhibitors are being developed all over the place to treat myeloma.

Okay, so more studies (in vivo ones, especially) are needed, blablabla. But what I find tremendously significant is that this new study proves that the interest in finding new plant extracts that might possibly be useful in the treatment of myeloma and other cancers is live and well.

And that can only be a very GOOD thing…!!!

The gut factor

Before I give you the link to a very interesting article I read in “The Scientist” this morning on the connection between gut bacteria and cancer, I should really tell you why I haven’t been posting lately. I got back from my emergency trip to the U.S. almost a month ago, but since then I’ve been terribly busy…lots going on…and I’ve also been terribly worried about my mother, who is still in the rehab clinic and not doing as well as she should be at this stage. Luckily, my sister is there, taking care of everything, but the daily updates she gives me by phone and email are hard to take, at times. Well, fingers crossed…

So, yes, in short, I just haven’t felt like posting…

But from now on I will make an effort to post more frequently, especially if I read something that tickles my brain cells, which happened with the above-mentioned article. Here is the link: http://goo.gl/O1BDZ5 I warn you, it’s long!

The article doesn’t mention myeloma or any other type of blood cancer, but in the second paragraph it does bring up the possibility that gut bacteria could “contribute to cancer cell death, even in tumors far from the gastrointestinal tract. The most logical link between the microbiome and cancer is the immune system. Resident microbes can either dial up inflammation or tamp it down, and can modulate immune cells’ vigilance for invaders. Not only does the immune system appear to be at the root of how the microbiome interacts with cancer therapies, it also appears to mediate how our bacteria, fungi, and viruses influence cancer development in the first place.”

Myeloma…immune system…microbes…

???

So if you have some free time in the next couple of days, put your feet up and take a look at this article. And, by the way, any thoughts would be most appreciated. Leave me a comment or two! 🙂 Thank you!

P.S. A blog reader sent me a link (https://goo.gl/LdXif3) to a recent “Guardian” article discussing how our gut microbes may even affect our behavior, thoughts, and moods…as well as the structure and function of our brains. This might turn out to be good news for folks who have multiple sclerosis, for example. So, another very interesting read. Very!

Clock gene slows cancer growth

Don (Myeloma Hope blog) has recently been discussing chronotherapy, or chrono-modulated therapy, in which the chemo is administered at the time of day that takes advantage of a person’s biorhythms to maximize the benefit and minimize the side effects of the drug (see http://myelomahope.blogspot.com/2009/02/plateau-continued.html).

 

It just so happens that I just finished reading a Science Daily article (http://tinyurl.com/dykr6y) linking the disruption of the circadian clock, the internal time-keeping mechanism that keeps the body running on a 24-hour cycle, to the slowing down of cancer growth. Coincidentally, more than a year ago I wrote a post about our complex internal ticking system (see my November 11, 2007 post; great set of comments, too). The subject is of huge interest to me, since it would be absolutely fantastic to figure out the best time of day to take supplements…

 

At any rate, a team of University of North Carolina researchers discovered that genetically altering one of four essential “clock” genes actually suppressed cancer growth in a mouse model commonly used to investigate cancer. A group of mice with a mutated p53 gene (p53 is a tumour suppressor under normal circumstances) lived longer, 50% longer!, when the researchers fiddled around with their internal clocks. Their experiment showed that the mutation of this clock gene reactivates the intracellular signals that can eliminate cancerous cells. Well, well…

 

So the idea would be to slow down the rate of cancer progression by altering the internal clock of those who possess the p53 mutation. And, since this mutation is present in about 50% of human cancers, that would be quite an impressive number of patients. Hmmm, question: how do we find out if we have a mutated p53 gene?

At any rate, The findings could enable clinicians to reset the internal clock of each cancer cell to render it more vulnerable to attack with chemotherapeutic drugs. Reset e-a-c-h cancer cell? Uhmmm…hey, Scotty, beam me up!

Seriously now, more research is needed (I know, I know, I say that a lot, then I get totally sidetracked into researching heaps of other things…oh well…). I have begun compiling a list of circadian studies…at this rate, with all the studies I have to read, let’s see, uhm, I will have to live at least another 120 years…hey, I wonder if I can reset that part of my biological ticker…!

