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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 6:35 pm 
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Cancer survivors face 'chemobrain'

Dr. Shail Verma can instantly recognize a woman being treated for breast cancer -- the hair loss, pallor and fatigue. All are common and visible side-effects of chemotherapy.

More hidden is what can happen once treatment ends.

Increasingly over the past decade, Verma and other cancer doctors are hearing reports of breast-cancer survivors struggling with thinking and memory problems.

"Women are coming and saying, 'I'm just not functioning the way I'm used to functioning. I've been a judge all my life and I can't think crisply about things,'" said Verma, an oncologist at The Ottawa Hospital.

"I have patients in many highly placed positions in Ottawa who report exactly that -- that they can't function as quickly as they once could."

Verma is part of an Ottawa team of researchers exploring what is becoming one of the most frequently reported, post-treatment complaints by breast-cancer survivors: cognitive dysfunction.

The problem "does exist," Verma said, "except we can't put our finger on exactly what it is."

With nearly $70,000 in funding from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Ontario Region, the Ottawa researchers, led by Carleton University psychology professor Lise Paquet, will explore a specific type of memory problem -- impairments to prospective memory, the ability to remember to do something in the future.

It is one in a range of symptoms of what's popularly becoming known as "chemobrain."

A decade ago, "this was by and large unchartered territory, and physicians were telling their patients it was psychosomatic," said Saskia Subramanian, an assistant research sociologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Culture and Health who has conducted in-depth research into survivors' reports of chemobrain.

"It's now very well understood by oncologists that this can happen."

Researchers don't understand the specific mechanisms behind the condition, she said, or why one person, but not another on the same combination of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy can be affected.

Nor is the problem unique to breast-cancer patients -- the phenomenon has been reported across different cancers.

But female breast-cancer survivors make up the largest population of cancer survivors -- of the 11.4 million cancer survivors in the United States, 23 per cent, or 2.6 million, are breast-cancer survivors, Subramanian and colleagues reported in a recently published study.

"This is a more vulnerable population," she said. "Women who wind up having chemobrain are not able to perform as well at their jobs. . . . They end up being under underemployed, or unemployed because of this, some of whom are single mothers . . . . they really wind up in economic trouble."

In a study published in September in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship, Subramanian and her colleagues found that, among 74 breast-cancer survivors in California who experienced post-treatment side-effects, 70 per cent reported cognitive impairment.

Women described struggling to remember numbers, words and places, or retaining things they had just read. Some can't retrieve memories from years before.

"It's almost as if someone had taken an X-acto knife and cut out that memory," Subramanian said.

Some women experience such acute memory loss, they stick Post-it notes all over their house to remind them to do simple tasks: "Turn off the gas stove. Your keys are in the drawer."

Subramanian has heard "interesting, horrible things" about in-the-moment memory retrieval: women driving down a freeway they have driven for 30 years and suddenly not knowing where they are, or how to get to where they need to go.

"The fear that we have with our research is that women will read it and say, 'I'm not going to get treated,' or, 'I'm not going to get chemotherapy,'" Subramanian said. "I don't think there is anybody -- including survivors who have chemobrain -- who would advocate not getting treated."

But women should be made aware of the possibility that cognitive problems can happen, she said, "and that if it happens, it's real."

"The biggest thing in our study that women said was difficult for them was the social isolation. They didn't know other women had this. They thought they were the only one."

http://www.vancouversun.com/Cancer+surv ... story.html


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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 6:44 pm 
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Did I experience chemobrain?

Its probably a bit harder when your brain has treated directly. There's the adema and complications surrounding surgery too. Its also difficult to remember how you thought 3 or mores ago before your diagnosis or symptoms.

I did lots of sudoku and puzzles to get the synapses firing again. I also regard phosphatidylserine very highly. Since I have adopted my new lifestyle I really feel like I am making progress.

So even if your brain isn't firing on all cylinders there are ways - exercises, diet and supplements - that can help.


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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2010 9:13 am 
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Making Your Way Through the Fog of Chemotherapy

FRIDAY, May 28 (HealthDay News) -- For many people with cancer, chemotherapy can be a lifeline to the future. And more aggressive, high-dose therapy has been shown to produce better results.

But there's a downside, too: Chemotherapy is linked to a mental fog called "chemo brain."

For years, people's complaints were dismissed as "all in your head," but that's no longer the case. It's now the topic of serious research, with investigators working hard to figure out why it happens and what can be done to help those who suffer from it.

Yet even with the added focus on chemo brain research, many doctors who care for cancer patients are either unaware of the phenomenon or don't think to discuss the possibility with their patients, said Saskia Subramanian, a research sociologist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has researched and published on chemo brain and wrote After the Cure: The Untold Stories of Breast Cancer Survivors.

She encourages patients to bring it up themselves, especially if they think they're experiencing it.

Among the symptoms:

- Forgetting things that are usually easy to recall, such as names or words
- Having problems concentrating
- Having difficulty multi-tasking
- Being slower at doing routine tasks

Exactly how many people develop chemo brain is unknown, agreed Subramanian and Christina Meyers, professor and chief of neuropsychology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who has researched the condition for more than two decades.

"I would say more than half of the cancer patients in active treatment have some kind of symptomology" related to chemotherapy, Meyers said. "It could range from pretty mild to so severe that a person is unable to perform their normal activities."

