August 2008

CANCERWATCH AUGUST 2008


 LATEST WORLD CANCER NEWS


 NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE


 CHEMICAL WORLD


Breast Cancer – Now HRT can mess up your mammograms too


According to a new large-scale study conducted by researchers from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute and published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, HRT not only increases the risk of developing breast cancer, it can interfere with cancer diagnostic techniques, even after only taking it for as little as one year, causing increased numbers of women to be told that they have ‘abnormalities’ in their breast tissue.

Researchers used data from 16,600 post-menopausal women who had participated in the National Institutes of Health’s Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). They compared women who underwent combined synthetic oestrogen-progesten HRT as a treatment for menopause symptoms with those who were given a placebo.

Back in 2002 the mixed synthetic oestrogen-progesten HRT trial was stopped as a doubling of breast cancer rates along with increases in strokes and heart disease had been witnessed. This latest study confirmed the original conclusion but also found evidence that problems could emerge more quickly than previously believed, and in younger women.

Most significantly, according to lead researcher Rowan Chlebowski, combined HRT increased women’s risk of having an ‘abnormal’ reading from a mammogram – whether or not it subsequently turned out to be a false alarm. This effect increased with time. For example, while 23 percent of the women in the placebo group had ‘abnormal’ readings this rose to 35 percent in the mixed HRT group.

10 per cent of women in the mixed HRT group (as opposed to 6 percent in the control group) then went on to have breast biopsies.
 
Chlebowski’s team also found mixed HRT ‘may impact women just entering menopause as well. Adverse effects on mammogram and breast biopsy performance were seen even in younger women - even up to one year after the discontinuation of combined HRT’.

HRT is known to cause breast tissue to become denser – and dense tissue is not only more dangerous, it is harder to read from a mammogram. Breast cancer rates have declined by about 7 per cent in the USA – and this has been attributed to less women taking HRT as the risks become more public.


Three research studies on Prostate cancer – are we barking up the wrong hormone?


1. Another drug to cut testosterone in prostate cancer


A new ‘designer drug’ that cuts out an enzyme which is essential in the production of testosterone, has passed its clinical trials ‘with flying colours’, increasing life expectancy in men with even advanced prostate cancer. A spokesperson for the Royal Marsden stated that ‘Deprived of the male hormone, testosterone, prostate cancer usually withers and dies’.

Unfortunately, this statement seems very much at odds with real life, where men who have their testosterone cut off, often find their problems returning after a while: In the last copy of icon St Barts were saying that they had no treatment effective for such advanced prostate cancers.

Hitherto standard treatment involves chemical (or even in some cases physical) ‘castration’. Now the new drug, abiraterone seems to be ‘a new and more powerful way of eliminating male hormones in prostate cancer as it knocks out an enzyme, CYP1Z which is essential to androgen production’.

(Ed: More powerful than castration? Now there’s a concept.)  Apparently, research has shown that many castration resistant cancers are driven by an oncogene EGF. In the cancer cell, EGF gets stuck to a promoter of a different gene ERG. And this is sensitive to androgens. The study at the Royal Marsden showed that the drug worked well in five out of the six patients who had the stuck EGF/ERG arrangement. Dr Attard, lead researcher, says that by testing people for this combination they will be able to focus on a group of people with a higher response rate.

Apparently, they hope to see if this hormone reducing drug can work in other cancers too.


2 Anti-oestrogen drug to prevent Prostate cancer


Recent research at Memorial Sloan Kettering, New York has shown that the anti-oestrogen drug, finasteride, commonly used to treat enlarged prostates, decreases the risk of prostate cancer by nearly 25 percent. When the original results of the study, known as the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, were initially released in 2003, the good news was tempered by the fact that the study also revealed a small but statistically significant increase in the number of aggressive, high-grade prostate tumours in the men from the study who were taking finasteride.

However two new analyses of the study’s data show that finasteride definitely decreases the risk of all types of prostate cancer, even for those men with high-grade tumours.


3 Diabetes link to lowered testosterone – and less cancers


Men with diabetes have lowered levels of testosterone. Now a clinical trial from the University of Sheffield has revealed that a topical, gel-based testosterone replacement therapy could improve not only the sufferers’ response to insulin, but also seems to improve their sex lives as well. Dr. T. Hugh Jones trialled Tostran, a testosterone gel and found that insulin sensitivity and erectile function improved over the course of 6 - 12 months.

(Ed: Comment – three pieces of research from different sources. The last may even seem irrelevant if you have cancer – but to me it just seems to confirm my personal view that prostate treatment in the UK might be barking up the wrong hormone. Two top UK prostate experts have told icon in the past that ‘prostate cancer is caused by high testosterone’. This is clearly rubbish - If it were the case, every 16 year old male would have prostate cancer. 

