Friday, 19 January 2018

Cancer blood test ‘enormously exciting’

Woman getting blood testImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Scientists have taken a step towards one of the biggest goals in medicine - a universal blood test for cancer.
A team at Johns Hopkins University has trialled a method that detects eight common forms of the disease.
Their vision is an annual test designed to catch cancer early and save lives. UK experts said it was "enormously exciting".
Tumours release tiny traces of their mutated DNA and proteins they make into the bloodstream.
The Cancer Seek test looks for mutations in 16 genes that regularly arise in cancer and eight proteins that are often released.
It was trialled on 1,005 patients with cancers in the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, oesophagus, colon, lung or breast that had not yet spread to other tissues.
Overall, the test found 70% of the cancers.
Dr Cristian Tomasetti, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told the BBC: "This field of early detection is critical, and the results are very exciting.
"I think this can have an enormous impact on cancer mortality."
The earlier a cancer is found, the greater the chance of being able to treat it.
Five of the eight cancers investigated have no screening programmes for early detection.
Pancreatic cancer has so few symptoms and is detected so late that four in five patients die in the year they are diagnosed.
Finding tumours when they could still be surgically removed would be "a night and day difference" for survival, said Dr Tomasetti.
Cancer Seek is now being trialled in people who have not been diagnosed with cancer.
This will be the real test of its usefulness.
The hope is it can complement other screening tools such as mammograms for breast cancer and colonoscopies for colorectal cancer.
Dr Tomasetti told the BBC: "We envision a blood test we could use once a year."

Universal test?

The Cancer Seek test, reported in the journal Science, is novel because it hunts for both the mutated DNA and the proteins.

breast cancer cellsImage copyrightSCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Image captionBreast cancer can be detected by the new test

Increasing the number of mutations and proteins being analysed would allow it to test for a wider range of cancers.
Dr Gert Attard, team leader in the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, told the BBC: "This is of massive potential.
"I'm enormously excited. This is the Holy Grail - a blood test to diagnose cancer without all the other procedures like scans or colonoscopy."
He said "we're very close" to using blood tests to screen for cancer as "we have the technology".
But he cautioned there was still uncertainty about what to do when a cancer was diagnosed.
In some cases, the treatment may be worse than living with a cancer that is not immediately life-threatening.
Men can already have slow growing prostate cancers closely monitored rather than treated.
"When we detect cancer in a different way, we can't take for granted that everyone will need treatment," Dr Attard said.
The cost of Cancer Seek is less than $500 (£360) per patient, which is around the same price as a colonoscopy.
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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Iceland supermarket chain aims to be plastic free by 2023

"Supermarket chain Iceland has said it will eliminate or drastically reduce plastic packaging of all its own-label products by the end of 2023.
Iceland says the move will affect more than a thousand own-label products.
New ranges will be packaged using a paper-based tray, rather than plastic.
It follows recent outcries over the packaging of cauliflower "steaks" and coconuts, and Sir David Attenborough's Blue Planet programme, which showed vivid images of plastic pollution.
Prime Minister Theresa May has called plastic waste "one of the great environmental scourges of our time".
The UK uses 3.7 million tonnes of plastic a year, according to trade organisation Plastics Europe, and recent changes in China have made it more difficult to process.
Nigel Broadhurst, joint managing director of Iceland, explained the typical ready meal was packaged in particularly bad way: "Take a typical Iceland prepared meal, it is currently in a black plastic tray. That black plastic is the worst possible option in terms of toxins going into the ground and the ability to recycle that product."
He said there could be changes to other packaging in future: "Take oranges, they come in a net; apples come in a plastic bag. It doesn't take a lot of shift to expect that you could put an orange net round an apple."
The company says it is aiming to complete the change to its own-brand packaging within the next five years, removing plastics wherever feasible.
Iceland also said its research found that 80% of shoppers would endorse a supermarket's move to go plastic free.
The chain has also earlier supported the idea of a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles.
Mrs May has pledged to ban all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042.
In an attempt to tackle the problem, the PM has called on supermarkets to introduce "plastic-free" aisles, and to consider taxes and charges on single-use plastic items such as food containers."
in on the 16th of January 2018 (original article here)

Thursday, 21 December 2017

A Step Forward Towards Basic Human Rights From The Australian State

"Australian state legalises assisted dying in national first

The Australian state of Victoria has become the nation's first to legalise assisted dying.
The landmark legislation was approved after more than 100 hours of gruelling debate - including two all-night sittings.
The law means terminally ill patients in Australia's second-most populous state will have the right to request a lethal drug from mid-2019.
They must be aged at least 18 and have less than six months to live.
"I'm proud today that we have put compassion right at the centre of our parliamentary and our political process," said state Premier Daniel Andrews.
"That is politics at its best and it is Victoria doing what it does best - leading our nation."

