Cancer Watch - July 2003

Originally published in July 2003 icon

Cancer Watch eye

Extra breast chemo drug shows results

A study of over 2,000 women from 65 UK hospitals indicates that adding Epirubicin into a mix of chemotherapy drugs for women who have breast cancer which has not spread, reduces the chances of reoccurrence by a third. Epirubicin has now been given the go-ahead by the NHS. A spokesperson said that ’most’ of the 40,000 women diagnosed each year had breast cancer that had not spread to other parts of the body. Currently doctors claim that 74% of sufferers survive five years after diagnosis. The research findings were announced at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, late May.

The potent effect of 13C

The Journal of Biological Chemistry (June 6th 2003) reports that Indole-3-carbinol (13C), found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale is a potent suppressor of prostate cancer cell spread. The body converts 13C to 3,3-dindolylmethane (DIM) during ingestion. Although androgen is a necessary hormone for a normal prostate, excess plays a role in the early development of prostate cancer cells.

DIM inhibits androgen dependent cancer cells and in particular dihydrotestosterone (DHT) one of the testosterone family of hormones and the primary androgen in prostate cancer development.

DHT stimulates a protein PSA, which is a growth factor for prostate cancer. However, DIM reduces PSA levels. This positive effect of Indole-3-carbinol also works with breast and endometrial cancers.

Do tracking drugs work?

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute (May 7th 2003) reports on a jointly funded study by the NCI and Cancer Research UK, which uses a scanning technique to watch a drug working within a tumour.

The system should enable doctors to spot early signs that treatment is failing to work, allowing a speedy switch to an alternative drug. It may also dramatically speed up clinical trials, by making it far easier for researchers to collect information on a drug’s function.

Researchers based at the MRC Cyclotron Unit in London’s Hammersmith Hospital and the Northern Institute for Cancer Research in Newcastle used a high tech, non-invasive imaging technique called Positron Emission Tomography (PET) to track the effectiveness of treatment.

Scientists studied patients who were being treated at Newcastle General Hospital for bowel or stomach cancer, flying them down to the Hammersmith for their PET scans. The patients were receiving a drug called nolatrexed (or Thimitaq), which stops cancer cells from making thymidine - a key component of DNA that’s vital for cell division. By injecting them with mildly radioactive molecules of thymidine, researchers were able to watch on screen as the anti-cancer drug took effect.

Cancer cells only draw in thymidine from outside if a drug is preventing them from making it, so such an action is a marker of the effectiveness of treatment. But if cancer cells are able to smuggle in very large quantities of thymidine, it may give them resistance to the drug’s effects, and once perfected, the new system should be able to detect this as well.

Professor Robert Souhami, Cancer Research UK’s Director of Clinical Research, says: "For the first time we have a technique which allows us to measure directly within a tumour whether a drug is working, without the need for a biopsy."

(This euphoria about what you can see over a few days is really a help when and if the drug does not work on a tumour Positive claims cannot be made from this nor should anything be concluded about side effects or long term effects outside the tumour Ed.)

Evista link to ovarian cancer?

In October of last year Professor Samuel Epstein and The Cancer Prevention Coalition in the USA warned women about Evista (raloxifene), marketed by Eli Lilly since 1997. The CPC looked at an 8% increased risk of ovarian cancer in white female users over 65 years of age between 1997 and 1999.

Lilly’s own study specifically designed to prove the drug’s safety found that the drug was shown to induce ovarian cancer in rats and, at doses well below the therapeutic level, in mice. The study admitted, "The clinical relevance of these tumour findings is not known". The Cancer Prevention Coalition state that this conclusion violates the strong scientific consensus that the induction of cancer in well-designed studies in two species creates the strong presumption of human risk.

A study by University of Southern California researchers, presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology July 2001 annual meeting, has provided further evidence of Evista’s cancer risk.

It showed that Evista increases the growth rate of ovarian cancer cells in laboratory studies, and may increase risks of recurrence of ovarian cancer.

These warnings were first raised by Dr. Epstein in a 1/12/98 Jim Lehrer TV Newshour programme. This prompted two women to contact the Coalition saying that they had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer following Evista treatment. The first was a 68-year old Florida woman, following two years of treatment to prevent worsening of her osteoporosis. The second was a 53-year old Chicago woman, treated with Evista for over three years to prevent osteoporosis, and recurrence of her previously treated breast cancer.

