007 Health Research Report 06 SEP 2007

6 September 07 Health Science Synopsis

*Staff Required Reading

Ralph Turchiano

In This Issue:

1.      Cranberries may improve chemotherapy for ovarian cancer
2.      Vitamin E’s lack of heart benefit linked to dosage
3.      Toxic shock: immune system’s anthrax link (important please review)
4.      Statin treatment may curb Alzheimer’s brain changes (JUNK SCIENCE)
5.      New study: Pine bark reduces perimenopausal symptoms
6.      Who will recover spontaneously from hepatitis C virus infection
7.      Flaxseed shows potential to reduce hot flashes
8.      Red Wine Compound Shown To Prevent Prostate Cancer
9.      Experimental anti-cancer drug made from corn lillies kills brain tumor stem cells
10.  VA Cancer Data Blockade May Imperil Surveillance
11.  Hepatitis E in Europe — are pigs or pork the problem?
12.  Many medical residents appear to lack biostatistics knowledge needed to interpret clinical research
14.  Right breakfast bread keeps blood sugar in check all day

Public release date: 21-Aug-2007

Cranberries may improve chemotherapy for ovarian cancer

BOSTON, Aug. 21, 2007 — Compounds in cranberries may help improve the effectiveness of platinum drugs that are used in chemotherapy to fight ovarian cancer, researchers have found in a laboratory study that will be reported today at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society. The scientists demonstrated in cell culture studies that human ovarian cancer cells resistant to platinum drugs became up to 6 times more sensitized to the drugs after exposure to the cranberry compounds in comparison to cells that were not exposed to the compounds, which were obtained from juice extracts.

Although preliminary, the findings have the potential to save lives and reduce the harmful side effects associated with using high doses of platinum drugs for the treatment of ovarian cancer, the researchers say, adding that human studies are still needed. The new study adds to a growing number of potential health benefits linked to cranberries.

The new study focused on cranberry juice because of past research suggesting that the juice has a wide range of potential health benefits, including the ability to fight urinary tract infections, stomach ulcers, and cancer. Singh and his associates obtained ovarian cancer cells that were relatively resistant to platinum. They treated the cells with various doses of a purified extract of commercially available cranberry drink (containing 27 percent pure juice), exposed the cells to the platinum drug paraplatin and compared them to cells that were not exposed to the extract.

Paraplatin killed 6 times more cancer cells that were pre-treated with juice extract compared to cells that were exposed to the cancer drug alone, the researchers say. The extract also slowed the growth and spread of some cancer cells. The maximum amount of juice extract given to the cells was the human equivalent of about a cup of cranberry juice, according to the researchers.

Singh and colleagues believe that the active compounds in the extract are powerful antioxidants called ‘A-type’ proanthocyanidins that are unique to cranberries and not found in other fruits. The researchers add that they do not understand exactly how the cranberry compounds work. However, based on research by other groups, these compounds appear to bind to and block certain tumor promoter proteins found in the ovarian cancer cells, they say. The result is that the cancer cells become more vulnerable to attack from the platinum drugs, the scientists say, noting that the cranberry compounds are not a cure for cancer.

Public release date: 22-Aug-2007

Vitamin E’s lack of heart benefit linked to dosage

Nashville (Tenn.) – The reported failure of vitamin E to prevent heart attacks may be due to underdosing, according to a new study by investigators at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The findings, published early online in Free Radical Biology and Medicine, suggest that these earlier studies all had a fundamental flaw – the doses used weren’t high enough to have a significant antioxidant effect. In fact, no studies have ever conclusively demonstrated the dose at which vitamin E can be considered an antioxidant drug, the researchers report.

Epidemiological data and animal studies suggested that antioxidant compounds like vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene might offer some protection against heart attack in individuals at risk.

But subsequent controlled clinical trials of vitamin E – which showed little to no benefit from the vitamin – stymied that hope.

These results caused many to discount vitamin E supplementation as a cardioprotective treatment, but Morrow and Roberts suspected that the studies had been poorly designed. All of the trials simply gave a dose of vitamin E and looked for end points such as heart attack occurrence. But Morrow and Roberts found a critical piece of information missing.

“All of these studies were designed in a way that they never assessed the ability of the dose of vitamin E tested to effectively reduce oxidant stress,” Morrow said.

In the new study, Morrow and Roberts determined the optimum antioxidant dose of vitamin E using an assay they developed to measure compounds formed by oxidative stress processes, called F2-isoprostanes. This measure, said Roberts, “has been independently validated as the best measure of oxidative stress status in vivo.”

