Posts Tagged ‘research’

Research and Practical Health Care

Friday, May 6th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

The great universities of the world produce important research findings and provide practical medical care as well. Below are three current news releases from the University of Florida that demonstrate such centers’ value — and that will be of great interest to those involved in older adult health and fitness.

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Listen to the Quiet Protein

Friday, May 6th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

As noted in the article below, lung cancer strikes both cigarette smokers and nonsmokers. For new hope in the fight against this form of cancer, read on:

When a movie character says, “It’s too quiet,” that’s usually a sign something bad may happen.

Now, University of Florida researchers have discovered that when variations of a certain protein in our cells are too quiet, it may add to the risk that someone will develop lung cancer. When scientists restored the protein to its normal, active self, its cancer-inhibiting properties reappeared.

These discoveries, published in two reports in the online version of Oncogene, provide evidence that drugs can potentially suppress tumor growth by restoring cellular processes rather than inhibiting cancer-causing genes known as oncogenes.

“It’s a well-accepted fact that you can inhibit things, particularly oncogenes,
that drive cancer. Oncogenes are the cancer’s gas pedal,” said principal investigator David Reisman, M.D., Ph.D., a UF associate professor of medicine and a member of the UF Shands Cancer Center. “What we’ve done is demonstrate the feasibility of reconstituting the cancer brake.”

The protein, known as Brahma, or BRM, is involved in the regulation of cellular functions like gene expression, DNA repair, cell adhesion and telling cells whether to divide and grow or stop dividing and die. Other studies have found
“silenced” BRM is present in 10 to 20 percent of all solid tumors. Reisman knew from his own research in mouse models that silencing the BRM gene alone did not cause tumor growth, but when carcinogens were introduced, 10 times as many tumors appeared compared with mice with normal BRM expression.

“The gene was not a tumor suppressor in the classical definition but a tumor susceptibility gene, and when the expression is lost, it primes you to other events that potentiate the development of tumors, such as tobacco carcinogens,” Reisman said.

More people die of lung cancer every year than of cancers of the breast, colon, prostate or lymphoma combined, according to the National Cancer Institute. However, only 10 percent of smokers develop lung cancer and as many as 15 percent of those diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked.

Reisman’s work suggests the presence of two variations within the BRM gene — known as polymorphisms — could potentially be biomarkers for lung cancer and assist doctors in identifying individuals at higher risk, which could lead to more cost-effective screening practices and lifesaving early detection.

Study investigators sequenced the genes of 160 people and learned that roughly 20 percent carry the gene variants. With collaborator Geoffrey Liu, M.D., a research scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute at the University of Toronto,
the team then verified the presence of the silenced BRM variants in human lung tumors.

Reisman and Lui also conducted case control studies on 1,199 people who were
matched for age, gender and smoking history but in whom 484 individuals had lung cancer and 715 were healthy and cancer free.

“We found these polymorphic sites were greatly enriched in the population that had developed lung cancer,” Reisman said. “The chance that you would develop lung cancer if you had both polymorphic sites was 220 percent higher. Our analysis demonstrated those odds to be independent of smoking history, sex, race and cancer type.”

Reisman’s team also studied whether it would be possible to restore the normal expression of the BRM protein. Certain compounds, called histone deacetylase — or HDAC — inhibitors, had been demonstrated by other researchers to reactivate the BRM gene, but did not restore the normal, cancer-suppressing function of the BRM protein.

By introducing the healthy protein alongside the reactivated gene, the researchers were able to stop the growth of cancer cells. That makes the process a potential target for drug therapies to use in suppressing many tumor types.

“We know there are a lot of genes that are silenced in cancer, and it’s believed that gene silencing is necessary in order for the cancer to grow and thrive. This research demonstrates — and is really the first example of — an approach that’s led to the reactivation of a specific tumor-suppressing gene,” said Aubrey Thompson, Ph.D., a professor of cancer biology at Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center in Jacksonville, Fla., who was not involved in the research.

