Cancer Watch - July-August 2004

Originally published in July-August 2004 icon

Cancer Watch eye

NHS faces "decimation from cancer"

A report on the NHS by 50 leading heath experts and funded by Macmillan Cancer Relief includes some dramatic conclusions:

  • Over 3 million people in Britain are likely to have cancer by 2025 (currently 270,000 per year).

  • Cost of care will rocket; currently it takes 20 per cent of all NHS resources but treatment is likely to cost 1 million per patient on average by 2025. The report predicts that this could decimate the annual NHS budget.

Currently 98 per cent of research funding goes on drug treatments rather than prevention. These are expensive, "lucrative’; and most hold a false promise of cure. More people will have to pay for treatment leaving an underclass of cancer sufferers.

The report anticipates more government intervention, for example with bans on television advertising of crisps, soft drinks and sweets, and even with increase on VAT on certain less desirable items.

Chondroitin risk

Many osteoarthritis sufferers use both glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate. However, according to Dr Charles E Myers Junior, a leader in prostate cancer research, chondroitin may actually help spread prostate cancer. Chondroitin sulphate provides relief by binding with versican, a protein food in joints. However, the same protein is found on the surface of prostate cancers and Myers believes the same binding action can cause extra growth and even metastatic spread. There is no evidence that glucosamine causes any such problem.

Chemo without the side effects

Cancer Research UK is sponsoring the first human trials on a cutting-edge drug, SJG-activity in over 35 human tumour models so far examined. It’s very early days, but CRUK has high hopes that SJG-136 will be effective against a range of cancers, including breast, ovarian, brain and bowel cancers as well as melanoma, glioma and leukaemia. Between 20 and 30 patients being treated for advanced stage cancer at the Royal Free Hospital in London and the Western Hospital, Edinburgh have just started a course of the drug. This first trial will assess safety and dosage, and subsequent trials will evaluate where SJG-136 can be most effective. We’d like to tell you that the Daily Mail was correct to sensationalise SJG-136 as 1000 times more effective than current treatments with the potential to wipe out the debilitating side effects of standard chemotherapy. These claims, says CRUK, are premature, nevertheless the drug’s promise is very real.

Multiple Myeloma Webcast

The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation in the USA have organised a Webcast programme following the ASCO Annual Meeting in the USA. The Webcast deals with new approaches, innovations and treatment options each in a ten-minute interview with experts from the Mayo Clinic; Fred Hutchinson, Seattle; and the Dana-Farber Institute, Boston.

Mammograms and obese women

The Archives of Internal Medicine (May 24, 2004, 164(10): 1140-7) reports that obese women are 20 per cent more likely to be wrongly diagnosed with false positive readings. In May/June Icon we reported that the 4th European Breast Cancer Conference stated mammograms were at best 67 per cent accurate. Apparently in obese women, the thicker volume of breast tissue gives poorer image clarity when squeezed between the plates.

HRT no longer first choice treatment

Doctors in the UK have been told by the Government’s medicines watchdog. (the Medicines and healthcare products Regulatory Agency) that HRT should no longer be used as the first choice of treatment for osteoporosis.

In ICON we have frequently mentioned links between increased risks of cancers as breast and ovarian and HRT. Osteoporosis treatment is also often misinformed. Regularly, patients are to "get more calcium by consuming more dairy". In fact dairy consumption suppresses magnesium levels. Magnesium is essential to help turn blood calcium into bone calcium. A better solution is to consume far less dairy, consume more green vegetables and take organic calcium/magnesium supplement like Coral Calcium (Tel: 01280 875166 for supplies). A recent survey showed that 40 per cent of Americans were magnesium deficient. Magnesium also drives a pump on cellular membranes: this pump reduces sodium levels in cells and helps prevent toxicity in mitochondria, linked to lower oxygen and energy levels in cells. (see The Tree of Life for more information on sodium, potassium, magnesium and their involvement in the cancer process).

Meanwhile a study in the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry suggests HRT may you perform poorly under pressure, after research at the Yale School of Medicine.

Three other reports on HRT are worth noting:

  • A 2003 study showed that oestrogen/progesterone HRT increased the risk of Alzheimer’s and the FDA has now insisted on a warning about this on label

  • A study in February for Brigham and Women’s Hospital USA showing that both oestrogen only, and oestrogen/progester HRT are linked to higher rates of asthma

  • A study from University of Rochester showed that women on HRT had a higher risk of impaired hearing.

"Breakthrough" drugs

From the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium comes news that Taxotere us on breast cancer sufferers improved 5-year survival from 81 per cent (on FAC standard treatment) to 87 per cent. 75 per cent women on Taxotere were symptom free after 5 years. The drug is currently not licensed early use - only late use.

