Issue 2 - 2006

Cancer Watch eye




Latest World Cancer News

Brain Tumour Patients Benefit From Alzheimer’s Drug

Brain tumour patients who undergo radiotherapy often have problems with cognitive function, especially the older patients. Now, it seems, patients treated with Donepezil for 6 months showed ’significant improvements in mood, memory function and fatigue’. The greatest improvements occurred in memory scores. MD Anderson and Wake Forest Medical School are to co-operate on further trials (J.Clin.Oncol. 206; 24; 1415-20).

NICE - Not So Nice For Brain Tumour Patients

NICE has confirmed that the chemotherapy drug Temozolomide or Temodal will only be available in England and Wales on a severely restricted basis. It is used in the treatment of newly diagnosed, high grade brain tumours. At the same time it has not approved Gliadel implants.

Ella Pybus spokesperson for the Brain Tumour consortium said that this decision ’directly contradicts the National Cancer Plan’.

(Ed: The word breakthrough is being used for both these therapies, but as always that is rather an exaggeration.)

Some Facts On Brain Tumour Drugs

In 2004 the Lancet reported that none available in the UK at that time really worked. This was confirmed in an article by Professor Pilkington in icon.

Temozolamide does work in some cases. It was approved by the FDA in 2001 for grade 3 brain tumours, and was used where brain tumours reappeared after previous radiotherapy and chemotherapy had failed. In trials out of 54 patients tested, seven had tumours that shrunk and five had their tumours disappear. ’For how long?’ is of course one issue. In Cancer Watch we have covered the US test that shows whether a patient would benefit from the drug, as some patients do not and this can be determined in advance.

The FDA has approved Glidel wafers to fight Grade 4 tumours. The wafers can be placed at the tumour site during an operation. The wafer carries the drug Carmustine

(The original trial, amongst 222 adults, showed an increase in six month survival rates - up from 36 per cent with a placebo to 56 per cent with the wafer).

Glioma Surgery Research

In research involving 322 patients between the ages of 23 and 73 years (Stummer et al; Lancet Oncology 7, 392-401) a group of patients was treated with 5-aminolevulinic acid, a non-fluorescent drug but one which leads to the accumulation of fluorescent porphyrins in malignant gliomas. This group underwent surgery and the results were compared with a standard group having conventional white light surgery. In the fluorescent group the tumour was resected (removed) completely in 65 per cent of patients, against 36 per cent in the ’normal’ group. 6 month progression-free survival was also increased from 21.1 per cent to 41 per cent.

Shocking Cancer Cells To Self-Destruct

Karl Schoenbach and Stephen Beebe at the Centre of Bioelectrics in Norfolk, Virginia do shocking research. But only in the interests of cancer patients. They have discovered that using nanopulses (short, but very powerful electric shocks which send millions of volts into cells for a billionth of a second) can jolt cancer cells into committing suicide.

They can even make blood platelets clump together in the first stages of clotting and thus seem to accelerate wound repair.

Apparently longer time lengths make cells blow themselves up, but Schoenbach’s breakthrough is in the use of nanopulses where the brevity merely makes them commit suicide. White cells then come along and scavenge the debris.

The work is in its early stages with only a few research papers published. It is also likely to be hijacked as a more lucrative business may come from the finding that nanopulses can destroy fat cells and blast away the flab. (Nature March 2004).

Monoclonal Antibodies Remain ’An Enigma’

Despite appearing to have great potential, The Lancet Oncology (Vol. 7, Issue 5, May 2006) concludes that ’monoclonal antibodies, and the immune system in general, remain an enigma’.

Apparently gefitinib has been shown to cause an excess of interstitial pneumonia, trastuzumab unwanted cardiac effects, bortezomib to cause deafness and in the latest trial TGN1412 caused ’cytokine release syndrome’ (Northwick Park Hospital, March 13, 2006). A committee of experts has been appointed to review the evidence of these negative effects and recommend changes to clinical-trial regulations. The MHRA are particularly concerned about the dangers to the public in clinical trials.