Eat your apigenin…

In my November 30th post I had a look at chemoresistance. Well, it just so happens that a few days ago, in a rather vain attempt to catch up on my Science Daily readings, I came across a bit of info (see http://tinyurl.com/56qhxh) that might be particularly useful to those doing chemo right now.

 

A recent study shows that apigenin, a naturally occurring dietary agent found in vegetables and fruit, can make cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy.

 

Here’s what happens: apigenin apparently localizes tumor suppressor p53, a protein, in the cell nucleus – a necessary step for killing the cell that results in some tumor cells responding to chemotherapy. […] In many cancers, p53 is rendered inactive by a process called cytoplasmic sequestration. Apigenin is able to activate p53 and transport it into the nucleus, resulting in a stop to cell growth and cell death. Now wait a sec. Why wouldn’t this phenomenon also help those of us who are not doing chemotherapy? Well, actually, I guess that would be implied in the researchers’ recommendation that fruit and veggies be included in everyone’s diet to prevent the development of cancer.

 

So where do we find apigenin? For the most part, in fruit (including apples, cherries, grapes), vegetables (including parsley, artichoke, basil, celery), nuts and plant-derived beverages (including tea and wine). It has been shown by researchers to have growth inhibitory properties in several cancer lines, including breast, colon, skin, thyroid and leukemia cells. It has also been shown to inhibit pancreatic cancer cell proliferation. Thumbs up!

 

If you do a search for apigenin on my blog, you will find my August 8 2008 post, reporting that this flavonoid doesn’t inhibit Bortezomib, which of course is a good thing for those who are on Velcade.

 

I did a quick online search on apigenin. Lots of interesting stuff came up, including a 2004 study (http://tinyurl.com/5o4lhw) on rats, which concludes that our body may be able to accumulate apigenin because it is metabolized, absorbed and eliminated slowly. So slowly, in fact, that apigenin was found in the rats’ blood nine days after administration. Incredible, huh? By the way, according to this study, apigenin can also be found in rosemary and camomile, and in honey, fennel and wheat germ.

 

In this November 2008 study (http://tinyurl.com/5sq5qt), we can read that apigenin inhibits NF-kappaB and also the molecules regulated by this transcription factor, such as Bcl-x (aha!) but not Bcl-2. It also inhibits COX-2. This is very good news for celery fans.

 

I haven’t been that interested in apigenin because, to my knowledge, there are no specific studies on apigenin and myeloma. But from now on I will try to keep half an eye on it.

 

Apigenin and leukemia: http://tinyurl.com/6hfgdk

Apigenin and ALL: http://tinyurl.com/5be38e

Apigenin and ovarian cancer: http://tinyurl.com/6qfooo

Apigenin and pancreatic cancer: http://tinyurl.com/6p3k9o

Apigenin and breast cancer: http://tinyurl.com/5qtva2

Apigenin and neuroblastoma: http://tinyurl.com/5ldg8o

The list goes on…

100,000 times stronger than curcumin…

I would like to mention that yesterday I updated my links to articles and studies, but mainly I put them in order by publication year. I hope that will make my blog more user-friendly (for me, too, eh…sometimes I have to do a search of my OWN blog to find stuff…!).

 

Now, let me explain the rather intriguing title of today’s post: the July 14 online edition of the Arizona Daily Star (http://www.azstarnet.com/metro/248162) had an article about a University of Arizona chemist, Prof. David Gang, who is currently studying the healthful effects of turmeric, ginger and sweet basil. Quick update: before posting this piece, I tested the above link and discovered that you have to register to read the article…a slight drag, even though said registration is free…(okay, I know I probably shouldn’t have done this…but I copied the article and would be happy to forward it upon request…no registration required…happy to do it…).

 

At any rate, Prof. Gang mentions the discovery of two other compounds found in the rhizome of turmeric that have up to 100,000 times the anti-inflammatory potency of curcumin. 100,000 times??? Now how come I wasn’t aware of this? Unfortunately, the names of these two compounds are not mentioned in the article…drat! I will have to put on my SR (=Serious Researching) cap at some point soon…

 

Prof. Gang has a holistic approach to health, which I very much appreciate, of course. And I was intrigued by his suggestion that adding turmeric to the diet would be more beneficial than taking a curcumin supplement: […] Gang believes it’s more beneficial to actually eat the spices than it is to take supplements of isolated compounds […] “You’re better off using it as part of your diet than waiting till you get sick and taking a supplement,” he said.