“That’s a really big deal,” he said. “It’s an approach that is widely applicable to a lot of genes and a lot of different types of cancer. I think it’s going to be met with a great deal of enthusiasm and interest from researchers in human cancer therapy.”

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Need Weed?

Friday, April 15th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

It’s a poorly kept secret that many senior citizens have both longstanding and ongoing experience in the use of marijuana. But did you know that physical exercise might curb the urge to partake? Jim Evans explains below.


DEAR JIM: I’ve been smoking “weed” most of my life – since I was about 20. I’m 73 now and I still smoke 3-4 joints a day. I’ve thought about quitting from time to time, but it helps me relax and it’s pretty much of a habit now anyway. As you can probably guess, I’m pretty laid back after all these years, but I have been experiencing an increasing number of panic attacks as I grow older. I know there isn’t any
way to treat my dependence with medication, and I really don’t want to quit anyway, but I’m wondering if some kind of physical activity might help me to cut back a little. POTHEAD FROM POMONA

DEAR POTHEAD: Until recently I couldn’t really say whether exercise might be a factor in curbing marijuana use or not. However, a recent study by Vanderbilt University Medical Center seems to indicate that exercise might actually curb both marijuana use and cravings.

The study, published earlier this year in the journal PLoS ONE , found that, after just a few sessions of running on treadmill, participants who were admittedly “cannabis-dependent” but did not want treatment to stop smoking pot, experienced a significant decrease in both cravings and daily use.

In fact, their craving for and use of cannabis was cut by more than 50 percent after exercising on a treadmill for 30-minute sessions over a two-week period. Researchers measured the amount of exercise needed for each individual to reach 60-70 percent of their maximum heart rate respectively, creating a personalized exercise treadmill program for each participant.

“This is 10 sessions but it actually went down after the first five. The maximum reduction was already there within the first week,” said co-author Peter Martin, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Addiction Center.>

“There is no way currently to treat cannabis dependence with medication, so this is big considering the magnitude of the cannabis problem in the U.S. And this is the first time it has ever been demonstrated that exercise can reduce cannabis use in people who don’t want to stop.”

The importance of this study – and future studies – will only continue to grow with the new knowledge of the role of physical activity in health and disease, according to co-author Maciej (Mac) Buchowski, Ph.D, Research Professor of Medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Energy Balance Laboratory.

“It shows that exercise can really change the way the brain works and the way the brain responds to the world around us,” added Martin. “And this is vital to health and has implications for all of medicine.”

More research will need to be done to substantiate these findings, but it certainly sounds promising. In the meantime, you might start walking for 30 minutes a day – on a treadmill or otherwise – and gradually increase the pace and see what happens. You can do your own personal experiment to see if it helps you to cut back on your pot smoking. If not, at least you’ll be in better shape.

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A new study shows that even healthy, fit older adults have a “high degree of inactivity”

Monday, December 13th, 2010

A new study shows that even healthy, fit older adults have a “high degree of inactivity.” As part of the UK’s New Dynamics of Ageing Programme, the study was intended to help “establish a reliable mobility profile of the oldest-old members of society.” Lead researcher, Dr. Lynn McInnes of Northumbria University, said that “Being able to stay mobile is crucial to older people’s wellbeing, as loss of mobility means the loss of so many other things from their lives such as the ability to go shopping, meet friends and pursue hobbies and interests.” Click below for a report from the Economic and Social Research Council.

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Scientists have developed a more accurate and less unpleasant method of diagnosing prostate cancer

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Utilizing ultrasound technology, researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology and AMC Amsterdam have been able to trace the path of injected “microbubbles” through the prostate to determine not only the existence of tumors but also their rate of growth. The researchers noted that this information could help doctors to refrain from performing unnecessary operations and thus reduce overall medical costs.

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The results of two recent studies could help older adults protect their vision

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has published the results of two recent studies that could help older adults protect their vision. In the first study, researchers at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, found that the “Omega-3s in fish and seafood may protect seniors’ eyes.” The second study, from the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, shows that “a test that measures the functionality of the eye’s retinal nerve cells may” could help provide early detection of glaucoma. Click below for a Eurekalert report on both studies.

