Blood tests

I haven’t had my regular blood tests (plus Bence Jones) in several months for a variety of reasons, mainly the Covid-19 lockdown, then the slow reopening here in Italy.

On Monday, I finally decided to make an appointment at the lab where I always have my tests done. I went there yesterday morning.

I got there early and had to wait for about 15 minutes. Things have really changed, compared to the pre-Covid era, I mean: a nurse greets all patients outside the lab building and makes the early birds like me wait outside. Much better…I feel safer outside, anyway.

So here’s the new procedure: you wait outside until the time comes for your appointment or until your last name gets called. At that point, you have to rub your hands with disinfectant from an automatic dispenser (I used my own hand sanitizer, though) and then have your temperature taken with a non-contact forehead thermometer.

Inside, in the waiting room, you can’t just sit anywhere, the way it was before. Social distancing is the rule now. Before, there were about 35-40 seats. Now there are 5 or 6; the others are taped off.

Oh, and, of course!, goes without saying, you have to wear a mask at all times, even while you are waiting outside. In Italy, pretty much everyone understands that it has nothing to do with politics (duh), and that it’s just PLAIN STUPID and POTENTIALLY VERY DANGEROUS not to wear a mask.

Besides, in any case, it’s still the rule.

Case closed.

Yesterday morning I was actually wearing two masks–a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask. That is my new norm: whenever I leave the house, go into stores or any type of enclosed public space, I wear two masks, even though the rule is one mask (at least). Stefano wears two masks, too.

Can’t be too safe. I am well aware that I have a weak immune system…no idea what Covid would do to me, and I really don’t want to find out. Neither does Stefano.

Anyway, compared to other countries that have reopened way too soon, Italy, now in Phase Two ( = living alongside the virus), is doing quite well. Covid-19 hasn’t disappeared, but the infection and death rates are way way down. I just hope that people returning from abroad, and tourists of course!, won’t begin spreading Covid-19 here again.

That’s my main worry: Italy was THE first European country to shut down and one of the first to reopen. We don’t want to go through another lockdown. Really don’t. That said, I am comforted by the fact that all the people I have seen out and about here in Florence are wearing masks.

And, you know, life can still be enjoyed, in spite of these restrictions…Perhaps I should have written, “thanks to” these restrictions. We know that wearing a mask, washing our hands frequently, keeping our social distance, and following the rules set by the medical and scientific communities, can keep us safe. I simply would not be able to enjoy being in a non-safe environment right now…with maskless people, for example.

Anyway, to give you a quick example of how life can be enjoyed, Stefano and I have EATEN OUT three times in the past few weeks. Yes, we have eaten out…with friends…in RESTAURANTS. Very exciting, after so many months of being cooped up inside our homes.

I admit, the first time was a bit scary, but we have always chosen places with outside tables…Every member of the staff (from cooks to servers) has to wear a mask, the tables are NOT close together, and so on. It was so nice to eat out in a safe way…

So, it can be done…!

Quercetin has anti-myeloma activity

A study from 2016 came to my attention today, thanks to a member of one of the MM Facebook groups to which I belong.

This study shows that quercetin works well both alone AND in combination with dexamethasone. Let’s not forget that it’s a proteasome inhibitor (like curcumin and, in the conventional world, Velcade).

Here’s the direct link to the study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5216736/?fbclid=IwAR2Nk3FwZ3b8MfAqKUNOz1YXfQ6PU2lcQzAN-eGSMWvVBO7dTD9waNpxXn4 

I have to admit that I haven’t taken any quercetin in years, but it looks as though I’ll be putting it back on my “menu” now. For many reasons, not just because of its anti-myeloma activity…

Quercetin is good for a bunch of other things. For instance, it may reduce inflammation, blood pressure, and blood sugar, as well as protect against degenerative brain diseases. And the best thing is that it can be found in many of the foods we eat every day, including (red) apples, onions, cherries, broccoli, and so on. But of course it’s easier to get it in a capsule format…easier, that is, than eating a truckload of red apples every day. 😉 

A bunch of years ago, when I did some research on quercetin, I wrote that one shouldn’t take more than 1.5 grams a day, so please be careful with dosage. Do a search of my blog for more information…

Anyway…good stuff!

Stay safe, everyone!

Treating COVID-19 in a patient with multiple myeloma

Some readers have recently been asking me about curcumin and Covid-19. Is it good or bad to be taking it if you contract coronavirus?  Can it reduce your risk of contracting Covid-19? (See my post on vitamina D, incidentally.) I don’t know.

