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The weed that causes cancer may well kill it

SYDNEY: Tobacco has been associated with and much maligned for causing cancers. Researchers have now found that the tobacco plant’s defence mechanism could well work in humans to destroy invading cancer cells.

Nicotiana sylvestrisA molecule called NaD1 is found in the flower of the tobacco plant that fights off fungi and bacteria. This compound also has the ability to identify and destroy cancer, the team discovered.

“This is a welcome discovery whatever the origin,” Mark Hulett from La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science in Melbourne was quoted as saying.

The molecule, found in nicotiana sylvestris (flowering tobacco) plant, forms a pincer-like structure that grips onto lipids present in the membrane of cancer cells.

It then effectively rips them open, causing the cell to expel its contents and explode.

According to researchers, this universal defence process could also potentially be harnessed for the development of antibiotic treatment for microbial infections.

The pre-clinical work is being conducted by the Melbourne biotechnology company Hexima. “The preliminary trials have looked promising,” said Hulett.

The study was published in the journal eLife.


Research Explains How Low Nutrient Diet Increases Lifespan latest research paper shows a diet low in nutrients might help increase the lifespan of humans.

The research conducted on laboratory animals argues that dietary restrictions can result in higher rates of cellular recycling and repair mechanisms in the body. But, according to them, this effect evolved to help organisms during famines.

The authors explain that animals need less food for survival as the stored nutrients in the cells can be recycled and reused.

“This is the most intriguing aspect, from a human health stand point. Although extended lifespan may simply be a side effect of dietary restriction, a better understanding of these cellular recycling mechanisms that drive the effect may hold the promise of longer, healthier lives for humans,” said lead study author, Dr Margo Adler, an evolutionary biologist at UNSW Australia in a press release.

“This effect has been demonstrated in laboratories around the world, in species ranging from yeast to flies to mice. There is also some evidence that it occurs in primates,” Adler said

“But we think that lifespan extension from dietary restriction is more likely to be a laboratory artifact,” said Adler. She further explained that the most commonly believed theory is that this effect evolved to enhance the survival chances during times of famine.

The authors explained why no extension in lifespan is seen in the wild. This is because restricted diets lower the ability of the immune system to fight diseases and reduce the muscle strength necessary to defend against predators.

“Unlike in the benign conditions of the lab, most animals in the wild are killed young by parasites or predators,” Adler explained

“Since dietary restriction appears to extend lifespan in the lab by reducing old-age diseases, it is unlikely to have the same effect on wild animals, which generally don’t live long enough to be affected by cancer and other late-life pathologies,” she added.

The paper is published in the journal ‘BioEssays.’

Astrocal (Vitamin D) Supplements: FAQ D had been gaining a reputation as a ”wonder supplement.” Studies have suggested it can help bone and heart health, ease mild depression, and lower the risk of cancer. Others have suggested it might help people with fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and other chronic diseases.

Now comes a different finding. Researchers who looked at dozens of studies say that vitamin D supplements do not lower the risks of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, or fractures by more than 15% in generally healthy people. This was true whether or not the supplements included calcium.

Bottom line: For most healthy adults, vitamin D supplements are not worth it, the researchers say in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Not everyone agrees, and the debate is far from done. Here, two experts address the most common questions about vitamin D supplements.

Are vitamin D supplements losing their luster?

“I believe so,” says Doug Campos-Outcalt, MD, of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix. He recently wrote a review of vitamin D for The Journal of Family Practice.

Evidence shows that vitamin D helps bone health, he says. But early studies that show vitamin D may help in other areas, such as heart health and cancer prevention, are not convincing.

“Information on the health benefits of vitamin D is difficult to sort out,” he writes in the review. He cites a report from the Institute of Medicine, an independent organization that provides health advice. The institute looked at studies of vitamin D to protect against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus. Except for bone health, it found no evidence that vitamin D helped with any other diseases.

Robert R. Recker, MD, director of osteoporosis research at Creighton University School of Medicine in Nebraska, disagrees. He cites research finding vitamin D lowers the risks of colon, breast, and other cancers, and improves how the immune system works.

On the other hand, other experts say low vitamin D levels may be a result of illness, not the cause.

What do we know for sure about vitamin D?

What it does: Experts agree on the basics. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, and that is good for bone health. Vitamin D also helps reduce inflammation in our cells. Inflammation can trigger disease.

What are the main areas of disagreement about Vitamin D?

How much is needed: At the center of the debate is how much vitamin D is enough. “We need more vitamin D than what we are getting [from diet and sun exposure],” Recker says. “What is not agreed upon is how much more.”

The Institute of Medicine recommends that most Americans need no more than 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day. People 71 and older may need 800 IU, it says. This level is enough for bone health, it says.