 

Truth be told, this is not the first time that I have considered the “spice versus active ingredient” business, but this may be the first time I have written about it.

 

My thoughts at this time: if your goal is to PREVENT an illness of some sort, even cancer, making dietary changes should be high on your list. I wish that years ago I had known what I know now. One of the things I would have changed entirely is my diet. But that milk is long spilt.

 

But what happens once you HAVE cancer? Is it enough to change your diet and add spices? Hmmm, I wonder. And I think Prof. Gang would be doubtful, too. Perhaps that might work for some types of cancer…but I am a bit too tired right now to start wading out into the deep end of the pool. wink smiley Of course, it’s never too late to change one’s lifestyle etc., and in fact, since my cancer diagnosis, I have made more than a few changes in my diet, which is still not perfect but is heaps better than before. And, especially during the winter months, I cook with truckloads of spices, such as turmeric, red pepper and ginger. But I also take supplements of isolated compounds. Is all this enough to keep me stable–my goal at present? Only time will tell…

 

An interesting experiment might be to stop taking curcumin for a couple of months and try just adding more spices to my daily diet. BUT: would I have the nerve to do that? STOP taking curcumin? The very idea gives me the quivers. Yikes…

 

By the way, Prof. Gang adds that a colleague of his is already looking to form a private company to develop pharmaceutical remedies from the compounds he isolates.

 

Spices for thought…

It doesn’t cure death, but…

nigella sativaToday’s Science Daily (http://tinyurl.com/42pofz) has an interesting report on Nigella sativa, also known as black cumin. The black cumin seed plant is a member of the buttercup family and is a highly regarded medicinal plant in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

This is not news to me. I wrote a post in September of 2007 about Nigella sativa titled “A cure for every disease except death.” If you need a memory refresher, just click on my black cumin page on the right side of your screen.

Back to Science Daily. Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University recently discovered that an extract of Nigella sativa, called thymoquinone, blocked pancreatic cancer cell growth and killed the cells via apoptosis.
After adding thymoquinone to pancreatic cancer cells, the researchers observed increased levels of p53 and Bax, both cancer cell killers, as well as decreased levels of Bcl-2, a protein that instead blocks apoptosis. For more technical details please go read the article.
 
So even though I am working on a different topic right now, this article motivated me to have a quick look around to see what else I could find.
 
An interesting abstract published in 2006 (see: http://tinyurl.com/4srow5) deals with the effects of Nigella sativa on rats who had been injected with cadmium. Well, the rats that were treated also with Nigella sativa fared much better than the others: their red and white blood cell counts and haemoglobin were higher, for instance. This is actually the real reason I decided to mention this study: if your haemoglobin and red and white blood cell counts are low, you might consider taking this supplement. Nigella sativa also increased the lowered insulin levels and neutrophils of the rats, and decreased their elevated heart rate and glucose concentration. So, good stuff!

Since Sherlock and I have been doing our experiments together, I have stopped taking Nigella sativa. But I will resume taking it over the summer as soon as our current experiment ends. My RBC and WBC counts are low, albeit still within the normal range. My haemoglobin is also within the normal range but I would love to bring it up a bit.

Hmmm, I just read that black cumin seeds are a good source of iron, as you can see here: http://tinyurl.com/3vvs5m. Well, well…WELL!

What, me worried??? Hah!!!

I hope this post won’t scare you into eating grass, and nothing but grass!…but…who would’ve ever thought?!!! 

Science Daily recently (http://tinyurl.com/32hx4t) reported on acrylamide. This is apparently a carcinogenic chemical that forms when we fry, bake or grill starch-rich foods at temperatures above 120 degrees Centigrade. Think about THAT the next time you bake some bread or some chocolate chip cookies! Or grill your spaghetti. Gee whiz. Another thing to worry about. Or…?

