Chemotalk Newsletter

Chemotalk Newsletter, Vol. 5:  October 1, 2008

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Okay...Let's get right into it ...


    A carefully monitored medical study by University of Southern California researchers suggests that if patients fast for 2 days before chemo treatments to deprive their cells of nutrients, they will do much better after treatment.

    Here's the theory: When deprived of food, healthy cells go into "lockdown" mode, protecting themselves by becoming more resistant to exterior stresses.  CANCER cells, however, never go into lockdown because by nature, they are constantly trying to grow.  Therefore, during chemo, healthy cells stay healthy after fasting, but cancer cells remain subject to elimination.

    USC is planning to test this fasting theory this fall, on patients with lung  and bladder cancer.

    My only quibble with this piece of news, taken from a Sunday newspaper insert, is that it doesn't explain what's meant by "do much better".  Still, better is...better.

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    The anti-cancer drug trabectedin shows promise in treating women with recurrent ovarian cancer, according to a study led by researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

    The international Phase III study included 672 ovarian cancer patients whose disease had progressed after first-line treatment. Half the women received standard treatment with the chemotherapy drug pegylated liposomal doxorubicin, while the other half received the chemotherapy drug  and

    Women who received the combination therapy had no cancer progression for an average of 7.3 months, compared to 5.8 months for those who received the chemotherapy drug alone.

    Among women who'd had ovarian cancer relapse more than six months after the first-line therapy, the median progression-free time was 9.2 months for those who received the combination treatment and 7.5 months for those who
received the chemotherapy drug alone.

    The findings were presented Sept. 15 at the 33rd Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology, in Stockholm, Sweden.

    "These are exciting results, because positive trials in recurrent ovarian cancer are rare and have almost always led to federally approved treatments," study leader Dr. Bradley Monk, a UC Irvine gynecologic oncologist, said in a university news release.

    "This treatment undoubtedly will be evaluated carefully by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and, if approved, will give women with ovarian cancer another much needed option," said Monk, an associate professor who studies and treats ovarian cancer at UC Irvine's Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

    Each year in the United States, about 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and about 15,000 die of the disease. When the disease is detected early (confined to the ovaries), about 90 percent of patients live at least five years. But when ovarian cancer is detected after it's spread, only about 30 percent of patients survive five years.

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    Two of my dogs died of CANCER.  These  weren't dog-specific cancers, they were the same cancers we get.  And treatment for dog cancers is much th same as ours.  In fact, dogs and cats appear to tolerate chemotherapy better
than humans.

    Treatment for cancer in animals uses the same drugs as we get.  And it's costly.  I've had pet insurance for my dogs since such insurance went on the market.  It's a comparatively small outlay of money, usually based on the
age of the animal, for a year's worth of security and peace of mind.  I've never regretted a penny of that insurance.  You never think a young animal will get cancer, but it happens. My Scottie was only 6.  If you don't have pet insurance, please consider getting some.

Signs that your pet may require a trip to the vet include:

€   Loss of appetite
€   Loss of Weight
ú   Skin lesions that don’t  heal.
€   Vomiting
€   Trouble breathing
€   Palpable mass or growth.

Source: Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine

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    Both patients and researchers are cheering the new guy in town: Dr. Timothy Vollmer, who arrived in Denver about about a month ago, and became the catalyst for an alliance of agencies studying and treating MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS.  Vollmer now leads research and clinical studies, and teaches in the Denver area.

    Since his arrival in town last month, Vollmer has reinvigorated the local MS community.  The new alliance between the University of Colorado Hospital, the University of Colorado Denver and the Rocky Mountain MS  Center drew Vollmer to town, and now looks to him to lead research and clinical studies, and also to teach.  Clearly, the vision is to become the premiere MS center in the country, in terms of treatment and research.
    This development is good news to anyone with MS. Until 1993 there were no treatments or therapies for MS patients. Now there are six.  Vollmer believes there will be a cure.
    Beyond study into the cause of MS, Vollmer's research is focused on three key fronts: diagnosing and treating the disease early enough to keepdamage from occurring; shutting down the disease and retraining the central nervous system and how it interacts with the brain; and most challenging, stopping MS in those who have already experienced brain damage, and repairing that damage.

    If you or someone you know has MS, Google Dr. Timothy Vollmer and put his efforts on  your "keep an eye on" list.