If I had any answers, believe me, I’d be publishing them…immediately.

Well, it just so happens that this afternoon I read a very interesting Science Daily article that may shed some light on this matter. It discusses the case study of ONE myeloma patient, in Wuhan, who was given an immunosuppressant drug, a monoclonal antibody, called tocilizumab. Here’s the link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200403124931.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fhealth_medicine%2Fmultiple_myeloma+%28Multiple+Myeloma+News+–+ScienceDaily%29

Okay, now that you’ve read the SD article, you can read the rest of my post. 😉 

The main use of tocilizumab is to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The interesting bit, as far as I’m concerned, though, is that tocilizumab blocks IL-6. Remember IL-6? I haven’t talked about IL-6 in a long time, but, simply put, it’s a really good friend of multiple myeloma. Aha…

And, by reducing the expression of IL-6, tocilizumab helps control the effects of what is known as a “cytokine storm” (read this April 1 New York Times article for a good explanation of what happens to Covid-19 patients when their immune systems go wacky and begin churning out too many cytokines, which can lead to vital organ failure: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/health/coronavirus-cytokine-storm-immune-system.html).

Okay, now for this: curcumin inhibits IL-6 AND suppresses the cytokines involved in cytokine storms. Yes, it does both the things that tocilizumab does, without all the side effects, which actually don’t look that bad–from a runny nose to urinary tract infections (well, okay, I’d rather not get a UTI!).

Does that mean that curcumin would work against coronavirus or indeed help lower our risk of getting this blasted virus? As I wrote above, I have no idea, even though, as we know, among other things, curcumin has anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties.

All I can say is that this bit of news today is promising. Sure, this is only ONE single case study, but I can tell you that, on March 19, tocilizumab started being administered to 330 coronavirus patients in a hospital in Naples (Italy). At the end of this month, fingers crossed, we may have some results. Right now, Italian newspapers report that the director of this study has expressed “cautious optimism.” I also saw that the FDA has approved Phase III trials for treating Covid patients with tocilizumab.

We just have to wait and see…

But, while we’re waiting, I’m going to keep taking curcumin (actually, I’d never thought about stopping…!!!)…

“Use of curcumin in multiple myeloma patients intolerant of steroid therapy”

A few days ago, Dr. Terry Golombick of the Department of Endocrinology, St George Hospital, Sydney, Australia, sent me the link ( http://bit.ly/2VwqWf1 ) to her team’s most recent clinical case report, in which they tested curcumin on myeloma patients who were no longer able to tolerate the prolonged use of dexamethasone due to its adverse side effects, such as “fatigue, weight gain, fluid retention, poor impact on mental health, osteoporosis and hyperglycemia, or poor diabetic control.”

This new study selected 15 patients, ranging in age from 57 to 86, who were either taking immunomodulatory drugs (IMiDs) or proteasome inhibitors (PIs) in addition to the dexamethasone. They replaced Dex with a daily dose of 3-4 grams of curcumin (about half of what I take, btw).

Of the 15, three died during the study period…not because of the curcumin, obviously, but because they weren’t doing very well, unfortunately (you can read the details in the paragraph located above “4. Discussion and Conclusion”).

The other 12 patients, however, are stable and doing well, in spite of the fact that some have high-risk cytogenetic and FISH abnormalities.

The combination of curcumin and the other conventional drugs reduced their paraprotein levels by 38%, and plasmacytosis by 59%. How about that?

Anyway, it’s not a difficult read, methinks, so please have a look at the above link…

Thank you, Dr. Golombick! I am so grateful to you and your team for all your tireless work. You give us hope!!! :-) Thank You Thank You Thank You!!!

We need MORE studies like this one! Not 10 years from now…but…NOW!!!!!!!!!! 

Quick update

Well, quite a lot has happened since I wrote my post on the loss of our Priscilla.

A few days after her death, Stefano came home complaining of a sore throat, which soon turned into a full-blown case of bronchitis: more proof, to me anyway!, of a close association between stress (and, in this case, probably grief as well) and a lowering of the immune defenses.

Anyway, we tried to be careful, but to no avail: on top of everything else, I caught his bronchitis and was sick (againnnnnn!) for about two weeks. This happened in mid January or thereabouts. So, all in all, I was sick/convalescent/sick/convalescent for more than a month. Agh! Ridikkulus!

