Cancer Watch - September 2003

Originally published in September 2003 icon

Cancer Watch eye

Breast cancer genes danger

Breast Cancer cells can cut and paste genes from one place to another to create dangerous new combinations of DNA, a Cancer Research UK study reveals.

Researchers showed, using brightly coloured dyes, that a gene called heregulin moved into another gene’s slot on the chromosome, creating hybrid DNA that may have powerful cancer-causing effects. Scientists believe heregulin could be an important target for future anti-cancer drugs. Heregulin protein is normally made, when needed, by the supporting tissue of the breast as a signal to breast cells to grow. The chromosome rearrangement results in the breast cells making heregulin themselves, causing them to divide at the wrong time.

Scientists funded by Cancer Research UK at the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre, University of Cambridge, collaborated on the study with a team at the lnstitut Paoli-Calmettes in Marseilles.

They found the rearrangement in cells from five different breast tumours and two pancreatic tumours, suggesting that it is not just a chance event, but may be playing an important role in cancer’s development.

Cancer Research UK’s Dr Paul Edwards, of the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre, says: "The chromosomes of cancer cells are often unstable and parts of them frequently get swapped around. We can see this by labelling different chromosomes with different colours.

"We’ve found that in breast cancer the rearrangement of chromosomes isn’t random, but that a particular rearrangement happens over and over again, suggesting that it plays a key role in the development of the disease."

In healthy tissue, heregulin is important in encouraging cells to grow and divide. Cutting and pasting the gene to a new position may make it over-active, or active in the wrong kind of cell, sending the growth of cancer cells spiralling out of control. Or it could create a hybrid gene, with potent cancer-causing properties.

USA moves to restrict Vitamin and Mineral sales too.

A bill, (S. 722), which represents a major expansion of the FDA’s authority over supplements, could come up for a vote any time and will probably happen as an attachment to another major, but certain to pass, bill. Many health watchers fear it will be slid in under a finance bill, which itself will be definitely approved. This bizarre state of affairs would subject nearly all vitamins, minerals, herbal products and other supplements to clinical evaluation using standards that are at the complete discretion of the FDA. The system also means that if there was one complaint (see zinc below - even where someone took a ludicrously high dosage), the FDA would have the sole remit to determine whether that product should even be on the Market.

Link to the bill:

Zinc - don’t go silly!

Most sane supplement users take 15 mgs of zinc a day. Typical symptoms of insufficient zinc are white marks on your nails (no, nothing to do with calcium). If you have a cold, taking three to five times this amount, but spread out during the day, is reported to reduce the illness from 10 days to two to three. Now from America comes the headline: "Researchers find zinc is dangerous and can even cause cancer". To be safe, avoid taking lOOmgs or more per day for months on end as they did in the research!!! As we reported last month, even drinking too much water is dangerous. What’s new?

Brain tumour drug for melanomas?

Temozolamide (like dacarbazine) is a drug that undergoes rapid change in the body to an active compound, monomethyl triazeno imidozote carboramide (MTIC). It is 100 per cent orally absorbed, although food delays its absorption.

It has been used only since late 1999, in the treatment of brain tumours. Here it is not without controversy. Its principle usage in the UK is for both grade 3 and grade 4 brain tumours in adult patients at the first sign of relapse after chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.

However, in the USA it was not originally approved for use with grade 4 gliomas.

The system in America is that first the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee comprising physicians, scientists, consumers and patients review the information and file recommendations. The FDA do not have to follow the recommendations but usually do.

The ODAC reviewed the safety of the drug and on January 12th 1999 recommended by a vote of 11-0, with 1 abstention, that the FDA not approve it for glioblastomas (stage 4), specifically only recommending its use for stage 3 astrocytomas.

This is because at stage 3 the tumour is ’attackable’ outside the blood brain barrier, whilst by stage 4 metastasis has occurred with satellite cells inside the protective blood brain barrier. Clinical trials showed that on 54 patients with grade 3 asterocytomas, 7 had tumours which initially shrank, whilst 5 had their tumours disappear. 65 per cent of patients survived 12 months.

The FDA accepted the recommendations, despite the ODAC having to defend itself, and allowed the drug only for grade 3 use.

A later trial using Temozolamide plus Iomustine followed by radiation therapy to treat high-grade gliomas was suspended.

