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While regular exercise has long been accepted as a preventative measure for just about every disease and condition out there, including premature death, studies are finding that exercise may play a therapeutic role in combating some of today’s most threatening diseases, including cancer. It may seem counterintuitive for sick, cancer patients on potent drugs, already exhausted from treatment, to fatigue their bodies even more in daily intensive exercise sessions. But researchers are finding that these sessions are saving patients’ lives. As presented in an article that appeared in The Scientist in April, exercise fights cancer in many different ways. During exercise, muscles release myokines that decrease cancer proliferation, dampening tumor growth and metastasis. Stress hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine, are also increased, which act directly on cancerous tumors and release immune cells into the bloodstream. Epinephrine triggers the release of natural killer (NK) cells into the bloodstream, and both hormones are…

Kaye was in her mid 60’s with a long history of hypertension, a cardiac arrhythmia that had been stable for several years, and an eye condition that wasn’t well defined but seemed to be progressing. She contacted me via our website to ask if I could help with some constipation she’d been experiencing over the last month. Normally I don’t do telehealth visits for new patients (only follow-up visits for out of town patients), but nothing about the last few months had been normal and she sounded like she was struggling so I agreed to help. Her medical history was complex, and included multiple trips to the Cleveland Clinic for second opinions for her eye problems, as well as several different specialists here in Washington DC. But my part in all this seemed pretty straightforward – stool was stuck in her colon and I just needed to help her come…

A new study looking at a non-invasive blood assay method to detect early colorectal cancer (CRC) could eventually mean the end of regular colonoscopy for CRC screening. The test capitalizes on new, more sensitive methods to detect circulating cells in the blood and looks at three blood markers: circulating gastrointestinal epithelial cells, somatic mutations and methylation of cell-free DNA. Researchers tested the assay in 354 patients who were already scheduled for their regular screening colonoscopy with no previous CRC diagnosis – 14% of patients had experienced symptoms or a positive fecal immunochemical test and 86% were asymptomatic. When compared to findings during colonoscopy, the blood test proved a sensitivity (true positives) of 100% for detecting CRC and 76% for detecting advanced adenomas (pre-cancerous polyps). Takeaway: Colonoscopy has the ability to look for pre-cancerous polyps as well as remove them, but it’s invasive nature and the requirement for sedation make it…

A fungus found on the skin and scalp of humans and animals may drive pancreatic cancer. A study published in Nature last month found that the fungus, a yeast known as Malassezia (which has also been linked to inflammatory bowel disease), can settle in the pancreas (an organ that was thought to be sterile until this decade), where fungus can proliferate 3,000 times faster than healthy tissue found in the organ. The rapid proliferation of Malassezia appears to fuel the growth of cancer tumors in the pancreas based on the study’s findings. To confirm the migration of fungi to the pancreas and its role in cancer tumor growth, scientists injected mice with fungi illuminated with a green fluorescent protein. In just minutes, the fungi travelled from the digestive tract to the pancreas. Scientists also observed that Malassezia was abundant in both mice and humans who developed pancreatic cancer. In mice,…

Oral antibiotics are tied to colorectal cancer (CRC). Researchers matched over 28,000 patients with CRC found in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink database with controls. Results showed that CRC risk depends on antibiotic type and location in the colon, but overall, CRC risk was dose dependent with any antibiotic use. Antibiotics with anti-anaerobic activity, which disrupts the gut microbiome in a way that allows carcinogenic microbes to develop, posed the greatest risk, especially in the proximal colon. These antibiotics include penicillin (ampicillin and amoxicillin). Interestingly, antibiotics showed a protective effect against rectal cancers, specifically in doses of more than 60 days of antibiotic exposure when compared to no antibiotic exposure. While the study was funded by Johns Hopkins Fisher Center Discovery Center and Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, the study reported indirect competing interests, including receiving financial support from pharmaceutical companies. Gut Takeaway: While these results do not prove a…

A high level of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) dramatically reduces the risk of getting lung and colorectal cancer (CRC) and significantly increases survival rates. In one of the most diverse retrospective cohort studies, researchers analyzed data from over 49,000 participants with a median age of 54 years. Those with the highest CRF levels (>12 METs, measured using a treadmill stress test) possessed a 77% lower risk of lung cancer and a 61% lower risk of CRC than those with the lowest fitness levels (<6 METs). Participants diagnosed with cancer who were in the highest CRF range prior to diagnosis also saw great benefits. Following diagnosis, those with lung cancer had a 44% lower risk of all-cause mortality and those with CRC, an 89% lower risk, compared to those who were less fit. American Cancer Society Takeaway: Researchers who conducted the study believe that these results act as some of the strongest evidence…

While colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence and mortality rates are decreasing in those 50 years of age and older, CRC in young adults is on the rise. New research sheds light on the differences between early and late onset CRC. Analyzing data from 36,000 patients, a recent study found that younger patients (aged 18 to 29 years) diagnosed with CRC are more likely to have specific genetic mutations and CRC sub-types, while older patients and those with predisposing conditions like inflammatory bowel disease have different clinical and genetic characteristics. Cancer  Takeaway: These very distinct differences in CRC between younger and older patients may affect how the cancer presents itself and may call for different types of treatments. The researchers who conducted the study are hoping for more studies looking at very young CRC patients and those with predisposing conditions. For more on early onset CRC, check out Did You Know – Colorectal Screening Age…

Probiotics significantly improve chemotherapy-induced diarrhea, a common and often severe side effect of chemotherapy drugs, which can threaten the effectiveness of treatment. The study included 291 patients undergoing chemotherapy (Fluropyrimidines and/or Irinotecan specifically) -145 participants received a twice-daily dose of a high potency probiotic powder and 146 participants received a placebo powder twice daily. Treatment began 14 days before chemotherapy and continued 2 weeks following the third cycle of chemo. Results showed successful reduction in incidence of diarrhea (mild to moderate) and in patient inflammatory patterns. European Society for Medical Oncology  Takeaway: This study shows promising results from a high potency, multi-strain probiotic in reducing diarrhea in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Hopefully this will result in a better quality of life, a more balanced microbiome, reduction in sickness and death related to diarrhea, and more effective cancer treatment. However, probiotics are living organisms and can be problematic in immunocompromised patients, including some cancer…