Tag Archives: Cancer

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #36: WARTS

Warts are so common as to have become a metaphor for any blemish. I have had several warts in childhood, most likely because my immunity was immature along with the rest of me. They went away, as do most warts. I have had a few warts on and off since, since the HPV that produces them is so widespread.

My immune reaction took care of them, For some reason, I now have a wart between my toes that bears watching. Hopefully it will go away like the rest. Warts rarely become malignant, They can cause problems with breathing if they block the airway, such as the larynx (voice box) or bronchi (breathing tubes). I had such a case in my Allergy/respiratory disease practice that sounded like asthma to the referring Doctor.

Elderly people can develop a variety of skin bumps, that my grandmother called “moles”. In the past month, I have developed a reddish bump on my nose. It looks a lot like the “intradermal nevus” pictured in an accompanying article from “consultant360”. Seborrheic Keratoses are common, and I have some of those too. Of course,

I have a regular crop of scaly “actinic Keratoses” for my Dermatologist to freeze with liquid Nitrogen during my twice yearly visits to prevent them from developing into cancer. I have a suspicion that many home remedies for warts, and the scraping and freezing efforts of dermatologists merely stir up the infected cells in the lesion and incite the immune system to mop up.

Time will usually do the job, but they are often annoying and there is always the temptation to treat them.

–Dr. C.

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WOMEN’S HEALTH: HOW ‘HPV (HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS) LINKS TO CERVICAL CANCER’

This video tells the story of Ana, a cervical cancer survivor, who encourages women to recognize abnormal Paps as an opportunity to speak to your doctor about gynecologic health.

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Dr. C’s Journal: ‘Mutation’

Mutation is engrained in the very nature of life. Even if there were no X-rays, free radicals or toxic chemicals, mutation still would take place because of errors in the replication of DNA that occasionally escapes the proofreading mechanisms of meiosis and mitosis.

The majority of germline mutations produce LOSS OF FUNCTION, and are weeded out by evolution. In vertebrates, mutation is vital in producing the random changes in the DNA of germ cells of the ovaries and testes. If the mutation is beneficial, involving a GAIN OF FUNCTION, environmental selection acts to preserve the change, producing the diversity of organisms in the world, each exploiting a different environmental niche.

It is the rare species so versatile, like the shark, that can remain almost the same over eons without dying out. In the teeming unicellular world, mutation in the genome is similarly useful in allowing for variations which often prove useful for survival. The mutations thrive if the proper environment presents itself. For instance, antibiotic resistance may be encoded in a few members of a bacterial species, which become the dominant members in an infected patient on antibiotic treatment, and crowd out family members without the mutation.

In Viruses, RNA is often the Memory nucleotide. RNA is less stable than DNA. The resulting instability allows more mutations, and sometimes greater success. An example is the English Covid variant in the spike protein which leads to greater contagion. Hopefully, the spike protein change will not be so successful as to interfere with the effectiveness of vaccine-produced protective antibodies.

The Mutations we have been discussing refer to GERMLINE mutations, which occur in the gonads. In higher animals, germline mutations affect the offspring, which then carry the mutation. A GAIN OF FUNCTION mutation may confer greater adaptability and survivability, and perhaps may lead even to a different species, if the troop number is small and the environment demanding. Non-germ SOMATIC cell mutation may lead to undesirable effects like cancer, which is another discussion.

–Dr. C

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS / CONDITIONS #29 UNEXPLAINED WEIGHT LOSS

Unexplained weight loss is rare in our society, where weight gain is so common. Weight loss usually occurs in the context of a causative illness, like prolonged diarrhea, where it is not the main symptom, but just an associated problem. However, sometimes the loss of 5 or 10% of the body’s weight can occur in a few months without explanation or clues, and a consultation is needed.

Proper Nutrition is critical for Health, including maintenance of “normal” weight. The Gastrointestinal tract extracts nutrients from the food we eat, and illnesses such as COELIAC DISEASE, or REGIONAL ENTERITIS can prevent proper absorption. Our HORMONES regulate energy and chemical balance, and Thyroid, Parathyroid, Pancreas and Adrenal malfunction can disturb weight Homeostasis.