Numerous studies (e.g. from Singapore, Monash, and Concord in Australia and MD Anderson, Texas) have shown that a man’s testosterone declines with age, but his oestrogen increases, and that the cause of prostate cancer is the increased oestrogen acting on the remaining testosterone turning it into a very aggressive chemical called DHT.

Personally I’d rather cut my increasing female hormone, than my decreasing male hormone. It may not be much at my age but I’d like to keep what I still have! Professor Ben Pfeifer’s therapy seems to do exactly this and work.

Let’s be clear – of course cutting testosterone stops DHT production; but then so would cutting oestrogen to zero too.)



Colorectal; Head and neck cancers – backlash on new drug


Only a couple of months ago we were receiving Press releases about the new wonder drug, Erbitux from Merck. Erbitux (cetuximab) is a monoclonal antibody that targets and inhibits Epidermal Growth Factor receptor (EGFr). EGFr is over-expressed in more than 35% of all solid malignant tumours and the drug targets this. Currently used with colorectal cancer, there are plans to use it with head and neck cancer patients.

However, as we have reported before, journals such as the Lancet Oncology have already expressed concerns that these new targeted and therefore reduced side-effect monoclonal drugs were anything but. Now in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing patients participating in a study experienced many different forms of extremely high skin toxicity including severe acne, puss filled blisters, and severe rashes. Outbreaks worsened with each further dose. The report shows pictures of the bad side effects. The study concluded that approximately 90% of all patients receiving this antibody drug will experience side effects with varying severity. Depression and negative effects on the heart along with pulmonary toxicity were also noted.
(Seminars in oncology nursing: ((http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve.) Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing
(https:///www.ons.org/publications/journals/CJON/...)


UK Health Regulators act to reduce antibiotic usage


Wrong reason – right decision. UK health regulators have ‘put a ban on the overuse of antibiotics’ according to the Daily Telegraph, July 23, 2008. They are concerned that doctors are prescribing the drugs for conditions like sore throats, colds and coughs for which the drugs are ineffective (Ed: shouldn’t UK Doctors know better than this?), and are also inclined to dish out too many of the tablets anyway. (Doctors in the UK currently write around 38 million prescriptions per year for antibiotics, costing the National Health Service around £175m.)
Nice is also concerned that this overuse is resulting in an increasing resistance to antibiotics, and they are becoming useless against serious infectious diseases, such as Clostridium difficile.
Now NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, wants an immediate stop to the practice. (Ed: Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of a plan on how to do it. Nor does NICE mention the enormous conflict between antibiotics and your intestinal bacteria, which recent clinical trials have shown to be essential to your good health, and to direct up to 85 per cent of your immune system. - But it’s a start.)


Kidney cancer. New drug, same problem


In the same week as NICE is turning down four kidney cancer drugs because they are not cost effective comes this from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center New York:

A Phase III Clinical Trial on Everolimus has been stopped, so clear was its success (Ed: according to the Hospital). Results were presented in May 2008 at the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology.

Everolimus, a once-daily oral therapy, targets the mTOR protein, which acts as a central regulator of tumour cell division, cell metabolism, and blood vessel growth. It is currently being evaluated for the treatment of several other cancers including lymphoma and neuroendocrine tumours.

The international, multicenter Phase III clinical trial has found that the experimental targeted therapy everolimus (RAD001) significantly delayed cancer progression in patients with metastatic kidney cancer whose disease had worsened on other treatments.
More than 400 patients participated in this study, all of whom had disease that had progressed with currently available targeted therapies sunitinib and/or sorafenib. Patients were randomised to receive everolimus or placebo. After six months, 26 percent of patients in the everolimus group had disease that had not progressed, compared to only 2 percent of the placebo group. The average difference in progression free survival was four months for everolimus, compared to 1.9 months for the placebo group.
‘Based on the results of this trial, everolimus could become another tool in our armamentarium and, in the future, kidney cancer is likely to be managed as a chronic disease with these types of treatment advances,’ said Dr Motzer, leader of the Sloan-Kettering team.
Everolimus was well tolerated by patients and the most common side effects were mouth ulcers, anaemia, skin rash and weakness.
So here we have a drug that is better than the ones top Professors are ridiculing NICE for refusing to allow out of the NHS budget, and even this does not work in 76 per cent of cases. Fortunately we can say that for a quarter of patients there is a longevity benefit. Will NICE feel this worth funding? (Ed: See our viewpoint article ‘Drugs – an expensive habit’).