Okay, we all know that French fries are really really REALLY bad for us, and that is true for fried food as a category, but…bread and rice? And get this: apparently, the longer our food cooks, the more acrylamide is released. I think I might have been happier not knowing this.
 
But there is good news. We have ways of reducing the levels of this chemical. Perhaps you thought I was about to say by adding curcumin, huh? Nope, not this time.  Although I do confess that curcumin was my first thought, and I did check up on it (but found nada).

This time it’s rosemary. Just add a bit of rosemary to your bread or chocolate chip cookies (…ehhhh?! I know, I know…but we might learn to like the taste…hehe). Seriously, now: The addition of rosemary to dough prior to baking a portion of wheat buns at 225°C reduced the acrylamide content by up to 60 per cent. Even rosemary in small quantities – in one per cent of the dough – was enough to reduce the acrylamide content significantly.

Rosemary has plenty of healthful properties, and I love the taste to boot. So whenever I make bread now, I simply add (to the dough) some chopped up rosemary from my very own rosemary bushes in the back yard. Easy peasy! And the result is always delicious.

Another thing that will reduce the levels of this chemical is…drum roll…the green tea extract: EGCG. Hah!
 
I read another suggestion: if you simply MUST have French fries, don’t fry them until they are practically burned (the darker they are, the higher their acrylamide content will be). And, even more importantly, soak the potatoes in water for at least a half hour before frying (if you soak them for a couple of hours, you reduce the acrylamide content by almost 50%). Basically, the longer they soak, the less acrylamide will end up in your body. Funny thing is, I have been doing that anyway ever since my mother-in-law told me to soak potatoes in water with a bit of vinegar. She said that would make the potatoes crispier. But perhaps there was more to it than that. Hmmm.
 
Smoking also increases your levels of this chemical, so, smokers, BEWARE (I am referring to two beloved members of my family, in particular). I’d say this would be another good reason to quit.
 
Well, acrylamide has been found to cause cancer and neurological problems in lab rats and mice, but very few studies have been done to date on human exposure to this chemical. So I am not going to worry too much about it, but to be on the safe side I will be adding rosemary to my carb-ridden food.
 
Links to more info on this subject:
 
http://tinyurl.com/3yrrz3 Heat isn’t necessarily the only thing that should concern us. Acrylamide can be found in dried fruit, too. Ok, that is IT, I’m throwing my leftover raisins into the garden! (Just kidding!) Anyway, here you will find out why you should choose baking soda over baking powder. And other titbits.
 
http://tinyurl.com/2goqoj This takes you to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency info on acrylamide. So if you want to know about the harmful effects of this stuff, check out this link. No worries, you won’t grow an extra head…but, truth be told, I only glanced at this page, so if that is one of your concerns, better check it out. Oh drat, I just read that it’s in coffee, too! Why did I read this blasted Science Daily article in the first place? 
 
The National Cancer Institute has another acrylamide FAQ page: http://tinyurl.com/2rzwe8
 
Tips on how to cut the level of this chemical can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/2jzra3 Okay, no more roasted almonds for me!
 
http://tinyurl.com/3y2axv This link will take you to the Fanatic Cook’s blog. I read her blog from time to time. She is a cooking blogger/researcher with a good sense of humour, which I always appreciate. Anyway, here she looked up statistics (acrylamide content of a few popular foods), the FDA acceptable intake of acrylamide…you get the picture. A good read. I will add a link to her blog here.
 
http://tinyurl.com/2rqz42 go here for FDA data on the acrylamide content of a huge list of foods. Check out the acrylamide content of Pringles! Yikes!
 
The Netherlands Cohort Study on diet and cancer examined more than 60,000 postmenopausal women, finding “increased risks of postmenopausal endometrial and ovarian cancer with increasing dietary acrylamide intake, particularly among never-smokers,” but no increased breast cancer risks (published in November 2007): http://tinyurl.com/ypgqhq

Happy blog anniversary!

Well, today marks the one-year anniversary of my entry into the blogging world. Has one entire year really gone by since my first post? Amazing!
 
In my wildest dreams I never thought I would come to have such a consistent, wonderful and loyal readership (ever-growing, too!)…on the contrary, in the beginning, I feared that my blog would encounter a lot of opposition. Well, I am happy to say that my fears were ill-founded. 
 