Subramanian said the estimates vary widely, from 20 or 30 percent to 90 percent of chemo patients. "My guess is it's somewhere in the middle," she said. "My suspicion is it has to do with how aggressive the treatment is."

Because the trend is toward more aggressive chemo, the pressure is on to learn more about the condition, what's behind it and how people can cope.

Researchers who've done studies involving imaging of the brain have found changes in the brain activity of breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy, compared with those who didn't get chemo.

Meyers said that recent studies have also found acute injury to brain cells and damage to myelin, the white matter that coats nerve cells.

They are important clues, but much is still unknown about chemo brain. Even so, no one is suggesting that people opt out of chemo that is recommended to them, Subramanian noted. "It's not a reason to forego needed chemo," she said.

Some researchers are looking at medicines in use for such conditions as depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and dementia to see if the drugs might help those with chemo brain. And research is also underway to develop animal models and come up with new drugs to counteract the effects of chemo brain, Meyers said.

But until then, she said, anyone having chemotherapy would be wise to develop compensatory measures. These could include:

- Setting up a "memory station" at home -- one place to keep keys, important papers and work-related items you need to take to the office.
- Using a day planner or personal digital assistant for reminders about meetings and appointments.
- Using checklists. One might be a list of things to do when leaving work: Log off your network, turn off your computer, turn on voice mail, turn off the coffee pot, turn off the lights -- anything that needs to get done.
- Parking in the same place at work, at the mall, wherever you go often.
- Not trying to multi-task. Even if you were champion before, Meyers said, for now do just one task at a time.

Certain strategies, though, are not helpful, Meyers added. For instance, one thing that she said doesn't work is doing repetitive mental exercises, such as crossword puzzles or video games. She said many people with chemo brain tell her they try that, but she said it doesn't seem to translate to remembering names better.

Also, the experts agreed that anyone complaining of chemo brain ought to be evaluated to make sure that other problems -- such as depression or a thyroid problem -- aren't contributing to the fog and mental slowdown.

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/fa ... l?PageNr=2


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:55 pm 
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Living after cancer

Eight weeks of chemotherapy and 35 days of radiation treatments succeeded in knocking out Judy Johnson's breast cancer.

She thought she would feel relieved once it was all over. But just weeks after celebrating being cancer free, Johnson's emotions led her somewhere she wasn't expecting.

"I thought I'd just want to forget it and put it behind me," she said. "But what I realized was you can't really do that. Or I couldn't, and now I don't want to. I'm constantly talking to people about (cancer) still."

Like many cancer survivors Johnson now knows, she felt drawn back to the supportive network she came to depend on through treatment.

Local advocates say they see it all the time. Patients can feel a void after being surrounded by a support system of caring doctors, nurses, oncologists, surgeons and staff.

On June 5, the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer Research & Pavilion at St. Joseph's/Candler will host a 5K race to raise funds for a new survivorship program for former patients.

Emphasis on surviving

Organizer Kate Bailey hopes to use the proceeds to help cancer survivors get back on their feet after treatment.

"They finish their treatment, and they feel like they don't have a doctor and don't know what to do next," said Bailey, a nurse and coordinator of Lewis' emerging "survivorship" program.

As more people survive cancer - with the hope of a long life ahead - a growing number of U.S. cancer centers are doing more to promote their long-term well-being, Bailey said.

The Lewis Cancer Research and Pavilion is in the beginning stages of a "survivorship clinic," involving support groups, educational programs and networking among survivors.

The Curtis & Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute at Memorial University Medical Center also offers support groups and services for patients in remission.

They include the center's "Strength for Survivors" program, connecting survivors with a personal trainer, and a "Young Breast Cancer Survivors Retreat," taking place Saturday at the Jepson Center for the Arts.

Survivors often share feelings of loneliness, loss and anxiety long after their treatment has ended.

Constant fear of reoccurrence is especially common. The fear can be so strong, survivors may no longer enjoy life, sleep well, eat well or get medical check-ups, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Bailey said Lewis' survivorship program will also work to smooth a patient's transition from an oncologist's care back to their doctor.

"People leave their primary care doctor for so long while they're being treated for cancer, sometimes primary care doctors don't really know what to do next" when their patient returns, Bailey said.

"We want to work on that."

Like minds, like bodies

Johnson's treatment began on her 50th birthday with a lumpectomy to remove an aggressive tumor in her breast.

She wore a tiara into surgery, a symbol of the positive attitude she believed would get her through the battle.

"Through it all, everyone's saying 'You're doing so great! You're doing so great!'" Johnson said.

After her treatment, she returned to her job as an account manager at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center.

While many friends and family seemed ready to move on, Johnson said her thoughts kept returning to cancer.

"There's always that fear of reoccurrence," she said. "Six months later, I'm still thinking about it and worrying about it."

Last fall, she participated in Lewis' first survivorship clinic, which brought her together with other survivors. Participants have met for lunch and a few other events since then.

"Occasionally, we'll talk about cancer, but mostly not," she said. "It's just that camaraderie of being with people who been through what you've been through."

Johnson hopes Lewis' new survivorship program will help patients face their fears and focus on living healthier and happier lives.

"You're a different person, because you've actually faced your mortality," Bailey said.

