Tagcancer

Brain Training May Help Clear Cognitive Fog Caused by Chemotherapy

I’ve linked to research before casting doubt on the efficacy of “brain training” games and software (other than double n-back). But some new research reported by the MIT Technology Review is more promising:

Cancer survivors sometimes suffer from a condition known as “chemo fog”—a cognitive impairment caused by repeated chemotherapy. A study hints at a controversial idea: that brain-training software might help lift this cognitive cloud.

Various studies have concluded that cognitive training can improve brain function in both healthy people and those with medical conditions, but the broader applicability of these results remains controversial in the field.

In a study published in the journal Clinical Breast Cancer, investigators report that those who used a brain-training program for 12 weeks were more cognitively flexible, more verbally fluent, and faster-thinking than survivors who did not train. […]

“This is a well-done study—they had not just one transfer test but several,” says Hambrick, who notes that many studies of cognitive training depend on a single test to measure results. “But an issue is the lack of activity within the control group.” Better would be to have the control group do another demanding cognitive task in lieu of Lumosity training—something analogous to a placebo, he says: “The issue is that maybe the improvement in the group that did the cognitive training doesn’t reflect enhancement of basic cognitive processes per se, but could be a motivational phenomenon.”

Full Story: MIT Technology Review: Brain Training May Help Clear Cognitive Fog Caused by Chemotherapy

See also: Dual N-Back FAQ

What Happens When A Drug Works For Only One Person?

From Nature:

By all rights, Gerald Batist’s patient should have died nine years ago. Her pancreatic cancer failed to flinch in the face of the standard arsenal — surgery, radiation, chemotherapy — and Batist, an oncologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, estimated that she had one year to live. With treatment options dwindling, he enrolled her in a clinical trial of a hot new class of drugs called farnesyltransferase inhibitors. Animal tests had suggested that the drugs had the potential to defeat some of the deadliest cancers, and pharmaceutical firms were racing to be the first to bring such compounds to market.

But the drugs flopped in clinical trials. Companies abandoned the inhibitors — one of the biggest heartbreaks in cancer research over the past decade. For Batist’s patient, however, the drugs were anything but disappointing. Her tumours were resolved; now, a decade later, she remains cancer free. And Batist hopes that he may soon find out why.

The US National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Maryland, is recruiting stories, tissue samples and clinical data from up to 200 such ‘exceptional responders’ to learn why these patients benefited from drugs that failed most others. The effort is part of a larger push among cancer researchers to focus on single-subject, or ‘n-of-1’, studies that could offer new insights into the disease. The tactic initially met with resistance, says Charles Sawyers, a cancer researcher at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and an advocate of the approach. “It’s in vogue to talk about your n-of-1 study now,” he says. “But when I was in medical school this was called an anecdote — and it was a bad word.”

Full Story: Nature: Cancer researchers revisit ‘failed’ clinical trials

(via Boing Boing)

Modified MDMA (Ecstasy) May Be the Key to Curing Certain Types of Cancer

Ecstasy is known to kill some cancer cells, but scientists have increased its effectiveness 100-fold, they said in Investigational New Drugs journal.

Their early study showed all leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma cells could be killed in a test tube, but any treatment would be a decade away. […]

In 2006, a research team at the University of Birmingham showed that ecstasy and anti-depressants such as Prozac had the potential to stop cancers growing.

The problem was that it needed doses so high they would have been fatal if given to people.

The researchers, in collaboration with the University of Western Australia, have chemically re-engineered ecstasy by taking some atoms away and putting new ones in their place.

BBC: Modified ecstasy ‘attacks blood cancers’

Using Swarm Intelligence to Build Targeted Anti-Cancer Nano-Drugs

Nanoparticles and insect swarms

The results of Geoffrey von Maltzahn et al. in their Nature Materials publication reveal that nanoparticles that communicate with each other can deliver more than 40-fold higher doses of chemotherapeutics (anti-cancer drugs) to tumors than nanoparticles that do not communicate can deliver. These results show the potential for nanoparticle communication to amplify drug delivery over that achievable by nanoparticles that work alone, similar to how insect swarms perform better as a group than the individual insects do on their own.

Scientific American: Learning from Insect Swarms: Smart Cancer Targeting

(via Social Physicist)

THC Cuts Lung Cancer Tumors in Half, Study Finds

THC molecule illustration

Then, for three weeks, researchers injected standard doses of THC into mice that had been implanted with human lung cancer cells, and found that tumors were reduced in size and weight by about 50 percent in treated animals compared to a control group. There was also about a 60 percent reduction in cancer lesions on the lungs in these mice as well as a significant reduction in protein markers associated with cancer progression, Preet says.