Chronic infection, such as AIDS and TB can sap energy quietly. NEUROLOGICAL PROBLEMS such as Depression, Dementia or Parkinsons can result in an improper diet, and subsequent weight loss. CANCER is the first thing we worry about when we unexpectedly lose weight, but Neoplasms usually betray themselves with other, more dramatic symptoms.

It is a good idea to regularly check your weight at the same time every day. Almost always it will reassure you by staying the same. Sometimes it will warn you to cut your feasting. Occasionally an unexpected drop in weight will direct you to your Doctor to find an explanation.

–Dr. C.

Read more at Mayo Clinic

MEDICINE: NEW ‘SMART CELL’ THERAPIES TO TREAT CANCER

Finding medicines that can kill cancer cells while leaving normal tissue unscathed is a Holy Grail of oncology research. In two new papers, scientists at UC San Francisco and Princeton University present complementary strategies to crack this problem with “smart” cell therapies—living medicines that remain inert unless triggered by combinations of proteins that only ever appear together in cancer cells.

Biological aspects of this general approach have been explored for several years in the laboratory of Wendell Lim, PhD, and colleagues in the UCSF Cell Design Initiative and National Cancer Institute– sponsored Center for Synthetic Immunology. But the new work adds a powerful new dimension to this work by combining cutting-edge therapeutic cell engineering with advanced computational methods.

For one paper, published September 23, 2020 in Cell Systems, members of Lim’s lab joined forces with the research group of computer scientist Olga G. Troyanskaya, PhD, of Princeton’s Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics and the Simons Foundation’s Flatiron Institute. Using a machine learning approach, the team analyzed massive databases of thousands of proteins found in both cancer and normal cells. They then combed through millions of possible protein combinations to assemble a catalog of combinations that could be used to precisely target only cancer cells while leaving normal ones alone.

In another paper, published in Science on November 27, 2020, Lim and colleagues then showed how this computationally derived protein data could be put to use to drive the design of effective and highly selective cell therapies for cancer. “Currently, most cancer treatments, including CAR T cells, are told ‘block this,’ or ‘kill this,’” said Lim, also professor and chair of cellular and molecular pharmacology and a member of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We want to increase the nuance and sophistication of the decisions that a therapeutic cell makes.” Over the past decade, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells have been in the spotlight as a powerful way to treat cancer.

In CAR T cell therapy, immune system cells are taken from a patient’s blood, and manipulated in the laboratory to express a specific receptor that will recognize a very particular marker, or antigen, on cancer cells. While scientists have shown that CAR T cells can be quite effective, and sometimes curative, in blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, so far the method hasn’t worked well in solid tumors, such as cancers of the breast, lung, or liver.

Cells in these solid cancers often share antigens with normal cells found in other tissues, which poses the risk that CAR T cells could have off-target effects by targeting healthy organs. Also, solid tumors also often create suppressive microenvironments that limit the efficacy of CAR T cells. For Lim, cells are akin to molecular computers that can sense their environment and then integrate that information to make decisions. Since solid tumors are more complex than blood cancers, “you have to make a more complex product” to fight them, he said.

DR. C’S MEDICINE CABINET: THE BENEFITS OF “IRON”

Iron is the most common element, by weight, on earth, so it should come as no surprise that it has evolved to be an essential component in the mechanism that is life.

The ENERGY of the eukaryotic cell is dependent on the Iron in mitochondria, which are elaborate electron-transfer mechanisms. To quote Nobel Laureate Albert Szent Gyorgyi, “Life is nothing but an electron looking for a place of rest”.

Iron is essential, so it is possible to have too little of it. There is no physiologic pathway to get rid of it and so you can have too much iron in your body, which comprises a disease called Hemochromatosis. Excessive Iron can be TOXIC to the body, and produce damaging free radicals.

Deficiency of iron will produce ANEMIA. Regulation of incoming Iron is the body’s way of keeping excessive Iron out. It is absorbed only in the upper part of the small intestine, and a special protein called Hepcidin can block it from release into the circulation. It is carried through the blood by Transferrin and also Ferritin, which stores the iron that is not in the hemoglobin of RED BLOOD CELLS, the main storehouse of iron.