"You may still need to focus on it. The idea behind the clinic is to enable you to do that."

http://savannahnow.com/accent/2010-06-0 ... ter-cancer


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:12 am 
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Aplastic anemia with concurrent temozolomide treatment in a patient with glioblastoma multiforme

Abstract

Temozolomide (tmz) is an oral alkylating agent used during concurrent and adjuvant chemotherapy for newly diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme. Temozolomide is generally well tolerated and improves survival; however, severe adverse events have occasionally been reported. Here, we report the case of a patient who developed aplastic anemia with related complications in the setting of concurrent tmz treatment with radiotherapy. This case illustrates that aplastic anemia is a rare side effect of tmz that can occur relatively early in the course of concurrent chemotherapy, and underscores the importance of clinician awareness of this potentially devastating side effect.

PMID: 20697524 [PubMed - in process]

http://virtualtrials.com/news3.cfm?item=4858


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:25 am 
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Ancient brew may reduce gut damage after chemotherapy

Aug 19 (Reuters) - An ancient Chinese brew may help reduce the intestinal damage caused by chemotherapy given to colon and rectal cancer patients, researchers said on Thursday.

To meet growing consumer demands, researchers in the field of traditional medicine are trying to prove the efficacy of ancient drugs using Western-style animal tests and human clinical trials.

In a paper published in Science Translational Medicine, the researchers said they fed cancerous mice the Chinese brew after the rodents had been treated with irinotecan, a chemotherapy drug known to be toxic for the gut and a cause of diarrhoea.

"The researchers treated cancerous mice with chemotherapy, which shrank tumors but also caused massive destruction in the intestinal lining of the animals," they said in a statement.

"After a few days of treatment with PHY906, the medicine restored the damaged intestinal linings in the mice."

PHY906 is the laboratory formulation of a 1,800-year-old Chinese formula containing peonies, a purple flower called skullcap, licorice and fruit from a buckthorn tree.

Called Huang Qin Tang, the brew has been used for a long time to treat diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.

"Irinotecan reduces tumour growth by itself but if you combine with PHY906, it will further reduce tumour growth," said lead author Yung-Chi Cheng at the Yale University School of Medicine in the United States.

"By itself, PHY906 does not decrease tumour growth, it has to be used in combination with chemotherapy."

Colorectal cancer is the third deadliest cancer, after lung and stomach cancer. It caused 639,000 deaths globally in 2004, according to the World Health Organisation.

According to the American Cancer Society, the economic impact from colorectal cancer in terms of premature death and disability is US$99 billion annually, excluding direct treatment costs.

Cheng said the team has since completed a small clinical trial using the brew on 17 human patients with colorectal cancer.

"The results of the clinical phase 1/2A trial looks promising," Cheng said by telephone, adding that they would be proceeding to a larger clinical trial.

Cheng has a stake in PhytoCeutica, Inc., which develops traditional Chinese medicine into drugs for the treatment of cancer and it holds the licence for PHY906. (Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Ron Popeski)

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTOE67F07O


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:08 pm 
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High Doses of Antioxidants Including Vitamin C Do Not Decrease the Efficacy of Chemotherapy

The idea that the use of antioxidants decreases the efficacy of chemotherapy is being used more and more by orthodox oncologists. It is based upon their hypothesis that anything which decreases the oxidant effect of drugs will decrease the efficacy of chemotherapy. More and more I hear this from my patients after they are diagnosed and chemotherapy is discussed with them by their oncologists. This opinion is not universal, but my guess is that about 75% of oncologists hold this view.

Their view is that chemotherapy destroys tumor tissue because it introduces powerful oxidation products, free radicals, and that anything which decreases that must interfere with treatment. They know they are using sub-lethal amounts of toxic compounds which would never pass FDA standards in any different context. The aim is to kill all the tumor tissue without killing all the other tissues in the body. This is always a close call. Therefore, since vitamin C is a good antioxidant it must not be given with chemotherapy. One of my patients was told by his oncologist that if he took vitamin C he would not be given any chemotherapy.

Well, what are the facts? The first fact is that there are no clinical series which show that patients given vitamin C and chemotherapy fare worse than those not given this vitamin. On the contrary, all the published series show just the opposite. I have treated over 1,100 cases with large doses of vitamin C and most of them had chemotherapy.(1-4) I have examined the follow up data and find that the mean difference on prolongation of life was heavily in favor of the use of the vitamins. In the first series I published with Linus Pauling those patients on my program lived 10 to 20 times as long as the patients not receiving the vitamin.

Recently Kedar N. Prasad et al. (5) after reviewing 71 scientific papers, found no evidence that antioxidants did interfere with the therapeutic effect of chemotherapy and, on the contrary, suggest the hypothesis that it would increase the efficacy. He is properly cautious, but anyone reading his paper knows that it is clear the probability that these antioxidants prevent the therapeutic activity of chemotherapy is very low, and the probability that they do the opposite, i.e enhance the action of these toxic drugs, is relatively high. Prasad et al. (6) concluded, "Antioxidants such as retinoids, vitamin E, vitamin C and carotenoids inhibit the growth of cancer cells. These antioxidants individually, and in combination, enhance the effects of x-irradiation, chemotherapeutic agents, and certain biological response modifiers such as hyperthermia, sodium butyrate and interferon, on cancer cells. Antioxidants individually protect normal cells against some of the toxicities produced by these therapeutic agents. Therefore, the fear of oncologists and radiation therapists that these antioxidants may protect cancer cells against free radicals that are generated by these agents is unfounded. It should be pointed out that other antioxidants such as sulfhydryl compounds will protect cancer cells at least against radiation damage. This is not true for any of the proposed antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids."

