Chemotalk Newsletter, Vol. 5: October 1, 2008
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Okay...Let's get right into it ...
STOMACHS MAY EQUAL BETTER TREATMENT
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.
DRUG COMBO FIGHTS RECURRENT
OVARIAN CANCER CELL GROWTH
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
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
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.
PETS WITH CANCER
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
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.
€ Trouble breathing
€ Palpable mass or growth.
Source: Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine
ENERGIZES MS COMMUNITY
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.
FIRST ANTI-NAUSEA PATCH
APPROVED FOR CHEMO PATIENTS
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
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.
NOT TAKING YOUR MEDS?...WHAT
ARE YOU THINKING?!!
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
pathological features and outcomes of breast CANCER patients who werecompliant
to recommended radiation, chemotherapy, and hormonal therapies to those who
Noncompliance with tamoxifen is the most common form of
noncopliance, resulting in significantly increased risk of local and distant
The message here is obvious: you'll live longer if you
take your medications.
VACCINE SHOWS PROMISE
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.
EMERGES FROM BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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