American study links statin/heart drug combo to increased cancer risk


The New England Journal of Medicine reports (August 31st 2008) that patients taking a drug for high cholesterol called Inegy is linked with higher than expected cases of cancer.About 300,000 prescriptions for the drug have been dispensed in the UK in the last two years. Only recently there was another research study that confirmed that statins ’hung around’ in the body for a number of years after taking them.

Inegy contains two drugs - a statin simvastatin and a drug called ezetimibe which helps control levels of cholesterol and its precursors in the blood stream.
 
US heart experts have urged caution. Only last year NICE approved the wider use of ezetimibe. As yet it is not known which drug might be behind the increased cancer figures. It may even be a combination effect. But, while 70 people taking the placebo developed cancer20105 taking the drug did - a 50 per cent increase in quite a short period. Amazingly Professor Heinz Drexel of the University of Innsbruck was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying that he ’wasn’t sure that the effecacy of ezetimibe was proven, nor is the safety and he would not take the drug himself. He is, after all, the spokesperson for the Eoropean Society of Cardiologists. Is this not just a little worrying?


Sun Safety - Free DVD


A DVD has been produced in memory of Becca Kaye who died last year of metastatic melanoma. Becca was a teacher at Lewannick Primary School in Cornwall and her class wanted to warn other young people of the potential dangers of burning in the sun. The DVD has already been distributed to all the schools in the south west of England where melanoma is being diagnosed at an ever increasing rate - particularly with 15 - 34 year olds where it is now the most common form of cancer. This DVD is designed to be shown to children and to teenagers and is available free of charge. Anyone with responsibility for the care of the young is encouraged to send for a copy via www.melanomaproject.com or by telephoning : 01208 75343.



NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE


Bladder Cancer – risks reduced by vegetables


Several recent studies have focussed on bladder cancer. In one involving a survey on the dietary habits of 1,100 people, 275 of whom had bladder cancer, researchers from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo showed eating just three small servings of raw cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli and cabbage) per month can decrease the risk of developing bladder cancer amongst smokers by 40 per cent and non-smokers by 73 per cent.


Prostate cancer – eat garlic, leeks and onions


On the National Cancer Institute web site you will find the results of some of their own research showing that eating garlic, onions and leaks halves the risk of prostate cancer. Lead by Dr Ann Hsing the research also came out in favour of lycopene from tomatoes too. The quantity of garlic causing this impressive level of protection was 10 gms or about two and a half cloves. And it is better to eat it raw as the benefits are considerably weakened in cooking.



CHEMICAL WORLD


The Mobile Phone debate – we are now reaching a watershed


Now ‘big media’ is involved

Larry King, who is watched by millions of viewers around the globe, has just hosted his second show on the subject of the dangers of mobile phones. The whole topic is clearly being ‘outed’. Devra Davis of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Keith Black, MD of Cedars Sinai Hospital, Otis W. Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Paul Song, a radiation oncologist in Los Angeles and Ted Schwartz, a brain surgeon at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City were his guests.

The programme was described as ‘a watershed moment for mobile phones and cancer’ by many experts. The panel endorsed a precaution principle, recommending reducing exposure to cell phones, use of wired earpieces for all calls, and very limited (if any) use of cell phones by young children.  Ron Herberman said that he has actually gone further and warned on cell phones to the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center employees and staff.

During the programme Sanjay Gupta held up Om Gandhi’s colour images of cell phone radio frequencies in the brain of a 5-year old, 10-year old and adult showing the strong electromagnetic influences. Even the American Cancer Society’s Otis Brawley agreed that precaution is warranted since we don’t know what may happen 20-30 years out. He also responded to an email asking "what should the US public health response be if the Interphone Study shows a doubling of risk, as some earlier studies have done?" by saying: "I think we’re going to have to look at the Interphone Study very carefully. It’s actually been completed for about two and a half years and the people who actually ran the study have yet to publish it. There are a lot of discussions going on amongst those scientists as to exactly what the data show. And it would be really nice if it were published, I must tell you."

Larry King pointed out that he’d invited many of the cell phone manufacturers, but none would attend. The link to the transcript of the show is:  http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0807/29/lkl.01.html


Mobile phones - The Canadian Government comes off the fence


Toronto’s department of public health has advised teenagers and young children to limit their use of cell phones, in order to avoid potential health risks. The advisory is the first of its kind in Canada.
Officials have warned that because of possible side effects from radio frequency radiation, children under eight should only use a cell phone in emergencies, and teenagers should limit calls to less than 10 minutes.
For many years, most government health agencies were dismissive of any risk. But with more studies, a pattern is emerging that suggests people who have used their cell phones for a long period of time are at greater risk of certain kinds of brain tumours.
Sources: www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/07/12/cellphones-kids.html and http//:healthzone.ca/health/article/459099


Oestrogen mimicking chemicals – when will we heed other countries?