Even earlier Charles B. Simone et al. (7) on the basis of a large number of clinical studies (he also examined 71 scientific papers) came to the same conclusion. He reported, "In a recent study of 50 patients with early-stage breast cancer I evaluated the treatment side effects of radiation alone, or radiation combined with chemotherapy, while the patients took therapeutic doses of nutrients. Patients also followed the Simone Ten Point Plan. Patients were asked to evaluate their own response to the treatment in terms of its impact on their quality of life. The results of the study were impressive: "More than 90% of both groups noted improvement in their physical symptoms, cognitive ability, performance, sexual function, general well-being and life satisfaction. Not one subject in either group reported a worsening of symptoms." He concluded, "...cancer patients should modify their lifestyles using the Ten Point Plan, which included modifying nutritional factors and taking certain vitamins and minerals especially if they are receiving chemotherapy, and/or radiation." (my emphasis)

Labriola et al. (8) concluded that vitamin C may prevent the therapeutic effect of chemotherapy if given concurrently and recommended that antioxidants be withheld until after the chemotherapy is completed. It is not clear whether they meant that the antioxidants should be withheld throughout the entire series of chemotherapy sessions or that it should be withheld only for the day that chemotherapy is being given. If the latter is his suggestion, there is no harm done to the patients. Most of them cannot take anything, including vitamins, during these sessions. He based his conclusion on one case which suggested this had happened and upon a hypothetical examination of the role of free radicals and antioxidants on the action of chemotherapy on cancer cells.

His report elicited two rebuttals, Reilly (9) and Gignac. (10) I will not repeat the arguments, but it was evident that Dr. Labriola was not convinced by the points put forward by Reilly and Gignac. I think the factoid repeated by Dr. Labriola would have a much better chance of becoming a fact if he had considered the following points:

ONE: What is the therapeutic value of chemotherapy without any antioxidants? Even within the field of standard oncology there is a debate whether chemotherapy has any merit except for a small number of cancers (Moss). (11) Before one can claim that a treatment has been inhibited, surely there must be pretty good evidence that the treatment has any merit to begin with. It is possible (we do not know the probability for this) that chemotherapy interferes with the therapeutic value of the antioxidants. Almost all the studies testing large doses of vitamin C yielded positive results while there is no such unanimity with respect to chemotherapy.

TWO: The difference between possibility and probability. Most people do not distinguish between these two. Theoretically anything is possible, and it is certainly possible that taking vitamin C might prevent the toxic “beneficial” effect of chemotherapy. In the same way when one buys a lottery ticket, it is possible they may win. People confuse these two terms, which is why lotteries are so popular. The real statistic is the probability. What is the probability that patients receiving vitamin C during their chemotherapy will not fare as well? The lottery ticket may give one a probability of winning of one in a million, and the possibility that vitamin C may prevent the therapeutic effect of chemotherapy may be equally low. We can only assume from the literature reviewed by Simone, by Prasad, by Lamson and Brignall, and more recently by Moss (12) that the real probability must be extremely low. As I have pointed out earlier, I have seen no evidence that adding vitamin C inhibited the therapeutic effect of chemotherapy. Just the opposite. Patients on my orthomolecular program live substantially longer and about 40% achieved over four year cure rates.(13)

THREE: If he had not tried to bolster his argument by referring so frequently to the peer-reviewed journal in which his paper appeared. This is certainly no guarantee of fact. The first factoid that vitamin C caused kidney stones appeared in eminently peer-reviewed journals. All the factoids regarding vitamins appeared first in peer-reviewed journals. You may recall Linus Pauling's joke that peers are people who pee together. I can assure you that articles attacking the use of vitamins have very ready access to peer-reviewed journals, but they would not have accepted their report had they tried to conclude from one patient that vitamin C taken during chemotherapy was therapeutic. This would not even be sent to the peer review committee because they do not accept anecdotes - unless of course they become scientific when they contain something adverse against vitamins.

FOUR: Moss points out that oncologists have no objection to using xenobiotic antioxidants during chemotherapy. This includes Amifostine which decreases the toxicity of radiation but is too toxic on its own and is not used; Mesna, a drug used around the world to protect against the toxic side effects of ifosfamide which damages the urinary system; and Cardiozane, which counters Adriamycin's toxicity. There are over 500 papers showing the safety of the latter drug. In one clinical trial using a drug similar to Adriamycin, one-quarter of the patients suffered damage to their hearts. When given Cardiozane concurrently only 7% did. Thus it appears that only orthomolecular or natural antioxidants are potentially dangerous. Synthetic antioxidants protect against the toxic effect of drugs but do not increase their therapeutic value. In sharp contrast, natural antioxidants not only protect against the toxic effect of drugs but also increase their efficacy in destroying cancer cells.