Professor Robert Colman of Weston Park Hospital, Sheffield thinks these are enormously important results and was concerned that it was not widely available within the NHS. It costs 6,000 more per woman than current treatments.

Arimidex treatment for 12 weeks will shrink a tumour sufficiently in 43 per cent of women, to allow lumpectomy rather than complete mastectomy (European Breast Cancer Conference).

Femora cuts the "risk of dying’ by 39 per cent in post menopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer. Professor Ian Smith known as letrozole, which, like Arimidex, reduces oestrogen production. Other centres in Britain, Canada and the US took part in the study Side effects included osteoporosis.

In 2004, in a study co-ordinated by Cancer Research UK, patients who switched from Tamoxifen to another oestrogen inhibitor, exemestane, halfway through treatment, cut their risk of the cancer returning by a third.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in New Orleans have been told that MabThera given to Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients results in 95 per cent of patients under 60 being alive 2 years later. Apparently statistics show 80 per cent of such patients can consider themselves then "cured" (Ed: Do they know which 80 per cent?)

Come again?

The news all red-blooded men had hoped for has been finally delivered by researchers in Boston. Regular sex can help protect men against prostate cancer. In a report in April 2004 in the Journal of the American Medical Association - and we merely quote the figures - amongst 30,000 health professionals, the norm was four to seven ejaculations per month. Those who had 13 to 20 per month had 14 per cent less prostate cancer; and those exceeding 21 had 33 per cent less. One theory is that the ejaculation flushes out toxins, another is that it helps remove calciferous deposits. (See below on DCIS).

Over-diagnosis of prostate and breast cancer

The Guardian (May 26th 2004) reported an article by the Institute for Cancer Research which suggested thousands of men maybe puffing themselves at unnecessary risk of serious side effects - like impotence and incontinence - by opting for radical surgery and other treatments rather than a simple programme of "active surveillance".

Apparently 11 years of "active surveillance’ at centres like the Royal Marsden have suggested as many as 50 per cent of all men diagnosed did not need invasive treatment.

(Ed: Certainly this confirms earlier studies in the USA. The NCI has stated that up to 90 per cent of all cancers maybe slow growing and can be left safety for 10 years or so. Anyone who has seen Chris Woollams on tour will know he covers over-diagnosis extensively in his speech. The problem lies with the PSA test which is anyway only 70 per cent accurate at best and also fails to distinguish between the "tigers’ and the "pussycats’ as Colin Cooper of the Everyrnan Male Cancer Research Centre at the Institute confirms. Only 3-10 per cent may be "tigers’ although you can get these at any age).

Meanwhile criticism on mammograms and their diagnosis rates came at the American Breast Cancer Congress.

Apparently half of all diagnosis by mammograms is DCIS. What is this? Answer: calciferous particles found in the ducts. It is neither cancer nor pre-cancer. Indeed according to UCLA only 20 per cent of DCIS, at most, goes on to become breast cancer. Yet the diagnosis can produce fear and inaccurate diagnosis and treatment.

(Ed: One woman reported to us that she had been given radiotherapy immediately for DCIS).

There is some suggestion that vitamin D can help remove such calciferous particles. Certainly UCLA and the Royal Marsden both recommend vitamin D for women with breast cancer.

Waiting times for radiotherapy

In the UK it is recommended their patients wait no more than 4 weeks for radiotherapy. Research from the Royal College of Radiotherapists shows 72 per cent now wait longer than this, compared with just 32 per cent in 1998.

"Wild speculation" about sunshine levels

Dr Hollick, a professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at Boston University School of Medicine believes that four in ten Brits could be vitamin D deficient, due to lack of sun exposure. This he claims could cause thousands of unnecessary cancer deaths each year Cancer Research UK have described it as wild speculation

Statins - now a "wonder drug" for cancer

Statins, the new wonder drug for heart problems and cholesterol have now been deemed a wonder drug for cancer, according to Jackilen Shannon of the Oregon Health and Science University. Apparently people taking them have a reduced risk of bowel cancer (51 per cent) and prostate cancer (56 per cent).

A study on the side effects of statins and a link with lowered coenzyme Q10 levels is apparently still waiting for comment from the FDA in America. Another concern in discussion is that these cholesterol-lowering drugs may promote the supply of new blood vessels, exactly what every young tumour needs.

However in the USA a new drug Avastin, has just received FDA approval. Its aim? To prevent the growth of a blood supply to turrours. It is effective only when used with chemotherapy, and has possible side effects of increased blood pressure, blood clots, diarrhoea and lowered white cell count (HSI).

...But, statin dosage safety fears

Crestor, AstraZeneca’s statin has been reviewed by the European Regulators who have decreed that it should be prescribed at the lowest possible dose. A spokesman for the company said: "Crestor is still equivalent in its safety profile to other currently marketed statins". The caution is associated with rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscle tissue. Already Bayer’s Baycol has been withdrawn in 2001, after being linked with over 30 deaths, many from severe cases of rhabdomyolysis. Zocor, from Merck has just been given OTC status; 1.5 million Britons currently take statins.