Blood loss is a common problem which leads to increased Iron requirement, This is reflected in the increase in RDA of Iron in Women during their menstruating years. Colonic Cancer, among other conditions, can also bleed and lead to the anemia of Iron deficiency. This is the reason for Doctors ordering a test for “occult”, or hidden, blood in the stools. My reason for taking Iron is a continuing loss of blood from the small intestine.

I have had multiple colonoscopies and Gastroenteroscopies to rule out cancer and other blood-losing conditions in the lower and upper intestinal tract. The small intestine is the “silent” area to gastroenterologists, and I cannot have the Capsule/camera examination because of my small bowel surgery.

I must take extra iron, and hope that this will be sufficient to keep me from developing anemia again. Green vegetables and red meat are more satisfactory sources, but insufficient for me. I worry a little about the recent finding that Heart Failure has been associated with Ferritin levels below 100 ng./ml.

I struggle to keep mine at 50 ng. by taking 2 tablets of feosol daily and dealIng with the subsequent constipation. An ANNUAL PHYSICAL and laboratory examination is important for the maintenance of health. Enough Iron and blood are important factors for vigorous Well-being. —

–Dr. C.

INFOGRAPHIC:

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS 21: PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY

Peripheral Neuropathy is a common problem, and almost a quarter of the population will eventually suffer from it. It is very common in diabetes and metabolic syndrome, alcoholism, and in cancer therapy.

Even getting older is a risk; almost 10% of individuals 65 years old have some symptoms. There are more than 100 different types of peripheral neuropathy, and often it is just one feature of a primary illness.

Sometimes there is no known cause, such as in 2 of my older friends. I have a diminished vibratory sense in my feet, which causes me no noticeable problem. The longer nerves are more likely to be involved, except for the rare sensory ganglionopathy which is symptomatic of some cancers ( a “paraneoplastic disorder”) , some infections and autoimmune diseases.

When the sensory ganglia are involved, the numbness, tingling or pain can be more central, such as in the face or upper arm. There are 3 types of nerves that can be involved in peripheral neuropathy; Sensory, Motor and autonomic.

The sensory nerves deal with sensations, such as hot, cold, touch, pain, tingling, and numbness. Motor nerve involvement results in weakness or paralysis of an arm, leg or other area under Voluntary control. The autonomic nervous system coordinates activities beyond voluntary control, such as sweating, salivation, food propulsion and heart rate, which can be activated or inhibited.

The symptoms of neuropathy depend upon the type of nerve involved. Balance is a complex ability that can be disturbed by a lack of proper sensory nerve function (Position sense or proprioception) motor weakness, vision or coordination which involve higher centers.

The medical evaluation of peripheral neuropathy begins with a family practitioner or internist who does a detailed history, asking about such things as diet, medications, alcohol consumption, and injuries. Vitamin intake is important, but can be overdone.

Peripheral nerve symptoms can actually be caused by excessive B6, pyridoxine. The upper limit is 100 Mg.. A physical exam checks for weakness, sensory problems, reflexes and balance. Blood tests may reveal diabetic, kidney, liver, thyroid or immune problems problems.

A major disorder associated with neuropathy may be revealed and pursued. If nothing turns up, and the neuropathy is significant, referral may be needed to a neurologist, or other appropriate specialist. Many specialized tests and treatments may be needed.

Even with the best of care, a specific “cure” may not be found. Peripheral neuropathy can often be avoided by a healthy lifestyle.

–Dr. C.

Article on Peripheral Neuropathy

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #18: ACTINIC KERATOSES

Red hair and freckles are associated with MCR-1 gene variants, and large areas of skin with lowered melanin protection against the adverse effects of the sun. I have red hair and freckles, for which I was teased. My response was that I had a lot of Iron in my blood, and that the freckles were Rust. This is ironic (no pun intended).

Since becoming an Octogenarian, I have had trouble keeping my Iron levels normal. I live in a beach area, where all the young ladies are sunning themselves to promote the socially desirable “bronze goddess” effect, and all of the older ladies hide their leathery skin and wear broad-brimmed hats.

The sun has a good reputation as a health-giver. Being outside does correlate with a lot of beneficial effects, such as enhancing production of Vitamin D. My recommendation, however biased, is to get your Vitamin D in capsule form, and reduce sun exposure.