So let me take this opportunity to thank each and every one of my blog readers for your kind comments, helpful advice and for pointing me in the direction of some of the best research I have done. Without you, without this blog, I would never have discovered the vast majority of these anti-myeloma substances.
 
My first big "thank you!" goes to Beth for urging me to create a blog. Then: to Sherlock for joining me in my experiments (and for coming up with brilliant new experiment ideas; non per nulla ti chiamo Sherlock!) and for being such a good friend to me in real life; to Roberto, Don Sunshine Sweet Pea, Wally, Cathy, Paul, Sue, Linda, old Bill, LPC, Marcelo, all my Italian blog readers (Carla etc.), my two Lisas and Marys…oh, dear, the list goes on and on. Well, you know who you are!  Last but not least, thank you, Stefano, for being my best friend, for keeping my computer in working order, and, most importantly, for getting me through all the bad times (TAT! You know what that means). But this is going to be a long post, so let’s get going!
 
I thought it fitting that I celebrate my anniversary by reading a study that has been in my “read” file for quite a while, now. Published in December of 2006, it was co-authored by Prof. Bharat Aggarwal, who gave me a little push in the right direction by encouraging me to try curcumin (January 2006) and has been helpful and supportive ever since. I will be forever grateful to him. Even though there is no way I could ever pay him back, today’s discussion is my itsy bitsy tribute to this wonderful researcher, whom I hope to meet in person someday.

The study (abstract: http://tinyurl.com/yttmdh), published in the “Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology,” is titled: “From ancient medicine to modern medicine: Ayurvedic concepts of health and their role in inflammation and cancer.” 

Something I have read over and over again is mentioned in the abstract and discussed more in depth in the first part of the full study, which, by the way, Sherlock sent to me (eh, come sempre, grazie!): “In spite of the billions of dollars spent on cancer research and the availability of the best health care in the world, the reason for such a high incidence of cancer in the United States is unclear. Lifestyle has been named as one of the major contributors to the incidence of cancer. The higher incidence of cancer among immigrants from the Eastern world to the Western world further emphasizes the role of lifestyle.” I have read stories about populations where the incidence of cancer and other ailments is very low; but when members of these communities immigrate to the Western world, they begin developing cancer (etc.). This doesn’t sound like mere coincidence to me.

The study reminds us that the understanding of cancer at the molecular base is still very limited. That means that matters such as cancer prevention and treatment are “still lagging behind.” Good point!
 
Ayurveda, meaning “science of long life,” “is at least a 5,000-year-old system of Indian medicine (1500–1000 BC) designed to promote good health and longevity rather than to fight disease.” It treats the body AND the mind and spirit: “most diseases connected with the psychophysiologic and pathologic changes in the body are caused by imbalance in three different dosha (ie, vata, pitta, and kapha). The fundamental aim of ayurvedic therapy is to restore the balance between these three major body systems. Any imbalance can lead to inflammation.”
 
Interesting to note that the ancient concept of inflammation corresponds to the modern one: “redness, heat, loss of function, and swelling.”

Health is “the balanced coordination of body, mind and consciousness.” I have always been convinced that our mental state has a lot to do with how well we respond to treatments of any kind. My mother was told by a friend of hers, a nurse who worked in a U.S. oncology unit, that she could tell which cancer patients would do well just by looking at them. She was always right, apparently.

Ayurveda and cancer. “According to ayurveda, cancer results from lifestyle errors, such as unhealthy foods, poor hygiene, or poor behavior, or from physical trauma, all leading to imbalances of vata, pitta, and kapha, resulting in injury to the inner layer of the dermis (rohini, the sixth layer of the skin) and the formation of abnormal branches of blood vessels.” This part is very detailed and interesting, but too long to post about here. I would be glad, though, to forward the full study to anyone who requests it.
 
