Issue 2 - 2007


AN IMPORTANT NOTICE TO OUR READERS:  As you can imagine, we receive a large number of press releases about new drugs.  Invariably these state that drug X ‘increases survival’.  We are concerned that this phrase misleads and creates an over-expectation in many of our readers, being viewed as implying somehow a ‘cure’ or a success in surviving at least five years when neither is, in fact, true.  Our policy from now on is to refer to ‘an increase in life expectancy’ and, where provided, to state the actual increases from the research.  We believe this is in the best interests of our readers who are almost always patients. It reduces the often-criticised elements of euphoria and over-claim whilst reporting accurately on new and improved developments.







Are poor drugs going into Phase III Trials?

Memorial Sloan Kettering (Clin Cancer Res 2007; 13; 972-976 suggests that flaws, particularly of a statistical nature, in Phase II Trials are sending poor performing drugs into Phase III trials with the obvious result of wasted time and money and disappointment from Doctors and patients alike when they fail. The Lancet Oncology 2006; 7; 798 ) carried views that Phase III Trials should be abandoned altogether. But doesn’t that simply mean, if Sloan-Kettering are right, that more poor performing drugs would reach the market?

Clampdown on private tests that swamp NHS

Government advisors are planning a clampdown on private medical screening but seem more than a little confused about the reasoning. People can now privately go for all manner of check-ups from a cholesterol check at just a few pounds to a full body scan costing hundreds. If something abnormal appears, then the next stop is more often than not the GP. This then puts ‘unacceptable pressure on the NHS”. .

Tests are often not regulated and Sir Muir Gray, programme director of the National Screening Committee, told Pulse the whole industry would face close scrutiny and tough new regulations: ‘We are thinking of how we control private testing because it’s an example of low value activity which generates work for the health service, may cause harm and does not benefit the individual.

‘We’ll look at different forms of regulation - some from the Healthcare Commission, some through the Advertising Standards Authority, some through the Office of Fair Trading. It will be an evidence-based regime.’ Apparently going for a scan that produces a positive reading can also cause patients substantial anxiety. (Ed: Clearly Sir Muir Gray hasn’t heard of mammograms. Clearly there is need for regulation and working to national standards would bring added peace of mind, but surely Doctors can only complain if the screening has, for example, generated a false positive and the patient then really is wasting the GP’s time. However if the NHS cannot provide easy-to-access and reliable tests when a patient is worried they may have a problem, what alternative is there but to go privately?)

Scottish Scientists test secret anti-cancer weapon

CRUK scientists in Glasgow have devised a new method of attacking cancer cells by ‘kick-starting’ the p73 gene (closely related to the p 53 gene), which causes cancer cells to commit suicide.  The research is at very early stages and uses nano-particle technology (Beeston Institute for Cancer Research ).

US Doctors won’t use chemotherapy on themselves

McGill Cancer Centre scientists sent a research questionnaire to doctors and oncologists prescribing chemotherapy.  One question asked: ‘Which of the following six chemotherapy regimes would they use if they had a particular cancer?’  Rather than selecting one, or replying that there was a better alternative 64 out of the 79 doctors replying stated that they would not consent to being given a chemotherapy drug because of the general ineffectiveness of chemotherapy and its toxicity.

Almost half of ‘cheap’ drugs pose patient risk.

More than 90 per cent of GP’s are coming under pressure to switch patients to cheaper drugs, writes Pulse (the leading Newspaper for GP’s).

As many as 38 per cent of GP’s now complain that this compromises their own ability to take clinical decisions.  By restricting their choice of drugs GP’s claim they cannot tailor the drugs so accurately to the patients needs, with subsequent increase in side effects and health risk more likely.

DNA repair seems to run by a biological clock

Studies at Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute, co-funded by
Breast Cancer Campaign, (Published online in Nature Cell Biology ) show that a biological clock protein called HCLK2 has an unexpected role in controlling the response of our cells to DNA damage.

Dr Simon Boulton, head of the Cancer Research UK DNA Damage Response
laboratory and lead author of the research, said: “It’s genuinely surprising
that two seemingly unrelated processes should be so intimately linked in our
cells. The molecular link now sheds light on why deregulation of the biological clock can lead to an increased risk of cancer.