Vitamin D is found in some foods, including fatty fish like salmon and tuna, beef liver, fortified dairy products, cheese, and egg yolks. Except for those, getting enough vitamin D from your diet isn’t easy. As examples, a 3-ounce serving of salmon provides 447 IU, and 3 ounces of tuna fish offer 154 IU.

Meanwhile, our skin makes vitamin D when exposed to natural sunlight. This helps vitamin D levels in our blood. But Recker says only people who live at the equator get a large amount of D from sunlight.

Testing: Experts disagree on whether healthy people need routine testing to detect low vitamin D blood levels.

How much is enough: Experts also disagree on how much vitamin D we need in our blood to be healthy.

Which groups of people might benefit more from higher levels of D?

Older adults who are frail, Campos-Outcalt says. Getting 800 IU a day may help them prevent falls and fractures.

Recker says older people who are healthy can also benefit from the higher levels, ”because the skin loses the ability to make vitamin D” as people age. Some older people also stay indoors more as they age, he says.

Other people may also need to pay close attention to vitamin D in their foods. Among them are people on corticosteroids and other medications that can affect bone health, Recker says.

What are the potential harms of excess vitamin D supplements?

Very high doses of vitamin D can cause extremely high levels of calcium in your blood, which can lead to heart rhythm problems, kidney stones and damage, and severe muscle weakness. This calcium excess usually happens if you take 40,000 IU per day for a couple of months or longer, or take a very large one-time dose.

Breakthrough in lung cancer therapy —  A new study shows that a combination of drugs can be used in targeted therapy against a common type of lung cancer.

Lung adenocarcinomas, the most common genetic subtype of lung cancer which has long defied treatment with targeted therapies, has had its growth halted by a combination of two already-in-use drugs in laboratory and animal studies, setting the stage for clinical trials of the drugs on patients, researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts and other scientists report in a new study.

The study, published in the journal Cancer Discovery, describes a new tack in the treatment of lung adenocarcinomas which account for about 40 percent of all lung cancers that carry mutations in the gene KRAS.

While most efforts to target KRAS directly with drugs have not proved successful, the authors of the current study took a more circuitous approach, targeting KRAS’s accomplices, the genes that carry out its instructions rather than KRAS itself, reports Science Daily.

“About 30 percent of lung adenocarcinomas have mutations in KRAS which amount to nearly 30,000 of all patients diagnosed with lung cancer each year in the United States,” says the study’s senior author, David Barbie, MD, of the Lowe Centre for Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“That represents the single biggest subset of lung cancer patients, if grouped by the mutations within their tumour cells. Unfortunately, there has not been a reliable way of striking at the genetic mechanism that causes these cells to proliferate.”

Mutations in KRAS cause cancer cells to grow and divide in a wildly disordered way. The lack of drugs able to block KRAS safely has led investigators to look for ways of stifling its effects “downstream”  by interfering with the signals it sends to other genes.

“The next step will be to take these results to the clinic where the combination can be tested on lung cancer patients,” says Wong.

“We’re in the process of developing a clinical trial. Because KRAS mutations are also common in colon and pancreatic cancer, we’re hopeful that trials will be organised for these patients as well.”

New drug could potentially treat lung cancer


An new experimental drug that has shown promise in the treatment of melanoma may potentially treat patients with a most common form of lung cancer, scientists say.

The drug has shown early potential as an effective treatment for non-small cell lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death among men and women worldwide.

Dr Edward Garon, director of thoracic oncology at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), presented the preliminary results of a Phase 1B study of the new drug, called MK-3475.

The detailed interim data on safety and activity came from a cohort of 38 patients with non-small cell lung cancer who were treated previously for the disease without positive results. For the study, the patients received MK-3475 every three weeks.

Among the participants, 24 per ce

nt responded to the drug, with their tumours shrinking, and the median overall survival rate was 51 weeks.

For those who responded, the median response duration- the average amount of time their tumours remained shrunk-had not been reached at the time of this analysis, so it is at least 62 weeks.

Based on this data, a Phase 2/3 trial comparing two different doses of MK-3475 to standard chemotherapy for lung cancer has begun enrolling patients.

Some cancer cells can evade detection by the immune system by expressing a protein called PD-L1, which interacts with the protein PD-1 to prevent the immu

ne system from seeing the cancer as an invader.

MK-3475, an anti-PD-1 immunotherapy drug made by Merck, allows the immune system to properly detect the cancer and to activate T cells-the so-called “foot soldiers” of the immune system-to attack and kill cancer cells.

The most commonly reported drug-related side effects in the study were of low grade.

“These are early results, but we ar

e very encouraged by what we’ve seen so far with this drug,” Garon said.

