Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Crossing the blood-brain barrier to better combat brain cancer



Here’s some potentially good news from Ryan Cross who wrote about Alexandre Carpentier (pictured above), a neurosurgeon at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, who used “ultrasound to open the blood-brain barrier in patients with recurrent glioblastoma, the most common and deadly tumor originating in the adult brain—allowing for delivery of chemotherapy that would otherwise reach the tumor in minuscule amounts” - https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601691/ultrasound-opens-the-brain-to-promising-drugs/

As background, you should know that the protective sheath surrounding the brain’s blood supply—known as the blood-brain barrier—is a safeguard against nasty germs and toxins. But it also prevents existing drugs that could potentially be used to treat brain cancer or Alzheimer’s disease from reaching the brain.

According to Cross, “the procedure works by first injecting microbubbles into the bloodstream and then using a device implanted near patients’ tumors to send ultrasonic soundwaves into the brain, exciting the bubbles. The physical pressure of the bubbles pushing on the cells temporarily opens the blood-brain barrier, letting an injected drug cross into the brain.”

Here’s a link to the abstract: http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/8/343/343re2

Picture: Alexandre Carpentier holds the SonoCloud device, which he has implanted in 15 brain cancer patients.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

New Research Study: benign brain tumors less likely with high blood sugar


I’ve always thought that obesity and diabetes were risk factors for meningioma.

But the results of a research study in The British Journal of Cancer reports findings that contradict that belief and previous studies. Here’s a link to the abstract:  http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/bjc2016157a.html

Science Daily highlighted this contradiction writing “In a surprising twist, benign brain tumors that have previously been tied to obesity and diabetes are less likely to emerge in those with high blood sugar, new research has found.
- https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160620100649.htm

The Science Daily article provided context noting that “… previous research had established that the slow-growing tumors are more common among people who are obese and those who have diabetes, researchers led by The Ohio State University's Judith Schwartzbaum set out to look for a relationship between meningiomas and blood markers, including glucose.

This relationship made sense to me as a non-scientist and a meningioma survivor: if I lead an unhealthy lifestyle, I could get whacked with a brain tumor. The unexpected finding seems to have also confused Schwartzbaum who said: "It's so unexpected. Usually diabetes and high blood sugar raises the risk of cancer, and it's the opposite here."

And she should know, Schwartzbaum is an associate professor of epidemiology and a researcher in Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

This confusion or unexpected result has dampened my sense of control, or at least my hope that I can improve my odds of avoiding a meningioma reoccurrence by doing what I thought made sense – staying thin. Now another weapon/practice/solution has been deleted from my arsenal.

Arrggghhh!


Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_kwanchaichaiudom'>kwanchaichaiudom / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Monday, June 6, 2016

A great conference for patients, caregivers, friends & family members



I highly recommend this conference. 

You will find great brain tumor surgeons, researchers, victims, caregivers, and friends and family members. I’ve found everybody who attends to be good listeners and full of honest advice and time to listen to you and your concerns.


The opening sentence of the email from the ABTA about the conference says “The ABTA’s annual Patient and Family Conference is where patients, families and caregivers come together to learn more about the latest advances in brain tumor research, treatment and care.” I want to highlight two important words “latest advances.”

If you haven’t been reading all the brain tumor news that’s been spilling out of research studies of late, here’s a good place to get a sense of all the new tools we have to fight brain tumors. The ABTA marketing folks have highlighted that in their first two bullet points saying:

  • “Physicians will present the latest precision medicine treatment options and symptom management techniques for low-grade glioma, high-grade glioma and metastatic brain tumors

  • Researchers and doctors will highlight treatment advances in neurosurgery, radiation and immunotherapy”

Importantly the conference includes “A special session for the newly diagnosed will cover how to navigate the early days of a brain tumor diagnosis and what information patients, families and caregivers would need to know in order to be empowered with information and resources to make informed decisions throughout their treatment and care.”

Please know that the conference costs $100. If you are a victim, caregiver or love one, I believe that you will find this to be a particularly good investment.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

“Living Each Day to the Fullest” – diagnosed with Ependymoma at age 4

I heard some good advice from a guy whose wife’s best friend was diagnosed with glioblastoma, Grade 4, it was something like “enjoy every day.”

I had a hard time with that advice for a while – how could they enjoy life knowing that she had this horrible disease eating away at her, inexorably dragging her into the grave?

I now think differently about this advice. I don’t believe the advice is trite or Pollyanna-ish or divorced from reality. I think its sound advice that reminds us all to cherish what health and family we have while they are with us. 

I know of no other story that tugs on my emotional heart strings as hard as stories about children with cancer, like many of the Ependymoma stories you’ll find on the CERN website.

I’ve attached a link to one such story that brings this idea to life - a story about little four-year-old “Sophia L.” with Intramedullary Ependymoma. You can read about her and her mother here: https://cern-foundation.org/?page_id=6411