Saturday, July 23, 2005

Pineapple stems

First it was curry now it's pineapple stems. Something called bromelain is found in the extract of pineapple stems and researchers are finding that a few of the key molecules in it can both block and fight cancer cells. Bromelain is also used to clarify beer and tenderize meat. So if you aren't big on eating pineapple stems maybe you can get the same effect from beer and meat. For some reason I doubt it. The article is from the BBC News.

Two molecules isolated from an extract of crushed pineapple stems have shown promise in fighting cancer growth. One molecule called CCS blocks a protein called Ras, which is defective in approximately 30% of all cancers.

The other, called CCZ, stimulates the body's own immune system to target and kill cancer cells.

It is hoped the research, carried out by Queensland Institute of Medical Research, could lead to new anti-cancer drugs.

The Queensland team discovered that the extract also had pharmacological properties and could activate specific immune cells while, simultaneously, blocking the immune function of other cells.

Dr Julie Sharp, at Cancer Research UK, said: "The origin of many anti-cancer drugs can be found in nature.

"However, it's early days for this research and the real test will be to see if the effects seen in the lab can be reproduced successfully in patients."

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Renewed Hope

Update on Torres family in USA Today.


A brain-dead pregnant woman on life support has reached the milestone in her pregnancy where doctors believe the baby could realistically survive outside the womb, giving her family renewed hope about the devastating ordeal.

Susan Torres, 26, lost consciousness from a stroke May 7 after aggressive melanoma spread to her brain. Her husband, Jason Torres, said doctors told him his wife's brain functions had stopped.

Her fetus recently passed the 24th week of development — the earliest point at which doctors felt the baby would have a reasonable chance to survive, her brother-in-law said.

"The situation is pretty stable," said Justin Torres, who is serving as the family's spokesman. "Susan, we have said from the beginning, is the toughest person in that ICU room."

He said the family is "as certain within the limits of sonogram technology" that the baby is a girl. "Cecilia" was one possible name the couple had discussed, Justin Torres said.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Update on Anne Dinnell

Anne Dinnell was diagnosed with an advanced case of melanoma last summer. After her surgery she decided to not have chemotherapy and instead went on an all organic diet. She was anxiously awaiting a PET scan in June and the good news is that she had her test and she still appears to be cancer-free.

Excerpts from the Santa Cruz Sentinel:
Dinnell’s unusual melanoma case began last summer when a mysterious spot under one of her fingernails first made her suspicious.

Surgeons eventually amputated part of Dinnell’s finger and removed cancerous tissue from her neck, underarm and hip.

Doctors predicted that with chemotherapy and radiation treatments, their patient would live five years. Dinnell decided to try a different approach.

Gerson Therapy prescribes specific organic foods taken in carefully prescribed ways, and a series of coffee enemas which, according to the program’s proponents, detoxify the body.

Dinnell says that after getting the results of last week’s PET scan, her oncologist told her to "keep doing what you’re doing, whatever it is."

More on Curry in HealthScout

More on the cancer-inhibiting properties of turmeric, a spice used in curry dishes at HealthScout.


"We could completely inhibit the growth of the tumor if we used a big enough dose," said study co-author Bharat B. Aggarwal, chief of the Cytokine Research Section in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. His report is set to appear in the Aug. 15 issue of Cancer.

They zeroed in on a molecule called NF-kappa B, which is known to be overactive in several types of tumors, including melanoma. The turmeric shut down the molecule and that lead to inhibition of the tumor growth, Aggarwal explained.

The new findings were praised by Costas Koumenis, an associate professor of radiation oncology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. "I think it's an interesting and provocative study," he said. "It shows some new insight into how turmeric is working to inhibit the growth of melanoma cells."

But he cautioned that the study was done in the lab, and the spice must be tested on animals, and eventually people, before it is proven to be effective.

For the past 20 years, Koumenis said, turmeric has been studied, mostly as an agent to prevent cancer. For instance, some researchers have found an association between diets rich in curcumin and reduced rates of colon cancer. But more recently, the focus has shifted to study the spice as a cancer treatment.