The researchers first determined how long it took for a very high dose of vitamin E – 3200 IU/day – to suppress oxidative stress in individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease.

To their surprise, it took 16 weeks for this dose – which is more than 100 times the recommended daily intake and about four times higher than doses used in most previous clinical studies – to maximally suppress F2-isoprostane formation.

In another group with similar cardiovascular risk factors, the researchers administered varying doses (0, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and 3200 IU/day) over the 16-week period to find the minimum effective dose.

They found that it was necessary to give at least 1600 IU per day to cause a significant reduction in oxidative stress – twice that used in some of the previous clinical trials.

Ralph’s Note- Since Vitamin E is Fat Soluble, they should now measure this marker in individuals who have been consuming Vitamin E for much longer durations.

Public release date: 23-Aug-2007

Toxic shock: immune system’s anthrax link (important please review)

Human immune proteins crucial for fighting cancer, viruses and bacterial infections belong to an ancient and lethal toxin family previously only found in bacteria, Australian researchers have found.

These proteins, called perforins, are related to bacterial toxins that cause diseases such as anthrax, gas gangrene and scarlet fever. The discovery was made by a team led by Professor James Whisstock and Dr Michelle Dunstone from Monash University’s School of Biomedical Sciences.

Professor Whisstock, winner of the 2006 Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year, said the team was stunned when it became clear that the bacterial toxins and perforins had a common ancestor.

“Over millions of years of evolution bacteria developed these proteins as weapons of attack,” he said. “But animals have evolved these proteins for defence against that attack. It’s a molecular arms race and there’s still no clear winner.”

Professor Whisstock said perforins were so-called because they kill bacteria, virally-infected cells and cancerous cells by punching tiny holes that perforate them. “People who lack one of these perforins can develop a serious blood disease called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis and may be predisposed to develop cancer,” he said.

Professor Whisstock said certain perforins were not only important for defending humans against attack by bacteria and viruses, but also important for propagating the human species because of their role in embryo implantation. “It is ironic that we fear diseases such as anthrax yet from the same family of toxins comes a protein that is involved in reproduction,” he said.

Ralph’s Note- This is important due to anthrax vaccination. Those vaccinated should be monitored for abnormally low performing levels now. This Vaccination can now lead to unanticipated consequences.

Public release date: 27-Aug-2007

Statin treatment may curb Alzheimer’s brain changes (JUNK SCIENCE)

SEATTLE-People who take statin drugs may be less likely to develop the brain changes that signal Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in the August 28, 2007, issue of Neurology(r), the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology

Previous research had suggested that people who received statins might be less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. “But our study is the first to compare the brains of people who had received statins with those who had not,” said Gail (Ge) Li, MD, PhD. The paper’s lead author, Dr. Li is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, in Seattle.

She and her colleagues examined the brains of 110 Group Health members, aged 65 to 79, who had participated in Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) and who donated their brains for research. A joint project of Group Health and the University of Washington, ACT is a prospective cohort study started in 1994. It includes a random sample of Group Health members age 65 and older who had no thinking difficulties when enrolled.

Ralph Note – The News Ran with this one as a discovery, yet this study was not randomized. In addition they never said if any, or if all of them had Alzheimer’s disease or not. It would of been easier, and cheaper just to see how many people taking cholesterol lowering drugs got  Alzheimer’s. Compared to those not taking the medications. This raises a red flag with me. Due to the simple reason, they took such a obscure approach to the issue.

Public release date: 28-Aug-2007

New study: Pine bark reduces perimenopausal symptoms

A study to be published in an upcoming edition of the Scandinavian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reveals that Pycnogenol® (pic-noj-en-all), pine bark extract from the French maritime pine tree, reduces “climacteric symptoms” such as hot flashes, depression, panic attacks, cholesterol and other common symptoms associated with women entering menopause transition. The results suggest Pycnogenol® may serve as an alternative treatment to estrogen replacement therapy, which is the most common remedy of pre-menopause (“perimenopausal”) symptoms.

“Pycnogenol® was chosen for this study due to previous research revealing health benefits associated with cognitive function, skin elasticity, nitric oxide stimulation, free radical scavenging and the broadening of antioxidant activity,” said Dr. Peter Rohdewald, Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Germany’s University of Munster and a lead researcher of this study. “Achieving these health benefits is key to treating perimenopausal symptoms naturally.”

The randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study was conducted at Ham-Ming Hospital in Taiwan with 155 perimenopausal women. Each day, patients either received 200 mg Pycnogenol® or placebo, and recorded their symptoms using the Women’s Health Questionnaire (WHQ). The WHQ consisted of the following: somatic symptoms, depressed mood, vasomotoric symptoms, memory/concentration, attractiveness, anxiety, sexual behavior, sleep problems and menstrual symptoms

After six months, LDL (bad) cholesterol dropped by 10 percent with Pycnogenol® treatment compared to placebo. Patients who supplemented with Pycnogenol® also had increased antioxidant levels compared to the placebo group. During treatment, rapid improvement of symptoms was reported from the Pycnogenol® group after one month. All symptoms of the WHQ improved significantly compared to the start of treatment, and patients did not report unwanted side effects. In the placebo group, no significant changes of symptoms were recorded

Numerous other published studies reveal Pycnogenol’s® effectiveness for women’s health, such as relieving menstrual pain and endometriosis, and it is patent-protected for this application. Additional studies reveal Pycnogenol® is a natural anti-inflammatory, which provides the basis for the rationale to use Pycnogenol® to naturally moderate inflammatory pain sensation involved in menstruation.

Public release date: 29-Aug-2007

Who will recover spontaneously from hepatitis C virus infection

Twenty to fifty percent of HCV infected patients recovers spontaneously. The hepatitis C patients and their relatives like to know if his/her infection would fall into the category for self recovery.

A research article to be published on August 21 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology addresses this question. The research team led by Dr. Mihm from Georg-August-Universität spent more than 8 years working with a cohort of 67 patients who spontaneously recovered from HCV infection. In addition to these, the researchers included a similar number of patients with chronic HCV infection. Large sample size allowed these investigators to obtain results with great statistical significance, and to draw very reliable conclusions.

One conclusion reported by the investigators is, patients who self recovered usually have lower levels of HCV antibody. Thus patients with lower HCV antibody titer may have a brighter clinical outcome. However, for a practical standard to be established to define a low HCV antibody titer, more effort is needed by investigators in the future.

Another interesting conclusion reached by these investigators is, co-infection by hepatitis B virus (HBV) is associated with a higher possibility of self recovery. The investigators suggested that the infection of HBV interferes with the HCV replication, which would finally lead to virus eradiacation.. HCV patients co-infected by hepatitis A virus also have a better chance of self recovery, possibly by a similar mechanism.

Ralph’s Note- The next step will be to see if those vaccinated against Hep A and Hep B become infected with Hep C more often.

Public release date: 29-Aug-2007

Flaxseed shows potential to reduce hot flashes

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Data from a new Mayo Clinic (http://mayoclinic.edu) study suggest that dietary therapy using flaxseed can decrease hot flashes in postmenopausal women who do not take estrogen. The findings from the pilot study are published in the summer 2007 issue of the Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology.

The 29 participants in Mayo’s clinical trial were women with bothersome hot flashes who did not want to take estrogen because of a perceived increased risk of breast cancer. They also had not received (in the preceding four weeks) antineoplastic chemotherapy, androgens, hormonal agents, or other herbal supplements, including soy. Some patients did not complete the trial, but full data for six weeks of flaxseed therapy, consisting of 40 grams of crushed flaxseed ingested daily, was obtained from 21 of them

Participants were asked questions that the researchers translated into a hot flash score — a combined measure of frequency and severity. The frequency of hot flashes decreased 50 percent over six weeks, and the overall hot flash score decreased an average 57 percent for the women who completed the trial. Participants also reported improvements in mood, joint or muscle pain, chills and sweating; which significantly improved their health-related quality of life.

“We are quite pleased with the improvements noted by these women in their quality of life,” says Dr. Pruthi. “Not only does flaxseed seem to alleviate hot flashes, but it appears to have overall health and psychological benefits as well.”

Dr. Pruthi’s team chose to research flaxseed because it is a phytoestrogen (plant-based estrogen source). Flaxseed contains lignans and omega-3 fatty acids. Lignans are antioxidants with weak estrogen-emulating characteristics, and have some anti-cancer effects. Flaxseed also appears to have anti-estrogen properties and has been shown in some recent research trials to decrease breast cancer risk. The researchers hypothesized that patients taking flaxseed might gain some relief for hot flashes.

Public Release: 31-Aug-2007

Red Wine Compound Shown To Prevent Prostate Cancer

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have found that nutrients in red wine may help reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.