FIVE: Dr. Labriola emphasizes that long term studies must be used. I agree, and for this reason I followed up my patients since 1977. In my series, hardly any patients receiving chemotherapy but not antioxidants survived very long. But chemotherapy is used by many oncologists who know it will not extend life, because there is nothing else that they can do and they feel they have to do something.

http://www.doctoryourself.com/chemo.html


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 11:50 am 
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Chemotherapy alters brain tissue in breast cancer patients

INDIANAPOLIS -- Researchers at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center have published the first report using imaging to show that changes in brain tissue can occur in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

The cognitive effects of chemotherapy, often referred to as "chemobrain," have been known for years. However, the IU research is the first to use brain imaging to study women with breast cancer before and after treatment, showing that chemotherapy can affect gray matter. The researchers reported their findings in the October 2010 edition of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

"This is the first prospective study," said Andrew Saykin, Psy.D., director of the Indiana University Center for Neuroimaging and a researcher at the IU Simon Cancer Center. "These analyses, led by Brenna McDonald, suggest an anatomic basis for the cognitive complaints and performance changes seen in patients. Memory and executive functions like multi-tasking and processing speed are the most typically affected functions and these are handled by the brain regions where we detected gray matter changes."

Dr. Saykin, who is Raymond C. Beeler Professor of Radiology at the IU School of Medicine, and colleagues studied structural MRI scans of the brain obtained on breast cancer patients and healthy controls. The scans were taken after surgery, but before radiation or chemotherapy, to give the researchers a baseline. Scans were then repeated one month and one year after chemotherapy was completed.

The researchers found gray matter changes were most prominent in the areas of the brain that are consistent with cognitive dysfunction during and shortly after chemotherapy. Gray matter density in most women improved a year after chemotherapy ended.

For many patients, Dr. Saykin said, the effects are subtle. However, they can be more pronounced for others. Although relatively rare, some patients -- often middle-aged women -- are so affected that they are never able to return to work. More commonly, women will still be able to work and multi-task, but it may be more difficult to do so.

The study focused on 17 breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy after surgery, 12 women with breast cancer who did not undergo chemotherapy after surgery, and 18 women without breast cancer.

"We hope there will be more prospective studies to follow so that the cause of these changes in cancer patients can be better understood," Dr. Saykin said.

Dr. Saykin and his colleagues started their research at Dartmouth Medical School before finishing the data analyses at IU. A new, independent sample is now being studied at the IU Simon Cancer Center to replicate and further investigate this problem affecting many cancer patients.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/ ... 092910.php


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 05, 2010 9:02 am 
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Chemotherapy Affects Brains of Breast Cancer Patients

Changes in brain tissue can occur in breast cancer patients who are being treated with chemotherapy, according to researchers at Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.

The research focused on the brain scans of 17 women with breast cancer treated with chemotherapy after surgery, 12 women with breast cancer who did not have chemotherapy after surgery, and 18 women without breast cancer.

The negative effects of chemotherapy on cognition, referred to as “chemo-brain,” are well-known by physicians and researchers. However, this study is the first to use brain imaging on women who have breast cancer, both before and after treatment, showing that chemotherapy affects the gray matter of the brain right alongside a decline in cognition.

“This is the first prospective study,” said Andrew Saykin, Psy.D., director of the Indiana University Center for Neuroimaging and a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

“These analyses suggest an anatomic basis for the cognitive complaints and performance changes seen in patients. Memory and executive functions like multi-tasking and processing speed are the most typically affected functions and these are handled by the brain regions where we detected gray matter changes.”

Dr. Saykin and his team analyzed structural MRI scans of the brain taken on both patients with breast cancer as well as healthy controls. The scans were done after surgery, but before radiation or chemotherapy, so the researchers could have a baseline. Scans were then repeated one month and one year after chemotherapy was finished.

According to the scans, changes in gray matter were most obvious in the areas of the brain associated with the cognitive dysfunction experienced by patients during and shortly after chemotherapy. The good news is that, in most women, gray matter density improved a year after chemotherapy ended.

Dr. Saykin said that, for many patients, the effects are subtle. For some, however, gray matter changes can be more significant. For example, in a relatively rare number of chemotherapy patients — usually middle-aged women — the changes in the brain are so great that they are unable to return to work. Most women, however, will still be able to work and multitask, but may find it more difficult to do so.

“We hope there will be more prospective studies to follow so that the cause of these changes in cancer patients can be better understood,” Dr. Saykin said.

Dr. Saykin and his team began their research at Dartmouth Medical School and finished the data analyses at Indiana University. A new, independent study is now underway at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center to affirm and continue the research of this problem affecting many chemotherapy patients.

The findings can be found in the October 2010 edition of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/10/04 ... 19009.html

[comment - I guess we take chemo-brain as being more likely, but given that chemotherapy affects the brain in chemotherapy for other types of cancer, suggests they need to find a way for the chemotherapy to be more targeted to cancer cells]


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 05, 2010 9:07 am 
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Australian, US research unlocks memory secrets

SYDNEY, Australia — Australian and US scientists believe they have isolated a new mechanism by which the brain learns and stores memories, a finding they say could help treat brain injury and disease.

Bryce Vissel, lead researcher at Sydney's Garvan Institute, said the discovery challenges the way the brain has long been believed to capture and encode information.

"In terms of understanding learning and memory mechanisms in the brain, it's quite a fundamental shift in our understandings," he told AFP.

"And I think it's got the potential to ultimately influence not only our understanding of brain function, but also drug development and our psychological approaches to treating people with Alzheimer's."