Monday, July 18, 2005

[Susan Torres Fund] July 18 is here

---------------------- Forwarded Message: ---------------------
From: Susan-Announcements mailing list
Subject: [Susan Torres Fund] July 18 is here
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 14:49:39 +0000

The Torres and Rollin families are happy to announce that Susan and the
baby have made it to the minimum delivery date for baby girl Torres. From
here on out, the doctors will monitor the baby's progress on a daily

Susan's cancer is progressing, but she is fighting all that much harder to
give the baby a chance. The cancer has spread to her liver, but the
family believe Susan will fight and deliver her baby in the next three to
five weeks.

Virginia Hospital Center has refitted to room next door to Susan's as a
delivery room in order to take no chances.

Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers. We will be keeping
everyone updated on a more regular basis as everything progresses.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

"All the days from here on out are a gift."

Latest update on Susan Torres in today's Washington Post.

Update: Also an article in Monday's USA Today.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Cancer-fighting Curry

New research is suggesting that one of the spices in curry can fight melanoma along with other cancers. This exciting new information is from researchers at the world-renowned M. D. Anderson Cancer Centre so this sounds legit. I think we're going to be hearing more on this one in the coming months.

This news of course begs for an answer to an obvious question...

"The incidence of the top four cancers in the U.S. - colon, breast, prostate, and lung - is ten times lower in India." (Bharat B. Aggarwal, Ph.D., professor of cancer medicine in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics)

From the M.D. Anderson Press Release.

Press Release from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Hindustan Times

Excerpts from CNN:

The compound that makes curry yellow could help fight skin cancer, U.S. researchers reported Monday.

They said curcumin, found in the spice turmeric, interferes with melanoma cells.

Tests in laboratory dishes show that curcumin made melanoma skin cancer cells more likely to self-destruct in a process known as apoptosis.

The same team has found that curcumin helped stop the spread of breast cancer tumor cells to the lungs of mice.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Chuck Cadman

After his 16-year-old son was stabbed to death by a group of teenagers during a random attack, Chuck Cadman became a crusader for victim's rights and an advocate of tougher penalties for young criminals. A Canadian, Chuck Cadman became a Member of Parliament in 1997 and worked to change the criminal code. Through his efforts, he was able to replace the Young Offenders Act with the stricter Youth Criminal Justice act in 2003. That same year, he was diagnosed with melanoma. He died Saturday. He was 57.

CBC News
Associated Press
The London Free Press

Update: Great article on Chuck Cadman in MacCleans.

Excerpts from the above news stories:

From London Free Press
He had undergone rounds of treatment and as late as May thought he was beating it. But the once-stocky Cadman had lost more than a quarter of his body weight in the fight.

From Associated Press
Cadman was recognizable for his mane of long, silver hair, drawn back into a pony tail. He was once mistaken for a janitor in his own parliamentary office.

A technician by trade and a one-time rock guitarist, Cadman spent the last federal election day playing recorded music beside the grave of his son, Jesse.

From CBC News
A personal tragedy propelled Cadman into politics after years of working as an electronics technician for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.

His 16-year-old son, Jesse, was stabbed to death on a Surrey street in a random attack by a group of teenagers in 1992.

Cadman and his wife, Dona, became activists calling for justice reform and victims' rights. They co-founded the group Crime, Responsibility and Youth (CRY) in 1993.

Cadman supported dealing with first-time, non-violent young offenders outside of the formal court system and counselled teenagers who were deemed likely to commit violent crimes.

But he also fought for a tougher Young Offenders' Act, demanding stronger penalties for teenagers who committed repeat or violent crimes.

After becoming frustrated with what he saw as a lack of action by Jean Chr├ętien's Liberal government, Cadman ran for office and became a Member of Parliament in 1997.

Much of Cadman's work in parliament centred on trying to change the laws for young offenders and he served as justice critic for the official opposition, among other contributions.

In 2003, his efforts were rewarded when the Young Offenders Act was replaced by the stricter Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Frankie Casey

Frankie Casey has the unfortunate distinction of being the fourth teacher in three months to die from melanoma (1,2,3).I don't know if it's just a sad coincidence that four popular teachers died at about the same time from melanoma, or if it is a testament to the respect we have for teachers that they are noticed more than others when they leave us too early. People are dying all the time from melanoma, but maybe teachers get more press when they die because they leave a larger hole in their community after they are gone.

Frankie Casey, coach and teacher at South Lenoir High School in North Carolina, died from melanoma last week. He was 51 and is survived by wife Lesli and 11-year-old son, Charlie.

