Curcumin and bortezomib: a winning combo?

A couple of blog readers, thanks!, as well as a Google Alert, informed me of a new study on multiple myeloma, bortezomib (=Velcade) and curcumin, which Sherlock (grazie!) found and sent to me. This afternoon I had a bit of time off from Scrabble playing (I have actually won a few games!) and visiting with my family to read through it and write a quick post.

It was published in Molecular Oncology in September. You can view the abstract here: Important things: curcumin stopped myeloma cells and bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) from producing pro-inflammatory cytokines and VEGF, which are associated with myeloma progression and resistance to chemotherapy. (BMSCs are crucial for myeloma cell growth and survival.) The main message is that curcumin increases the therapeutic efficacy of bortezomib in myeloma. Sounds good.

On to the full study, now: to achieve high response rates in relapsed MM patients, various combinations of bortezomib plus conventional agents […] have been used successfully in clinical trials. Researchers in general, the study tells us, are looking for other substances to test with bortezomib. In this study the most promising substance turned out to be curcumin.

Something I did not know: the effects of curcumin on bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) interacting with MM cells in bone marrow microenvironments has not been investigated. So the researchers tested these effects on myeloma cells alone or co-cultured with BMSCs. In the first 24 hours nothing good happened, that is, myeloma cell proliferation continued. In fact, in the presence of BMSCs, the proliferation accelerated. But after 72 hours of exposure to curcumin, the proliferation of MM cells alone or co-cultured was inhibited in a dose-dependent manner. Well. Well. I thought it was interesting that myeloma cells had to be exposed to curcumin for THREE days before anything happened…food for thought.

Another important finding: combined treatment with bortezomib and curcumin increased apoptosis in U266 cells as compared with either compound alone

In the Discussion part of the study, the researchers inform us that cell viability of the IL-6 dependent cell line, U266, was enhanced by BMSCs, indicating that survival of U266 cells was considerably influenced by the interaction with BMSCs, most likely due to the release by BMSCs of several growth factors that promote MM cell growth. Curcumin inhibited the release of these growth factors, thus stunting myeloma cell growth. Good!

An important excerpt: […] synergism between curcumin and bortezomib can be achieved at low concentrations of bortezomib […]. So curcumin can potentiate the therapeutic efficacy of low dose bortezomib, thus reducing toxicity issues associated with the use of high-dose bortezomib. How about THAT? Wouldn’t it be great if myeloma patients could use lower doses of Velcade thanks to curcumin? 

The researchers go on to say that only curcumin dramatically blocked the phosphorylation of both STAT3 and Erk. Phosphorylation of STAT3 and Erk protects tumor cells from undergoing apoptosis when cancer cells are exposed to anti-cancer drugs. In a nutshell, bortezomib didn’t stop phosphorylation, a process that protects tumor cells from dying; curcumin DID, whereby increasing the anti-myeloma effectiveness of bortezomib.  

The researchers end by stating that the combination of curcumin and bortezomib can be utilized as a novel MM treatment regimen. I had already read that curcumin can be used in combination with Velcade, but I hadn’t yet seen such strong proof. And how about the study’s suggestion that lower doses of bortezomib could be used by myeloma patients if curcumin were added to the mix? Wowie zowie.


Unfortunately, my manatee story doesn’t have a happy ending, as I found out early this morning. Dennis didn’t make it. According to news reports, he died inside the truck that was transporting him to Sea World in Florida…just an hour before getting there. Just an hour. I cannot even imagine how the rescuers feel…devastated undoubtedly doesn’t cover it.

Well, they did the best they could with the meager means at their disposal…there were no military planes available to transport Dennis down to Florida quickly (we can imagine why…)…which might have saved his life. Might have.

Manatee rescue

I went to visit “Dennis” (the 800-pound stranded manatee) yesterday, too. He was chomping on some algae underneath one of the piers, so I got a good view of him from above, but there were too many people there. I didn’t stay long. 

This morning I had family matters to attend to, so I missed the excitement of Dennis’ rescue. Ah yes, he was rescued this morning but apparently did not go all that willingly. You can read more about it here:

Well, okay, I admit that I wouldn’t have gone to the harbor today even if I had had the time to do so. I wouldn’t have wanted to have been in the way of the rescue team, and what if something had gone wrong? Eeeeek!!!