Treatment of cancer. There are three approaches in Ayurveda: health maintenance, restoration to normal, spiritual approach and disease cure. The techniques were (are!) very modern: “The principles of patient safety were foremost, including meticulous aseptic techniques used for surgery (eg, careful boiling of instruments, cleaning of hands). Treatment involves the surgical removal of tumor, herbal remedies, dietary modification, and spiritual treatment (eg, detoxification, rejuvenation, prayers, music therapy, aromatherapy, gem therapy, sound therapy, stress relief, meditation, yoga, and astrology).” Diet and exercise (yoga, e.g.) were also considered to be important, and meditation, which I practise in my own fashion (having never been taught how to do it properly), “leads to emotional and stress release and detoxification of the cellular and tissue memories.”
 
In the 7th century, “surgery was considered one of the best methods of treatment for arbuda.” Arbuda is “definite malignancy.” Herbal treatments against cancer “were beneficial only in the beginning stage," but that also depended on the type of tumour involved. The surgical removal of tumours is described in detail…I must say, it’s really incredible to read about such careful sterile practises being used so many centuries ago. I was surprised and very impressed.
 
The review draws similarities between ancient Ayurvedic and modern Western cancer treatments. Although the different molecular targets “were not known 5,000 years ago, the components of herbs used at that time now appear to target these molecules.” Aha!

The review provides a Table that couples the modern targets of cancer treatment (such as NF-kappa B and COX-2) with ancient herbal remedies. Truly extraordinary. I must have a closer look at this list of herbs as soon as possible. Curcuma longa, of course, is everywhere.  The researchers state that the “Development of new synergistic anticancer agents based on these herbs would be beneficial for modern treatment modalities.” Indeed. “The use of Vinca rosea in the treatment of cancer is very well described in ayurveda,” and the modern chemotherapy drug vincristine derives from the plant Vinca rosea, or periwinkle. Just one example. 

Differences between modern science and Ayurveda: “Although modern science believes in using a single chemical entity for a particular cancer (eg, paclitaxel, vincristine, etoposide), ayurvedic treatment involves the use of whole plant extracts. It is possible that enhanced toxic effects associated with modern medicine are due to a lack of other components of the plant. Ayurveda usually recommends the use of several plant extracts in combination, which is somewhat similar to the combination of various chemical entities that are currently used for the treatment of cancer.” How about that?
 
Cancer treatment side effects. The review contains advice on how to “alleviate some of the common side effects associated with modern medical treatment of cancer;” even stress and depression, and how to diminish cancer cachexia: “the ayurvedic regimen rejuvenates the body tissues, tones up the body systems, and acts as a tonic to the body against cancer cachexia.” It also lists herbs that can protect us from the harmful effects of radiation. I already knew about curcumin, but not about ginger, e.g.

Relevance of anecdotes. “Treatment according to ayurveda is very individualized, thereby making it difficult to conduct a large population based clinical study. Thus, not many randomized, controlled, and double-blind clinical trials are available. Many anecdotal and case reports are available that show the efficacy of the herbs and the treatments used. The individualized therapies are sometimes poorly documented, unable to be accepted in the standardized Western field.”

Indeed, this is so true, and it illustrates the sort of opposition I have run into with my own cancer treatment, for instance at the recent conference in Calenzano, where I had a bit of a discussion with the cancer specialist sitting next to me. Will these close-minded attitudes ever change? I hope so. Blog reader Old Bill left me a good quote recently: “What’s wrong with an anecdote if it’s true?” (Beata Bishop). Exactly. And, even more to the point: what’s wrong with hundreds of anecdotes?

I would like to end with a long but significant quote taken from the Conclusion: “Ayurvedic treatments are still followed by 75 to 80% of the rural population of India. As much as 70% of the Indian population is vegetarian, and this may also contribute to the lower incidence of cancer. It also, however, raises several questions about current treatment. Although current treatment tends to be highly focused at the molecular level, it is highly unfocused at the whole organism level, making it reductionist. Ayurvedic treatment of cancer is a holistic approach and is currently preferred. The new wave of ‘‘system biology’’ and ‘‘genome revolution’’ is expected to provide a holistic approach to the treatment of cancer. In spite of it, this approach tends to ignore the relationship between mind, body, and spirit. It is our hope that ayurveda can help fill this gap.”
 
That is my hope, too.