Although the researchers do not know why THC inhibits tumor growth, they say the substance could be activating molecules that arrest the cell cycle. They speculate that THC may also interfere with angiogenesis and vascularization, which promotes cancer growth.

Preet says much work is needed to clarify the pathway by which THC functions, and cautions that some animal studies have shown that THC can stimulate some cancers. “THC offers some promise, but we have a long way to go before we know what its potential is,” she said.

Science Daily: Marijuana Cuts Lung Cancer Tumor Growth In Half, Study Shows

(via Socialphysicist)

Previously: Does Marijuana Shrink Tumors?

Frankincense: Could it be a cure for cancer?

frankincense

But immunologist Mahmoud Suhail is hoping to open a new chapter in the history of frankincense.
Scientists have observed that there is some agent within frankincense which stops cancer spreading, and which induces cancerous cells to close themselves down. He is trying to find out what this is.

“Cancer starts when the DNA code within the cell’s nucleus becomes corrupted,” he says. “It seems frankincense has a re-set function. It can tell the cell what the right DNA code should be.
“Frankincense separates the ‘brain’ of the cancerous cell – the nucleus – from the ‘body’ – the cytoplasm, and closes down the nucleus to stop it reproducing corrupted DNA codes.”
Working with frankincense could revolutionise the treatment of cancer. Currently, with chemotherapy, doctors blast the area around a tumour to kill the cancer, but that also kills healthy cells, and weakens the patient. Treatment with frankincense could eradicate the cancerous cells alone and let the others live.

Read More – BBC: Frankincense: Could it be a cure for cancer?

(Thanks Paul)

See also: Incense is psychoactive: Scientists identify the biology behind the ceremony

Scientists crack ‘entire genetic code’ of cancer

Sometimes mutating is bad for you:

Scientists have unlocked the entire genetic code of two of the most common cancers – skin and lung – a move they say could revolutionise cancer care.

Not only will the cancer maps pave the way for blood tests to spot tumours far earlier, they will also yield new drug targets, says the Wellcome Trust team. […]

The lung cancer DNA code had more than 23,000 errors largely triggered by cigarette smoke exposure.

From this, the experts estimate a typical smoker acquires one new mutation for every 15 cigarettes they smoke.

Although many of these mutations will be harmless, some will trigger cancer.

BBC: Scientists crack ‘entire genetic code’ of cancer

(via Social Physicist)

Curry spice ‘kills cancer cells’

An extract found in the bright yellow curry spice turmeric can kill off cancer cells, scientists have shown.

The chemical – curcumin – has long been thought to have healing powers and is already being tested as a treatment for arthritis and even dementia.

Now tests by a team at the Cork Cancer Research Centre show it can destroy gullet cancer cells in the lab.

BBC: Curry spice ‘kills cancer cells’

(via Cryptogon)

I thought I’d linked to something about the health effects of curry before, but now I can’t find it.

Tumors Feel The Deadly Sting Of Nanobees

When bees sting, they pump poison into their victims. Now the toxin in bee venom has been harnessed to kill tumor cells by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The researchers attached the major component of bee venom to nano-sized spheres that they call nanobees.

In mice, nanobees delivered the bee toxin melittin to tumors while protecting other tissues from the toxin’s destructive power. The mice’s tumors stopped growing or shrank. The nanobees’ effectiveness against cancer in the mice is reported in advance online publication Aug. 10 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Science Daily: Tumors Feel The Deadly Sting Of Nanobees

(via Chris Arkenberg)

The Germ Of An Idea

Some people are more prone to infection than others. One answer could be to dose them with the molecules that their immune systems cannot make.

“Researchers are studying how different versions of certain genes could cause some people to succumb to infection whereas others are left relatively unscathed. They thus hope to explain not only why some people can be infested with virulent microbes without contracting a disease (whereas others become ill even though they are less infected) but also why such patterns run in families and in ethnic groups. Laurent Abel and Jean-Laurent Casanova of the Necker Medical School in Paris have found that a different version of a single gene out of the 25,000 or so in the human genome can make all the difference to whether or not a person suffers from many common diseases.”

(via The Economist)

(see also “A Cancer-Proof Mouse” via The Daily Galaxy)

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