“It may be that DNA repair could be scheduled by the biological clock to
take place at times of reduced metabolic stress. But such ideas are, at
present, speculative and much more research needs to be carried out to
understand the cross-talk between these two processes.”

It has been previously shown that mutations in genes vital to either the DNA
damage response, or the biological clock function, can give rise to an
increased predisposition to cancer.

Breast cancer Tamoxifen stays with you for 5 years

The IBIS-1 study reported in May that the ‘positive benefits of Tamoxifen therapy can stay with a patient for up to 5 years after treatment finishes. (J.Nat Cancer Inst 2007; 99; 272-282)

Hormone treatment to replace Breast Cancer Drugs for younger women?

Around 5,500 pre-menopausal breast cancer patients could be offered a
hormone drug that is shown to be as effective as traditional chemotherapy –
and so avoid potential infertility and long-term menopausal side effects -
according to a Cancer Research UK report published in The Lancet. (May 2007)

Hormone therapy drugs which stop the ovaries from producing oestrogen is as
effective as conventional chemotherapy for many pre-menopausal breast cancer
patients with the added benefit of them being better tolerated by patients.

This means women, whose breast cancer is hormone sensitive may not need to
risk becoming permanently infertile or suffering the unpleasant side effects
caused by chemotherapy.

The report showed that when pre-menopausal women were treated with a
particular hormone therapy drug their chance of the disease recurring was no
higher than having chemotherapy alone.

The drugs, called LHRH agonists, stop the pituitary gland producing
luteinising hormone, and so remove the stimulus for the ovaries to make
oestrogen. But once the treatment stops the ovarian function usually returns
to normal.

When younger breast cancer patients have chemotherapy the treatment
accelerates the menopause and can deny women the chance to have children. In
addition, many women suffer from long-term unpleasant post-menopausal side

Professor Jack Cuzick, Cancer Research UK scientist and lead author of the
study, said: “We analysed 16 trials involving LHRH agonists and these
results point to an important additional approach to treating breast cancer.

“They mean that premenopausal women with hormone receptor positive low risk
breast cancer could consider treatment that is as effective as chemotherapy
without having to endure unpleasant side effects and risk losing their
fertility. For all women aged under 40, this treatment can be added to
chemotherapy to improve outcome further. In all cases tamoxifen, a different
kind of hormone treatment, would also be usually be used as standard

About two thirds of pre-menopausal patients have hormone sensitive breast
cancer which equates to around 5,500 women being diagnosed in the UK every

Satraplatin shows effects in hormone-refractory prostate cancer

Satraplatin is currently awaiting FDA approval in the USA after coming through Phase III Trials where it successfully reduced progression in Hormorne-Refractory Prostate Cancer. (Prostate Cancer Symposium, Orlando Florida Feb 22 2007). 950 patients who had previously had a treatment which failed were randomized for the trial. Study leader Cora Sternberg (SCF Hospital, Rome) says that this will be an important addition to what are really very limited treatment options for the disease. There are the usual side effects from nausea to thrombocytopenia. (Ed: We urge readers to look into Professor Pfeifer’s treatments too – on our web site)

Statins may reduce lung cancer incidence

Many claims (and over claims) exist for statins.  They are commonly used as cholesterol lowering agents.  In Cancer Watch we have previously covered reports saying they could help with cancer, and another saying that they definitely couldn’t.

A US case controlled study involving 484,226 patients of average age 61.2 years (91.7 per cent male) showed that statins were associated with a reduction in lung cancer risk of 48 per cent.  Caution is urged in interpreting these figures.  The patients were selected across the October 1998 to June 2004 period and had taken ‘some’ statins – the period not being defined.

Of course it could be that people with high cholesterol just have less lung cancer risk.  More work is needed.

Genetic factor explanation for cisplatin-induced ear damage

Cisplatin is used to treat a number of cancers. Hearing damage can result. Now researchers in Norway (Oldenberg; University of Oslo) have studied cisplatin-treated testicular cancer survivors and found that those with certain genes (largely the GSTP group) had four times the rate of hearing damage. Julia Blatt from the University of North Carolina has noticed much the same with survivors of Childhood cancers and would now like to study which genes are protective.