My tender heart couldn’t have taken it. As it was, watching the news footage of Dennis being captured and carted off was enough to make tears spring to my eyes. I am such a wuss!

Anyway, I am happy to say that this Caution Manatee sign will probably be taken down now. Dennis is well on his way to Florida.

Manatee on Cape Cod

Early this morning I read about the recent spotting of a manatee, also known as “sea cow,” in Sesuit Harbor, East Dennis. Here is a report about it: Well, Sesuit Harbor is just a five-minute drive from my parents’ house. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So I grabbed my camera and off I went…there were already a few people holding coffee mugs and walking up and down the docks in the wind and light rain, trying to spot the unusual-looking sea creature.

I joined them and began chatting with one of the marine mammal rescue workers who informed me that this is the farthest north a manatee has ever been observed. She added that her team is going to rescue it soon and take it down to Florida because it would not survive the winter on Cape Cod. The water is just too cold here.

As we were talking, the manatee surfaced right in front of us. A very exciting moment. I got a good shot of it, as you can see. I will go back to the harbor tomorrow…but hope that by then the large gentle creature has been taken to a warmer habitat down south.

Watching Jon Stewart

While waiting for the second presidential debate to begin this evening, I watched Jon Stewart commenting on the recent VP debate. HILARIOUS! I laughed out loud. See:

When asked what the VP candidates had to do in order to be successful during the debate (this obviously occurred before the debate took place), media analysts answered that Joe Biden basically had to be a gentleman and avoid appearing sexist.

And Sarah Palin? Well, a CNN senior analyst stated that she had to prove that she can speak in a normal English sentence…(that’s IT???!!!)

And Jon Stewart commented: so to be successful, her standard tonight was the same as a roadside sobriety test. Hehehe!

Okay, the presidential debate is almost on. Less than three minutes to go!

Anti-anaemia drugs may not be safe for myeloma patients

I had time this morning to glance at some older Science Daily articles, including this one, published in mid August, on a drug commonly used to treat anaemic cancer patients: The article begins as follows: A recent study published in American Journal of Hematology demonstrated that Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs), a widely used drug to treat anemia, may have a negative impact on the survival of myeloma patients. Yikes.

ESAs are, for instance, drugs like Procrit, Epogen and Aranesp.

I am borderline anaemic but take no anti-anaemia drugs. Never have. But many myeloma patients do take these drugs and should be aware of this Greek study that evaluated myeloma patients over a period of 20 years. Those taking ESAs progressed more quickly and died sooner than those who did not: The median survival rate was 31 months for patients who were administered ESAs, compared to 67 months in those who were not exposed to ESAsThe median progression-free survival for patients in the ESA group was 14 months, and 30 months for those without ESA exposure. Eh.

If I were taking ESAs, I would be concerned enough to quiz my health provider carefully about them. Even if these drugs were given to the sickest patients in the study, i.e., those who would have done poorly anyway, as indicated by a Mayo Clinic doctor quoted in the above-mentioned article, I always think it’s best to err on the side of caution. Just my opinion!

Hanging out

I don’t have any interesting news to blog about these days…just family reunion stuff. My sister was here when my parents and I arrived from Italy last Wednesday, and my niece arrived two days ago from Arizona, where she and my sister live, so yesterday we all got together for the first time in years. Lots of laughing, horsing around and teasing, as though we had never been apart. 

I also got clobbered twice at Scrabble, as expected, but I didn’t do as badly as I thought I would…in fact, at one point I was ahead (my niece was very upset, hehe)…but then she came up with a 7-letter word. Eh! She and my sister know all the cute Scrabble tricks, I still have to learn…

I am staying at my parents’ house on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Cape, as we call it, is a lovely peninsula about an hour and a half’s drive south of Boston. I was born on Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Cape Cod. As I think I have mentioned here before, when I was six years old my parents moved to Florence, Italy, where I grew up (I went through the Italian public school system, including a couple of years at the University of Florence).

Anyway, when I was in my early 20s, I returned to the U.S. and went to college in Cambridge, MA. And I lived and worked in Boston after graduating. So I have strong ties to this area and know it well. Very pretty here at this time of year. I will be taking photos but not publishing them (probably!) until I return to Italy two weeks from now, because I don’t know how to upload photos onto my mother’s computer, a Mac, and, quite frankly, I don’t want to waste my precious time here learning how to do that.