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Progress on the Cancer Front

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Senior health-fitness professionals routinely work with older adults for whom breakthroughs in cancer research may be of vital interest. Therefore, we are pleased to present the following news releases on advances in breast, colon, and lung cancer treatments describing important new initiatives under way at a major US health science center.

Located in Gainesville, Florida, the University of Florida (UF) Health Science Center — the most comprehensive academic health center in the Southeast — is dedicated to high-quality programs of education, research, patient care, and public service. The Health Science Center encompasses the colleges of Dentistry, Public Health and Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Veterinary Medicine, as well as the Veterinary Hospitals and an academic campus in Jacksonville, Florida, offering graduate education programs. Patient care activities, under the banner of UF & Shands, are provided through teaching hospitals and a network of clinics in Gainesville and Jacksonville. The Health Science Center also has a statewide presence through satellite medical, dental, and nursing clinics staffed by UF health professionals and affiliations with numerous community-based health-care facilities.

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News on Breast Cancer

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

With the snip of scissors during a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the University of Florida Cancer & Genetics Research Complex, a new era in the treatment of breast cancer in Florida began.

The ceremony debued the Intrabeam system at Shands at UF medical center, an intraoperative radiation technology available at fewer than 20 treatment centers nationwide and the only Intrabeam system in the state of Florida. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a breast cancer survivor and ardent advocate for women with breast cancer, helped cut the orange, blue and pink ribbon.

The great benefit of Intrabeam irradiation for patients is that it reduces or even eliminates the need for weeks of external radiation treatment following surgery for early stage breast cancers.

“The Intrabeam will dramatically shorten the duration of radiation treatment for many of our patients,” sai Stephen Grobmyer, M.D., a UF associate professor of surgery and director of the UF Breast Center. “Radiation therapy that would normally require three to six weeks of treatments can now be accomplished in 20 to 25 minutes during the surgery.”

Twenty years in the making, the Intrabeam system is a mobile irradiation device that can be used in the operating room to deliver precise doses of radiation directly to the tumor site. Because it uses low energy X-rays to deliver the radiation dose, it does not require a specialized, shielded room, as do standard, high-powered radiation technologies. Radiation using Intrabeam is delivered from a rod with a spherical tip, which is placed in the cavity left in the breast tissue following removal of the tumor. The tumor bed is then irradiated for a period of 20 to 30 minutes while the patient is under general anesthesia.

The FDA-approved Intrabeam procedure, known as targeted intraoperative radiotherapy, was shown as effective as whole breast radiotherapy but with fewer complications in a clinical trial known as TARGIT-A, launched in 2000.

“The TARGIT-A trial, which is a randomization of standard radiation compared to a one-time dose in the operative theater using Intrabeam, has demonstrated, after four years follow up, that the two are equivalent in their ability to prevent the breast cancer from coming back in the breast,” said Michael Alvarado, M.D., an assistant professor of surgery at the University of California at San Francisco and TARGIT-A investigator. “Not only is the one-time dose of radiation using Intrabeam just as effective as a full course of external radiation, it is more convenient for the patient and there is less risk involved in terms of damage to the heart, the lungs and the skin.”

Studies have shown that 70 percent of women with invasive breast cancer require radiation therapy to destroy remaining cancer cells. Grobmyer, who is a member of the UF Shands Cancer Center, estimates the majority of patients undergoing lumpectomy, a breast conserving surgery that removes the tumor but leaves healthy breast tissue intact, would be potential candidates for treatment with Intrabeam. With the Intrabeam technology, Grobmyer said many lumpectomy patients at the UF Breast Center will now complete their entire course of radiation during surgery, eliminating the need to undergo weeks of external radiation treatments.

“Studies suggest that the farther a woman lives from a treatment facility, the less likely she will be to receive radiation treatments,” Grobmyer said. “Some women will choose to have a mastectomy rather than breast conserving surgery because they aren’t able to commit to three to six weeks of radiation treatments, either because of physical disability or because they live too far away from the treatment facility. Intrabeam now makes lumpectomy a more viable option for many of these patients.”