But now I’m fine…fully recovered.

The horrible month of January 2020 ended with another death: my mother-in-law…This didn’t come as a complete surprise, since she’d been doing poorly for some time, but still, on top of everything else…it wasn’t easy.

But, as an upcoming post will show, things seem to be slowly getting better. As I mentioned, I’m fully recovered, and…well, okay, here’s a sneak preview of that above-mentioned post: Stefano and I spent a lovely long weekend in Paris recently. 🙂

We were lucky and managed to return to Florence right before Italy was hit by the coronavirus “hurricane.” Speaking of which, even though I think that the COVID-19 outbreak has generated a bit too much mass hysteria (in Florence, e.g., where thus far there have been only a couple of confirmed cases, people have been emptying supermarket shelves, and so on…), I have to admit that I’d really hate to catch that blasted virus because of my probably-still-weakened condition. So I’m being very cautious…trying to stay at home as much as possible…No hugs, no kisses…washing hands all the time, etc.

Ah, before I go: tomorrow I’m going to publish a post about a new curcumin-myeloma patient study!!! 🙂

Take care, everyone! 🙂

Let’s have some chillies!

I just read a nice bit of news this morning. A new Italian study shows that eating peperoncini, the Italian word for chilli peppers (also spelled chili, with one “l,” mainly in the U.S.), can cut our risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 40%. Yes, by a whopping 40%!!!

Here’s the link to the CNN article about this study: https://cnn.it/36Fatro

It should be noted that other researchers cast a few doubts on the study’s findings, pointing out that perhaps people who eat chillies are also eating more vegetables, as well as other herbs and spices, so it would be difficult to figure out if the purported health benefits are determined by one single food item.

Okay, that may well be true, but we have another BIG reason to eat chillies…

Capsaicin, which is an active component of chillies, kills myeloma cells. So even if chillies don’t end up protecting us from heart attacks and strokes (they may or may not), we should definitely be using them in the kitchen…!!!

Exposure to permethrin increases risk of developing multiple myeloma

I just read a bit of news that I thought I’d share here on the blog.

A new study shows that exposure (NOTE: “a high lifetime exposure“) to an insecticide called permethrin increases one’s risk of developing MM. This insecticide is used in public health mosquito control programs, for example. Eeeeek!

Here’s the article, for those interested: http://bit.ly/2G1haJN

I’ve been reading some interesting stuff lately…I just have to find the time to post about it all! Anyway, have a great weekend, everyone! Ciao! 🙂 

Gut bacteria plays a big role in the progression to active myeloma, according to a new Italian study

One of my Italian blog readers sent me this link today: http://goo.gl/AEwRXo

I realize the article is in Italian, but hey, you’re in luck 😉 : you can read the full study, on which the Italian article is based, in English…at this link: http://goo.gl/9U8NoN

In any case, I’m going to give you a brief summary (based only on the article. I need more time to read/go through the full study). Here goes.

Researchers at the Ospedale di San Raffaele in Milan have discovered that a particular type of gut bacteria, called Prevotella heparinolytica, plays a big role in the proliferation of some of the inflammatory lymphocytes involved in the progression from asymptomatic to active myeloma.

Here’s what happens, in a nutshell. First, the pesky Prevotella bacterium activates the above-mentioned pesky lymphocytes. The lymphocytes then wander over to the bone marrow where they help plasma cells proliferate. They do so by releasing an inflammatory molecule called IL-17.

Arianna Brevi, one of the main researchers, points out that IL-17 could become a predictive tool, since it can actually be measured in the bone marrow of asymptomatic patients. In other words, it might be able to show which patients are more at risk of developing active myeloma.

Testing their findings on lab mice, the researchers were able to block IL-17 and other inflammatory molecules involved in the progression to active myeloma. Result: they SLOWED DOWN progression to active myeloma. Incidentally, they used anti-inflammatory drugs that are already on the market.

Aha!

That got me to wondering if curcumin’s inhibition of IL-17 is the reason, the main reason, why I’ve remained “inactive” for so many years, as have so many of you, too!

Well, well, a VERY exciting finding today!!!

(More research needed, of course…)

P.S. Finally, I just wanted to mention that I’m FINE and have been doing FINE for a while, now. No time for the blog, though. I’ve been busy with life…tons of stuff to do, blablabla. Thanks for your notes of encouragement…much appreciated! 🙂

Forskolin: another natural compound goes on my list of myeloma killers

Yesterday I came across a 2015 study that really caught my attention. A group of Norwegian researchers has discovered that the combination of dexamethasone with a natural compound called forskolin kills multiple myeloma cells.

