Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

New prostate cancer drug Provenge.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved Provenge for use in advanced prostate cancer yesterday. This is the first proof that immunotherapy works in cancer treatment.

The only other approved drug is Taxotere (docetaxel), which extended life in clinical trials by 2-3 months.

Provenge extended lifespan most often by just over 4 months.

Provenge is called a therapeutic vaccine, because it does not prevent cancer, but trains the immune system to recognise and attack the disease better.

Provenge is personalised for each patient. White cells from the patient’s blood are incubated together with a protein from prostate cancer, then returned back into the patient.

The makers, Dendreon, said they had capacity for a maximum of 2,000 patients in the coming year, with expansion thereafter.

A full treatment will cost $93,000. Dendreon claims this is in line with other cancer treatments, per month of extended life.


April 30, 2010 Posted by | Dendreon, Prostate cancer, Provenge, Science | 1 Comment

Adult early-death rates.

Professor Christopher JL Murray and team reported on early death rates, those in people aged 15 to 59, across the world.

In general, in this age range about twice as many men die compared to women.

The best 5 countries in order are Iceland, Sweden, Malta, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Making up the top 10 are Australia, Spain, Italy, Greece and Cyprus.

For the UK, men ranked 17th best in the world and women 30th.

In Canada, the M/F rankings were 28th and 20th respectively.

In the US, the M/F rankings were 45th and 49th, behind all of western Europe.

Between 1970 and 2010, substantial increases in adult mortality occurred in sub-Saharan Africa because of the HIV epidemic and in countries related to the former Soviet Union. There was stagnation in the decline of adult mortality for large countries in southeast Asia and a striking decline in female mortality in south Asia.

April 30, 2010 Posted by | Christopher JL Murray, Gender, Health | Leave a comment

Pre-MS test developed.

Professor Anat Achiron of Tel Aviv University has developed a screening test that detects MS before the disease develops.

Although there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, earlier diagnosis may lead to new prevention and treatment options.

Achiron compared samples from – 9 individuals without MS at the sample time but who went on to develop it – 11 matched controls who remained MS free – and 31 people sampled when clinically diagnosed with MS.

This allowed her to identify biomarkers that predict, in advance of onset, who will get MS.

As MS is thought to have a genetic component, this test could be used in at-risk families to predict who will and will not eventually progress to multiple sclerosis.

April 29, 2010 Posted by | Anat Achiron, Genetics, Multiple sclerosis | Leave a comment

Probiotics for celiac disease.

Dr Yolanda Sanz and team at the National Spanish Research Council (CSIC) in Valencia has found in lab models that probitiotics may offer hope in celiac (coeliac) disease, with possible implications in other auto-immune diseases like type 1 diabetes.

In celiac disease, gluten in wheat/rye/barley kicks off a reaction that destroys the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrients properly.

Sanz used cells to model the intestines, then exposed these to intestinal bacteria taken from celiac sufferers, and compared this to the effects of bifidobacteria. The celiac bacteria increased inflammation, while the bifidobacteria decreased it.

The chief editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, where the study appears, said “Just as some foods can lead to poor health, it’s no surprise that others can have positive effects. For people with celiac disease, this opens a line of research into new therapies that may be as accessible as a grocer’s shelf.”

April 29, 2010 Posted by | Celiac (coeliac) disease, Probiotics, Yolanda Sanz | Leave a comment

Canada leads US on health.

Two studies have shown how Canada leads the US in terms of life expectancy and healthy aging.

Dr David H Feeny and team used the joint Canada/US Survey of Health 2002/2003. They found life expectancy in Canada is higher than in the US. For those < 40 years, there were no differences in health-related quality of life between the US and Canada. For the 40+ group, health-related quality of life appears to be higher in Canada, with a gap of about 2.7 years.

They speculated that universal health care in Canada and lower social inequality among the elderly might be factors.

Professor Robert Fowler lead a systematic review of critical care and insurance status in the US, finding 29 studies focusing on these.

The team found that among the general US population, people who are uninsured are about half as likely to receive critical care services as those with insurance. They also found that once admitted to a hospital intensive care unit, uninsured patients are less likely to have invasive procedures or pulmonary artery catheterizations and more likely to have life support withdrawn.

April 29, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Canada, David H Feeny, Health, Medicine/Treatment, Robert Fowler, United States | Leave a comment

NIH – ‘nothing slows Alzheimer’s’.