Suicide Gene Therapy Kills Bowel Cancer Cells

An innovative type of gene therapy has for the first time succeeded in
making bowel cancer cells commit suicide, according to a report in Cancer
Research (May 2007).

The therapy, developed by Cancer Research UK-funded scientists at The
Institute of Cancer Research, combines cutting-edge techniques to target
tumour cells. Known as GDEPT (Gene-Directed Enzyme Prodrug Therapy), the
treatment uses a virus to attack cancer cells.

But the researchers have added an extra gene to the virus. The virus is
programmed to switch on the gene only if it reaches a tumour. When the gene
is switched on, the virus produces a protein that activates an otherwise
harmless ‘prodrug’, given separately.

Because this drug is only activated in tumours, it selectively kills only
cancer cells. In normal tissue, the drug remains inactive, so healthy cells
are not affected.

This is the first time such a therapy has proved successful at killing bowel
cancer cells, albeit only in the laboratory. Cancer Research UK and The
Institute of Cancer Research are supporting the development of the therapy,
and hope to take it into early clinical trials in the future.

Lead researcher, Professor Caroline Springer of The Institute’s Cancer
Research UK Centre for Cancer Therapeutics, said: “We have developed a smart
method to selectively target cancer cells. Normal cells are spared because
the virus doesn’t produce the protein that activates the drug unless it is
inside a tumour.

“The beauty of our approach is that the cancer cells are made to commit
suicide both by the virus and the activated drug – the two work in tandem.
And once activated, the drug has the added bonus of causing the virus to
produce more of the activating protein, which activates more of the drug,
and so on. It’s the first time we’ve seen a ‘positive feedback loop’ like
this in a GDEPT therapy.”

The drug damages DNA inside the cancer cells to the point where the cells
stop functioning. They have no choice but to shut down and die.

Another benefit of the therapy is that it doesn’t just kill only the cancer
cells infected by the virus.

“We also see a significant ‘bystander effect’,” added Prof Springer. “This
means the cells killed by the virus or the drug release signals into the
tumour that tell neighbouring cancer cells to die too.”

Cervical Cancer Vinegar Screening Tests save lives

Researchers from the International Centre for Research on Cancer, in Lyon, France have stopped a ten-year trial after seven years because it has been such a success. Instead of using expensive Pap smears, they have followed the screening of tens of thousands of women in India using acetic acid (vinegar) and a hand held light. As we have previously reported on several occasions in icon, this ‘test’ has an almost 100 per cent accuracy, and is cheap to use. Women who were screened were 25 per cent less likely to develop cervical cancer and 35 per cent less likely to die from the disease. Researchers believe this could bring significant benefits to poorer countries. (Ed – but no doubt the NHS will continue to use the less accurate, expensive tests)

Memmorial Sloan-Kettering announces Prostate prediction ‘tool’

The sheer volume of possible treatments often further complicates the problems of having prostate cancer. To help patients through this minefield scientists and statisticians at a top US cancer center have developed a prediction tool (their word, not mine) computer model to advise on the best possible treatment for that patient and that particular cancer. It’s called a nomogram.

The prostate nomogram cannot definitively answer the complicated question of which treatment is most appropriate for an individual patient. It simply provides information that may be useful for the decision-making process, which should be carried out in consultation with a physician.
The new prostate nomogram is divided into three main tools -- Pre-Treatment, Post-Radical Prostatectomy, and Hormone Refractory -- and includes survival statistics up to ten years following treatment. You’ll find details on their web site.

Growing US Controversy over HPV Vaccine and cervical cancer prevention

We have covered the development of HPV vaccines in icon before.  Merck & Glaxo each have vaccines ‘developed’, which can (it is claimed) prevent certain strains of HPV infecting females.  These strains lead to approximately 70 per cent of cervical cancers.  As we warned you, the companies are lobbying the Government and the Press in the hope that all girls aged 9 or so will be vaccinated before their first sexual experience-as HPV is sexually transmitted.

All this is a long way from the clamour developing in America.  There, Merck has been lobbying to make its HPV vaccine – Gardasil - a mandatory vaccine throughout the USA. 

But, Merck has now ended its lobbying campaign.  The American Academy of Paediatrics, originally supportative, have recently cooled; state legislatives were supportive but ran into Parental Groups arguing that such laws would contravene Human Rights, and thirdly worrying side effects have now started to emerge, including fainting and dizziness.