Antibiotics Are Breast Cancer Risk

We have covered this story a couple of years ago - but some of our readers asked the source. To recap: A study of more than 10,000 women showed that those who had taken more than 25 doses of antibiotics - or taken them for 500 days or more - in their lifetimes, had double the risk of breast cancer. Three possibilities for this occurrence were suggested

Antibiotics can ’affect’ intestinal ’healthy bacteria’ and may impact on how food is broken down.

Antibiotics may affect the body’s immune response and heighten inflammation, a precursor to cancers.

Women who need antibiotics may be less healthy in the first place.

(Ed: or fourthly, as we have suggested in the past - antibiotics kill healthy bacteria allowing yeast and microbe infections to thrive in the body and set up anerobic colonies. Healthy cells without oxygen can become cancer cells)

Original research was done in Finland in 2000 and this prompted the full study, to be found in Journal of the American Medical Association Feb18; 2004;291(7): 827-35.

Metastatic Melanoma And Dendritic Cell Vaccine

Dacarbazine, the current first line treatment for metastatic melanoma, has yet to show a benefit in overall survival rates. However, as yet no other drugs have improved the picture.

Preliminary studies with dendritic cells loaded with antologous peptides had shown promising results. Now, in a Phase III trial (Ann. Oncol.2006 17 563-70) it would appear this promise is unfounded and no benefit over standard dacarbazine was noted.

Melanoma - Check Your Back

More men than women are dying from melanoma, and a recent survey has found over 60 per cent of men never check their backs.

Fewer men than women are diagnosed, but more men die from the disease, and research shows this is largely due to the disease not being diagnosed until a later stage. Latest figures show 1,777 people died from melanoma last year, 1,002 of them were men. The disease has risen 31 per cent in men in a decade. Daily Mail 16/5/06

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia - Immunotherapy May Help

Most patients with AML have complete remissions after induction chemotherapy. However, fewer than one third are completely cured because of relapses.

In new research (Mats Brune, Sahlgrenska Uni. Hosp., Gothenburg) a group who used histamine dihydrochloride (HDC) and interleukin 2, improved 3 year survival from 26 per cent to 40 per cent. Overall survival was not measured (Blood, March 28, 2006. DOI 10.1182/blood 2005-10-4073).

Bladder Cancer And Apaziquone

At the 21st Annual European Conference of Urology (Paris, April 2006), results were presented by Johannes Witjes of a Phase II study where 46 patients had been given apaziquone for six weeks. Histological complete response was 65 per cent with no progression to invasive stage found (Lancet Oncology; 7; 5).

Growth Spurts Fuel Teenage Cancers

University of Manchester researchers at the Teenage Cancer Trust has evidence that growth spurts amongst teenagers seem to fuel cancers such as bone, ovarian and testicular. Researchers suggest puberty and infection can play a part. 14,000 teenagers were diagnosed with cancer from 1995 to 2003. (Professor Jillian Birch, Manchester University).

The Risk Of Breast Cancer With Mammogram Screening

Steven Navod et al for the Hereditary Breast Cancer Clinical Study Group analysed 1600 cases of breast cancer, compared with a 1600 matched control. All had been exposed to screening mammography, which is associated with a ’small dose’ of radiation and fears that this may be particularly worrying for BRCA1 and BRCA2 carriers.

Their conclusions were that there was no association between ever having screening mammography and breast cancer risk, and there was no difference between the groups with genetic mutations and those without.

The researchers felt further studies were necessary, particularly studies looking at total exposure levels (Lancet Oncology 2006, 7. 402-06).

’Worried Sick’

Macmillan have published a report (5th April 2006) showing that about half of cancer patients (43 per cent) experienced depression, and three quarters (75 per cent) suffered anxiety. A fifth (19 per cent) felt abandoned and 45 per cent said that it wasn’t the physical effects of the disease but the emotional ones that were hardest to cope with.

32 per cent said their relationships were put under ’enormous’ strain, while a further 26 per cent experienced real difficulties with their partner; a quarter of these had even broke up with their partners as a result.

Most worrying was the finding that 26 per cent felt abandoned by the health system when not in hospital. The charity has an information pack for the public (Freephone 0800 560 800).