The six-year project studied the impact on the brain function of mice when a particular receptor -- previously deemed critical to learning something for the first time -- was chemically switched off.

It found that the brain uses the receptors when learning an experience for the first time, but that these were not essential for handling the subsequent learning of a similar event because another molecular mechanism was used.

Scientists hope this second pathway can be replicated, either using medication or other therapies, to treat patients with brain injuries or diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

Vissel said the findings, to be published online in the journal PLoS ONE, were still in the discovery phase but raised hopes for new drug and behavioural treatments for people with neurological disease or injury, as well enhancing learning for the able-minded.

"The exact implications of this research is that there is a separate mechanism of learning in the brain, it seems to be employed on what we call second learning," Vissel said.

"It's like a new lens on your camera, you've just got a new way of looking at learning and memory. You think, 'Oh, you can exploit this in so many ways'."

Recent research suggests the number of Alzheimer's sufferers worldwide will double within 20 years to more than 65 million as people's lifespans extend.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/ar ... 881671.9d1

[comment - possible solution to chemo-brain?]


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:47 am 
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Mental Health: Fog May Be From Cancer, Not the Chemo

Cancer survivors often complain about “chemo brain,” a mental fog and inability to concentrate that persist long after treatment. But the problem may not be limited to cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy, a study suggests.

Researchers analyzed data gathered from 2001 to 2006 by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey on 9,819 adults ages 40 and older, of whom 1,305 reported a history of cancer.

Participants answered questions including “Are you limited in any way because of difficulty remembering or because you experience periods of confusion?”

While 8 percent of the respondents who had never had cancer reported impairment, 14 percent of those with a history of cancer reported problems.

After controlling for differences between the groups, like age, education and overall health, researchers concluded that people with a history of cancer were 40 percent more likely to report memory impairment.

“These problems may be related to treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation or hormonal therapy, or to something about the disease itself which can change brain chemistry, or to psychological distress,” said Pascal Jean-Pierre, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who presented the findings at an American Association for Cancer Research conference in Miami.

Promising treatments might include behavioral interventions and medications like antidepressants, said Dr. Jean-Pierre, adding that his study shows “this is a serious national problem.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/healt ... ref=health


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 9:36 am 
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Chinese Medicine herbs scientifically proven to help halt cancer

(NaturalNews) A 1,800-year old Chinese herbal remedy for an upset stomach may boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy while reducing its side effects, according to a study conducted by researchers from Yale University and published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The treatment in question, known traditionally as Huang Qin Tang, consists of a combination of peony and skullcap flowers, licorice root and buckthorn fruit.

"It was used for the treatment of diarrhea and gastrointestinal disorders for many years and is still used today," said lead researcher Yung-Chi Cheng. "We wanted to see if this herb could be used to limit the side effects associated with cancer chemotherapy, with an emphasis on gastrointestinal side effects."

Because chemotherapy drugs target healthy cells as well as cancerous ones, they can have severe and even debilitating or dangerous effects on the body. The digestive tract is particularly susceptible to these effects. To see if Huang Qin Tang could mitigate this problem, the researchers used an extract, based on the traditional formulation, called PHY-906.

"Chemotherapy causes great distress for millions of patients, but PHY-906 has multiple biologically active compounds which can act on multiple sources of discomfort," Cheng said.

The researchers induced colorectal cancer in mice, then treated the animals with chemotherapy. The drugs successfully shrank tumors, while causing major intestinal damage. Some of the mice were then treated with PHY-906.

In mice treated with the extract, damaged intestinal linings quickly healed. In addition, their tumors shrank more and they lost less weight than mice who had not been given the formula.

Cheng has founded a company to commercialize a formula for PHY-906.

Although Western doctors formerly ignored or scorned traditional medical practices, there is now a growing interest among Western researchers in uncovering new applications of traditional healing techniques, from herbalism to acupuncture to yoga. This shift is based in part on the realization that traditional medical practices have been healing people far longer than Western medicine has.

As Devra Davis notes in the book The Secret History of the War on Cancer:

"Chinese medicine goes back more than 5,000 years."

http://www.naturalnews.com/030571_Chine ... cures.html


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:03 am 
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Aretha Franklin dying from advanced pancreatic cancer, say reports

(NaturalNews) The "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin has reportedly been given less than a year to live by her doctors. She is reportedly suffering from "incurable advanced pancreatic cancer" according to The National Inquirer, a source that should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt. But CBS News is also running the story, along with other mainstream media outlets.

The reason her cancer is "advanced," of course, is because her doctors never told her the truth about pancreatic cancer, which is that through significant changes in diet and lifestyle, even pancreatic cancer can be reversed. I've seen numerous pancreatic cancer patients who reversed their condition by turning to natural cancer therapies such as Gerson Therapy, which is based on daily juicing of fresh vegetables and fruit, cleansing detoxification of the body's organs, and improving the nutritional density of foods. (www.Gerson.org)

The cancer industry is terrified that people might discover these "natural cures" to cancer because this would wipe out the highly lucrative chemotherapy, radiation and surgical treatments that remain the profit centers for mainstream cancer treatment centers. There is a reason, after all, why U.S. authorities ran all the alternative cancer clinics out of the country and arrested the alternative doctors who were curing the most patients. Such cures simply cannot be allowed in America because they threaten the profits of the cancer industry!

