June 15 2007 post. A blog friend recently sent me a list of substances that he found while doing research on another health-related topic. I am deeply obliged to him (thank you!) for telling me about another funny-sounding but deadly-to-cancer-cells compound: withanolide. Surprise surprise, in 2006 an MD Anderson team made the discovery that withanolides kill MM cells in vitro. The full study, published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, is available online: http://tinyurl.com/2eq3pc The study abstract begins: The plant Withania somnifera Dunal (Ashwagandha), also known as Indian ginseng, is widely used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine to treat tumors, inflammation, arthritis, asthma, and hypertension. Chemical investigation of the roots and leaves of this plant has yielded bioactive withanolides. Earlier studies showed that withanolides inhibit cyclooxygenase enzymes, lipid peroxidation, and proliferation of tumor cells. But even more importantly (for us MMers), in addition to suppressing the nasty COX-2 enzyme, these compounds blocked the activation of NF-kB in human myeloma (U266) cells. Yippee! And I would like to mention that a 2004 study shows that an extract of Withania somnifera inhibited angiogenesis: http://tinyurl.com/ypq58h
A 2003 University of Michigan study (http://tinyurl.com/yqmgxh) tells us that the roots of Withania somnifera are used as a dietary supplement around the world. Furthermore, from what I have read online, Withania somnifera is non-toxic, non-addictive and has no negative side effects (but I should say that I am still looking into this matter). Indeed, a recent study demonstrated that a purified standardized extract of ashwagandha protected the heart from the well-known cardiotoxic effects of doxorubicin: http://tinyurl.com/3yjcno And withanolides may also be effective against arthritis, see this June 2007 study: http://tinyurl.com/2vfw7r
The above-mentioned 2006 MD Anderson study concludes: Overall, our results suggest that the antiproliferative, proapoptotic, anti-invasive, antiosteoclastogenic, antiangiogenic, antimetastatic, radiosensitizing, antiarthritic, and cardioprotective effects assigned to withanolide may be mediated in part through the suppression of NF-kB and NF-kB-regulated gene products. Did I read anti-osteoclastogenic? Ahhhh, that rings a bell. This is a fascinating study, and not difficult to read, so I would urge all MMers to have a look at it.
Update, October 5 2009 post: For three weeks in September I tested ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera, a medicinal plant used as far back as ancient Egypt (!) and, in more recent years, found to have anti-myeloma activities (see my page on “Ashwagandha” or my June 15 2007 post). I took it separately from curcumin, just to be cautious. And I took the recommended dose on the bottle. No more, no less.
So these were my ashwagandha tests. I really hope that even the low dose I took had a positive effect on my MM markers. Fingers tightly crossed!
But I wanted to mention a couple of rather odd things that happened during the ashwagandha period…not necessarily bad things, but certainly out of the ordinary. As follows.
1. I felt more tired than usual. I mean, REALLY TIRED. Whenever possible (not at work, i.e.!), I would fall into a deep sleep, especially after lunch…and it would take a colossal effort on my part to wake up in mid or late afternoon. This didn’t make any sense.
Ashwagandha, you see, is supposed to give you energy. It translates into something like “the vitality of a horse.” A horse?! Hah. In my case, the translation should be: “the vitality of a sloth.”
I went online and read somewhere (a forum, I think) that ashwagandha can make some folks tired. Okay, no problem. Mental note: next time (for I am sure I will try ashwagandha again, even if my tests don’t turn out as fabbbbulous as I hope), take it before going to sleep.
2. Now for a more, er…private topic. Not an easy one for prudish little moi. But for the sake of science, I will set aside my modesty for just a second. Here goes.
I stopped having my menstrual period quite a few months ago: in January 2009, to be precise. After ascertaining that I was not pregnant (a relief for many reasons, mainly my condition of having SMM, but also my age, 47 at the time; I am now 48), I simply decided that I had hit menopause. No big deal. You see, I have always belonged to the “hate-my-period-with-a-passion” category of women, so “losing” my period was almost cause for a champagne/chocolate truffle celebration. No, I never experienced unbearably painful menstrual cramps, I never became moody or irritable (as far as I know…), nothing like that…I just have always hated getting my period. Period.