NOTE ON MS:  A recent study done in the U.K. showed that Scotland has the highest incidence of MS on the planet.  This statistic was traced to a Vitamin D deficiency, the result of Scotland's damp, cloudy climate.  It would appear logical that a Vitamin D might be an appropriate supplement for
anyone with MS.

                            * * *


    The FDA has approved the first skin patch to prevent nausea and vomiting in people with CANCER who are undergoing chemotherapy.

    The Sancuso (granisetron transdermal system) patch releases the active drug slowly into the bloodstream, providing up to five days relief from symptoms that can lead to dehydration and malnutrition, the company  said.

    Clinical testing involving 641 patients who were getting moderately or highly nausea-inducing chemotherapy found it worked as well as the active ingredient, granisetron, when taken in pill form. Adverse effects of the patch included constipation and mild skin reactions.

    Good news for those patients who don't respond to other treatments, or who would rather not have to swallow one more pill.

                            * * *


    There is little information on patient-driven noncompliance of adjuvant therapies and its consequences (meaning patients who don't take their prescribed medications).  This retrospective study presented at the 9thAnnual Meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons compares  clinical,
pathological features and outcomes of breast CANCER patients who werecompliant to recommended radiation, chemotherapy, and hormonal therapies to those who were noncompliant.


    Noncompliance with tamoxifen is the most common form of noncopliance, resulting in significantly increased risk of local and distant disease recurrence.

    The message here is obvious: you'll live longer if you take your medications.

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    New data from an animal model study of RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS indicate that the vaccine CEL-2000 prevents or retards permanent tissue damage causedby RA.

    The data were derived from an analysis of tissues samples  collected in comparative studies of CEL-2000 and Enbrel, which is a leading treatment for people with RA.
    Daniel Zimmerman, senior vice president of research, cellular immunology of CEL-SCI, had earlier reported that in studies conducted in mice treated similarly, CEL-2000 was equivalent or possibly superior to Enbrel in slowing
disease progression and lessening symptoms.
    The new data indicate that in mice vaccinated with CEL-2000 after appearance of visible disease, statistically significant less inflammationand permanent damage with regard to bone erosion, cartilage destruction, and pannus (a hanging flap of tissue) formation were observed.
    The Vienna, Virginia-based company noted that CEL-2000 may offer a number of potential advantages over the existing rheumatoid arthritis treatments. CEL-2000 is effective with fewer and smaller doses and is  less toxic and more disease specific therapy. It could also be useful for patients who are not able to take or who may be unresponsive to existing

    How long before this this drug reaches human trial status?  This is a good question for your doctor.  Every push from a patient has the potential to start a chain reaction (patient, to doctor, to drug company) that can be of benefit.  
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    In case we don't really grasp how long it can take for a drug to advance from testing to approval, this story is a case in point.  In 1963, a chemotherapeutic agent known as bendamustine was developed in East Germany.  Despite widespread use and successes, the Iron Curtain was in  place and there was essentially no scientific exchange between East and West Germany.  When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, bendamustine emerged from the shadows and was identified as a very important agent.

    Stiil, the data acquired in the former East Germany didn't satisfy rigorous statistical standards in the US.  During the past few years, it has been tested in several Phase II and III trials.

    The most important trial thusfar was an international, multicenter Phase III study of previously untreated patients with CHRONIC LYMPHOCYTIC LEUKEMIA (CLL), comparing bendamustine to the single agent of care.  Responses nearly
doubled with bendamustine, and almost 1/3 of the patients had a complete regression of their disease, as compared with 2% treated with standard drug therapy.

    In 2008, the FDA approved bendamustine for treatment of CLL in the U.S. under  the name Treanda.

    Impressive results also have been reported in studies of LYMPHOMA patients who had become resistant to standard therapy.  When bendamustine was given as a single "rescue" agent to those resistant to the commonly administered rituximab, 88% responded positively.  For lymphoma patients not yet resistant to rituximab, bendamustine given with this antibody resulted in a 92% response rate.

    Bendamustine is currently being tested in other malignancies such as MULTIPLE MYELOMA, SARCOMA, and BREAST CANCER, since preliminary data have indicated positive responses in these diseases.

    Thirty-five years from discovery to the marketplace.  Is there anybody out there who doesn't think the system needs fixing?

                            * * *

Once again, I'm asking you  to pass this on to one person. Please.

Also, if there is a particular disease, condition or treatment you would like me to research, just send an email.

See you next month ...  

And if you have any thoughts of how this newsletter could be improved, please email me directly, at

Elaine Jesmer

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