You may recall Merck made the killer drug Vioxx.  Unkind US campaigners dubbed HPV Gardasil “Help Pay for Vioxx litigation”.

The drug in the US was to sell for $150-$200 for one dose and insurers had refused to pay.

The New England Journal of Medicine found that the use of condoms reduced incidence of HPV by 70 per cent.  And, according to the US CDC, although 6 million American women contract HPV annually, for the majority their immune systems take care of it.  By contrast, HPV linked cervical cancer causes 3700 deaths each year in the USA; critics argue that this is hardly worth the expense and the infringement of human rights.

And now in Australia come reports of early-vaccinated girls suffering from nausea, dizziness and fainting with several hospitalised. And in the USA a Human Rights group went to court with the FDA to gain access to the test results for the vaccine and won using the freedom of information act – finding that in the 1000 or so test subjects there were high levels of discomfort and illness and even three deaths amongst young girls.

Perhaps everyone should just heed the head of the Thai FDA, who reminded people in July that, ‘The vaccine only rules out two types of the virus, which account for 70 per cent of the disease, has to be given every 5 years, and does have side effects’

(Mercola, USA Today Feb 21st, Yahoo News, Alliance for Human Research Protection, Bangkok Post).

MD Anderson show vitamins enhance Bladder Cancer Chemo.

In the March edition of the MD Anderson Cancer Centre’s e news letter ( there is a report on research which shows that vitamin C and vitamin K3 each improves the success rates of chemotherapy in bladder cancer.

Men with Breast cancer – higher risk of second cancer

So say researchers from UCLA, Irvine (Breast Cancer research: online Jan 25th, 2007; DOI; 10; 1186).  Apparently 11.5 per cent of men with breast cancer developed a second cancer – they were using data from the California Cancer Registry. They recommend careful monitoring of all male breast cancer patients, after linking the finding to problems with the BRCA1 and 2 immune system genes.

Colorectal cancer patients benefit from Bevacizumab

From the Gastro-intestinal Cancer symposium in Orlando (Jan 19 – 21st 2007) comes the finding that patients with metastatic CRC, benefit by about two months extra cancer free time if they take Bevacizumab.

Oxaliplatin causes liver damage in some CRC patients

However at the same Symposium, oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy was said to cause liver damage to CRC patients who already had liver metastases. (FOLFOX-4 Chemotherapy). Catherin Julie (Paris) presented a paper showing a rise from 11 per cent to 41 per cent in liver damage where the drug was taken post surgery.

Pioneering Cancer Expert appointed Chief Scientist at CRUK

Cancer Research UK has appointed leading cancer researcher Professor Sir David Lane FRS as its first Chief Scientist. Professor Lane, one of the world’s ‘superstars of biomedicine’, discovered the p53 protein, which plays a central role in preventing cancer. In half of all cancers, including breast, bowel, lung, prostate and skin, the protein is damaged or inactivated. Scientists are currently researching ways to repair or reactivate p53 in the tumours of patients.

Professor Lane’s work has been funded by Cancer Research UK for over 30 years. He will join the charity on a part-time basis, enabling him to continue his existing appointments as well as research responsibilities, in both the UK and Singapore. He currently leads Singapore’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) as well as the Experimental Therapeutics Centre, which are both part of the country’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). A*STAR today announced that he will also chair its Biomedical Research Council (BMRC) with effect from 1 July 2007.

HRT increases cancer risk – confirmed yet again

Readers may have seen headlines on the Daily Mail front page (April 9th 2007) ‘U turn on the risks of HRT’, with an opening sentence of ‘Millions of women may have been scared into abandoning HRT unnecessarily, it was revealed’.

Apparently, to quote the paper, “Dr John Stevenson, an HRT expert from London’s Royal Brompton Hospital launched a furious attack on the original researchers and warned that women who stopped taking hormones would go on to suffer heart attacks and other illnesses they didn’t deserve”.

What’s this all about?  In 2002 a trial in the USA of more than 16,000 women between 50 and 79 concluded that women on HRT were 29 per cent more likely to have heart problems, 41 per cent more likely to have a stroke and reports that researchers were “so concerned that the trial was stopped three years early”. (Ed: We covered this at the time in icon)

Now a new analysis of the research data, published in the American Medical Association Journal, has reported that the effect on heart risk depends upon age.  In fact the analysis showed that those younger women taking HRT at menopause were 24 per cent less likely to have heart problems.  However, the increased risk was again shown where women take ‘hormones’ 20 or more years after menopause.

