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Sunday, June 19, 2016

NEW HOPE for Brain Cancer Treatment!

Treating infections or tumors in the human brain is almost always a matter of surgery because of something called the blood-brain barrier (BBB) which is a sort of gatekeeper to the brain.

A new clinical trial of patients with glioblastoma (a kind of brain cancer tumor) shows that bursts of high intensity sound can temporarily disable the BBB allowing chemotherapy drugs to attack the tumor(s).

The function of the BBB is to protect the delicate brain. It consists of three major components.

One, limited spacing between endothelial cells (a thin layer of cells coating the walls of blood vessels) which limits the amount and kind of material which passes through the wall to the cells.
Two, proteins which actually transport the chemicals to the brain are specific to just the kinds of things (such as glucose - blood sugar) and ketones which provide an alternative source of energy. Also passed are fatty acids and some amino acids.

Three, a set of enzymes which attack and alter undesired blood contents.

A clinical trial just published in the Science Translational Magazine (AAAS shows that many tumors such as a glioblastoma which is very aggressive, can now be treated using a combination of traditional chemotherapy and sound.

Researchers have found that a pulsed ultrasound device implanted in the skull and activated during treatment sessions can interrupt the effectiveness of the blood-brain barrier, allowing the chemotherapy to cross from the bloodstream to the brain and attack the tumor.

The system called SonoCloud was shown by MRI studies to interrupt the BBB at acoustic pressure levels up to 1.1 megapascals without any adverse effect on the brain tissue in radiologic or clinical tests.

Details aside, the important point for patients and families (as well as the few doctors who I know actually read this blog) is learning that there IS, or soon will be an alternative to brain surgery to treat cancers which could be treated with chemotherapy if they were in a less well protected part of the body.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

WHO -- Coffee NOT a Cancer Cause!

Although this isn't probably critical news, it is a very important topic for so many people that I felt it fit in this blog.

For decades the World Health Organization and various other medical groups have been back and forth on the question of whether coffee is good for you or bad for you and the WHO actually said 25 years ago that they were concerned that coffee could cause bladder cancer.]

Fortunately for the many of us who feel life without coffee is barely living at all, they have now reversed their earlier position having determined that it isn't coffee which is the cancer threat, but very hot coffee, or any very hot beverage.

So stop burning your mouth with hot drinks and stick to burning your tongue with spices instead and you can enjoy that cup of coffee without guilt!

Coffee does NOT cause cancer.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Zika Virus Spreading Like Wildfire

According to the most recent report from the WHO, as of June 1, eleven countries have reported “microcephaly and other central nervous system (CNS) malformations potentially associated with Zika virus infection.”

While no NEW countries have been added to incident lists, 60 countries and territories have already reported continuing mosquito-borne transmission and 46 countries are seeing the first Zika virus outbreak this year.

By comparison, from 2007 through 2014 only fourteen countries had reported evidence of Zika virus transmission.

At this time ten countries have now reported probable sexual transmission of the Zika virus.

Cases in the U.S.A., Slovenia, and Spain report microcephaly in infants which were borne to mothers who had recently visited Brazil.

Among possible cases are two which are still being verified in  Venezuela and Costa Rica.
In addition, 13 countries and territories worldwide report additional incidents of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) above the normal average.

In Guadeloupe a Zika infection was found in a myelitis (a severe neurological condition) patient.

There is now a scientific consensus that a Zika virus infection can cause microcephaly and GBS.

Compare this map from the WHO with the one from February, 2016 below from my earlier Zika report.