Peekaboo July 2007Yesterday afternoon I went to visit our new kitten, Peekaboo!, and took about a million photos of her and her two equally adorable siblings, since I won’t see them until next week when I will go to pick her up and bring her over to our house. Can’t wait, even though she is definitely going to be a handful. While I was visiting, she was like a little ping pong ball, boing boing boing all over my neighbours’ yard, hiding behind their bushes and jumping out suddenly to grab my toes. Clearly, Peekaboo is a fitting name for this tiny creature. Such a cutie!

I am doing research in bits and pieces, but please bear with me for a couple of days since my parents have just arrived from the States, and I haven’t seen them in months. Lots of catching up to do. However, I do have a couple of half-finished posts that I will finish and put up in the next couple of days.

Hiker Joke for the Immune System

My parents arrived in Florence safe and sound on Tuesday, and we have been catching up since then. Their luggage was filled with the supplements that I will use in my experiments planned for 2007 and 2008. Quite an impressive pile of bottles, I must say. Among other things, including curcumin, of course, they brought me resveratrol, ellagic acid and Scutellaria baicalensis (for my baicalein test). I haven’t had time to do any serious research in the past couple of days. But just this morning a close friend (thanks!) sent me a funny joke, as follows:

The Hikers

One day, Joe, Bob and Dave were hiking in a wilderness area when they came upon a large, raging, violent river. They needed to get to the other side, but had no idea of how to do so. Joe prayed to God, saying, “Please God, give me the strength to cross this river.”Poof! God gave him big arms and strong legs, and he was able to swim across the river in about two hours, although he almost drowned a couple of times.

Seeing this, Dave prayed to God, saying, “Please God, give me the strength and the tools to cross this river.”Poof! God gave him a rowboat and he was able to row across the river in about an hour, after almost capsizing the boat a couple of times.

Bob had seen how this worked out for the other two, so he also prayed to God saying, “Please God, give me the strength and the tools, and the intelligence, to cross this river.”

Poof! God turned him into a woman. She looked at the map, hiked upstream a couple of hundred yards, then walked across the bridge.

Il Palio di Siena

I am too excited to do any research this morning, waiting for my parents to arrive from the States. Their plane will land in
Florence in mid afternoon. So, while waiting to go pick them up at the airport, I decided to write about the Palio di Siena, which is a traditional bareback horse race held twice a year (July 2 and August 16) in Siena. It just so happened that yesterday I watched the Palio broadcast live on national TV. I must say, even though I do NOT approve of animal races or anything that puts animals in danger, not at all!, the Palio manages to hold me spellbound, mainly because I don’t want to hear about or see any horses being injured. If any of you has ever seen the Palio, during which ten horses race madly around the dangerous corners of Piazza del Campo (three times), you will know what I mean. Yesterday, though, no horses were seriously injured (one horse was slightly hurt during a trial run, but that’s it), so that was a big relief! (By the way, these are photos I took in 2006 at the Palio of Ferrara, not the Senese one, see below.) Palio di Ferrara 2006

Yesterday’s Palio was interesting because two horses, one from the contrada (city ward) of the Nicchio and the other from the contrada of the Oca, crossed the finish line neck to neck. The judges had difficulty assigning the Palio (a silk banner made specifically for each race), which went first to the Oca, then to the NiPalio di Ferrara 2006cchio, then back to the Oca. The contradaioli, or inhabitants of each contrada, began pulling the silk Palio back and forth above the crowd. The TV commentators said that nothing like that had ever happened before. By the way, for a bit of Palio history, you can check out Wikipedia. I would just like to mention that the Palio probably originated in the Middle Ages; however, the first modern Palio, with horses racing around Piazza del Campo, took place in 1650 ca. (before then, donkeys and even buffalos were used).

