Cancer Watch - Issue 2 2005


Originally published in Issue 2 2005 icon

Cancer Watch eye

Vitamin D Helps Lung Cancer Survival

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health have concluded that good levels of vitamin D in the body may help people with early stage lung cancer survive longer after surgery.

Patients who had surgery in the sunny summer months where vitamin D levels are higher were more than twice as likely to be alive 5 years after surgery compared with those with low vitamin D levels having winter time surgery. Apart from fish oils, sunshine is the only other significant ’provider’ of vitamin D.

Dr David Christiani said the survival differences were ’dramatic’; the highest levels of vitamin D saw 72 per cent 5- year survivals compared with just 29 per cent for people with the lowest levels.

’It looks like vitamin D is antiproliferative, as it inhibits proliferation of abnormal cells’, added Christiani, ’and there was also evidence to suggest vitamin D inhibits the spread of tumours’.

(Ed: Fish oil consumption in the UK has declined from 75,000 tonnes to just 20,000 tonnes across the last 40 years. In winter people in the UK simply do not get sufficient sunlight to generate vitamin D (see icon report - February 2004). We strongly advise all people concerned about cancer to take fish oils (but not cod liver oil unless vitamin D enriched), during the winter months.) Meanwhile here are three more recent studies that say that sunshine is good for you.)

In the Journal of Clinical Oncology (Jan 20, 2005) men with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood were half as likely to develop prostate cancer, as those with poor amounts. Research has shown that vitamin D inhibits prostate cancer cell growth. The provider of the vitamin in the research? Sunshine!

The University of New Mexico (Journal of Nat Cancer Institute 2005, 97) has shown that its research findings conclude people with high exposure to the sun are less likely to die from melanomas. They too conclude vitamin D might be the protecting factor.

Finally the Swedes have their study too. Sunshine reduces risk of Hodgkin’s by 40 per cent (Karolinska Institute).

(Ed: As readers know we think this don’t smoke, avoid strong sunshine’ approach to cancer prevention from some quarters is both nave and misleading. We have previously run articles on supposed ’protective suncreams’ and how their ingredients, or the contraceptive pill, can greatly pre-disposed people to skin cancer.)

Lung Cancer Cells Are Oestrogen Responsive

According to research in Cancer Res (2005) lung cancer cells grow in response to oestrogen and researchers used gefitnib to block the pathway; with fulvestrant to block the growth factors. This resulted in 59 per cent of the sample having their tumours decrease.

Abortions Do Not Increase Breast Cancer Risk

The confusion still lingers and has prompted Susan Richman MD, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Yale University, to reinforce current thinking.

About 10 years ago several studies suggested a link. However, the research is now considered flawed. ’The most current, well-designed studies have found no association’, she says; a conclusion also made by the US National Cancer Institute in 2003.

Thyroid Link to Breast Cancer

Scientists at the University of Texas have discovered that women with an underactive thyroid get less breast cancers. Dr Massimo Cristofanilli’s team compared the medical records of 1,136 women with breast cancer and 1,088 healthy women to find that women with underactive thyroids had a 61 per cent lower risk of developing invasive breast cancer.

Papal Bull?

Much has recently been said about the late Pope John Paul II, amongst this the Vatican is claiming he had ’incredible faith healing and exorcism powers’. In 1982 he exorcised a devil from nurse Francesca Fabrizi, in 1981 hands-onhealing caused a paralysed man to leave his wheelchair for good, whilst in 1979 his holiness came to the assistance of Kay Kelly, a 32-year old, English mother of 3 whom doctors had told had just three weeks to live. Her dying wish - she had an incurable cancer - was to meet the Pope. He took her head in his hands and prayed. Afterwards her pain suddenly disappeared. She did die, but 12 years later of heart problems, and an autopsy showed no signs of cancer in the body.

Watch Fun Films, Not Scary Ones!

The Washington Post (March 14th) reports on recent research where the subjects watch either a comedy film or a violent war scene.

Where the subjects watched the fun film their blood flow increased by 22 per cent after laughing. With the war film the stress decreased blood flow by 35 per cent.

Mobile Phones Are Safe; Maybe

In recent Danish Research (Christoffer Johansen, of the Danish Cancer Society in Copenhagen) no links were found between mobile phone usage and brain tumours. The study reviewed two types of brain tumour - glioma and meningioma, amongst a sample of 1,200 people. (Neurology April 2005).

Sir William Stewart, head of the UK Health Protection Agency, said that the scientific evidence was still too weak to say that mobile phones were safe. A previous Finnish study involving 398 people, and a Swedish study involving 1,617 people had both found an increased risk, whilst others had not. The jury is still out!

Cetuximab Tests for Bowel Cancer

With more than 16,000 people dying of bowel cancer in the UK each year, Professor Tim Maughan at Cardiff’s Velindre Hospitals is looking for 2,500 volunteers to take part in a trial on a new drug, Cetuximab. This seems to help existing chemotherapy agents work better.