While Intrabeam irradiation has been shown to be just as effective as external radiation therapy in preventing the recurrence of cancer at the tumor site, it may have an added cancer killing effect that external radiation can’t offer.

“Surgeons expect most, if not all, of the tumor can be removed, but in some cases microscopic parts of the tumor may remain within the tumor bed or attached to structures such as arteries or nerves that cannot be removed. Even under the best conditions, too often residual disease near the margin of the tumor resection remains,” said Paul Okunieff, M.D., chair of the UF department of radiation oncology and director of the UF Shands Cancer Center. “Historically, we would offer radiation after the patient has had time to heal from surgery, but with the Intrabeam system, with little to no added toxicity, radiation can be immediately delivered to the exactly correct location. Any remaining tumor cells are sterilized and have no time to regrow.”

Okunieff said the Intrabeam system has been proven to be effective in the treatment of brain and breast tumors, and it holds promise for the treatment of many other cancer types where the tumor may be attached to sensitive tissues that cannot be removed, such as in the treatment of head and neck, pancreatic and rectal tumors. Okunieff was one of the researchers who participated in the early design and engineering of the Intrabeam device, and he was the first to use it in patients during clinical trials to treat brain tumors.

A $346,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, helped pay for the technology. The grant was intended to broaden treatment options for Floridians, which will be even further expanded by UF’s participation in ongoing clinical trials of the Intrabeam to explore its effectiveness in treating more advanced and aggressive breast cancers.

“Being involved with studies with Intrabeam is an important part of what we do because it allows us to continually assess and refine the uses of the Intrabeam system,” Grobmyer said. “We’re in the era of personalized cancer therapy, tailored to the type and stage of cancer presented by each patient. The Intrabeam system is an important tool in this effort, and it provides excellent results, reduces side effects, and dramatically shortens the duration of treatment.”

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News on Colon Cancer

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

A chemical compound made from a type of bacteria discovered in the Florida Keys by a University of Florida pharmacy researcher has shown effectiveness in fighting colon cancer in preclinical experiments.

Writing online in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, scientists say the compound — known as largazole because it was first found near Key Largo — inhibits human cancer cell growth in cultures and rodent models by attacking a class of enzymes involved in the packaging and structure of DNA.

More study is needed, but scientists hope that the discovery will lead to new treatments for the roughly 50,000 people struck with colorectal cancer each year in the United States. Researchers are enthusiastic because in addition to having the marine bacteria as a natural source of the chemical, they have been able to synthetically produce the active chemical compound extracted from the bacteria.

“It is challenging to develop natural marine products into drug therapies due to what is termed the ‘the supply problem,’” said Hendrik Luesch, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicinal chemistry in the UF College of Pharmacy. “We have solved the supply problem for largazole because it has a relatively simple structure, which has made it easy to reproduce in the lab.”

The Luesch lab discovered largazole while investigating samples of bacteria from the Florida Keys, publishing the finding in 2008.

Known as cyanobacteria, the microbes have evolved to fend off predators or cope with harsh conditions in a marine environment, employing toxins to aid their own survival. The toxins are the compounds chemists such as Luesch wish to isolate and understand in a quest to create drugs that similarly fend off invading cancers in the body.

Since the discovery, Luesch’s lab determined the compound inhibits enzymes known as histone deacetylases, or HDACs, which are linked to many diseases and are increasingly viewed as promising for cancer therapy.

Jiyong Hong, Ph.D., an assistant professor of chemistry at Duke University, teamed with the UF researchers to chemically reproduce the compound for further preclinical testing, which indicates it is a potent inhibitor of cancer cells that has the right properties to reach its intended target without the toxic side effects of many cancer drugs.

“Knowing HDAC is the target that makes largazole effective means we can predict good drug properties because there are already two anticancer products on the market that work this way,” said Luesch, who is a member of the UF Shands Cancer Center.

