Thursday, January 3, 2008

January Health News

The year 2007 yielded both notable and major advances in cancer treatment, according to the annual review of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The summary has been published in the December issue of Clinical Cancer Advances 2007.

Here are a few of the highlights from their review:

The use of aspirin has been studied for the prevention of colorectal cancer, and is showing promise. Colorectal cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States.

The drug Trisenox™ (ARSENIC TRIOXIDE) has been shown to improve the survival rate in patients with promyelocytic leukemia.

Fewer radiation treatments (higher dose) are being used to treat breast cancer. Less radiation treatments for those diagnosed with breast cancer is certain to have a postive affect on quality of life.

The drug Sprycel is now being used as a first line treatment for myelogenous leukemia. Sprycel is now very specific for leukemia treatment. It acts by targeting the protein in the cancer cells, causing them to stop growing.

BEVACIZUMAB (Avastin™) is being used to treat Glioma, a type of cancer that targets the brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system. Avastin has been used to treat many other types of cancer, and now has been shown to be effective for the treatment of Glioma.

The use of MRI to diagnose breast cancer is considered to be a major breakthrough.

Patients with advanced small lung cell cancer are less likely to experience metastasis to the brain when treated with preventive radiation therapy. Lung cancer most often attacks the brain when it spreads, and this has greatly decreased the survival rate of lung cancer patients. This is considered to be another major advance in cancer treatment.

There has been a reduction in the rate of breast cancer. It is believed that the decline is due to decreased hormone replacement therapy in women

We can only hope that this trend continues well into the New Year and beyond.

Mouthwash Test for Oral Cancer Shows Promise

A simple and noninvasive test is being developed to detect oral cancer. The test involves the use of a mouthwash to "spit" genetically altered cells from the oral mucosa for cancer testing.

The test is currently undergoing refinement, but researchers are hopeful that the mouthwash test will provide a useful diagnostic tool for early detection of oral cancer.

In April 2007, a similar test to diagnose head and neck cancer was proposed by Elizabeth Franzmann, MD from the University of Miami.(1) Joseph Califano, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland has been conducting further research.

The mouthwash test, known as the "swish and spit test", is considered to be more effective than a traditional blood test. Cancer genes are more prevalent in the saliva than they are in the blood when oral cancers develop. Early detection and treatment will greatly improve the survival of patients with oral cancer. The mouthwash test would also detect cancer recurrence much earlier than past methods.

Rather than focusing on routine cancer screening, researchers are suggesting that the test should be used to target patients at high risk for oral cancer - tobacco users and those who have already undergone cancer treatment.

The test is performed by using an exfoliating brush inside the mouth and throat. After the cells are 'loosened' a salt solution is used to rinse and gargle. The salt solution is expectorated; then examined for the presence of abnormal cells and cancerous genes.

Clinical trials on the general population have not yet begun. Researchers have had some difficulty balancing test specificity and sensitivity. It is felt that more hypermethylated (cancerous) genes must be identified by scientists before clinical trials are started. Hypermethylated genes are currently considered a biomarker for cancer.

Ref: Clin Cancer Res. 2008; 14:97-107

(1) American Association for Cancer Research 2007 meeting: Abstract
3506. Presented April 15, 2007

Wellness Blog News

I've particularly enjoyed the great posts at Living Well, and felt it newsworthy (it's new!). We're all about living well, preventing health problems and remaining happy and stress free.

Living well covers topics related to living a healthy life, tips for reducing your exposure to chemicals wherever possible both inside and outside of your home, along with gardening and landscaping topics.

A recent article, that particularly appealed to me is regarding the use of anti-perspirants. It's been long noted that antiperspirants contain potentially toxic aluminum. In fact I have a friend who completely develops a rash whenever he tries to use them and has reverted to simply using deodorants, but the truth is, they're really hard to find.
Living well has an excellent natural recommendation.

For gardeners, there is a wonderful list of what you should be doing in the garden in January. I highly recommend reconnecting with nature - it really is something we're missing. You will enjoy the list, broken into zones to help you know what to do in your specific area.

I have to say, my favorite post might be "Wordless Wednesday". Ahhhh....peace. Check it out - you can't NOT like it. ◦