Fear

As I have mentioned on previous occasions, I subscribe to the Cancer Compass newsletter where I frequently come across items of interest. I read one such item yesterday, titled “A patient’s perception of peril can cloud treatment decisions.” It discusses the feelings surrounding a cancer diagnosis, feelings such as fear that can sometimes lead us to make mistakes.

An excerpt (you can read the full text here: http://tinyurl.com/344rsl): often, a patient’s perception of peril – whether before a screening test or upon a definitive diagnosis – exceeds the genuine risk and can cloud treatment decisions. The fear is a reflection, in many respects, of what science has wrought in recent decades: More cancers than ever are being diagnosed, and they’re being found earlier and earlier. Tumors that would have gone unnoticed and untreated in an earlier era are now identified and addressed, even when the benefits aren’t fully clear.

"We’ve exaggerated the efficacy of our treatment and prevention at the same time we’ve spread fear of cancer," said Dr. Robert A. Aronowitz of the University of Pennsylvania, who has studied the history of cancer extensively. "And it’s led to a lot of individual and policy level mistakes.”

The benefits aren’t fully clear?…We’ve exaggerated the efficacy of our treatment and prevention? Whoa!!!

This reminded me of when my former haematologist was pushing me to begin Velcade in the fall of 2005, and had introduced the possibility of chemotherapy even earlier that year. He told me that we shouldn’t wait until I began having symptoms (bone lesions and whatnot). Well, today I ask myself: where would I be now if I had been overcome by fear and followed his advice? I don’t mean to sound judgmental of those who choose conventional treatments, oh no, quite the opposite!…what I mean is that sometimes, or even frequently, as Dr. Aronowitz admits, our doctors tend to scare us…perhaps (!) unnecessarily…into making hasty decisions. Remember the case of Michael Gearin-Tosh? (see the link here on the right, under "MM blogs/sites.")

Cancer is still seen by many as a death sentence, so it’s natural to be scared. I have been scared, too. And, heck, I still have some fear on an occasional basis, in spite of my incurable () optimism. I have already written a bit about my reaction to finding out that I had benign MGUS (I burst into tears in my car) and, many years later, myeloma (a few more tears, soon replaced by determination). But, luckily for me, I was, still am, in an early stage, and had time to think and do research. I sought other medical opinions (Dr. Robert Kyle was one of the myeloma specialists who confirmed I was right to wait, by the way). If you are diagnosed with MGUS, SMM or MM (at any stage, but an early stage in particular), I urge you to read Michael Gearin-Tosh’s book, "Living Proof." He writes, if you are diagnosed with cancer, you need time to think. So true. Thinking is not enough, though. There are other things you can do. As follows.
 
We (patients) can ease the fear of cancer, according to the Cancer Compass article, by being informed. Find out everything that you possibly can about your type of cancer. A recent study found that men’s concerns about prostate cancer eased – once they received information via a sophisticated Internet program. Bingo! 
 
Information, say cancer specialists, “is not only power. It can also forge hope. That’s exactly what happened when parents whose children were gravely ill with cancer received a more detailed description of how the disease might progress. The families getting the most information reported the greatest degree of hope, even in the face of a grim prognosis. And, even though such matters are not mentioned in this article (quelle surprise!), don’t forget to research, and speak to your healthcare provider about, diet and supplements.
 
When I was first diagnosed with myeloma, some of Stefano’s relatives became concerned that I was doing so much research online. "It is better for her not to know," they whispered to him. Well, today I feel vindicated: it is better to KNOW.
 
The Cancer Compass article mentions something that I have experienced, too. That I still experience, in fact! Whenever I get an unfamiliar or odd ache or pain, the first thing that pops into my mind is “oh bother, is this the myeloma, is this a bone lesion?” (Okay, so I use much stronger words than "bother"! ). Apparently, that’s a normal reaction (phew). So what do I do about it? Well, I simply tell myself not to be silly, shrug my shoulders and forget about it. The pain goes away.

I’d like to end today’s post with the following excerpt from "Living Proof": Even if you find it difficult to go so far in your own thinking, active involvement in your therapy may lead to your consciousness and subconscious to trigger complex biological creativities, a presence in you of ‘decisions of endless creation’ that may help to fight a terrible disease.

Thank you, Michael.