There are fierce competitive feelings among the inhabitants of the different Senese contrade, 17 in all (but there used to be 40 or so). Even the children of Siena are brought up in this competitive atmosphere, but for the most part it’s all in good fun. Before yesterday’s race, a husband and wife belonging to two different contrade were interviewed. Their baby girl belongs to the mother’s contrada (but if they have another child, he or she will belong to his father’s contrada). This is a serious matter: every year, on the contrada Saint’s day, all the children born that year are baptized at the fountain of their contrada church. They then become members for life of that particular contrada, and are like brothers and sisters to the other members. It’s okay for two members of opposing contrade to fall in love, but during the days of the Palio they become rivals. In many ways, this ancient tradition adds to the wonder and appeal of this lovely city. However, at the risk of offending any readers from Siena, in my opinion it is time to stop the horse-racing part of the Palio. It is simply too risky for the horses. An example: during the August 16 Palio of 2004, a horse fell and was trampled to death by the other horses. Incredibly, the race was not stopped, even though it could have caused other horses to fall. Any comment would be superfluous.

Traditional Palios held in other Italian cities are not as famous as the one in Siena, but perhaps equally spectacular.Palio di Ferrara 2006 Last year, my husband and I spent a long weekend in Ferrara, where the most ancient Palio in the world (dating back to the 13th century) is held. We didn’t go see the horse race, which was just as well, since in 2006 three horses were lamed and had to be killed. We went instead to watch a couple of the magnificent flag-throwing competitions, accompanied by the sound of drums and trumpets played by inhabitants of the contrade dressed in Renaissance costume (see my photo). Absolutely stunning. We couldn’t move because of the huge cheering crowds surrounding us (not my favourite thing, crowds, I confess), but we got caught up in the excitement and began cheering, too. Of course, we cheered everyone, even the few competitors who dropped their flags. But I noticed that, whenever a flag was dropped, the entire crowd would let out a howl of disappointment. That is, there was no cheering from opposite factions. Very nice. The young man who won the single flag-throwing competition was handling and whirling and throwing so many flags that I lost count. And he didn’t drop ONE flag. I can’t tell you how incredible this was. Never seen anything like it. And it goes to show that a Palio can be exciting even without being dangerous both to humans and to animals. So let’s keep the spectacular flag competitions and the magnificent costume pageants and ban the dangerous horse racing.

More on Emodin

According to a few herbal websites, rhubarb root has been used for two thousand years as a gentle but effective laxative. It cleanses, and also treats constipation, but €”when taken in smaller doses €”can also relieve diarrhea and hemorrhoids. Quite remarkable. However, a word of caution. I read warnings against munching on or cooking and eating this plant’s leaves, which are extremely toxic. Only the roots and rhizomes are used for medicinal purposes. I thought I should mention this, in case anybody was vaguely thinking of preparing some rhubarb leaf tea. Not a good idea! However, the leaves come in handy if you want to prepare an organic insecticide, for instance to fight those pesky aphids that infest your rose bushes (sigh!). For some useful suggestions, including how to use rhubarb leaves to clean burnt pots and pans (no kidding), go to: This website also includes a rhubarb tart song and rhubarb limericks. 😉

Other emodin-cancer studies:

  1. the previously-mentioned promyeloleukemic HL-60 cell abstract was published in December 2002 in Biochemical Pharmacology :
  2. another study on HL-60 cells, titled: Aloe-emodin induced in vitro G2/M arrest of cell cycle in human promyelocytic leukemia HL-60 cells (, was published in 2004 in Food and Chemical Toxicology
  3. a study on human oral cancer and emodin was published in Oral Oncology in January 2007:
  4. a hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) study:, Life Sciences, 2004. This particular study is interesting because it shows that emodin activates the tumor-suppressor p53, also known as tumour protein p53, or TP53, which I have mentioned in previous posts. Go, p53!
  5. a study on Merkel cell carcinoma and aloe-emodin:, published in Oncology Reports in 2004
  6. a study titled Emodin Enhances Arsenic Trioxide-Induced Apoptosis via Generation of Reactive Oxygen Species and Inhibition of Survival Signaling (, published in Cancer Research in 2004.

Now, since my parents are arriving from the States tomorrow, I have some errands to run. Off I go!