We feel we should clarify this for our readers – who are primarily interested in cancer.

The actual study concerned was split into two parts:

Some women taking oestrogen only HRT, others were taking a mixed synthetic progesten/oestrogen HRT.  The control group was taking neither.  The study was expected to last 5-7 years at the outset.  However after 2 years the group taking the oestrogen only HRT had a 26 per cent incidence of breast cancer,  whilst the group taking the mixed pill had a 100 per cent increased incidence; plus significant heart problem increases..  This latter part of the study was stopped immediately and the FDA instructed that Health Warnings (but only about heart problems) should be put on HRT packs in the USA.

In terms of cancer this was hardly new news.  The Harvard/Boston Nurses Study analysis following over 170,000 nurses for 17 years had reported a similar 27 per cent increased risk of breast cancer.

In 2003 the Cancer Research UK Million Women Study confirmed almost the same increase risk for breast cancer – of 26 per cent.

Worryingly, further analysis of the Boston Nurses study then showed increases for other cancers – for example, ovarian cancer risk increased by 40 after 7 years.

This is now confirmed by yet another analysis. The Times headlined the front page story that ‘Ovarian cancer risk is increased by 20 per cent; and HRT has caused 1000 deaths from the cancer between 1991 and 2005’.  The article states that the latest analysis of the Million Women Study suggests that HRT raises the combined risk of breast, womb and ovarian cancer by 60 per cent.

To quote directly from the CRUK press release………
“The researchers, who are largely funded by Cancer Research UK, estimate that
use of HRT since 1991 has resulted in an extra 1,300 cases and 1,000 deaths
from ovarian cancer.

The study also suggests that a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer returns to a
normal level within a few years of stopping HRT.

Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women in the UK with
almost 7,000 new cases each year. The five-year survival rate for the
disease is less than 30 per cent which reflects the fact that ovarian cancer
is often diagnosed at a late stage.

Lead researcher, Professor Valerie Beral director of Cancer Research UK’s
epidemiology unit at the University of Oxford, said: “The results of this
study are worrying because they show that not only does HRT increase the
risk of getting ovarian cancer, it also increases a woman’s risk of dying of
ovarian cancer.

“This study, along with our previous research, clearly demonstrates the
cancer risks of taking HRT.”

Previous results from the Million Women Study have linked the use of HRT
with breast and endometrial cancer (cancer of the womb lining). Combined
with ovarian cancer, these three diseases account for almost 40 per cent of
all cancers in women in the UK and 25 per cent of cancer deaths.

If that isn’t enough evidence, as we told you last issue, researchers in the USA have reported a dramatic decrease in the number of new cases of breast cancer in 2004.  Instead of a usual increase of approximately 2 per cent, a decline of 7 per cent was reported.  Why?  Well, researchers were quite clear – it was the year after the 2002 US research scares, and usage of HRT amongst American women had fallen dramatically.

Surprisingly, in our opinion, Dr Stevenson was further quoted by the Daily Mail as saying, ‘The link with breast cancer was still unclear and any risk was “incredibly small”.

The Times however took a different stance.  Also in their April 19th edition is an article entitled ‘How doctors misread the signs amid a wave of euphoria over HRT.’

We remain clear in the way we read the signs; and interestingly our readers (judging by our mail bag) do too. We remain in tune with CRUK who have previously published the view that, ‘The risks outweigh the advantages’

Isn’t it about time a clear Health Warning was put on British Packs as it is with cigarettes?


Omega-3 yet again shown to help in colon cancer

New research in the American Journal of Epidemology shows yet again that eating a lot of Omega-3 rich foods protects against colon cancer. Dr Evropi Theodoratu of Edinburgh University said there was clear evidence for the benefits of Omega-3 but none for Omega-6, which may even increase risk. (Ed: We have repeatedly told readers this over the last 5 years. The original studies won John Vane a Nobel Prize in 1982 – Salicylin (aspirin), long-chain Omega-3 (fish oils), garlic and ginger will all reduce the levels of inflammatory negative eicosanoids and contain the growth of polyps and the formation of a carcinogenic bile acid. If only Doctors would start telling their patients what research seems to show year in year out. How many more studies do we need?)