Green tea fights leukaemias, fact

Researchers at the Mayo clinic have shown that epigallocatechin-3-gallate in green tea seems to stop leukaemia in its tracks by interfering with crucial communication signals. Four to ten cups of green tea per day seems the appropriate level.

Changed US Organic Standards

The National Organic Programme in the US changed its standards last month to allow more pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and hormones to be used. Consumer groups say this now renders organic labelling in the US meaningless.

Diabetes and colorectal cancer

Abnormal glucose metabolism seems to be linked to colorectal cancer. Research from Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council studied 9600 participants. Factors associated with this could be lifestyle related (lowering sugar levels) or hormonal as well. However diabetics were found to have three times the cancer risk with men more prone.

Viral link to prostate cancer

Experts at the University of Pittsburg have found that 20 to 40 per cent of men with prostate cancer carry the herpes virus in their blood - almost twice the norm. This particular form is causal to the common cold sore.

Prostate cancer "speed’ gene

The problem with prostate cancer is simple. Is this the normal slow growing version; or the rarer aggressive version? Now scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research have identified a gene E2F3 which could lead to the development of a predictive test. This may well avoid the need to have often unnecessary invasive treatment

Cancer patients missing out on benefits

Macmillan Cancer Relief have published a report showing that huge amounts of money, including disability benefits and attendance allowances, are unclaimed by people touched by cancer every year. For more information contact the Macmillan CancerLine 0808 808 2020.

Man Alive research

Cancer Research UK’s Man Alive campaign has research that only half of all men actually do anything when warning signs of cancer present themselves. Almost 2000 face to face interviews were conducted and Cancer Research spends roughly 25 million each year on research into the three primary men’s cancers - prostate, testicular and bowel.

Deadly saliva

A new study at the Technion-lsrael Institute of Technology shows that smoking not only removes the protective effects of saliva but turn it into a lethal mixture in the month. "A mixture of saliva and smoke is actually more lethal to the cells in the mouth than smoking alone, said the project lead scientist.

Lack of PET scanners

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning can make a real difference and at least a quarter of all lung cancers (and even in other diseases), saving patients from potentially unnecessary and costly surgery. Sadly the UK has only five scanners, all ini London. An all-party review committee has urged ME’s to support the call for a proper national framework.

Aspirin may stop breast cancer

According to the American Medical Association, women who take more than seven aspirin pills per week reduced their risk of breast cancer by 29 per cent. The study involved 2862 women from Long Island, New York and also detected some reduction in older women who took other ’pain drugs’. The study concluded that aspirin was lowering oestrogen levels.

(Ed; The National Cancer Institute have actually stated that more research is essential before one can make a link between oestrogen reduction and aspirin; at the moment this conclusion seems tenuous to Say the least. In reality we have known that aspirin inhibits the production of excessive negative eicosanoids since 7982 when John Vane won his Nobel Prize and knighthood. Later research showed garlic, ginger and long chain omega.) as found in fish oils are equally effective. My book "Everything you need to know to help you beat cancer’ covers this and this is most definitely not new or ’breakthrough’ research as was claimed throughout the British Press).

Pesticides in fruit exceed Government safe levels

The UK Governments Pesticides Residues Committee led by Dr Ian Brown has shown that although the majority of fruit contains pesticides below the defined safe limits, some imports do not. Apples from France and Brazil and a number of samples of cherries exceed safe levels. Equally no comment was made on how even safe levels might accumulate in our bodies. Six different pesticides were found in supermarket food, from lettuces to pears, raising the issue of a potentially dangerous cocktail of chemicals affecting our bodies.

Weight gain linked to cancer

Cancer Epidemiology (Feb 1.3 2004) carries an article on women who gained weight having an increased risk of breast cancer. According to the piece if a woman gains between 21 and 30 pounds after she turns 18, her risks of developing post-menopausal breast cancer increase by 40 per cent. If she gains over 70 pounds then her risk increased 100 per cent. All data was put against women who only gained 5 pounds.

Ed; Over The past eighteen months we have reported similar studies in ICON, including ones which have shown the ability of fat tissues to produce oestrogen. Fat tissues also hold toxins and excess oestrogen the body would rather have excreted. You can read all about these problems, and how to beat them in our new book Oestrogen - the killer in our midst.