Pancreatic Cancer and Lycopene

A team of researchers backed by the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention at Health Canada designed a study to look at dietary carotenoid intake and its link with pancreatic cancer. Carotenoids are usually found in grapefruit, peppers, carrots, watermelon and tomatoes. All the subjects were non-smokers as this is believed to be one of the main causes.

Over four years 4,700 healthy people and 462 patients used food questionnaires. The overall results were positive - a higher intake of carotenoids does reduce risk, but the biggest difference was found for lycopene: a 31 per cent reduced risk in the heavy intake group over the light eaters. Lycopene is commonly available in tomatoes and especially in cooked tomatoes.

Time to Look Under the Problem

Dr Josef Kees recently lectured in the UK on Toxins - their inter-relationship to the immune system. He cited cases he had treated. For example, one where a woman getting constant colds and vitamin C deficient was, in fact, suffering from mercury poisoning; another had allergy problems, in fact, due to titanium in her toothpaste and make-up; and a third patient whose mouth and throat infections were actually due to residual formaldehyde.

PSA Tests Under The Cosh Again

Sloan-Kettering have completed a 4-year study involving 1000 men with an average age of 62. More than 20 per cent had PSA readings high enough to prompt a biopsy. However in the follow up reading half had their PSA levels return to normal. The recommendation? Don’t rely on one reading. Have another at least two weeks later.

(Ed: and several more!! The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute in Seattle believe that dodgy PSA tests are responsible for at least 40 percent over diagnosis of prostate cancers.)

Gliadel Wafers Approved For Brain Tumour Treatment in the UK

The anti-cancer drug carmustine (Gliadel) was developed over 30 years ago but was so toxic to the rest of the body, it fell out of use. Now by impregnating polymer wafers and putting these actually on the brain following a tumour removing operation, concentrations 1000 times stronger may be used. This technique has been used in the USA, and now Dr Robert Bradford will be using it at the Royal Free Hospital, London.

Ian Whittle, Professor at Western General Hospital Edinburgh said that there had been ’little progress in the last twenty years on brain cancer treatment compared with other cancers’. Dr Bradford felt this might extend survival, normally just months, to nearly a year.

(Ed: We have covered his work on Gliadel. The delivery system is now better developed but the results are still not as good as were hoped).

HIV ’Homes’ In On Cancer Cells

A University of California team led by Dr Irvin Chen found an ’impotent’ form of HIV which seems to home in on cancer cells in mice. Now they are trying to insert a gene into the virus, which could kill the cancer cell on contact, and then test it on humans.

Ultrasound - A Real ’Breakthrough’ In Prostate Cancer Treatment

In the last issue of i c o n we briefly covered the news of this ’breakthrough’ therapy. Life moves on apace. On March 18th in an Istanbul conference, the European Association of Urology (EAU) launched a ’club’ of top Urologists across Europe to support and develop this highly promising, non-invasive treatment.

To date over 7,000 patients have been successfully treated using this therapy, in France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Russia, Switzerland and now the UK.

The therapy involves the use of High Intensity Focussed Ultrasound (HIFU) and is called Ablatherm.

The treatment lasts for about one and a half hours with patients being admitted the night before and leaving hospital two to three days later.

An endorectal probe is introduced while the patient is under general or spinal anaesthesia. Ultrasound scanning is used to locate the exact area of infection and then high intensity focussed ultrasound transmissions are applied to raise the temperature of the localised area to 85o to 100oC. This induces necrosis of the affected prostate tissue. Reports suggested that the tumour and infected cells liquefy. The treatment is a precise local treatment, involving in just one session and is minimally invasive with no side effects. Only a few complications have been reported to date and patient recovery time is short.

Furthermore the treatment can be used selectively on certain areas and may be repeated. To date it has been used on patients for whom surgery was not an option, or those where radiotherapy had failed and recurrence had occurred.

"HIFU Technology for the treatment of prostate cancer is very promising, as is demonstrated by the high rate of success that we experienced in Munich", stated Dr Stefan Throff of the Krankenhaus Mnchen Harlaching. That success is a staggering 87 per cent without relapse at five years.

Another positive of the treatment is that nadir PSA is reached after only 3 months and so success is more quickly established.

FDA approval has been sought and the UK’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) published guidelines on April 1st 2005 for its usage in the UK.

While 63 centres are working with thetherapy across Europe, the main centre in the UK is Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, where work only started one year ago. The Consultant Urologist is Stephen Brown.

(Ed: We are totally supportive of this work, and especially of the ’club’ formed because a core group of scientists were concerned that this cheap, non-invasive and non-toxic therapy might simply be ignored. With European 5 year survival rates at 44 per cent, this therapy is essential).

Cancer Watch - Issue 4 2005
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