The study involved male mice that were fed a plant compound found in red wine called resveratrol, which has shown anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties. Other sources of resveratrol in the diet include grapes, raspberries, peanuts and blueberries.

In the study resveratrol-fed mice showed an 87 percent reduction in their risk of developing prostate tumors that contained the worst kind of cancer-staging diagnosis. The mice that proved to have the highest cancer-protection effect earned it after seven months of consuming resveratrol in a powdered formula mixed with their food.

Other mice in the study, those fed resveratrol but still developed a less-serious form of prostate cancer, were 48 percent more likely to have their tumor growth halted or slowed when compared to mice who did not consume the compound, the UAB research team said.

The findings were published in August through the online edition of Carcinogenesis.

This study adds to a growing body of evidence that resveratrol consumption through red wine has powerful chemoprevention properties, in addition to its apparent heart-health benefits, said lead study author Coral Lamartiniere, Ph.D., of UAB’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

An earlier UAB study published May 2006 in the same journal found resveratrol-fed female mice had considerable reduction in their risk of breast cancer.

Lamartiniere said his research team has been pleasantly surprised at the chemoprevention power of wine and berry polyphenols like resveratrol in animal models.

Public release date: 30-Aug-2007

Experimental anti-cancer drug made from corn lillies kills brain tumor stem cells

A drug that shuts down a critical cell-signaling pathway in the most common and aggressive type of adult brain cancer successfully kills cancer stem cells thought to fuel tumor growth and help cancers evade drug and radiation therapy, a Johns Hopkins study shows.

In a series of laboratory and animal experiments, Johns Hopkins scientists blocked the signaling system, known as Hedgehog, with an experimental compound called cyclopamine to explore the blockade’s effect on cancer stem cells that populate glioblastoma multiforme. Cyclopamine has long been known to inhibit Hedgehog signaling.

They reported their findings in the journal Stem Cells published online on July 19.

“Our study lends evidence to the idea that the lack of effective therapies for glioblastoma may be due to the survival of a rare population of cancer stem cells that appear immune to conventional radiation and chemotherapy,” says Charles G. Eberhart, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology, ophthalmology and oncology, who led the work.

“Hedgehog inhibition kills these cancer stem cells and prevents cancer from growing and may thus develop into the first stem cell-directed therapy for glioblastoma.”

Public release date: 31-Aug-2007

VA Cancer Data Blockade May Imperil Surveillance

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 31 — Stonewalling by the Veterans Administration is putting U.S. cancer surveillance and research in jeopardy, according to many of the researchers involved in those fields.

The result, Dr. Deapen said, is that California state data on cancer incidence rates are being skewed. And that, he said, is likely to have serious effects on national data

“But it’s not just California — it’s nearly every state,” she said.

Missing data from those two states has the potential to warp national estimates, she said.

Lancet Oncology quoted Raye Ann Dorn, the VA’s national coordinator of cancer programs, as saying that only California and Florida were withholding data, mainly because of privacy concerns.

Dr. Howe said her organization and others have been trying to persuade the VA to resume wholehearted data-sharing, but with little success. “We’ve been trying to solve this for over five years,” she said.

Asked if she knows what’s behind the policy, Dr. Howe said flatly: “No.”

Representatives of a “whole cadre of associations” – including NAACCR, the CDC, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cancer Institute – met in early August to discuss the issue, Dr. Deapen said.

The skewing of national and state cancer incidence rates, he said, is “correctable.”

“The VA still has the data,” he said. “They could hand it out and then we could correct incidence rate data.”

What is “incorrectable,” he said, is the effect the data blockade could have on research.

Dr. Deapen said, for example, that researchers investigating the causes of a particular type of cancer might be misled if they were not aware of a cluster of cases being treated in VA hospitals.

“Once that study is done, (the researcher) doesn’t get to go back and do it over,” Dr. Deapen said. Research during this period “will forever require an asterisk” to remind other researchers that it might not be correct.

Public release date: 3-Sep-2007

Hepatitis E in Europe — are pigs or pork the problem?

Hepatitis E virus infections can be fatal in pregnant women, but until recently doctors thought the disease was confined to China, India and developing countries. Now Europeans are also contracting the disease here, say scientists today (Monday 3 September 2007) at the Society for General Microbiology’s 161st Meeting at the University of Edinburgh, UK, which runs from 3-6 September 2007.