Conventional cancer treatments don't work

Aretha Franklin is 68 years old and underwent cancer surgery last week. When being treated by conventional cancer treatments (poisons), the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is just 35 percent. That tells any intelligent person that conventional oncology doesn't work, yet cancer doctors keep doing the same thing, over and over again, killing patients by the hundreds of thousands each year with these toxic chemicals. This is what keeps them in business.

These statistics should tell you the truth about the utter failure of the conventional cancer industry: 43,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the United States. 37,000 people die each year from it (but all 43,000 pay for "treatment").

This, doctors claim, represents the greatest health care in the world, all driven by "evidence-based medicine." But the real evidence says that chemotherapy doesn't work and conventional cancer patients are dying at an alarming rate. Conventional cancer treatments are, effectively, quackery.

We should only hope that the cancer industry does not claim yet another life with Aretha Franklin. Her contribution to the world (not just the world of music, but the happiness of the entire world) is immense. To lose her to cancer, through the incompetence of cancer industry doctors, would be a great loss for us all.

Send your blessings to Aretha today and pray that she soon realizes cancer industry doctors are quacks who harm far more people than they help.

http://www.naturalnews.com/030674_Areth ... ancer.html

[comment - my belief is that conventional has its place. In his book "Anticancer", the author asked people in Tibet which hospital they visited - the traditional Tibetan or the Western one. There was no conflict in the locals mind, for an acute situation they went to the Western one for chronic illness the traditional one]


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 9:39 am 
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Cold caps may help cancer patients keep their hair

For the first few days after her breast cancer diagnosis last summer, Heather Millar kept it together.

But when the 47-year-old San Francisco woman finally cried, the tears fell, in part, at the thought of losing her hair.

“That’s a world you never hope to be a part of,” said Millar, a freelance writer and mother of a 9-year-old daughter. “The hair, it’s not the most important thing, but it’s such a stigma of cancer. The minute you’re wearing a scarf or something, it makes social interactions weird.”

Three chemotherapy sessions later, Millar has managed to avoid the fate that affects at least 65 percent of cancer patients dosed with the powerful drugs that target disease. Many start shedding their hair after just one treatment.

She still has most of her shoulder-length, dark blond locks, thanks to an experimental treatment that uses extreme cold to prevent cancer patients from losing their hair. Millar is one of just four patients in the U.S. so far to try the “DigniCap,” a tightly fitting hat equipped with a circulating cooling gel that chills hair follicles to limit the amount of chemotherapy they absorb.

Eventually, she may be part of a 100-person pivotal trial required by the federal Food and Drug Administration to test the Swedish device for safety and effectiveness.

For now, she’s showing up every few weeks at the University of California, San Francisco’s cancer center to get better — and to help other patients beat what’s easily the most dreaded side effect of chemotherapy treatment.

“I think that if women knew about this, there would be a total stampede,” says Millar, who has chronicled her experience in a blog, My Left Breast.

No hair? No chemo, some say

For some women, the fear of losing their hair prompts them to forgo chemotherapy treatment entirely, while others delay therapy or choose less-effective care, said Dr. Hope S. Rugo, director of breast oncology and clinical trials education at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Even though the hair grows back later, it can be emotionally and psychologically devastating.

“It’s torture for the women,” Rugo said. “Patients will say to me, ‘I know this sounds stupid, it seems so much like my vanity, but the thing I’m most worried about is losing my hair.’”

One late-stage cancer patient who’d already been through a bout of chemotherapy-induced alopecia, the technical term for the hair loss, couldn’t take it again.

“She said ‘I’d rather die now than live an extra year without my hair,’” said Rugo.

UCSF is one of two U.S. sites testing the DigniCap, which is manufactured by the firm Dignitana in Lund, Sweden.Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center will begin enrolling patients next month, said Dr. Susan A. Melin, an associate professor of hematology and oncology in the school's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The trial is limited to women with early-stage breast cancer who require chemotherapy, but the scalp-chilling technique has been used successfully for other kinds of cancer and in men who don’t want to lose their hair, advocates say.

Rugo, of UCSF, agreed to participate in the new trial in part because she’s been supervising scalp-freezing techniques to stop hair loss for three years, ever since a patient proud of her long, blond curly hair simply refused to let it go.

Instead, the patient convinced Rugo to let her try the Penguin Cold Cap, a British-made product used widely in Europe and now making inroads with cancer patients in the U.S.

The strap-on hats are filled with gel cooled to -30 Celsius that must be kept cold in special freezers or with dry ice, according to the company’s website. Patients must change the caps every 20 to 30 minutes before, during and after chemotherapy treatments, sometimes using as many as 15 caps per session to maintain proper scalp temperature.

It’s a technique that saved Shirley Billigmeier’s luxuriant brown hair after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and balked at wearing a wig.

“No matter how good a wig it is, it just was not me,” said Billigmeier, 60, of Orono, Minn. “People think it’s a vanity thing, but it’s not just that. I’m not a victim-type person. I didn’t want to be labeled as sick and a victim. This was a protection for what I already had.”

Ice cubes in plastic bags

The idea that freezing the scalp could help preserve hair during chemotherapy has been around since the 1970s, when patients strapped bags of ice cubes to their heads.

Cooling the scalp dramatically causes the blood vessels surrounding hair roots to contract, reducing the amount of chemotherapy drugs delivered to the follicle, Rugo said.