Dr. Epstein describes the inaction of the FDA and the NCI in the light of all this research as "reckless".

PAP smears fail the acid test

Thousands of women have a PAP smear every year - but they are only about 70% accurate as recent alarming press articles have revealed. Variable test results are more frequent than people care to admit and misdiagnosis has stressed a number of women unnecessarily into thinking they had cervical cancer. Hysterectomy is one recommended treatment.

Few people seem to have taken notice of a report in the Lancet in March 1999. In research in Zimbabwe, researchers found that swabbing a woman’s cervix with vinegar detected abnormal cell growth more effectively than a PAP smear. In the study, six nurse-midwives screened 2,144 women by first taking a PAP smear and then swabbing each woman~ s cervix with vinegar and observing any changes with a flashlight.

They recorded whether any cervical tissue turned white when swabbed with the vinegar (the white tissue indicated possible cell abnormality). Then, the researchers took a colposcopy (a cell biopsy in which the cervix is very closely inspected under magnification) of each woman and found that 77 percent of the abnormal vinegar tests were accurate while only 44 percent of the abnormal PAP smears were correct!

It is of course possible that the poor results from the PAP smears could have been due to flaws in either sample collection or laboratory evaluation. But is anybody seriously looking into this blatantly cheaper and seemingly more accurate test?

Perhaps women reading this should take along their own bottle of vinegar next time they go for a PAP smear?!

Pill link to cervical cancer

Following an extensive review by scientists from Cancer Research UK and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, of oral contraceptive use and cervical cancer risk involving data from 24 countries, researchers found that the longer women used the pill the greater their risk of developing cervical cancer. The effect remained even when other risk factors for the disease such as infection with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) were taken into account.
(Lancet - April 2003)

Cancer Research UK experts stress that further research is needed to determine whether the risk of cervical cancer drops after women stop using the pill, before implications for public health can be fully understood.

In the study, commissioned by the World Health Organisation, researchers combined the data from 28 studies, involving 12,500 women with cervical cancer from a number of countries including the UK and USA.

They found that women who used the pill for five years or less had a 10 per cent increased risk of cervical cancer when compared with women who had never taken it. This increased risk rose to 60 per cent with five to nine years of use and doubled with 10 years of use or over.

A similar pattern of increased risk was seen when researchers took into account other factors which could influence cervical cancer risk, such as whether the women smoked, their number of sexual partners, whether they had previously attended cervical cancer screening and whether they used barrier methods of contraception.

Persistent infection with some types of sexually transmitted HPV’s is thought to be the most important cause of cervical cancer. But whether women infected with HPV go on to develop cervical cancer may be affected by other factors such as the use of hormonal contraceptives. Some previous studies had suggested a link between cervical cancer and the pill but the evidence had been unclear.

Around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in this country.

The taste that kills?

The science is there and if we have it, why does the Government not use it and take action?

So says The Idaho Observer. Citing a recent book called "Excitotoxins - the taste that kills" by Dr Russell Blaylock the piece asks "what if someone were to tell you that a chemical (Mono Sodium Glutamate - MSG) added to food could cause brain damage in your children; or that there is evidence that the artificial sweetener Aspartame in diet soft drinks could cause brain tumours in your children; how would you feel?

What if you could be shown overwhelming evidence that both can cause similar brain lesions?"

The argument runs on to claim that a SINGLE exposure can cause problems, and that these ingredients (certainly in the USA) do not have to be labelled as such. L-cystine is another such toxin and labelling can be woolly (for example, monosodium glutamate, hydrolysed vegetable protein, hydrolysed protein, hydrolysed plant protein, plant protein extract, sodium or calcium casseinate, textu red protein, a utolysed yeast, hydrolysed oat flour, corn oil are all dubbed definitely MSG containing whilst the following are usually MSG containing: malt flavouring or extract often used in bread, stock flavouring, and many "natural" flavours).

Aspartame is a sweetener made from two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartate. It accounts for 70% of all complaints to the FDA. It can break down into:

  • DKP, which when ingested converts to a near duplicate of a brain tumour causing agent

  • Formic Acid (ant venom)

  • Formaldehyde - known embalming fluid and likely carcinogen

  • Methanol- can cause blindness It is found everywhere from diet drinks to sugar free cough liquids and diet yoghurts.

Cancer Watch - March-April 2004
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