Ovarian Cancer - Be On Your Guard Against This Silent Assassin

Five thousand women die in this country every year from ovarian cancer. Treatment of the disease has advanced over the past ten years but UK survival rates are still amongst the lowest in the developed world. In 1997, only 25 per cent of those with cancer of the ovaries survived for five years.

Ovarian Cancer Action believe that, if early diagnosis could be improved, 90 per cent of patients would survive. The search is on to find a marker in the blood that will reveal the tumour. Meanwhile the best tactic is to increase our awareness of the early symptoms of ovarian cancer. In most cases a benign explanation will be found. Woman should look out for a constant feeling of being bloated and an increase in abdominal girth without any evidence of extra weight elsewhere.

The first symptom of some ovarian cancers is urinary urgency: the need to rush to the toilet. Unaccountable indigestion or nausea needs looking in to, especially in someone who usually has a cast iron digestion. Changes in bowel habits also need discussion, as does backache or abdominal pain.

Another symptom is increasing and extreme tiredness. Between 5 and 10 per cent of ovarian cancers are related to a faulty inherited gene. Having two close relatives with the disease, whether on the mother’s or father’s side (especially if the cancer has developed before the age of fifty) is a warning. (Times 15.5.06).

Latest Nutrition Findings

Barbequed Meat Increases Prostate Risk

Yahoo News, April 3 2006, reports that a compound PLIP, formed when meat is cooked until it burns or chars increases genetic mutations in the body. Rats fed charred meat within their diets for eight weeks had such mutations in their intestines, spleens and prostates. (Ed: In previous issues we have covered the problems associated with barbeques like the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines - linked to increases in colon cancer - and cooking to high temperature and the formation of acrylamides).

Infant Formula Soya Under Investigation

A special panel has been convened by the FDA to deliberate on soy baby formula products and genistein, a phytoestrogen found in soy. The panel gives it verdict in May (USA Today, March 15 2006).

(Ed: As we repeatedly tell you: We are concerned about dairy products because dairy contains IGF-1, found in numerous studies - e.g. Karolinska Institute - to cause human cells to unnaturally proliferate and increase cancer risk. Equally, whilst we encourage cancer patients to increase their consumption of pulses and green vegetables, we only recommend adults including a little soy in their diets. Pulses in general contain phytoestrogens. A south-East Asian woman may have 1,000 times the level of a London woman in her blood stream.

Trials are taking place at the Royal Marsden with Red Clover which contains phytoestrogens and, one in particular genistein, as there is a known hierarchy of the oestrogen family. All oestrogens can bind to receptor sites on cells. Oestradiol is aggressive and causes havoc inside the cell, oestrone it’s ’sister’ is about forty times weaker and phytoestrogens far weaker still. So while the pulses give you high levels of ’oestrogens’ circulating in your blood, the knowledgeable view is that at least they can block the receptor sites from the action of oestradiol. All that having been said, in South-East Asia babies are fed on mother’s milk or bananas mixed with water until they are 9 months to a year. God never intended them to have large amounts of soy and phytoestrogens in their diet).

Vitamin D Deficiencies In Humans

In Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (Vol 44, No. 4 April 2006) attention is drawn to 38 research studies on vitamin D, concluding that primary vitamin D deficiency is common in adults of all ages in the UK, and this is becoming more common. Most at risk include the housebound and people in residential care. Interestingly immigrants coming from sunny countries, particularly South-East Asian, Afro-Caribbean and Middle Eastern people, show extreme deficiency - with up to 95 per cent of people from South-East Asia being deficient. (J.Endocrinoloy 2003, 179, 119-29. Arch. Dis. Child 2002; 86;147-9).

(Ed: We continuously warn that sunshine is good for you, as are fish oils - although to a much lesser extent. Vitamin D3 supplementation should be considered by everyone, especially those with cancer. See our article on vitamin D in It’s Only Natural, this issue).

Antiperspirant Use Can Increase Breast Cancer Risk

We have repeatedly told you of the concerns of Dr Philippa Darbre of Reading University (and one of CANCERactive’s patrons). Her views are consistently pooh-poohed by Breast Cancer Concern and others.