Three important aspects make this marine compound more promising than other natural products as an effective cancer-fighting drug, Luesch said — availability of supply, knowing its mode of action and the fact that its cellular target is already a proven anticancer target known to result in the necessary selectivity for cancer cells over normal cells.

Luesch presented the findings Sept. 9 at the Marine Drug Discovery Symposium in Pohang, South Korea, and in mid-October at the Marine Natural Products Symposium in Phuket, Thailand. The research was featured on the cover of November’s Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

He completed his initial preclinical studies that demonstrated largazole’s effectiveness in inhibiting the growth of more than one type of colon cancer cell through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding from the National Cancer Institute.

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News on Lung Cancer

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Eight years ago, he sat in his living room, tethered to oxygen, his lungs rapidly deteriorating from pulmonary fibrosis. If Tom Telford had not become Patient No. 199, he probably would have gone on this way, unable to breathe, until he died.

That year, 2002, Telford became the 199th patient to receive a lung transplant at Shands at the University of Florida. He can’t run a marathon and struggles walking up a flight of stairs, but Patient No. 199 is alive. But for many lung transplant recipients, a successful transplant does not always ensure years of survival.

“At five years post-transplant, only 50 percent of recipients survive,” said Telford, a semi-retired nuclear engineer who lives in Gainesville. “I was No. 199. I knew 195 to 205. I exercised with these people and got to know them. Now, many of those people are not alive. It is pretty depressing.”

To help change these statistics, the state of Florida has awarded a $1 million grant to UF to establish a lung transplant center and fund research projects focused on problems such as chronic rejection, the most common reason why patients die after a lung transplant. The center emerged in 2010 from the flagship lung transplant program.

“Of the solid organ transplants, the survival rate of lung transplants is unfortunately the lowest,” said Mark Brantly, M.D., division chief of pulmonary medicine in the UF College of Medicine and a director of research efforts for the new lung transplant center. “There are many challenges in transplanting lungs not the least of which is chronic rejection. We are looking to develop a multicollege research group that will help advance our knowledge about rejection and will develop new therapeutics to improve our patients’ lives.”

According to the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, about half of lung transplant recipients are still alive after five years, and only about one-quarter of them make it to 10 years.

The funding has already been used to support five research projects involving researchers from the UF colleges of Medicine and Engineering. The projects include the following:

A study led by Thomas Beaver, M.D., will examine rehabilitation of donor lungs using what is known as perfusion technology. Only about one-quarter of potential donor lungs are able to be transplanted into patients, but studies have shown that attaching lungs to a machine that tricks the organs into thinking they are still inside the body and infusing them with medicine could rehabilitate them for transplant.

Maher Baz, M.D., director of the lung transplant center, will study whether an excess of cells known as T-helper cell 17 could play a role in triggering chronic rejection.

Frederick Kaye, M.D., and his team are studying tumors associated with lung transplants.

Studies led by Jay Patel, M.D., and CQ Xia, M.D., Ph.D., will examine whether lungs treated with an antioxidant protein prior to transplant could help stave off chronic rejection.

Chris Batich, Ph.D., and Gregory Schultz, Ph.D., are looking into the development of a device that could potentially remove antibodies associated with rejection from the blood of patients.

“This grant will allow us to put our three objectives into motion: education, clinical care and research in lung transplantation,” Baz said. “We are hoping this will allow us to advance lung transplant knowledge, which in turn will lead to more funding from varied sources that will advance knowledge further and ultimately help our patients.”

After his transplant in 2002, Telford set up a charitable trust to donate money to Baz’s research and UF’s transplant efforts. But after raising $62,000 during a tennis benefit in 2007, he teamed with John Ross, M.D., a professor emeritus of pediatrics in the College of Medicine, to take fundraising efforts a step further. The duo, along with other transplant recipients, lobbied state legislators for help. After three years, the help came through.

Aside from the research projects, the funds will also go toward the first steps toward developing an improved pediatric lung transplant program through Shands Transplant Center at Shands Children’s Hospital at UF.

“Shands is the best,” Telford said. “They have performed the most transplants, and it is the obvious place to develop this resource for the state of Florida."

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