1.Turkey Rhubarb? 2. Conventional and Alternative Food for Thought

I am posting about two items today. Originally, I was going to post only about Turkey Rhubarb (don’t you love that plant name?). But the “turkey” post brought me to reflect on another topic, i.e., conventional versus alternative approaches to the treatment of MM. First things first, though.

1. Turkey Rhubarb? A friend recently sent me a 2005 study by an MD Anderson research team on plant polyphenols and chemosensitization, which I am going through bit by bit. The bit I looked at yesterday concerns an active component of Turkey Rhubarb (scientific name: Rheum palmatum) called emodin. By the way, the roots and rhizomes of this plant have been used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for centuries. And its extract, emodin, has many medicinal properties; for instance, it is antiaggregant, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antiseptic, antitumour, antiviral, cathartic, cytotoxic, purgative, immunosuppressive, antispasmodic, styptic and viricidal!

The abstract of the above-mentioned MD Anderson study can be seen at: The full study reports that emodin may sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapy, and also kills human promyeloleukemic HL-60 cells in vitro. The MD Anderson researchers examined the effects of emodin on a variety of cancers, from lung to breast cancer, but I found no mention of MM.

So does this extract have any connection to MM? You betcha! 😉 A quick online search took me to the March 2007 issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, which features a study titled: Emodin has a cytotoxic activity against human multiple myeloma as a Janus-activated kinase 2 inhibitor ( I wanted to understand what Janus-activated kinase 2, or JAK2, meant, so I looked it up and found the following study:, according to which IL-6 and the subsequent JAK- dependent signaling pathways are essential for MM cell proliferation. Okay, so anything that inhibits that process is absolutely brilliant! Back to the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics abstract. It concludes that emodin inhibits interleukin-6 €”induced JAK2/STAT3 pathway selectively and induces apoptosis in myeloma cells via down-regulation of Mcl-1, which is a good target for treating myeloma. Taken together, our results show emodin as a new potent anticancer agent for the treatment of multiple myeloma. This all sounds very promising. I just hope more studies are done on this compound, as well as on many others!

2. Conventional/Alternative Food for Thought. However, more importantly, the opening statement of the MD Anderson study abstract provides some serious food for thought: The treatment of cancer with chemotherapeutic agents and radiation has two major problems: time-dependent development of tumor resistance to therapy (chemoresistance and radioresistance) and nonspecific toxicity toward normal cells. Many plant-derived polyphenols have been studied intently for their potential chemopreventive properties and are pharmacologically safe. This is not a new issue for me. I have been thinking along the same lines in recent months. And apparently, I am not the only one, as you will see below

One of the main problems with MM is that eventually the nasty malignant cells become resistant to chemotherapy. Unlike curcumin (just as an example!), conventional treatments do not have the ability to distinguish between normal and cancerous cells. What I hope to achieve with my alternative research is to develop a non toxic but effective alternative protocol that will target only my malignant cells, leaving my normal cells alone.

When I read about what is going on in the conventional MM treatment world, even my non-medical, non-scientific brain is able to figure out that the idea of a multi-pathway attack seems to be the predominant current approach. In other words, conventional chemotherapy drugs are given mainly in combination, not one at a time. And in fact, this morning I read some of the findings of the 11th International Myeloma Workshop just held in Kos, Greece (it ended yesterday). The most effective treatments for patients with relapsed MM, according to the IMF write-up (, are as follows: a. Revlimid plus Dexamethasone; b. Velcade (bortezomib) plus cyclophosphamide and prednisone, and c. Velcade, Revlimid and a steroid. The list of current MM conventional clinical trials (about 300 or so) consists mostly of combinations of various drugs, many of which have been around for some time.

These findings lead me to believe that I am on the right track, except that in my case I want to find a protocol that I can keep modifying, if necessary, in order to keep engaging my MM cells in a sort of battle, but at the same time confounding them–attacking them from different pathways. If my approach works, great. If not, I will find something else (how about that for a positive thought on a sunny Sunday morning?). Only time will tell if my approach is correct, but, as usual, I remain confidently and stubbornly cheerful! Have a great Sunday! 🙂