I made an appointment to see a gynaecologist who checked me out thoroughly last spring, including an ultrasound. Tutto bene, she told me (=everything is just dandy). She agreed that I might have entered menopause but didn’t exclude that I might have a period at some indefinite point in the future. She prescribed specific menopause tests, which I had on Saturday, in fact.
Well…about two and a half weeks after beginning ashwagandha, aunt Flo (=euphemism!) popped in to visit me for about a week. An unwelcome visit, to say the least. Uffa!
I remembered reading that ashwagandha was used as some sort of sexual tonic in Ayurvedic medicine. I had a look online, where I found that ashwagandha is still traditionally used to treat loss of libido in men and, tadaaa!, sterility in women. Does that imply that it has the ability to start up a menstrual period again? No idea.
In spite of my uncertainty about the ashwagandha-period link, I decided to publish this post because I found something that might be of interest to those taking doxorubicin, which, at high doses, is known to damage the heart. Tests carried out on rats show that ashwagandha may play a role in the protection against cardiotoxicity and thus might be a useful adjuvant therapy where doxorubicin is the cancer-treating drug, see: http://tinyurl.com/ydw3k7k
In fact, ashwagandha has some remarkable properties, more than I had realized, to be honest…just go to PubMed (http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/) and type in “ashwagandha” together with whatever you want to look up, e.g. “diabetes” “stress” “anxiety” “Parkinson’s disease” “cystic fibrosis” “arthritis” or “glioblastoma.” Oh, and osteoporosis, see this 2006 study, e.g.: http://tinyurl.com/yc8o946
And finally, here is a link to read an extremely interesting 2006 review of ashwagandha, including references to, and details of!, scientific studies: http://tinyurl.com/yeaggrc (those doing radiotherapy or chemotherapy, e.g. cyclophosphamide and paclitaxel, should have a look at the “Chemotherapy Interactions” section). Good stuff!
Update, October 13 2009 post: What follows are the results of my early October blood tests, the ashwagandha ones. For more details, see my original post. Excerpts: my total IgG has gone down from a whopping 39,9 (June 2009 tests) to 29,7 g/L. No kidding. A more than 30 % drop! Incidentally, the reference range happens to be the same for both hospitals, except one is in g/L, the other in mg/dL, which simply means that I went from 3990 to 2970 (mg/dL, i.e.).
Now, my M-spike (or rather, what Sherlock and I believe to be the number corresponding to the M-spike, though this will have to be confirmed by our respective hematologists) has gone down from 2,68 to 2,41. That would also be a very good result: a drop of more than 10 %.
1. my platelet count has increased to 305 (new range: 150-400) from June’s 244 (Careggi range: 140-440).
2. my serum calcium and creatinine are stable…still within the normal range. And my IgA and IgM also remain unchanged. Phew!
3. my C-reactive protein, which till now has been a maddeningly “less than” amount, is finally an ACTUAL NUMBER: 0,3 mg/L (normal range: <0,5). Good to know.
4. my monoclonal component has gone down from 28,3 % to 25,7 %. Another slide in the right direction!
5. my total protein seems to be stable, still slightly above the normal range, but, due to the difference in ranges, I will have to do a few calculations later on, with Stefano’s help. It looks about the same to me, though.
6. I am almost positive that my hemoglobin and hematocrit have increased. Hard to tell because of the, yes I am sure you have guessed!, slight range difference. My hematocrit has certainly gone up…Oh, and so has my white cell count.
There are a few bad things (can’t have everything, after all):
– my B2M appears to have gone up a bit. But yes, as you may have guessed (again!), the new reference range is lower than the Careggi one. Even so, my B2M is only slightly above the normal range. I am not concerned.
– my vitamin D has decreased compared to June, in spite of my vitamin D supplementation over the summer, so I will have to do something quickly about that…this is a matter of some concern to me, now that the flu season has definitely struck Florence. This number is still within the normal range, but it is located on the lower end, which I know is not good at all!