Early trials of several devices resulted in problems such as scalp frostbite or hair that fell out in patterns that matched the coils on a cap.

Freezing devices including the cold caps and the DigniCaps, as well as products by two other makers, are used throughout Europe, Scandinavia, Japan and other countries, though none has been approved by the FDA in the U.S. FDA officials declined to comment on the feasibility study being conducted by Dignitana.

Historically, the caps have not been used in the U.S. because of worries that cancer cells might lurk in the scalp, where the cold would prevent chemotherapy from killing them.

So far, studies indicate that the risk of scalp metastases is very low, said Rugo. She cited results from two large studies of 1,440 patients followed for five to nine years, which found only 10 patients developed scalp cancers.

Still, some cancer specialists remain unconvinced about the benefits and wary of the risks of scalp hypothermia, as the procedure is known. Marlon Garzo Saria, a clinical nurse specialist and spokesman for the Oncology Nursing Society, said he does not recommend the treatment in his work in the Division of Neuro-Oncology at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego.

"There is a concern that it prevents chemotherapy from reaching cancer cells that may be present in sanctuary sites in the brain," Saria said by e-mail. "Until we can find clear evidence that this is not so, I would rather err on the side of caution and presume that the risk of cancer recurrence outweighs the benefit of preventing hair loss in patients receiving chemotherapy."

Up to 100 percent effective

Patients and experts who pursue the technique, however, say the benefits can be profound. Most patients still lose some hair, but it might be 15 percent to 25 percent of their hair, at most, compared to all of it, Rugo said. Studies have shown that the effectiveness can range widely, from 45 percent of patients to 100 percent of patients not requiring a wig or hat, though that depends on the person and the kind of treatment they require. She estimates that about 60 percent of patients preserve most of their hair.

Being able to keep most of her hair is a blessing, but the procedure isn’t exactly pleasant, said Millar, the DigniCap patient. The mechanical cap comes with several layers, including a head-gripping hat that gradually chills to 5 degrees Celsius — 41 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s pulled tightly over completely wet hair, the better to conduct the near-freezing temperatures.

“The cold is pretty intense,” Millar said. “When it starts not to feel good is about 10 degrees Celsius.”

Some patients get bad headaches worse than the brain-freeze caused by eating ice cream too fast. Others feel claustrophobic in the caps that Millar likens to cold Medusa-like snakes coiled around her head.

But patients like Shirley Billigmeier say once their heads were numb, they no longer noticed the cold.

“It’s like three or four minutes,” for each cap, she said. "After that you don’t feel a thing.”

Both women said they've had to baby their hair during chemotherapy treatment: No blow dryers, less-frequent shampoos, gentle brushing. The upside was that at least there was hair to brush.

The biggest drawback to scalp-chilling is that so few cancer patients know enough about it to consider it as an option, patients and doctors said. Billigmeier and a friend, Nancy Marshall, started a nonprofit group, The Rapunzel Project, to raise awareness of the issue.

If a devices eventually are approved by the FDA, the technique could be revolutionary for the 225,000 women diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer in the U.S. each year, Rugo said.

“For most women, I think this would be an incredible thing,” she said. “For young women and old women, it doesn’t make a difference in age, it’s a huge issue.”

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/40718154/ ... ns_health/


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 2:29 pm 
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The Quirky Brain: Theories On Chemobrain

A type of cognitive impairment known as "chemobrain" or "chemofog" is a common side effect of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. A review of outcomes for adults treated with chemotherapy for solid tumors (such as those in the breast and prostate) found that 15% to 45% developed cognitive impairment, although impairment was usually subtle and short-lived.

The research suggests that many types of thinking ability are affected, including memory, processing speed, attention, concentration, and executive function (ability to plan and make decisions). For most people, these deficits subside with time, but in a minority they persist.

It is likely that multiple factors contribute to the development of chemobrain. The most obvious is cancer drug treatment itself. Although most chemotherapy agents do not cross the blood-brain barrier, some agents do — and may damage neurons and other brain cells.

Other research suggests that some people are genetically vulnerable to cognitive damage following chemotherapy. For example, people born with a version of the apolipoprotein E gene known as ApoE4 are not only more likely than others to develop Alzheimer's disease, but also to experience cognitive decline after chemotherapy.

Hormonal changes caused by cancer treatment may also contribute. Both estrogen and testosterone have neuroprotective effects. Both chemotherapy and hormone treatments can reduce levels of these hormones, contributing to problems thinking. Other possible causes of chemobrain include cancer-related fatigue and immune system impairment.

Unfortunately, we do not yet know how to prevent chemobrain or treat it when it occurs. Researchers are testing medications, dietary supplements, and cognitive remediation strategies. Some cancer survivors have learned to cope with the symptoms by compensating for any deficits — such as scheduling business meetings in the morning if they feel foggy by afternoon or making lists rather than relying on memory. Until we know more about chemobrain, such self-help strategies may need to suffice.

Argyriou AA, et al. "Either Called ‘Chemobrain' or ‘Chemofog,' the Long-Term Chemotherapy-Induced Cognitive Decline in Cancer Survivors Is Real," Journal of Pain Symptom Management (Sept. 9, 2010): Electronic publication ahead of print.

http://health.msn.com/health-topics/can ... =100268462


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