Saturday, March 28, 2015
I am about to enjoy a visit from part of my Alaska family, then immediately split for the land of moisture and cool air. (It has been over 90 here in Borrego Springs for at least a week.) On the way I will stop and see Carolyn, then after getting home I will spend a day or so petting my remaining cat. Then I will start blogging again. Hope you can get along without me for several weeks. Oh, yes -- I have a great picture of my cat Sea biscuit and me, but Blogger won't let me add it. Maybe someday I will figure out what I am doing wrong - but, don't hold your breath. I WILL TRY AGAIN.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Linda and the Singing Memnon
Did you know that people use stinging nettles to treat ailments like excess water, joint pain, urinary tract infections, hay fever, insect bites, and miscellaneous aches and pains? Well, they do – or at least they formerly did. Modern science has determined the active ingredient here is formic acid, also found in ants. (Next time your rheumatism flairs up, go lie on an ant hill.)
Well, it turns out that formic acid may be useful in cancer therapy, as well. Researchers at the University of Warwick, in the UK, seem to have shown that formic acid in moderate doses greatly enhances the efficacy of the drug JS07. JS07, it seems, somehow disrupts the energy-generating mechanism of cancer cells, causing them to die a hideous (I fondly hope) death. JS07 is described as a “metal-based (ruthenium) cancer drug.” Apparently this metal-based stuff is combined with something called E-237, which is sodium formate, derived from formic acid. One can greatly increase the effectiveness of JS07 by repeatedly renewing the supply of sodium formate. Or so it seems. Frankly, this article was hard for me to understand. Read it yourself, and explain it to me.
Anyway, it is said to be particularly effective against ovarian cancer.
Friday, March 20, 2015
Going out to dinner
It is abundantly clear that a means to detect the presence of early-stage ovarian cancer accurately, non-invasively, and cheaply would be an inestimably boon to womankind – as it says on the back of the MRC symptom card, “when detected early, over 90% of women survive (ovarian cancer)”. To my disappointment, the suspicion has inexorably grown on me (an untutored outsider, remember) that the approach used by the Fred Hutch group I try to help isn’t working. Looking for specific cancer-related miRNA molecules has been suggested, but no follow-up has been done, to my knowledge. I have also read that it may be possible to actually detect cancer cells circulating in the blood stream. Again, where that has gone or is going is a mystery to me. Cancer-sniffing dogs have been mentioned more than once: would that it were so. Now, another possibility:
This paper deals with a method to (possibly) detect the presence of ovarian cancer by looking for certain organic molecules in a woman’s breath. How it is done shouldn’t concern us: we don’t have the background to translate all that biochemistry. Suffice it to say that one breathes into a thing, and bells, whistles and lights do or do not go off. This test was performed on a sample of 182 women, some of which had OVCA, most of which did not, and some had something called “benign gynecological dysplasia”. The statistics were encouraging: sensitivity, 79%; specificity, 100%; accuracy, 89%. What was not discussed was how early this test might catch the disease. Obviously, you can’t test women with stage 1 OVCA unless you know they have it –and that is difficult to do. Ultimately, a test that detects the disease in late stage 3 will be of little overall value. Let’s hope this breathalyzer thing is more sensitive than that!
More work is, of course, needed.
By the way – this seems to be a definite international research effort: Israelis, Chinese, people from Spain and Greece – but, curiously, no Americans.
Sensitivity: the probability that, if a test says you have something, you really do
Specificity: the probability that, if a test says you don’t have something, you really don’t.
Accuracy: I don’t know what in hell this is. I guess it is some murky statistical measure of how likely the test is to be right. If Jay Teachman read my blog, he could explain. But he doesn’t.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
A beautiful woman, in every way
This is our 33rd wedding anniversary. I will be busy with geo-things all day, but Linda will be on my mind the entire time. I am of no great use anymore, but I intend to continue to work on cancer research until I am too old to lick an envelope or turn on a computer. Fate gave me the most wonderful woman in the world, then took her away. Maybe I can help modify fate for a few other people.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Seamus & Me
That's him on the right, in case you are confused.
Take a quick look at this:
Diligent readers of this blog will find nothing much new here, but will appreciate a comprehensive review of what they already know. If the optimistic tone of this article is justified, genetic sequencing of cancers finally is paying worthwhile dividends. Read it and learn why I make that statement.
By the way, this is the type of cancer that deprived us of my beautiful wife.
The Alaskans and the Flagstaffers (Amanda, James and Seamus Wiese; Kristen Beck and Joe Mortimer) have left, leaving the house depressingly silent. My daughter Karen arrives next Sunday for a short visit, and then – on March 29th – I will enjoy several days with daughter Linda, granddaughter Olivia, and great granddaughter Evelyn. Then home, via Carolyn’s home in Eureka, California – to face off with the IRS. So, not many new blogs between now and Tax Day. By the way, this is #300. If they average two hundred words I will have written the equivalent of a moderate-sized novel. Maybe not so entertaining, but at least sincere.
In case you have forgotten, TP53, BRCA1 & BRCA2l are tumor-suppressor genes.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Saturday, March 7, 2015
Big Bear Bebee family reunion
There are two babies in this picture. Guess who has one of them.
From time to time it has been suggested that excess alcohol intake raises the risk of ovarian cancer. Well, maybe not. A group of scientists with distinctly Chinese names (but who give no clue as to where they work) have performed a “meta-analysis” to test that hypothesis. You may already know what “meta-analysis” is, but in case you don’t – it’s where somebody (one hopes with serious statistical sophistication) mathematically combines the results of many separate studies of the same question. In this case the studies were “prospective”, meaning that people were followed for a number of years, their rate of booze intake recorded – and how many of them got OVCA determined. Well over one million were involved. Armed with the results, it’s a relatively simple matter (I guess) to establish whether a correlation between alcohol use and OVCA exists. The result: it doesn’t. Whatever causes ovarian cancer, it’s not that Cadillac margarita before dinner.
Clearly this is only of secondary concern to me. However, booze also is suspected as a causative agent for cancers I might possibly get (unlike OVCA). And on that cheerful note I will end this essay, find a picture to go with it, get it posted – and then go and mix myself a Salty Dog.