Protecting against coercion

The law is designed for patients who are in severe pain. It has 68 safeguards, including:
  • A patient must make three requests to specially trained doctors in order to end their life
  • A special board must review all cases
  • Coercion of patients into ending their life will be a crime
Additionally, patients must have lived in Victoria for at least 12 months and be of sound mind.
Patients with some conditions - such as multiple sclerosis and ALS, also known as motor neurone disease (MND) - will become eligible when they have 12 months to live.
The legislative debate included one sitting that lasted for 26 hours, and another that stretched for 28 hours. The bill was finally ratified with amendments on Wednesday.
It was fiercely opposed by some lawmakers, who had attempted to add hundreds of amendments.
Last month, Mr Andrews's own deputy, James Merlino, spoke strongly against what he called a "deeply flawed" bill that was "a recipe for elder abuse".
In 1995, Australia's Northern Territory - which is not a state - introduced the world's first voluntary euthanasia law, but it was overturned by federal authorities in Canberra eight months later.
The federal government does not have the same power over states.
Laws allowing terminally ill patients to legally end their lives with a doctor's supervision have since been passed in countries including Canada, the Netherlands and Belgium."
in BBC News from the 29th of November 2017
Read original article here.

Monday, 20 November 2017

FDA approves pill with sensor that digitally tracks if patients have ingested their medication

FDA approves Abilify MyCite, a pill with a sensor that digitally tracks if patients have ingested their medication.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved the first drug in the U.S. with a digital ingestion tracking system. Abilify MyCite (aripiprazole tablets with sensor) has an ingestible sensor embedded in the pill that records that the medication was taken. The product is approved for the treatment of schizophrenia, acute treatment of manic and mixed episodes associated with bipolar I disorder and for use as an add-on treatment for depression in adults.
The system works by sending a message from the pill’s sensor to a wearable patch. The patch transmits the information to a mobile application so that patients can track the ingestion of the medication on their smart phone. Patients can also permit their caregivers and physician to access the information through a web-based portal.
“Being able to track ingestion of medications prescribed for mental illness may be useful for some patients,” said Mitchell Mathis, M.D., director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The FDA supports the development and use of new technology in prescription drugs and is committed to working with companies to understand how technology might benefit patients and prescribers.”
It is important to note that Abilify MyCite’s prescribing information (labeling) notes that the ability of the product to improve patient compliance with their treatment regimen has not been shown. Abilify MyCite should not be used to track drug ingestion in “real-time” or during an emergency because detection may be delayed or may not occur. 
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder. About 1 percent of Americans have this illness. Typically, symptoms are first seen in adults younger than 30 years of age. Symptoms of those with schizophrenia include hearing voices, believing other people are reading their minds or controlling their thoughts, and being suspicious or withdrawn. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is another brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. The symptoms of bipolar disorder include alternating periods of depression and high or irritable mood, increased activity and restlessness, racing thoughts, talking fast, impulsive behavior and a decreased need for sleep.
Abilify MyCite contains a Boxed Warning alerting health care professionals that elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with antipsychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death. Abilify MyCite is not approved to treat patients with dementia-related psychosis. The Boxed Warning also warns about an increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents and young adults taking antidepressants. The safety and effectiveness of Abilify MyCite have not been established in pediatric patients. Patients should be monitored for worsening and emergence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Abilify MyCite must be dispensed with a patient Medication Guide that describes important information about the drug’s uses and risks.
In the clinical trials for Abilify, the most common side effects reported by adults taking Abilify were nausea, vomiting, constipation, headache, dizziness, uncontrollable limb and body movements (akathisia), anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness. Skin irritation at the site of the MyCite patch placement may occur in some patients.
Prior to initial patient use of the product, the patient’s health care professional should facilitate use of the drug, patch and app to ensure the patient is capable and willing to use the system.
Abilify was first approved by the FDA in 2002 to treat schizophrenia. The ingestible sensor used in Abilify MyCite was first permitted for marketing by the FDA in 2012.
The FDA granted the approval of Abilify MyCite to Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. The sensor technology and patch are made by Proteus Digital Health.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products".
In FDA News Release, 20th of November 2017. Find original article here.
FDA approves pill with sensor that digitally tracks if patients have ingested their medication, [], last visited on the 20th of Nvember 2017, last update on the 13th of November 2017.
Post image kindly taken from The Mighty, [].

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The very latest on Brexit - must read!

Brexit is proving to be a hardship process for all those involved. EU citizens like myself, living in the UK, have their lives suspended on a cold breath of oblivion. We know very little, the fresher news are all about egos and pertinent incompetence from a few politicians a lot more worried about becoming the next Prime-Minister rather than giving the British people, and consequently (if they're that altruistic) the EU citizens in the UK, the best deal possible out of a union that for over 50 years provided the longest period of peace and prosperity in the European continent.

Politics apart, we all crave news straight from the source, and not just mere opinions of Think-tanks that do lobby a lot and think very little about us, and OF US.

You can now subscribe to be passed on directly to your email the latest news from the British government on Brexit. I'd advise you to do it immediately as a ticking clock urges action.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

What is it like to hear voices?