Activity reduces cancer risk

In a new study (Cancer Epidemology Biomarkers and Prevention; Feb 1st 2007: 16 (2): 236-43) researches showed that women who take six or more hours of exercise per week reduce their risks of invasive breast cancer by 23 per cent.

Chinese Herbs get a licking

Chinese Herbal Medicine has no effect in reducing chemotherapy-induced haematological toxic effects – although it does help with nausea. So says a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial using expert herbalists, 111 patients and supervised by Tony Mok at the University of Hong Kong. There was no significant difference between the treated or the controlled groups both showing grade 3 – 4 Neutropenia, although far more had less nausea in the treated group.

Harvard scientists fast discovering secrets of long life

Harvard researchers have confirmed the findings of previous European studies on calorie restriction.  In Nova Science Now (Jan 2007) they have released a video explaining how cutting the food intake of any organism by 30-40 per cent can increase longevity by up to 60 per cent.

Calorie restriction has several benefits:

  • it reduces metabolic rate and thus waste toxin levels

  • it reduces insulin levels (see our previous article on the links between insulin and cancer)

  • it increases the body’s stress response-increasing survival hormones, and the body’s ability to repair DNA and cellular efficiency

One hormone group vital to this process has been identified as ‘sirtuins’.  These can also be stimulated (Dr Mercola) by resveratrol (found in grape skins and grape seeds plus nuts like pecans and peanuts, and fruits like raspberries, blueberries and blackberries).

Drug companies are working on drugs which can stimulate sirtuin production.  Niacin (vitamin B-3) has been found to block sirtuin activity.  Drug companies are working on ways of avoiding that too

Stomach cancer bacterium limited by olive oil

The Journal of Agriculture and Ford Chemistry (Feb 2007; 55 (3); 680-686) covers a study which shows that extra virgin olive oil can help prevent and treat infections of Helico bacter Pylori in the stomach.  This bacterium is known to be a cause of stomach ulcers and stomach cancer.

The activity is the work of the phenol compounds in olive oil. Phenol compounds from green tea have been previously observed to have benefits.  Apparently they can still operate in the stomachs acidic environment and were effective even when antibiotics were not.

Pills aren’t as good as the real fruit

Vitamin C in orange juice was compared to vitamin C tablets, both given at a dose of 150mgs. Blood samples were then taken at 3 and 24 hours and exposed to hydrogen peroxide. The oxidative damage was significantly reduced in those that had taken the orange juice but in the sample that had taken the Vitamin C tablets there was no effect.

Scientists believe there may be more to it than the simple fact that synthetically produced vitamin C is worthless. Although the reasons for the findings are not fully clear, suggestions include the fact that orange juice also contains flavonones, carotenoids and cyanidin-3 glucoside and these may have worked synergistically with the Vitamin C to produce the full anti-oxidant effects. Alternatively there may be an interaction with the sugars in the orange juice to enhance the anti-oxidant effects. (Guarnieri S- British Journal of Nutrition 2007  97 639-643)

Fizzy Drinks linked with health risks

Several studies have all been negative on soft drinks in recent months.  Peter Piper of Sheffield University published his results on E211 (Sodium Benzoate) in soft drinks like Pepsi Max and Fanta saying, that this messed up your mitochondria – or words to that effect – and was linked to everything from DNA damage to Parkinson’s. Sodium Benzoate is used as a preservative – the FSA says it is safe but Piper says all the EU research is simply out of date.

In a second study from Dr Vasan and his team at Hard Medical School looking at over 6,000 middle-aged men and women over a 4-year period, those who drank just one soft drink per day:

  • Had a 31 per cent greater risk of obesity

  • Had a 30 per cent chance of developing a ‘larger waist’

  • Had a 25 per cent chance of high blood tri-glycerides and high blood sugar

  • Had a 32 per cent chance of lowered ‘good cholesterol’

Researchers said these drinks increased the risk of ‘metabolic syndrome’
The results didn’t seem too different if the drinks were in diet form. Fingers of concern were also pointed at certain colourings that have been linked to tissue inflammation.