Now the British Journal of Cancer (88:2, 175) has reported that Temozolamide may be combined with immunotherapy (Interferon Alpha) in the treatment of metastatic melanoma (Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam). Median survival time was 252 days, with one year survival of 41 per cent. One third of all diseased sites responded.

Temozolamide has been shown to be carcinogenic in rats and it can cause irreversible infertility in males. Early side effects include severe Neutrogena - especially in women - fatigue and rashes while 40 per cent of patients experience nausea and one third vomiting. Thrombo-cytopenia is also a heightened risk in females.

Statins & Coenzyme Q10

In July’s ICON we covered the importance of Co Q10, to a variety of health conditions and its possible protective effects in cancer formation.

Statins, which are being given out like smarties nowadays and are used primarily to correct high cholesterol levels in "heart" risk patients, have a severe depleting effect on Co Q10 levels.

This is rather ironic as the heart is one organ that needs high Co 010 levels for its proper function. Symptoms of Co 010 depletion are fatigue, muscle weakness and even heart failure!! A petition to label statin packages with a warning about statin-induced CoQ1O depletion has been issued to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with a review of animal and human studies supporting the issue. Apparently it stands little chance of approval, despite the evidence.

If you know someone on statins, just suggest that they think seriously about cutting all refined sugars and carbohydrates out of their diet, along with hydrogenated vegetable oils and other bad fats and dairy; whilst eating whole, unrefined oats for breakfast, eating fresh, uncooked garlic and taking omega 3 fish oils. A little decent exercise would also help, as would a move to five or six smaller meals per day rather than two enormous ones.

Six down, hundreds to go?

Newspapers reported at the end of July that six chemicals widely used in garden weed and moss killers had been banned by the EU. More correctly, it seems that the manufacturers did not put together appropriate safety data on these and 30 other chemicals used by farms and local authorities. As a result the bans are a little misleading and explain why Friends of the Earth claim that many, many more toxic and even carcinogenic chemicals have been passed by the EU.

The six banned chemicals include dichlorprop, dikegulac, triforine, 236 TBA, resmethrin and tar acids commonly used in "spot" weedkillers, lawn feed and nettle killers. If you have these at home currently you can legally use them until December 31st. Meanwhile they must be disposed of carefully - not down drains or sinks. The products should be taken to the local authority waste disposal centres.

Labour Euro MP David Bowe said that, "tackling hazards in the garden was a good start but there was a EU need to develop a policy which strikes the right balance between the benefits of chemicals and their toxic dangers". He added that "under the kitchen sink are products such as washing powders, stain removers, and detergents containing products about which little was known. Meanwhile, at work a fifth of EU employees are exposed to carcinogenic agents in the work place and 22% of workers inhale fumes and vapours for at least a quarter of their working hours".

Breast Cancer- go to the top

In the British Journal of Cancer, scientists from Cancer Research UK report that patients who have been treated by specialist breast surgeons have a significantly improved chance of long-term survival. Patients treated by specialists were also more likely to receive chemotherapy, suggesting that they are given better access to multidisciplinary teams of doctors.

A one-off PSA test is unreliable

Researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City designed a research study to determine if year-to-year fluctuations in PSA levels would reveal a single PSA test result to be unreliable on its own.

Over a 4-year period, researchers collected five blood samples each from 972 men whose median age was 62. More than 20 percent of the subjects were found to have PSA levels high enough for many doctors to recommend a biopsy. Half of those men, however, had follow-up tests with normal PSA levels.

The Sloan-Kettering team concluded (as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association) that an isolated PSA screening with an elevated level should be followed with an additional screening several weeks later before proceeding with further testing or a biopsy.

Meanwhile, doctors at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) in Seattle have estimated that PSA screening may result in an over-diagnosis rate of more than 40 percent.

FHCRC have completed another prostate study where they recommended that men in the early stages of prostate cancer who reduce their calcium intake may significantly lower the chances of the cancer progressing to an advanced stage. Over and above moderating your calcium intake, FHCRC’s research study also found:

  • An association between a high calorie diet and significantlyincreased risk of advanced prostate cancer

  • An association between saturated and monounsaturated fat intake and increased risk of advanced prostate cancer

  • NO association between polyunsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acid intake and increased risk of prostate cancer. (But then at icon we are always telling you about the importance of omega 3 fish oils.)

Finally, a Stanford University study concluded that men with low blood levels of selenium are four to five times more likely to develop prostate cancer than men with normal levels of the mineral (we’ve told you that before, too!)

Cancer Watch - March-April 2004
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