I think maybe the last couple of quotes below better explain what I was trying to say above about the impact teachers have on their community and why we notice when they're gone.

Excerpts from the Free Press:
He taught and coached at Contentnea Elementary, Savannah Middle and South Lenoir High School in a career that lasted more than 25 years. Most of those years were spent at Savannah, but his final four years of coaching and teaching were at South Lenoir. Among the numerous sports he coached were baseball, football and girls' basketball.

In the past year, though, Casey battled melanoma, a vicious type of skin cancer. Not able to work in his beloved field, he spent all his time - when he wasn't receiving treatment - at a South Lenoir athletic event.

His presence meant a lot to the South Lenoir coaches and athletes.

"Mr. Casey was always there for us," said Paul Novicki, a three-sport standout athlete who graduated from South Lenoir last month.

"Even though we knew he was really sick, he rarely missed a game. We'll never know exactly everything he went through, but I hope he knew that we played every game for him last year."

Legendary South Lenoir coach Jimmy Smith said, "Frankie was an important part of the South Lenoir family and a special, special man. He made everyone a better person just being around him. I know I'm going to really miss him."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Terrence M. McCready

This has been a bad year for melanoma and teachers. Terrence McCready of Ohio is the third teacher to die from melanoma in as many months (1,2). He was diagnosed in August of 2003 and he died last week.

Terrence's family has been hit especially hard by melanoma. His father, Gerald, also died from melanoma earlier this year.

I think it's worth noting that Terrence had skin cancer removed in 1998 and had annual checkups since, and he still contracted a lethal melanoma.

Excerpts from his obituary in the Toledo Blade:
When his condition was diagnosed in August, 2003, he was working toward a master's degree in history at the University of Toledo, his wife, Jennifer, said. He'd planned to pursue a doctorate and a university-level teaching post.

Mr. McCready of West Toledo had skin cancer removed in 1998 and went in for annual checkups afterward. He taught history and government for several years...

"We've got two small children, so we lived our lives as though cancer wasn't an issue," his wife said. "We went to weddings and funerals and lived life. When you have children, you have to live for them. That was his inspiration."

Fun at the Dermatologists

I ran across this amusing story about one blogger's recent experience at the dermatologist's office to have a mole removed. I guess the moral of this story is make sure your dermatologist removes the correct mole... not something you'd think you'd have to check.

Posted by Adam on Inkspots Blog:
I went to the dermatologist two or three weeks ago to have some moles checked out to make sure I wasn't dying from melanoma at age 24. Everything checked out until I wanted her to look at a small mole on my shoulder (closer to my neck than my arm, so I couldn't see it by turning my head).

I said, "Can you take a look at this mole?" And gestured as such to the general area of said mole. Expecting her to see which one I was talking about (because I had not noticed any other ones in that general area) she said, "Well, that looks a little off to me so I'm going to be safe and remove it and have it biopsied." I said, "Sounds good to me, I'd rather know than not."

Right then and there, she shoots me up, cuts away and puts in five stitches (there were a lot because I told her I was going on a backpacking trip in a month or so and didn't want the strap to be riding on a healing cut).

I left and went home. When I got home, I look in the mirror to see the damage and notice that the mole I was talking about...ta da, is still there. Well, having the faith that I do in the practice of medicine, I figured (and still do) that she decided that mole was okay and saw something else that I hadn't.

Two or three days later, I'm looking at the incision and seeing some redness, feeling some warmth, and noticing a little bit of pus on my bandages when I take them off. Great, an infection! Sweet!

I call the doctor and get another appointment so she can take a look. When I get there, she decides that yes I have an infection and posits that I do because what she actually removed was an inflamed hair folicle that was infected. All right, missed the mole, got the infected pimple/ingrown hair/whatever, gave me five stitches to boot, and I got an infection. The best part, during this visit and my last (to get the stitches removed), both the doctor and the nurse practitioner imply my fault in the whole incident because I was "picking" at the folicle. Yeah, ya dummy, they itch, I scratch.

She should have said, "I'm sorry, I mistook this red bump on your shoulder for cancer because you were scratching it." Damn, I'm sorry, I'll try not to get any more of them and if I do, I'll chew on painsticks to avoid scratching any of them.