Now comes her report in the Journal of Applied Toxicology (Feb 17, 2006), which concludes that the aluminium salts found in many antiperspirants can increase breast cancer risk. Shaving armpits before use may increase risk.

Aluminium salts can mimic the hormone oestrogen once inside the blood stream. Some antiperspirants contain such salts as 28 per cent of their total volume. Previous findings have indicated a higher number of cancers in the left breast and some observers have concluded this may be due to women being more right handed and spraying more forcefully.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids May Increase Prostate Cancer Growth

Over 100,000 years ago humans used to consume 1 unit of omega-3 for every 1 unit of omega-6 and 9 put together. Today, the modern diet of a New York lady has made this ratio 1:50.

Now Cancer Research (Feb 1st 2006; 66; 1427-1433) has covered research that omega-6 fatty acids actually accelerate the growth of human prostate tumours.

The study found that omega-6 - available in supplements and vegetable oils like corn oil, canola, sunflower and soyabean oils - caused human prostate cancer cells to grow twice as fast in vitro tests.

(Ed: Once again, we must tell you to focus on oils like olive and walnut; and that it is unwise to supplement with omega-6; the human diet in 2006 doesn’t need any more omega-6. It needs more long-chain omega 3, i.e. oily fish).

Tocotrienol Vitamin E Stops Spread Of Cancer Cells

Vitamin E comes in eight forms: Four tocopherols, and four tocotrienols. After the recent fiasco in the EU, theoretically in the UK we are only allowed to buy a-tocopherol, just one of these eight. Worse, we are only officially allowed to buy it in its synthetic form, a form exposed by a ’mega study’ covered here in Cancer Watch last year, to increase risk of cancer by 10-20 per cent. Well done the EU!

We have also covered research in the past (some 12 studies) which showed that natural tocotrienols help keep breast tissue soft and reduce breast cancer risk.

Now comes research from Japan in which scientists have shown that two forms of tocotrienols (alpha and delta) directly inhibit DNA polymerase, an enzyme that rises considerably in cancer as DNA divides rapidly. They have also shown that tocotrienols can slow down the formation of new blood vessels, essential to the growth of a tumour, and can reduce the spread of cancer cells in the body. ( March 16 2006).

(Ed: We get tired of saying we told you so - but we did. The Government in Europe and the Medical community here quite simply got their facts wrong and are pushing us towards a synthetic version of vitamin E that may even cause problems. Ring a friend in the USA for natural tocotrienols or ring 01280 815166 for Total E and have all eight - naturally).

Live Away From Power Lines - Official!

The first official recognition of a link between overhead power cables and cancer risk is now with us. Dr Michael Clark of the Health Protection Agency stated that - ’We issued our advice to the Government after finding a weak association between childhood leukaemia and living near major power lines’.

The UK Government is now taking precautionary measures, for example not allowing any new house building near power lines.

Mobile Phone Towers In Brain Tumour Scare

Seven university staff working in a seventeen storey Melbourne building have been diagnosed with brain tumours in the last seven years, five of them coming in the last month.

Concerns have been raised over a possible link with the mobile phone towers on the roof.

The academics union has ordered a full audit of 1,000 staff and the closing of the top two floors of the building.

Dr Bruce Hocking described the seven cases as ’highly unusual’ and stated that it was an ’open question’ as to whether mobile phone towers could cause brain tumours. (

Milk And Dairy Products Slammed

The ’White lies’ report, recently handed to the Department of Health, highlights the dangers of dairy. The report links milk protein, sugars and saturated fats to a wide variety of diseases, whilst exploding the myth that we need dairy to provide calcium.

The report has been prepared by a number of leading doctors and professors and was accompanied by a lecture, ’Why you don’t need dairy’. The Vegetarian and Vegan Foundation want us all to ’ditch’ dairy. (Ed: and we agree with them!).