The video you are about to watch has been created by the charity Rethink alongside people who experience schizophrenia. It was made to help other people, like myself, who had no idea of what feels like to hear voices in your head. 

Since at least 1 in every 100 people will have to face this disease at some point in their lives, it is important to raise awareness to what it is like to experience this form of hallucination.

My advice is that you get your headphones and raise the volume so you can really feel the power of such disturbance. Then after listening to it once with your open eyes, try to close your eyes and listen again at the same volume (still with the headphones) - you'll realise that closing your eyes won't make it any better or any easier.

Share, as much as possible... and if possible... donate.


Abnormal calcium homeostasis in peripheral neuropathies

Any Sjogren's syndrome patient must be aware of abnormal neuronal calcium homeostasis as a condition that could potentially affect one as the disease progresses. 

It doesn't have to happen to everyone, but if it does it is important to seek medical advice. I for one know that many patients were able to control their tremors and their numbness simply by supplying themselves with a calcium supplement. In many cases this practice solved a problem that not only is pertinent physiologically speaking, but can be also very detrimental emotionally speaking. The fact that the mind starts looking for a name for the symptoms usually directs the affected people to consider themselves affected by early-stage Parkinsonism or even letting the mind escalate to more serious and incongruent diagnosis. 

Abnormal calcium channel expression/function results in what is known as cellular dyshomeostasis , an imbalance that will affect the plasma membrane calcium signalling and the intracellular calcium in those cells related to the peripheral nervous system [1]. For those who are not so familiar with how the human body works to the cellular level, I found an incredibly good image that will allow one to understand how calcium is so important in, for example, muscular fatigue:


In a web-article by Ryan Andrews (I have no idea who this bloke is or his professional proficiency - I'm just assessing what he said) one can find this image (see above) from the New York Times. The image explains that it is the in- and outflow of cellular calcium that controls the way muscles work, to a certain extent (just to make it simple enough for those unaware of the depths of cell biology). For contraction, calcium is 'expelled', and for relaxation, calcium is sent in to the cellular moiety. If this system is affected by the typical systemic alterations that in Sjogren's syndrome cause metabolic imbalance to the molecular level, then the patients will be prone to sense some detrimental effects on their peripheral nervous system.

But before we go any further let's just go back a little bit to understand what in fact is a peripheral neuropathy and also how is calcium involved in the symptoms produced in the affected body. 

Peripheral neuropathy, as the name so well indicates, is a problem affecting the peripheral nervous system, or in simpler words, the mesh of nerves that connect the central nervous system in the brain with the extremities of our bodies. The moment you are a Sjogren's patient and for a certain period of time, not so occasional as one might think, are affected by numbness or a tingling sensation, loss of balance, loss of coordination, muscular weakness, pain in the limbs, or abnormal sensitivity to touch [3], you have an alarm bell ringing. Because this is pretty much a list of symptoms that can be associated to a range of several other conditions, some of a more serious core, medical advice, as in any other medical situation, should be sought. 

The Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation published about three years ago a list of the Top 10 Peripheral Neuropathy and Sjogren's Facts [4] and I advise any Sjogren's patient to visit the website and have a good read. It will help deconstruct many monsters. 

In regards to resorting to medication, I personally avoid medication to the maximum possible because of side effects that can worsen, for example, xerostomia. And to be fair, in my personal case, a calcium supplement of 800 micrograms a day (2 tablets of 400 micrograms taken with my breakfast food) have corrected the problem entirely! If I'm not wrong the recommended daily dose for a man my age (38) is a gram a day, and then my vegetarian diet provides the subsequently needed calcium. Important to refer that because dairy products are, to a certain extent, to be avoided/controlled in regards to intake as they can be quite 'immunogenic' for the Sjogren's patient, my calcium really needs to be strongly controlled because I rarely have any cheese, I don't remember the last time I had cow's milk, and I don't eat any fish or meat, so...

The alterations I have produced in my life to my diet and behaviour have been working so far. I honestly need more discipline in accepting and applying all the alterations needed to really control the syndrome to a point I'll forget I even have it. So controlled that I can almost consider it 'cured'. There is a long way to go, but my changes have produced very positive effects.

I hope you can also improve, but if you suspect of peripheral neuropathy deriving from your condition, please seek medical advice before implementing any dietary changes.

Let's all get better!

[1] Fernyhough, P. and Calcutt, N. A. (2010). "Abnormal calcium homeostasis in peripheral neuropathies". Cell Calcium, 47(2), pp. 130-139. 

[2] All about vitamins and minerals, Precision Nutrition, [], last visited on the 15th of Novenber 2017, last update unknown.

[3] Can peripheral neuropathy be a defficiency issue?, Instant calmag-c, [], last visited on the 15th of Novenber 2017, last update on the 14th of October 2016.

[4] Peripheral neuropathy and Sjogren's, Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation, [], last visited on the 15th of November 2017, last updated on the 20t of November 2014.

Post image kindly taken from beliefnet [].