SUNSHINE, however salutary, is accompanied by invisible, high energy photons capable of breaking DNA strands, and ultimately causing SKIN CANCER. Not accidentally,Visible light has insufficient energy to break bonds, although the rhodopsin in rods and cones do release electrons if stimulated by light.

Actinic Keratoses are the roughened plaques of skin, often on the face, which have a small but definite risk of turning into Cancer. I have a dermatology check every 6 months for precancerous areas to be frozen and destroyed by CO2 spray.

PREVENTION of UV Skin damage is advisable. I wear a broad brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses (UV can promote cataracts and retinal damage as well) when outside in the sun. When swimming I wear a “rashguard” shirt with UV protection in the fabric.

Also, I try to limit my exposure to the Evening and Morning sun, because the light is warmer, and contains less UV. Even with these precautions, I use Sunscreen creams and lotions. I always wondered how a transparent lotion can block UV light.

The explanation lies in the chemicals contained. Such chemicals as Avobenzone and Homosalicylate actually absorb the energy of UV light. Protect yourself now for later health.

–Dr. C.

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #12: “Prostate cancer”

Prostate cancer is perhaps the most common cancer in men. It increases in incidence with age, and if you live long enough, most men will contract prostate cancer. A family history of cancer and obesity are also risk factors. But many times the cancer is so slow growing that it will not kill you. In the age of modern, aggressive medicine, the treatment has often been worse than the disease.

Treating Cancer EARLY is much more successful. The PSA test was one of the first really sensitive blood tests for cancer, and it was once performed routinely, on a yearly basis, usually at the time of your annual physical.

The PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) test is VERY sensitive,however. In responding to an elevated PSA, very slow growing tumors would often be treated aggressively, creating more morbidity than the untreated tumor would have caused.

The treatment seemed to be worse than the disease. Many physicians stopped doing the PSA test altogether, relying on symptoms, or detecting an abnormality on RECTAL EXAM to trigger an investigation. Some years ago, a physician friend of mine elected to stop PSA testing, and two years later was discovered to have METASTATIC Prostate cancer. It had already spread to his bones, and he eventually died of that cancer.

This encouraged me to continue with PSA screening, though it is still considered optional. Very recently, a test has been developed which I think tips the scales back toward annual PSA testing. EXOSOMES are little (10-120 nm.) particles that effuse from many cells, especially cancer cells.

They contain a variety of DNA, RNA, proteins and lipids which allow the cells to communicate with one another. Recently, a company, ExoDx, was created to take commercial advantage of Exosomes in the diagnosis of various diseases, by testing body fluids.

Their test, ExoRx Prostate EPI test of urine, has been shown to be helpful in distinguishing AGGRESSIVE prostate cancer from the slower growing kind, when the PSA test is in the “grey zone” between 2 and 10 ng/ml. PSA test results above 10 ng. were always acted on, especially if the numbers were increasing. I would be surprised if the PSA did not reenter the annual testing protocol.

The annual digital rectal exam in men older than 50 years will continue to be done, although it is not very sensitive, and is often not abnormal until the cancer is more advanced. Pain in the prostate area, blood in the urine or semen, and trouble urinating are symptoms worth investigating, but if cancer is detected, it may well be advanced and harder to treat. With abnormal tests,

Risk factors or suspicious symptoms, further testing is often done. Ultrasound or biopsy may be indicated. Sometimes the biopsy is guided by MRI, to increase the likelihood that the cancer, if small, is included in the tissue sample taken. Examining the cells of the biopsy sample will yield a “gleason score” which grades the aggressiveness of the cancer.

This in turn dictates the treatment, which may include different extents of surgical removal, radiation, hormonal or chemotherapy treatment. None of this is pleasant, and you are better off, of course with prevention.

Our old friends, DIET AND EXERCISE are thought to be helpful. Although not proven, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and maintaining a healthy weight are recommended.

–DR. C

Finasteride, one of the drugs in my medicine cabinet is mentioned as a possible aid. I will be discussing this later. I suggest that you press the green box with the magnifying glass, and type the name of the drug to see if i have discussed it. –Dr. C.