McDonalds promises to cut out the Trans fats, in the USA

McDonalds bosses have said that they have some ‘great new products’ on their way in the next 18 months, incorporating more fruit and vegetables. Meanwhile they have promised to give up trans fats within a year.

In New York it has to be sooner than that. The local Government will not allow trans fats after July 1st 2007. McDonalds are moving to a canola oil, including corn and soya oils. (Ed: So what Government restrictions are there in the UK. And what is the usage of trans fats here?)

Think Doctors know nothing about Nutrition?

Its a common complaint that doctors know nothing about nutrition. Not just in the UK but in America too. Well, in the USA they are about to do something about it.  The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is distributing a 900-page nutrition guide to medical students in the United States and Canada free of charge. The guide not only provides basic information on risk factors and typical treatments, but it also provides evidence-based information on the role of nutrition in prevention and treatment. In addition, the guide contains in-depth information on general nutrition, including the roles of macronutrients and micronutrients and specific nutritional requirements for all stages of life. ( (Ed: So what are we waiting for in Britain?)

GM Maize linked to toxicity in rats

A study funded by Greenpeace and reported in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology has found that rats fed for 90 days with Mosanto’s MON863 maize showed ‘signs of toxicity’ in their internal organs, specifically their liver and kidneys. The Maize has been grown in Europe since early 2006 and is approved by the EU for human consumption. Apparently it is resistant to common rootworm

This is the first ever study showing such problems to be peer reviewed. (Mercola)

Russian study confirms GM potatoes link to cancer.

A Russian study completed in 1998 by the Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy has shown that GM potatoes caused significant damage to Rat’s internal organs including cancer.

The report was suppressed for a number of years and claims by Dr Arpad Pusztai resulted in him being personally vilified and suspended from his job, in a campaign with industry support.  However ant-GM activists finally took the matter to the Russian courts.  The report has led to Greenpeace and other UK activists insisting that GM potatoes are removed from UK fields.  (The Independent – Feb 17; Dr Mercola).

Blueberries may reduce colon cancer risk

A natural compound, pterostilbene, found in blueberries may be good for preventing bowel cancer, say researchers from Rutgers University and the US Department of Agriculture. Their presentation to the American Chemical Society said that the compound was a powerful antioxidant and seems to mop up highly reactive molecules (free radicals) that can trigger cancer growth in rats that were developing polyps and pre-cancer cells. Pterostilbene is also found in cranberries, sparkleberries, lingonberries, grapes and red wine.
Other work, also in mice, suggests pterostilbene may be good for lowering blood cholesterol too.

Vitamin D now found to reduce blood pressure

Dr Robert Scragg and his team in Auckland, New Zealand using the 3rd National Health and Nutrition Study has shown that higher blood levels of vitamin D are linked to lower blood pressure and vice versa.


Attacks on Drugs companies growing

The NHS are saying that they are spending 500 million too much on Drugs and they need to reduce the bill. The Thai Government have gone a step too far – they have introduced compulsory licensing for all drugs, then promptly dropped an anti-HIV drug, in favour of their own ‘copy’. This, of course prompted all sorts of outrage and threats – but brought the drug maker to the negotiating table and the drug in question is now likely to see a price cut! But several recent studies have brought the whole drugs; business’ into sharp focus. More drugs seem to be having Vioxx moments, more scandals on bribery of doctors are surfacing. Here are a couple of recent items from the USA:

The total market Drugs market is now fast approaching $70 billion in the West. Just one company, AstraZeneca, recently announced an $8.4 billion profit for 2006.

Only recently Professor Waxman, a leading light in Cancer Research UK, and a professor at Imperial College wrote an article in the BMJ stating that ‘Alternative medicine is big business, with a market value in the UK alone of £250 million ($385 million) ’. We think he included complementary medicine in this too but we got a bit confused. He also called suppliers of these products ‘snake oil salesman’, adding that they market themselves in the same way as drugs companies do so they should be similarly classified.  On the global numbers for the Drugs industry above, it’s really hard to see how he can justify such statements, especially after recent, notable court cases finding against certain pharmaceutical companies for bribing Doctors in the US (The fine? $386 million – roughly the same size as the UK Alternative market) and UK (taking them to dog races and lap dancing clubs).