Puppy Fat Is Not Funny

’Oh it’s just puppy fat; it will go’ is a myth. More than a quarter of school children are overweight or obese by the time they are 11, and this leads to a lifetime of problems including cancer, according to CRUK. The rate is highest amongst girls (29 per cent) and especially black girls (38 per cent).

Children from deprived backgrounds was 31 per cent. Only a very few children who were overweight by 11, dropped out of this category by age 16. Cancer Research’s conclusion was that education needs to take place at a very early age. ’It is essential to educate parents too’.

Chemo And Radiotherapy Patients Should Take Their Antioxidants

In a full review of all available research studies, US cancer expert Ralph Moss concluded that the case against taking antioxidants during chemo and radiotherapy is little more than subjective mythology. Rather, there are numerous studies which show that taking antioxidants actually improves the success rates of both. (Should patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy be prescribed antioxidants? Integrative Cancer Therapies, March 01 2006 5; 63-82. Also on PubMed).

(Ed: We have covered similar findings by American Hospitals in the past. This topic causes so much controversy, and friction between patients and their oncologists in Britain, that we will try to gain the magazine’s agreement to reproduce it for you - or at least summarise it. Ralph Moss has made the definitive study and deserves full credit for debunking the subjective nonsense that prevails. However if any of our readers has a definitive study against taking antioxidants we will be happy to print that too).

Sweets And Crisps Tainted With Germ War Poison Are Recalled

Crisps, chocolates and other snacks contaminated with a cancer-causing toxin are being taken off the shelves. Levels of the aflatoxin poison, which causes kidney and liver cancer in animals, were more than twice the legal limit in some of the snacks. The Food Standards Agency said that only batches with specific sell-by dates are being pulled.

It is though the contaminated rice originated in Pakistan and was imported into the UK via Sweden. The poison hit the headlines when it was named as one of Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons of mass destruction. Two years ago, aflatoxin was also blamed for the deaths of 80 Kenyans who had eaten contaminated maize. Aflatoxin is produced by a mould that thrives on food in warm, moist conditions. Nuts and cereals, such as rice and maize, are particularly vulnerable to infection. (Daily Mail 18.5.06).

Chemical World

California Looks To Lead Chemicals Laws

About 100 leaders of the chemicals industry (from giants such as Dow to small biotech firms) gathered in Los Angeles in May 2006 to debate California’s mission - namely a ’call to action’ to help craft a state strategy for regulating chemicals.

"Almost a dozen bills to regulate chemicals are before the Legislature and many scientists are voicing concerns over various compounds in everyday products," said a spokesperson.

Almost 80,000 chemicals are registered in the USA, and roughly 15,000 are in general use. Federal Law to date has not required chemical companies to even review potential hazards.

Michael Wilson, lead author of a University of California report advising the state to adopt a comprehensive policy ’because the public is inadequately protected from toxic compounds’, said that the report is the first in the nation that offers a framework for government to promote ’Green Chemistry’.

Bruce Jennings, principal consultant to the Senate Committee said legislators and environmentalists have tried to ban or restrict many compounds individually but failed. Last year there were 35 bills alone, but almost all failed, because they tried to tackle an isolated issue.

Tom Jacob of Dupont said the chemical industry was facing an ’evolution of public consciousness’ about the risks. Industries are grappling with new technologies that enable chemicals to be detected in the human body. Meanwhile the powerful national group the American Chemistry Council is taking a different stance and saying that there is sufficient protection already, and California should not act on its own. There are powerful forces at work!

First British Baby Designed Free Of Cancer

A woman is pregnant with Britain’s first baby designed to be cancer-free. Genetic screening has ensured the child will not inherit its mother’s eye cancer. The baby was conceived using IVF and doctors screened the mother’s embryos for the disease and only transferred unaffected ones into her womb. The controversial move comes after the rules governing embryo screening were relaxed.

Critics say it is unethical because embryos are destroyed which might never contract a disease. The technique, known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, was developed in 1989 and was limited to diseases such as cystic fibrosis, which are hereditary. But, last year, screening began for eye cancer, which has a 90 per cent chance of being passed on through the genes. (Daily Express 13.5.06).

Issue 4 - 2006
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