"Doctorspeak" not understood

In a UK study involving 105 people, video-taped for accuracy, the conclusions were simple: many patients just don’t understand the terms used in cancer consultations by doctors. (

Viruses and brain tumours

When Salk developed his polio virus there followed a panic in US medical circles. Salk mass-produced the vaccine by growing it in the kidneys of rhesus monkeys. However after five or so years of use, researchers identified a viral contaminate SV-40 (simian vacuolating virus 40) from the monkeys. When this was injected into animals it produced brain tumours. By 1963 the rhesus monkey had been replaced by the African Green monkey, but in the preceding 8 years 98 million Americans had been vaccinated. Current estimates note that SV-40 appears in 61 per cent of all new cancer patients, patientsoften too young to have had Salk vaccine. So can it spread? Are humans natural hosts for SV-40? Researchers in Japan now warn that SV-40 may be spreading throughout the human population leaving a trail of cancer in its wake (Cancer Res 2003; 63. 7606). Evidence has been accumulating showing that it is Linked with certain types of human cancer, including malignant inesothelioma, various brain tumours and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Using molecular visualisation techniques the Japanese team found 11 per cent of 122 patients with NHL had the infection, and in one set of the group it was 19 per cent. None of the groups had had Salk vaccine. The answer? Well, if SV-40 is a growing threat, scientists will undoubtedly look for a vaccine to protect us all.

A vaccine to reduce PSI levels?

At the International Conference in Boston recently Philip M Arlen, NCI MD talked about a combination of using docetaxel with a vaccine against PSA prostate-specific antigen). The initial vaccination is followed up monthly. Treatment in the trial took 103 days.

All the patients in the trial had androgen-independent metastatic prostate cancer. Two of the twenty-six patients have had PSA declines exceeding 50 per cent.

The vaccine consists of a recombinant vaccinia virus that expresses the PSA gene, together with a recombinant virus that expresses the B7-1 gene

Oesophageal cancer and brachytherapy

Local reoccurrences of oesophageal cancer can be reduced by using localised radiotherapy. Now researchers at McGill, Toronto have shown that intracavity brachytherapy, used to boost radiation to the tumour prior to external beam radiation improves treatment. "Too much external radiation kills the tumour and the patient", says Harry Bleiberg of lnstitut Jules Bordet, Belgium. This method gets more radiation to the tumour

A new drug for cervical cancer

In a small test study a new drug ZYC101a seems to encourage the immune system to destroy cervical cancer cells, where HPV has played a part. The treatment seems particularly helpful to younger women wishing to avoid surgery. (Francisco Garcia, University of Arizona, Tucson).

Breaking down cancer cells’ defences

Cancer cells are not stupid. They protect themselves. Often after an initial round of chemotherapy, they produce large amount of P-glycoprotein to kick out the chemical toxins and protect themselves from the next wave. Whole tumours can even build protective coats around themselves. Scientists have now shown that a drug XR9576 can block P-glycoprotein both for cancer cells, and for tumours. Dr Richard Callaghan at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford said that, "the core of a tumour is an extremely hostile environment for drugs to work in’. Researchers treated two types of model tumour with vinblastine and doxorubicin. The balls of cancer cells with low P-glycoproteins were highly sensitive to both drugs, but those with high levels were up to 20 times more resistant to the first drug and 300 times more resistant to the second. Scientists then proved XR9576 stopped the tumour of this resistance.

Regulation for acupuntcure and herbal practitioners

The Government has now published proposals for regulation of these two groups of practitioners in the UK. The Prince of Waless Foundation for integrated Health has been arguing for regulation for a number of years as a way of improving public confidence in complementary therapies.

Parents set example

Cancer Research’s Health Behaviour Unit has shown a number of important facts on child eating habits.

Children who were breast-fed are more likely to eat fruit and vegetables. Children who have formal mealtimes eat more vegetables. Better-educated parents had children who ate vegetables more often, and the earlier a child was introduced to these foods the more frequent their intake. The amount of broccoli and bananas a child consumes is directly related to the parents’ eating habits and finally more than a third of under sixes eat no fruit and vegetables on a daily basis.

Rich/poor cancer survival divide

Cancer Research UK published a report in March 2004 confirming that survival rates are higher for the rich than for the poor. And it seems to be worsening. (Ed; Whilst not disputing the fact other factors may well be at play. For example, the quality of nutrition, the quest for information or use of complementary therapies, the incidence of smoking or excess alcohol.)

Multivitamins and colon cancer

The American Cancer Society reported in 2003 on a study running between 1992 and 1997. Over 148,000 people were studied based on questionnaires. Those who had taken multivitamins during the 1980’s at least 4 or more times per week had a 30 per cent less risk of the cancer. Vitamin D (see Icon February 2004) supplementation is also a known factor In the reduction of colon cancer.

Could this be true

In a new book by Russell Foster called Rhythms of Life (Profile Books), he makes the claim that all organs have their own individual time for cell division.

(Ed; We recently covered a story about cancer cell division peaking at certain times of the day).

In his studies he claims that chemotherapy drugs given at "the right time’ can be three times more effective!

Cancer Watch - November-December 2004
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