A 15-person expert panel of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has concluded there is insufficient scientific evidence to show that anything slows the onset of Alzheimer’s.

The chairwoman of the panel, Dr Matha L Daviglus, said “We wish we could tell people that taking a pill or doing a puzzle every day would prevent this terrible disease, but current evidence doesn’t support this.”

The panel found that inconsistent definitions of Alzheimer’s, cognitive decline and the aging process was at the root of the problem.

The panel found no evidence of even moderate scientific quality supporting the association of any modifiable factor (dietary supplement intake, use of prescription or non-prescription drugs, diet, exercise, and social engagement) with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Click here for a copy of the panel’s statement.

Click here for a broadcast of the panel’s findings.

April 29, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Alzheimer's, Martha L Daviglus, NIH - National Institutes of Health | 1 Comment

The end of the Happy Meal?

It requires a second vote on May 11th to come into force, but Santa Clara County in California has taken the first step to prevent toys being given away with meals that do not meet US nutritional standards.

Excessive calorie limits are 120 calories for a drink, 200 calories for a single food item or 485 calories for a meal. Limits would also apply to salt, excess fat and sugar. (A 100g bar of chocolate, about 3.5 oz, typicaly has 550+ calories).

The measure would not cover the major towns of Silicon Valley, which have their own local authorities.

April 29, 2010 Posted by | Child Health, Diet, Psychology, United States, Weight management | Leave a comment

Genetics of MS probed.

Professor Sergio E Baranzini gets the cover of Nature tomorrow for his work in squencing the genome of 3 pairs of identical twins where one has MS (multiple sclerosis) and the other does not.

Amongst other firsts, this is the first time that female genomes and twin genomes have been studied

The team looked in detail at 3 key components of the genome and the way this might relate to MS, and found no differences between the twin with MS and the one without. This suggests there is a significant environmental factor at work in MS.

The findings do not rule out some genetic component, as it’s known that when one identical twin has MS, there is about a 30% chance the other will get it.

Potential environmental culprits include a virus (Epstein-Barr), vitamin D deficiency and smoking.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Genetics, Multiple sclerosis, Sergio E Baranzini | 1 Comment

The chilli pepper diet?

Dr David Heber has found that eating a non-fiery version of the active ingredient in chillis increases energy expenditure and burns fat, at least in people on a very low calorie diet.

The ingredient that makes chillis hot is capsaicin, believed to have evolved to put animals off eating the peppers through pain avoidance. Heber used a non-burning version of capsaicin, called DCT (dihydrocapsiate), also made by plants.

Volunteers went on a very low calorie meal replacement diet for 28 days. One group got DCT while controls got a placebo. The DCT doubled the energy expenditure compared to the placebo, in an effect lasting several hours.

Heber was also able to show that the energy expenditure was burning fat as the fuel.

By coincidence, Dr Kenneth Hargreaves has just published research to show that the human body releases a substance very similar to capsaicin, called OLAM (oxidized linoleic acid metabolite), when injured and when OLAM is picked up by receptors, we perceive pain as the result. Dr Hargreaves is working on blocking pain by blocking this chemical pathway.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Capsaicin - chillis, David Heber, Diet, Kenneth Hargreaves, Pain | Leave a comment

Chocolate v depression?

Dr Natalie Rose and colleagues have published the somewhat odd findings that the more chocolate you eat per month, the more likely you are to be depressed. Or is it that those more depressed eat more chocolate?

The study was conducted on 840 healthy subjects (no heart disease, no diabetes, not on anti-depressants).

Mood was assessed using standard cut-off points on a depression test called CES-D (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale).

Those rated as without depression ate a little over 5 oz (about 150g) per month.  Those rated as depressed ate just over 8oz (about 220g) per month. Those rated with probabale major depression ate just under 12oz (about 330g) per month.

Other possible links such as caffeine, fat intake, carb intake, total energy intake and anti-oxidant food sources were all ruled out.

The authors did not determine whether there was a cause-and effect link in action, merely that a higher rating on the depression scale was linked to higher consumption of chocolate.

Last month, Brian Buijsse reported that the same amount of dark chocolate (about 220g/month) cut the risk of heart attack and stroke significantly.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Chocolate, Depression, Natalie Rose | Leave a comment