They tested forskolin with other conventional myeloma drugs, too: bortezomib (Velcade), cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and melphalan.

And by itself.

Results in a nutshell: dead myeloma cells.  😎 

Excerpt from the abstract: “Our findings support a potential role of forskolin in combination with current conventional agents in the treatment of MM.”

The researchers believe that forskolin might be able “to diminish treatment-associated side effects,” which of course would have a huge impact, obviously a very positive one!!!, on a patient’s quality of life…indeed, on the QOL of countless patients…

Of course, this is all theoretical, since the researchers used MM cell lines, not actual human beings. I checked the clinical trial website where I found only a few trials testing forskolin for various conditions, mostly eye, weight loss, and lung-related (interesting aside: there were a couple of cystic fibrosis studies there, too).

No myeloma clinical trials.

Are you surprised? I wasn’t. I mean, we know WHO finances almost all the clinical trials…and the ghastly rich and powerful pharmaceutical companies aren’t going to be interested in an affordable natural compound, are they?

No profit, no trial. It’s as simple as that.

And that is why non-toxic substances that might kill our myeloma cells without messing with our QUALITY OF LIFE are completely ignored…ignored even by our own MM foundations that should have our best interests at heart…It’s frustrating, to say the least…unbearably so, I admit, at times.

But let’s get away from negative feelings and focus instead on this potentially POSITIVE bit of news, which is that it seems we have another promising anti-myeloma tool. Yaaaaay!

Incidentally, the Norwegian study is fully available onlinegoo.gl/dRLgPg

So what exactly is forskolin? It’s a natural compound extracted from the root of an Indian plant called Coleus forskohlii. It has become popular in recent years as a weight loss supplement (the patient studies I glanced at early today, however, have mixed results). More importantly, it has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries as a treatment for asthma, breathing disorders, and for general health purposes.

Contraindications. Generally speaking, forskolin is considered to be safe. However:

  • It may lower blood pressure, so definitely stay away from it if you have low blood pressure or are taking drugs for high blood pressure (beta-blockers, etc.). Of course, if you suffer from HIGH blood pressure, this might be of interest to you.
  • If you are on blood thinners such as warfarin or if you have kidney disease, forskolin is not for you.
  • It may also increase your heart rate and your levels of gastric acid.
  • There have been reports about possibly contaminated supplements in Europe.

Apart from these things, though, so far I haven’t read anything super negative about forskolin.

The big question is: will it work for myeloma patients? No idea, of course. As I mentioned, the Norwegian study used myeloma cell lines, not patients. But that hasn’t stopped me before, and it probably won’t stop me now…as long as my research keeps turning up positive information. Right now, though, it’s too hot here in Florence to think about experimenting with a new compound, which is good in the sense that it gives me time to do some further reading…

But I’m intrigued, really intrigued, and that’s a good start…

Hmmm, final (obvious!) thought: has anyone here taken this supplement? I’d love to hear from you! Thanks!

A case report: the antibiotic roxithromycin induces PR in a patient with smoldering myeloma

Well…Well…WELL!!! I’ve got a very interesting item for you today…

Many many many thanks to my blog reader Charlotte for this gem: goo.gl/hMsWov

The link will lead you to a case report about a 86-year-old patient (with IgA lambda smoldering myeloma) who went into partial remission after taking roxithromycin, an antibiotic, for just ONE MONTH. This happened last year in New Zealand.

The patient’s paraprotein, which had been increasing since he was diagnosed in 2008, dropped from 46 g/L to 20 g/L.

That’s a 57% decrease! Wowsie.

And another thing: in addition to his other markers remaining stable (calcium and creatinine, e.g.) in the four months after taking roxithromycin, his hemoglobin increased to 132…from 97. Another wowsie.

I also discovered something else: the antibiotic clarithromycin has been found to have anti-myeloma activity BUT only in association with other drugs (dexamethasone, etc.). That’s the difference between the two antibiotics, since roxithromycin appears to have “significant single-agent anti-myeloma activity.” That is, it goes after myeloma all by itself…

I’m not a big fan of antibiotics, that’s for sure (although when you need ’em, you need ’em!!!), but this case report has certainly given me food for thought…

A lot of food for thought…