New hope for sufferers of thyroid cancer

Washington, Sept 30 (ANI): Patients with advanced thyroid cancer have for many years faced bleak prospects and no viable treatment options.

But now, building on recent discoveries about the genetics and cell signaling pathways of thyroid tumors, researchers are developing exciting new weapons against the disease, using kinase inhibitors that target tumor cell division and blood vessels.

Two recent clinical trials led by a researcher from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania showcase the great promise of these new approaches.

The first study provides additional data from the phase III DECISION trial of the drug sorafenib, a kinase inhibitor already approved for treatment of kidney and liver cancer, which was presented as a plenary during the 2013 annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting.

In the newly released findings, lead author Marcia Brose, MD, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of Otorhinolarlyngology: Head and Neck Surgery and the division of Hematology/Oncology in the Abramson Cancer Center, and her colleagues examined the effectiveness of sorafenib on thyroid cancers that harbor BRAF and RAS mutations.

Of the 417 patients enrolled in the trial, 256 had tumors collected for genetic analysis. As they expected, the most common mutations were found in the BRAF and RAS genes.

However, the analyses show that all groups, regardless of the presence of a BRAF and RAS mutation benefited from treatment with sorafenib.

The use of sorafenib for the first line treatment for advanced differentiated thyroid cancer is now being evaluated for approval by the FDA, which would represent the first effective drug for advanced thyroid patients in more than 40 years.

The second study Brose will present during the European Cancer Congress focused on the subgroup of patients with papillary thyroid cancer (PTC), which is the most prevalent form of advanced thyroid cancer.

About half of PTC patients harbor the BRAFV600E mutation, which is also present in melanomas that can be successfully treated with BRAF inhibitor drugs.

Taken together, the two trials offer substantial new hope for patients with progressive thyroid cancer. (ANI)

Eating walnuts may keep heart disease and diabetes at bay!

WalnutAre you overweight and scared of developing heart disease and diabetes? Walnuts might just be the answer to your worries. According to a study led by Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, eating walnuts may cut risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

The study was conducted by recruiting 46 overweight adults who were not smokers. They were then divided into two groups, and one group had walnuts in their diet, while the other did not. After 8 weeks, the health indicators for developing diabetes and heart disease in the people who had walnuts were significantly improved.

The study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition said: ‘FMD improved significantly from baseline when subjects consumed a walnut-enriched diet as compared with the control diet. Beneficial trends in systolic blood pressure reduction were seen, and maintenance of the baseline anthropometric values was also observed. Other measures were unaltered,’

Walnuts can also help cut the chances of prostate cancer

If that wasn’t reason enough to go to the supermarket, and pick up some walnut s- a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that eating walnuts can also help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

What makes walnuts so good?

Lead researcher of the study linking walnuts and prostate cancer, Dr. Paul Davis said walnuts have many ingredients which makes them so nutritious. ‘Walnuts are a whole food that provides a rich package of healthful substances, including omega-3 fatty acids, gamma tocopherol (a form of vitamin E), polyphenols, and antioxidants. These likely then work synergistically.’

Walnuts can also help boost your sex life

According to a study published in Biology of Reproduction, men aged 21-35 who regularly ate walnuts- had sperm with enhanced vitality and movement.

Ovarian tissue transplant – A new hope for female cancer survivors

Ovarian CancerCancer treatments, like chemotherapy or radiation therapy, highly hinder both hormonal production and reproductive potential in women, as the treatments attack fast growing cells in the body.

However, with an Australian woman, rendered infertile by ovarian cancer treatment, expecting twins after successfully undergoing ovarian tissue transplantation, doctors are expecting that the new technique could revolutionise fertility treatment.

Though the procedure had been carried out previously, this is for the first time that the tissue has been successfully transplanted into the abdomen instead of the ovaries.

Ovarian tissue transplant: How it is done

Healthy ovarian cortical tissue is removed using laparoscopic surgery (keyhole surgery) from the woman about to undergo cancer treatment. The minimally invasive procedure lasts approximately 1 hour and requires general anesthesia.

The ovary`s cortex is cut into tiny 1 millimetre thick strips and then frozen to be used for future transplantation.

Once the patient goes into remission post cancer treatment and plans to have a baby several slices of the previously frozen ovarian tissue can then be thawed and implanted near the fallopian, either orthotopic (on the natural location) or heterotopic (on the abdominal wall).

The cortex tissue strips contain immature follicles, once implanted back into the body start producing hormones and eggs like a normal ovary following which a woman starts to ovulate and can try for pregnancy either naturally or through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) technique.

Tracking yearly blood tests may reveal early-stage ovarian cancer way of screening for ovarian cancer appears to detect the disease in early stages, and if confirmed in clinical trials, the test could become a routine screening for women.