So these are lazy days, spent visiting with my family, watching U.S. television, reading and going shopping (clothes are sooo cheap here compared to Italy!). And today I want to go take a walk on the beach…the Cape has some really stunning beaches. And myeloma? Forgotten, except when I check my blog. Mmmh, sometimes it’s nice to be forgetful…!


I know I have been obsessing a bit, ok, a LOT, about the recent VP debate, but I am absolutely infuriated that Sarah Palin was allowed to get away with so many false statements (see La Cootina’s blog for a big one!) and accusations. And with NOT answering questions. Outrageous.

And since when has one of the qualifications for being VP been: don’t say anything TOO STUPID during the one and only VP debate before the election? In my view, this is simply apPALINg.

And here is some more appalling stuff. Take a look at the following excerpt from the VP debate transcript. I randomly chose a couple of sentences pronounced by Sarah Palin:

I think tomorrow morning, the pundits are going to start do the who said what at what time and we’ll have proof of some of this, but again, John McCain knows how to win a war. Who’s been there and he’s faced challenges and he knows what evil is and knows what it takes to overcome the challenges here with our military. Two sentences later, she says, He’ll know how to win a war. 


Setting aside the syntactical gibberish, all this “war winning” nonsense is frightening to me…and reminds me of another issue mentioned almost en passant by Joe Biden during the debate, i.e., that McCain wouldn’t even meet with a close NATO ally: Spain. SPAIN? That really stuck in my mind…at the time, I thought Biden must be wrong.

Well, this morning I looked it up. During a September 18 radio interview, McCain was asked if he would meet with Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero and invite him to the White House. In a nutshell (you can listen to the entire interview on YouTube), the GOP candidate responded vaguely that he would be willing to meet with those leaders who are “our friends” but added that he would stand up to leaders who “wish to harm us.” The implication was that Prime Minister Zapatero was among the latter. This bit of news was not well-received in Spain, as you can imagine. Hmmm, and I thought that McCain’s strong point was foreign policy. That may well be, but one thing seems obvious: the word “diplomacy” is not in McCain’s vocabulary.

All this warmongering talk and hollow patriotic rhetoric gives me the heebie jeebies.

Enough!, I say.

The VP debate

I managed to stay awake long enough to watch the entire U.S. VP debate last night. Listening to the comments made by journalists and viewers after the debate and then early this morning, though, I began wondering: “did I see the SAME debate that they did?” It didn’t seem possible. For how it is possible for anyone to assert that Gov. Sarah Palin did “well”? WELL??? Why, she didn’t even answer several of the questions posed to her but instead kept going off on irrelevant tangents, repeating the same things over and over and over again, sometimes even using the exact same words she had used moments earlier. I found that absolutely maddening. And that alone confirmed, to me anyway, that she is not very bright…to say the least.

She sounded like someone struggling with a poorly-memorized series of lessons. Inarticulate, at best. And quite frankly I got sick of hearing her repeat that Obama wants to raise taxes (simply not true). Etc. 

I am sure that she must have appeared “cute” to some viewers, with her little winks and smiles and “you betchas” and “doggone its.” But the truth is, we don’t need “cute” in the White House. We need someone who can actually answer questions and deal with tough issues. 

Do we really want someone like Gov. Sarah Palin in the second highest position in the U.S., just a sneeze away from the presidency? Darn and doggone it, we do not. Just my opinion, of course!

Jet lag

The flight yesterday was long (8 hours plus) but smooth–i.e., no turbulence over the Atlantic and no thunderstorms in Boston when we landed, just a few insignificant clouds…lucky! I read and also played “Tetris” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” on the airplane TV screen…ah yes, that was fun (I don’t play computer games anymore, but I used to play Tetris).

How odd to be back in the States…unreal…and I miss Stefano (who stayed at home with the cats) very much, it’s quite bizarre to be here without him, in fact, it would be bizarre to be anywhere without him!…but it’s been great to see my sister after such a long time, and my niece is flying here tomorrow. And it’s so pretty here… 

Okay, I need to go take my quercetin, fish oil and curcumin, then get ready to fight Mr. Jet Lag and try to keep my eyes wide open and my mind on full alert for the VP debate (should be interesting…). So off I go! I will write some more as soon as I get over all this yawnsnoreyawnzzzzz! Ciao!