Cancer Stem Cells

This piece of good news is what this website is all about, even if it does take a decade before those who suffer this terminal disease can be helped. An article penned by Swain Science Editor for the Mirror caught my attention. His report (Mirror Friday 14th August 2009) goes something like this.

Piyush Gupta and researchers of the Broad Institute Boston have identified a chemical also known as a compound that can target stem cells selectively and kill them. It would appear that the growth of cancer stem cells are controlled by what they call ‘Mother Cells’ which have been invincible in resisting both radiation and chemotherapy treatment.

It is believed that many solid tumor cancers which include breast, prostate, bowel, and lung cancer are driven and renewed by stem cell parents. The experiments were carried out on breast cancer before a chemical that worked was found. These ‘Mother Cells’ as I have already mentioned have proved invincible to defeat, that is until now. They have finally found one, a chemical known as salinomycin, which attacked the cancer stem cells and was 100 times more effective than the powerful chemotherapy agent Taxol.

It wasn’t clear it would be possible to find compounds that selectively kill cancer stem cells. We’ve shown it can be done”. – Piyush Gupta, BIB

The researchers hope that their discovery of the chemical salinomycin will be included in a clinical drug in the future. It could also be used alongside conventional medication to stop the regrowth of tumors. Scientists believe targeting the tumor stem cells with this chemical salinomycin could possibly eradicate the source of cancer. When the chemical was injected into mice who had breast cancer it was found to slow the growth of the animal’s tumor.

Our work revels the biological effects of targeting cancer stem cells. It suggests a general approach to finding anti-cancer therapies that can be applied to any solid tumor maintained by cancer stem cells. – Piyush Gupta, BIB

Dr. John Stingl of Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute reported as saying:

These scientists have demonstrated that it is possible to selectively target the rare cancer stem cells that drive tumor growth[sic]It is proof that you could target these cells. the challenge is can you bring this drug to the clinics?

To read the full report of this excellent piece of research news read Mike Swain’s report in full.

There is also a report on Nanotechnology. The technique works by inserting microscopic synthetic rods called carbon nanotubules into cancer cells. when the rods are exposed to infrared light from a laser they heat up destroying the cancer cell. If you want to read more check out this link to the BBC News website. This report was last updated a few years ago.


Don’t Beet About the Bush!

What do we have in the way of health news today, Me…wonders? Well, here’s news of a drink that ‘beets’ all other high energy drinks hands down. It appears that Professor Andy Jones of Exeter University has been doing some research with the humble beetroot. Yeah! That’s right, beetroot.

Beetroot, the energy drink that kicks all the others into touch! … Why? … Well, their research shows that sipping beetroot juice has and will allow, athletes, to perform for a much longer period of time. This is where the health bit comes in. The new research also shows that it could have links to helping individuals who suffer from breathing and heart conditions.

The researchers believe that the secret is a nitrate in the juice which allows the blood to absorb oxygen at a slower rate. The research was carried out on 8 men whose ages ranged from 19 to 38. Their goal was to drink 500ml of beetroot juice every day for six days. Each day after drinking the required amount of juice they then went on to complete bike tests.

Those who drank the beetroot found their energy levels allowed them to continue for 11.25 minutes, and, 92 seconds longer than the guys that had been given a placebo drink. Here’s why! The boffins say that the nitrate in the beetroot is turned into nitric oxide in the body, therefore, reducing the need for oxygen.

The test was carried out by Professor Andy Jones of the Exeter University:

I’m sure athletes will be interested in this. – Professor Andy Jones

Oops… I nearly forgot to tell you all beetroot is already known to lower blood pressure.

Have A Few Cups Of Coffee

Nothing Like A Nice Cup Of Coffee

Well here is a piece of news that may or may not surprise you. Around 200 students were studied by researchers at Durham University in a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Medical Research Council. Apparently, those of us who consume a high intake of caffeine.

People drinking several cups of instant coffee daily were more likely to report hallucinatory experiences such as hearing voices when there is nobody else present and seeing things that do not exist. Volunteers of the research project also reported a feeling similar to that of being in the presence of the dead… Whatever that feels like!

To be fair it does not stop at coffee other drinks are mentioned in the report such as tea and caffeinated energy drinks.

It appears caffeine could cause the body to produce the stress hormone cortisol, which can be associated with hallucinations, according to researchers writing for the Academic Journal, “Personality and Individual Differences”.

Well, well, well, that puts the cat among the pigeons! If I remember rightly, sometime back in 2007 a report claimed that coffee drank 3 or more times a day could help protect older women from mental health problems. The French National Institute for Health and Medical Research warned at the time of jumping to premature conclusions:

While we have some ideas as to how this works biologically, we need to have a better understanding of how caffeine affects the brain before we can start promoting caffeine intake as a way to reduce cognitive decline. [sic] But the results are interesting – caffeine use is already widespread and it has fewer side effects than other treatments for cognitive decline, and it requires a relatively small amount for a beneficial effect.– Dr Karen Ritchie, FNIHMR

So where do we go from here? On one hand caffeine could slow the dementia process rather than preventing it, and on the other hand, you could end up talking to your dead friends if you have a high daily intake of caffeine.

Oh well, that’s life! You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t!

Image: Puddleduck /

Exercise and Diet

Well here is a little bit of really useful information, or is it. A little while ago now I read an article penned by Emily Cook, the Daily Mirror Health Correspondent about research into a polypill. Her story was about a research team led by Professor Malcolm Law, of the Wolfson University of Preventative Medicine WUPM, who carried out and analysed 150 clinical trials on nearly half a million people to see if individuals over a certain age should be given a polypill to reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Professor Malcolm claims that blood pressure pills should be taken by all individuals over 55 years of age, even those people who have normal readings should be given the pill to lower their risk of a heart attack or possible stroke in the future.

If you fancy reading about other health topics penned by Emily Cook then check out her Blog. You won’t be disappointed.

A large clinical study revealed most drugs that lower blood pressure cut heart attacks by a quarter and strokes by a third.

Beyond a certain age, we all have high blood pressure and we’d all benefit from taking drugs to lower it.

He went on to dismiss claims that prescribing pills would medicalise the population and added:

Giving it to everyone does not alarm people because it’s something that applies to all. Nobody is told they’re at high risk much like having a vaccine.– Professor Malcolm Law, WUPM

The Polypill consists of 5 medications in one pill, these are: Aspirin to thin the blood, A Statin to lower cholesterol, three blood pressure lowering drugs: Ace Inhibitor, Diuretic, Beta Blocker and Folic Acid which reduces the level of homocysteine in the blood, which is also another risk factor for heart disease.

Critics of the pill point out that people with high blood pressure and cholesterol should tackle these health problems with exercise and diet and not to rely on a miracle pill each day. Mike Rich of UK charity the Blood Pressure Association was of the opinion that we could become to laid-back:

There is a danger that lifestyle factors could be overlooked in favour of ‘popping a pill’. -Mike Rich, BPA

More recent trials by Dr. Salim Yusuf, from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, took in people at 50 centres across India, showing that such a pill would work and appears to be safe and well tolerated.

Although trials appear to show the miracle pill does what it says on the tin, and On a global scale, this would save tens of millions of lives a spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation said:

We now need further research to examine whether the polypill actually reduces motality.

Professor Simon Thom of the Imperial College London is hoping to do just that. His team has been researching a four-in-one polypill, with the backing of the Wellcome Trust and the British Heart Foundation. They have called their polypill the Red Heart Pill and it could come with a price tag of just 15 euros per person per year. Which by anybody’s standards must be the cheapest pill to-date.