Snake oil salesman? What was that about people in glass houses?

Do the Drugs work?

Sadly, in 2004 a systematic review of American and Australian studies for chemotherapy (Clin Oncology 2004; 16 (8) 549-60) concluded that despite all the money being spent on drugs for cancer there had only been a 2.5 per cent improvement in 5-year survival rates.  In Britain, where CRUK continue to lead the way in drug clinical trials for the world, the Eurocare 3 study put us below average for 5-year survival in Europe with ten English women less surviving breast cancer per 100 than Sweden, and thirty English men less surviving prostate cancer per 100 than Austria.

US Prescription Drug deaths leap 68 per cent in just 5 years

Poisoning from prescription drugs has risen to become the second-largest
cause of unintentional deaths in the United States. Yet the FDA continues
to allow more drugs onto the US market than ever before. Is there enough and independent testing? Are too many vested interests in play? Are these drugs really safe and effective? To read more go to HealthWorld Online in the US.  (

Coming Clean?

Drug Companies in USA are providing yet more marketing funds for doctors and professors than ever before. Doctors are even setting up charities so their ‘work’ can receive donations.

The New York Times reports that seven legislatures have passed laws requiring drug companies to disclose exactly how much theyve spent on the marketing efforts in their individual states, while another article in the Journal of the American Medical Association study compares two of these states (Minnesota and Vermont).

Apparently, Big Pharma have kept details of the payouts to health care professionals in Vermont private, declaring them "trade secrets." By contrast, Minnesotas disclosures are a matter of public record.

Since 1997, when the Minnesota law was passed, drug companies have paid more than 5,500 health care workers in the state at least $57 million; more than 20 percent of the states physicians total earnings, while over 100 people received more than $100,000. Ten doctors and one dentist received more than $500,000. Another $40 million was paid to clinics, research centers and other organisations.

Psychiatrists, as a profession, received the most money, followed by doctors who specialize in internal medicine, then cardiologists, endocrinologists and neurologists.

Doctors often received payments in return for delivering lectures about drugs to other doctors. Some sat on the committees that create nationwide guidelines about when to use medicines; a 2002 survey actually found that upwards of 80 percent of the doctors on such panels had financial ties to drug makers. A small number of doctors were being paid to do research.

Pharmaceutical companies spent a disclosed total of $16 billion in marketing efforts in the US last year.

Studies have shown that doctors who have close financial ties to drug companies tend to prescribe newer, pricier drugs, even if this is not in the best interest of the patients. Few patients are aware of the financial connections between the doctors prescribing drugs and the companies making them. (Dr Mercola) Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 297, No. 11, March 21, 2007: 1216-1223; New York Times March 21, 2007, Tuscaloosa March 21, 2007

Johns Hopkins expresses concerns on dioxins

Johns Hopkins Cancer Center and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center have recently circulated a warning about dioxins and microwaves.

Dioxins are highly poisonous to the cells of our bodies and have been linked to increased cancer risk.

Recently, Dr. Edward Fujimoto, Wellness Program Manager at Castle Hospital, on a US TV program, explained how bad they are for us, saying that we should not be heating our food in the microwave using plastic containers. This especially applies to foods that contain fat. Fujimoto stated that the combination of fat, high heat, and plastics releases dioxin into the food and these ultimately find their way into the cells of the body. Apparently using paper or plastic wrappings can be little better. He further warned about freezing plastic bottles with water in them as this also releases dioxins from the plastic.

Foods such as TV dinners, instant meals and soups, etc., should be removed from the container and heated in glassware. (Ed: We are not too keen on microwaves anyway – we’ve read the German and Russian research that shows microwaved food can increase the number of pre-cancer cells circulating in the body!!)

 Toxic Chemical leaches from baby bottles

A newly released report states that a chemical known to be toxic to the
nervous and reproductive systems and also to the human developmental system, leaches from popular clear, plastic baby bottles. Five of the most popular brands of baby bottles on the US market were tested and all five leached bisphenol A at levels that have been found to cause harm in numerous laboratory animal studies. (

California awards $45 million for stem cell research

Arnie is proud of the way California is leading the world and has provided extra funding. Governor Schwarzenegger added that stem cell research is potentially life-saving research with huge implications for diseases like cancer.

Issue 2 - 2007
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