It may have escaped your notice but last year California banned plastic toys containing Bisphenol A for the under 3’s. In April 2008, Canada banned BPA, full stop. And that includes all manner of plastics where it is found, from some baby feeding bottles to white linings in cans. BPA is a proven hormone disrupter.

Now a common weedkiller – already banned in the UK – called atrazine has been found to be linked to a number of serious hormone disruptive processes, in a similar way to BPA. In the case of atrazine, concentrations washed into the sea, although small, are enough to double the numbers of female fish occurring, according to one study. Research indicates it increases the cells in the placenta, and can also result in infertility. Yet more studies have now shown it also alters hormonal signalling in human cells. (Suzawa M, Ingraham HA (2008). The Herbicide Atrazine Activates Endocrine Gene Networks via Non-Steroidal NR5A Nuclear Receptors in Fish and Mammalian Cells. PLoS ONE 3(5): e2117 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002117. ((http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Ad.. University of California San Francisco)

(Ed: Now all we need is the UK to ban BPA, and the USA and Canada to ban atrazine and BPA, and Canada to ban atrazine! It is amazing really in a world where they do all line up to agree to ban a natural vitamin like tocotrienol which helps you!)


University of Washington – phthalates can be absorbed through the skin


The University of Washington has conducted a new study on phthalates this time with babies. (Journal of Pediatrics, 2008.)

Phthalates are plasticisers used in all manner of plastics in order to soften them. For example, you will find them in plastic bottles, thick or thin, depending on the plasticiser used. Thus your trendy drinking water might not be as pure as you had hoped. But almost anything, from a shampoo to a bath foam or a powder might contain some of these hormone disrupting chemicals if it came in a plastic bottle.

Previous studies had also indicated that babies were exposed orally to phthalates from dummies to plastic teething rings to feeding bottles. Phthalates are known endocrine disrupters and oestrogen mimics. In the past we have reported on research linking phthalates to increased levels of all manner of cancers from breast to testicular.

The Washington researchers measured phthalate concentrations in the urine of 163 infants between the ages of 2 and 28 months. A questionnaire covered the usage of soft plastic products and toiletries in the previous 24 hours.

All the infants were found to have at least one variety of phthalate in their urine while 80 percent of them had seven or more. The urine of babies who had been exposed to lotions, shampoos or powders had four times the phthalate levels of children who had not been exposed to those products. Children under the age of eight months fared the worst.

Interestingly, the research study only found a relationship with the topical application – showing absorption through the baby’s skin. No effect was found this time for oral absorption from toys, dummies and the like.

In another study, this time by the US Center for Environmental Health, headphone earpieces and cords (used in iPod’s and iPhones) were found to contain high levels of phthalates. Apple has promised to phase out all such possible toxins.


Fluoride – Good for your teeth? Bad for your brain.


While the UK Government presses on in its desire to force us all. Like the Australians, to consume more fluoride, a glut of US and now Chinese research on its dangers is surfacing.
Back in 2006, the US National Research Council (NRC) sounded the alarm bells concluding in an excellent summary of the then available literature "it is apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain." The NRC had examined the studies showing an association between fluoride and reduced IQ in children and concluded that "the consistency of the results appears significant enough to warrant additional research on the effects of fluoride on intelligence."

Now 4 more studies on fluoride and IQ have been published -- from Mexico, Iran, India, and China. The studies are available online at http://www.fluorideresearch.org.

After translation, the recent purchase of the Chinese studies proves very interesting reading. They consistently show how fluoride can affect neurological development, function, and performance. One (Yu, Guiyang Medical College) how fluoride exposure among pregnant mothers can disrupt the synthesis of neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain cells of the foetus.

Another details how infants born to mothers with a history of high fluoride exposure exhibit differences in neuro-behavioral function shortly after birth, including delayed reaction to visual and auditory stimulus (Li 2004) Other studies include five additional human studies showing a correlation between elevated fluoride intake and reduced intelligence in children
 
And it doesn’t stop here. FAN is now working on getting an additional 7 Chinese studies published for the first time in English-language journals by the end of the year. These additional studies include two studies showing that fluoride can pass the placenta and damage the brain of the foetus, and 5 more studies finding a reduction in IQ among children exposed to excess fluoride.

In the USA scientists are beginning to take notice of the IQ issue. Just before the Chinese studies became available, a panel of prominent child health experts included fluoride as a chemical that may cause neurodevelopmental harm. This was based on IQ studies, as well as fluoride’s potential to impair thyroid function.

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