It’s a Sunny Morning in Florence, Italy!

First of all, I have received many messages from old and new MM friends, and would like to thank everyone for the positive feedback on my blog. Grazie a tutti!

Let Spices be Thy Medicine. Is there a spice that is NOT good for us? I just re-read Prof. Aggarwal’s presentation of potential NF-kappaB inhibitors (titled: Targeting Transcription Factors for Prevention and Therapy of Cancer by Phytochemicals, and was astounded (again) at the long list of spices and foods we can use to block this transcription factor. Prof. Aggarwal’s list of spices is long. Just to mention some: turmeric, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, oregano, cinnamon, basil, dill, parsley, ginger, fennel, cloves, cardamom, rosemary, mustard, liquorice, saffron, fenugreek seeds, sesame seeds, lemongrass, mace, caraway, tamarind, Nigella Sativa, curry leaves, red pepper, red chilli, poppy seeds, mint, and anise.

What is NF-kappaB? It’s a protein complex that becomes activated in response to inflammatory stimuli, and has been linked to cancer. It interferes with apoptosis (programmed cell death) and chemotherapy, among other things. Therefore, the inhibition of NF-kappaB is the target of many cancer studies. Curcumin is one such inhibitor. The following, for the more scientifically-minded, is a link to a detailed study on NF-kappaB, titled NF-kappaB in Cancer: from Innocent Bystander to Major Culprit published in 2002: .

Life with Myeloma

I am a U.S. citizen, 45 years old, married to an Italian, and I live in Florence, Italy. In 1999, I was diagnosed with Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance or MGUS, for short, of the IgG k type. At that time, I did not understand what MGUS entailed, exactly, and that it was important for me to have blood tests done every 6 months. Back then, I had two teaching jobs and no time to do any research about MGUS. I promptly forgot all about it.
Until about four years later.
In 2003, another routine (so I thought) blood test showed that the amount of this abnormal protein in my blood had increased. My GP made the implications of MGUS clear to me, and sent me to a haematologist at Florence’s main hospital, Careggi, which has a well-known Haematology Center.
I started looking up MGUS on the Internet. I soon had a clear picture of what might lie ahead unless the amount of paraprotein in my blood remained stable. But it didn’t. It kept increasing. Slowly but steadily.
My MGUS finally progressed to MM, or multiple myeloma, in late 2005. I received the MM diagnosis on December 30, based on a BMB (bone marrow biopsy) taken in November. At that time, 50 % of my bone marrow was compromised. Even though I had been expecting this progression, I admit that I was shocked to see the words multiple myeloma printed out on the test result. Not one of my happiest moments.

Discovery of Curcumin

I soon got on my computer and began researching my options. I looked at conventional and alternative treatments. One day, while scrolling down the list of clinical trials on the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation website, I noticed that there was a curcumin clinical trial taking place at the MD Anderson Cancer Research Center of the University of Texas. Curcumin? A joke, surely.
I searched the words curcumin and myeloma on Google, and came upon the studies published in Blood (February 2003 and April 2004). I read all I could about curcumin. In the end, I was convinced. I had to try it.
Clearly, because I live in Italy, participating in the curcumin myeloma clinical trial in Texas was not an option. However, my main problem was that I had no idea how much curcumin I should be taking. In the beginning, I also mistook turmeric (the spice) for curcumin (turmeric’s active ingredient). In Italian, these are very similar words, hence the confusion. Indeed, I bought a huge supply of turmeric, which, more than a year later, I am still using in my cooking!
I wrote an e-mail to the head of the MD Anderson curcumin research team, Prof. Bharat Aggarwal, attaching my test results. I didn’t really expect him to answer. But answer he did, with a very nice message, encouraging me to try curcumin, and explaining the difference between turmeric and curcumin. He included the initial eight-week curcumin protocol. I ordered curcumin, and started the protocol, after having blood tests done and consulting with my haematologist and family. After eight weeks, I redid my blood tests, and for the first time since 1999, my IgG count had gone down, from 34.5 grams per liter to 29.8 grams per liter. Success! Since then, my IgG count has gone a bit up, then a bit down, but my markers are generally stable. A recent BMB (January 2007) showed that the level of malignancy had decreased by 20 % , from 50 to 40 %. An excellent result. My haematologist told me recently that my MM is inactive: SM, or smoldering myeloma.

My story continues…

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