Someone told me that it's malpractice, but I'm not so hard up for cash or such an idealist that I think medical professionals are perfect. I'm just upset I was one of the mistakes. Oh, well, glad it's not cancer.

Robert Davolt

Robert Davolt was known in his San Francisco community as a star and a "true leatherman". He was diagnosed on April 19th with melanoma and given three months to live. He died less than a month later.

From his obituary in today's San Francisco Chronicle:

In his final online column, Mr. Davolt wrote: "I had a lot that I still wanted to accomplish. ... But I have seen the world, or at least five continents of it, swam in five oceans and touched countless islands. I have been counted down and out, started over, been to the edge and back so many times. Inevitably, there had to be one I wouldn't come back from."

Monday, July 04, 2005

Tanning Bed Dangers Difficult to Study

Happy 4th of July.

I rarely post anything regarding tanning salons anymore because most of the articles I read offer little new information that most of us don't already know. This article ("Tan is artificial; threat is genuine - Experts fear salons are no safer than sun, but level of risk is unclear") in today's Dallas Morning News though is the best one I've read in a long time on tanning salons and it's actually well-balanced. The article admits that it's difficult to determine how dangerous tanning salons actually are.

The Dallas Morning News has one of these unfortunate newspaper sites that requires you to register to read articles. If you don't feel like registering to read one story in a newspaper you'll probably never read again, go to and enter and you'll usually get a working login you can use.

From the Dallas Morning News:

The World Health Organization recently stated that artificial tanning "may provide the ideal setting for the development of malignant skin cancer" because users get periodic bursts of intense radiation. In addition, people in tanning beds often place their whole bodies under the ultraviolet light, leaving about twice the surface area exposed to direct rays.

Some doctors even suspect that tanning bed popularity may be one reason why younger people appear to be getting skin cancer with increasing frequency.

However, even in issuing its opinion, the health organization acknowledged that research so far has not provided consistent results.

"There are different arguments as to how much risk there actually is," said Dr. Martin Weinstock of Brown University. This month, Dr. Weinstock attended an international gathering of experts the World Health Organization invited to France to evaluate artificial tanning risks.

One of the difficulties in studying tanning device hazards, scientists say, is that cancer patients who have spent time in tanning beds have also tended to love the sun, making it difficult to tease out whether their risk came from natural or artificial light. Cancer usually smolders for decades before it flares up on the skin, so most studies must rely on asking patients about sunning habits they had years before. And because cancers like melanoma are deadly but not among the most common malignancies, the studies up to now have been small.

One thing has not been in dispute. That lovely bronze is a response to radiation. "UV light clearly causes DNA damage," said Dr. Patrick Hwu, the chairman of melanoma medical oncology at the University of Texas-M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. If indoor tanning is doing its job by UV light, he said, "I think it's not safe."

But how unsafe is it?

You'll need to read the article to find out...

Actually, while you're there, checkout this article ("Skin cancer seeps into a younger crowd - Melanoma affects a growing number of patients - even kids") on melanoma and kids.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Larry King Interview with the Torres Family

I was able to catch the Larry King interview with Jason and Justin Torres Thursday night. It was a pretty good interview despite the host (cmon' Larry it's MELANOMA, not meningitis). I loved Justin's response to the insensitive caller who asked him why the family was willing to discuss such a "personal" problem on national television. Uh, "we need the money" was his appropriate reply. They are probably looking at half a million in medical bills and they aren't going to get much help by keeping it a private, personal matter. No one should have to handle what they are dealing with alone, without the support of their community, and that community is us... so donate if you're willing.

The transcript of the Larry King interview with Justin and Jason Torres is available here. I'd excerpt from it but if you've read this far you're obviously interested enough to just go read the thing yourself.

Skin cancer facts

Saw this in the Asbury Park Press. Brief little article entitled "Just the Facts."

From the Asbury Park Press:

More than 1 million cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year.

Of the new skin cancer cases, about 79 percent will be basal cell carcinoma, 15 percent will be squamous cell carcinoma and 5 percent will be invasive melanoma. The remaining 1 percent are more rare types of skin cancer.

An estimated 10,590 people will die of skin cancer this year — 7,770 from melanoma and 2,820 from other skin cancers. One American dies of melanoma every 68 minutes.

Source: National Institutes of Health

and Skin Cancer Foundation