Hepatitis E virus is one of the few viruses which has been shown to be transmitted directly from animals through food. It was recently thought to be confined to developing countries, and although scientists are still unsure exactly how it spreads to people, direct contact with pigs or eating contaminated pork products is a likely route.

Far fewer cases of Hepatitis E virus are reported than actually occur, since doctors currently rarely ask for the relevant diagnostic tests in many industrialized countries. Although they do not yet know the exact route for most infections, the scientists do know that these viruses can infect people if they eat infected pig’s livers without cooking them.

Genetic material from Hepatitis E viruses has already been detected in pig livers being offered for sale in Japan, USA and the Netherlands, proving that European pigs are in contact with Hepatitis E. Wild boar products could present a similar risk.

Public release date: 4-Sep-2007

Many medical residents appear to lack biostatistics knowledge needed to interpret clinical research

Internal medicine residents had low scores in a test of biostatistics knowledge, and about three-fourths of the residents surveyed indicated they have low confidence in understanding the statistics they encounter in medical literature, according to an article in the September 5 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on medical education.

“Physicians must keep current with clinical information to practice evidence-based medicine,” the authors write. “… to answer many of their clinical questions, physicians need to access reports of original research. This requires the reader to critically appraise the design, conduct, and analysis of each study and subsequently interpret the results.” Little is known about residents’ ability to understand statistical methods or how to appropriately interpret research outcomes

On individual knowledge questions, 81.6 percent correctly interpreted a relative risk. Residents were less likely to know how to interpret an adjusted odds ratio from a multivariate regression analysis (37.4 percent) or the results of a Kaplan-Meier analysis (10.5 percent). Seventy-five percent indicated they did not understand all of the statistics they encountered in journal articles, but 95 percent felt it was important to understand these concepts to be an intelligent reader of the literature.

“The poor knowledge in biostatistics and interpretation of study results among residents in our study likely reflects insufficient training. Nearly one-third of trainees indicated that they never received biostatistics teaching at any point in their career,” they write. “Our results suggest the need for more effective training in biostatistics in residency education.”

“If physicians cannot detect appropriate statistical analyses and accurately understand their results, the risk of incorrect interpretation may lead to erroneous applications of clinical research. Educators should re-evaluate how this information is taught and reinforced in order to adequately prepare trainees for lifelong learning, and further research should examine the effectiveness of specific educational interventions.” (JAMA. 2007;298(9):1010-1022

Public Release: 4-Sep-2007


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Nutrients taken from avocados are able to thwart oral cancer cells, killing some and preventing pre-cancerous cells from developing into actual cancers, according to researchers at Ohio State University.

Researchers found that extracts from Hass avocados kill or stop the growth of pre-cancerous cells that lead to oral cancer. Hass avocados are year-round fruits known for their distinctive bumpy skin that turns from green to purplish-black as they ripen.

While there are more than 500 varieties of avocados grown worldwide, Hass avocados are the most readily available at supermarkets nationwide. Similar research has not been conducted on other varieties of avocados.

The findings are published online in the journal Seminars in Cancer Biology.

Public release date: 5-Sep-2007

Right breakfast bread keeps blood sugar in check all day

If you eat the right grains for breakfast, such as whole-grain barley or rye, the regulation of your blood sugar is facilitated after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was previously not known that certain whole-grain products have this effect all day. This is due to a combination of low GI (glycemic index) and certain type of indigestible carbohydrates that occur in certain grain products. The findings are presented in a dissertation from the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University. The dissertation shows that even people who have had a breakfast low in GI find it easier to concentrate for the rest of the morning.

Barley evinced clearly the best results of the four types of grain. In her test, Anne used boiled grains and whole grains in bread. But when the grain was ground into porridge, the effect was weakened, since key structures were then destroyed, which had a negative effect on both GI and the content of resistant starch. On the other hand, splitting the grain worked fine.

Anne Nilsson also studied the connection between mental acuity and blood sugar levels after meals. Trial subjects were given experimental breakfasts with low and high GI, respectively, and afterwards they were asked to perform mental acuity tests. It turned out that subjects who had eaten low GI breakfasts could concentrate better and had a better working memory (a type of short-term memory) than the other group. These experiments also showed that healthy individuals with low glucose tolerance, that is with high rises in blood sugar than average following a meal, generally performed less well.

“The findings indicate that people with great fluctuations in their levels of blood sugar run a greater risk of having a generally lower cognitive ability,” says Anne Nilsson.

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