In the study, researchers tested the screening on more than 4,000 women over an 11-year period. The women underwent yearly blood tests, and the researchers recorded the levels of a protein called CA-125, which is produced by the majority of ovarian tumors. Women who had sudden increases in CA-125 levels were referred to a gynecologist and were given an ultrasound.

On the basis of their ultrasound results, 10 women underwent surgery during the study period. It turned out that four women had ovarian cancers still in an early stage, and five others had ovarian tumors that were either benign, or of low malignant potential (tumors that may become cancerous, but usually do not). One woman had endometrial cancer, according to the study published today (Aug. 26) in the journal Cancer.

The study suggested that the testing strategy had a specificity of 99.9 percent, the researchers said, meaning that only 0.1 percent of patients without cancer would be falsely identified as having the disease.

Two women in the study turned out to have ovarian tumors that were not detected by the screening, but both were of low malignant potential, the researchers said.

“The results from our study are not practice-changing at this time; however, our findings suggest that using a longitudinal (or change over time) screening strategy may be beneficial in postmenopausal women with an average risk of developing ovarian cancer,” study researcher Dr. Karen Lu, professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas, said in a statement.

Despite advances in treatment, ovarian cancer remains a highly lethal disease, mainly because most women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed when the disease is at a late stage. When caught at an early stage, 75 to 90 percent of patients survive at least five years, the researchers said.

There currently are no established  screening tests for ovarian cancer. For a cancer screening test to be useful, it has to be sensitive enough to detect markers of the disease before symptoms manifest, while also being specific enough so that it doesn’t falsely suggest cancer in people who don’t have it.

Previous investigations have looked at whether measuring women’s CA-125 levels might be an effective way to screen for ovarian cancer, but too often, the test has not been found to be sensitive enough to detect all cases of the disease, and at the same time has found too many false positives (women who turned out not to have cancer).

The new strategy is different because it tracks changes in each woman’s levels of CA-125, instead of only looking for a CA-125 level that might be considered high based on the average of the entire population. “It’s more personalized, and it also incorporates age,” Lu told LiveScience.

One of the challenges to developing an effective ovarian cancer screening strategy for women in the general population is that the screening has to be highly specific, so that follow-up testing and surgery that turn out to be unnecessary are kept to a minimum.

“In breast cancer screening, when a mammogram is abnormal, a biopsy is made,” before anything further is done, Lu said. “But in ovarian cancer, in order to confirm cancer, an actual surgery is needed to take out the ovaries and examine them.”

“In order for this method to become a screening test, it has to pass the gold standard,” she said. “It has to show that in a large group of women who did the screening, there were fewer deaths from ovarian cancer compared to another group who didn’t get screened.”

The researchers are waiting for the results of a larger, randomized study currently being conducted in the United Kingdom that uses the same screening strategy. The results are scheduled to be released by 2015.

“If the results of this study are also positive, then this will result in a change in practice,” Lu said.

  • 6 Foods That May Affect Breast Cancer Risk

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Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company.

Gall bladder, uterine cancer on the rise

Cervical cancer in women is decreasing, while uterine and gall bladder cancer is on the rise at least in major metropolitan cities, suggests India’s latest cancer statistics without providing any explanation for the observed trend.

According to the population based cancer registry prepared by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), actual reported cases of cervical cancer declined between 2009 and 2011 in Bangalore, Bhopal, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai. Decline was seen in Assam, Mizoram and Thiruvananthapuram, too. Uterine cancers,  are on the rise in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai in the same period. In Bangalore, the number of cases increased by 7.4 per cent between 1986 and 2009, whereas the rise was 7.3 per cent between 2005 and 2010 in Mumbai, compared to 1.7 per cent increase between 1982 and 2004.

“There is a declining trend in cervical cancer and increase in uterus and gall bladder cancer cases in some cities. We don’t know the reason yet,” said V M Katoch, director-general of ICMR. In the country, breast and cervical cancer remain the two most common cancers in women.

Among men, cancer of the lung, mouth, oesophagus and stomach are common. Cancers of the tongue, rectum, liver, lung, prostate, brain, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a type of leukaemia have shown statistically significant increase.Cancer of the gall bladder in women is increasing in Chennai, Bangalore and Bhopal. In Delhi, the hike is seen in men, whereas in Mumbai, it went up both in men and women. Lung cancer among women, too, had increased in the four metros.

The new statistics come from collation of data from 28 population based cancer registries, covering 7.45 per cent of the population. As many as 250 centres contributed to the database, which was approved by ICMR’s top science advisory panel last week.

This is the third report from the ICMR registry with the addition of new sites.

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