News flashes are posted here frequently to keep you up-to-date with the latest advances in health and longevity. We have an unparalleled track record of breaking stories about life extension advances.
Green tea shows promise as oral cancer therapy
January 30 2015. An article published on November 17, 2014 in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research reveals a potential benefit for epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) from green tea for the treatment of oral cancer.
"We have previously reported that the green tea catechin, (–)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate, can induce oxidative stress in oral cancer cells but exerts antioxidant effects in normal cells," write Joshua D. Lambert and his colleagues at Pennsylvania State University. "Here, we report that these differential prooxidative effects are associated with sirtuin 3 (SIRT3), an important mitochondrial redox modulator."
The study compared the effects of EGCG in human oral squamous carcinoma cells, premalignant cells and normal human gingival fibroblasts. The researchers found that the compound induced reactive oxygen species formation in the mitochondria of the cancerous and premalignant cells but not in normal cells. "EGCG is doing something to damage the mitochondria and that mitochondrial damage sets up a cycle causing more damage and it spirals out, until the cell undergoes programmed cell death," Dr Lambert explained. "It looks like EGCG causes the formation of reactive oxygen species in cancer cells, which damages the mitochondria, and the mitochondria responds by making more reactive oxygen species."
During this process, cancerous cells were observed to reduce their expression of antioxidant genes. "So, it's turning off its mechanism of protection at the same time that EGCG is causing this oxidative stress," Dr Lambert noted.
It was observed that SIRT3 was suppressed in cancerous cells treated with ECGC, while its activity increased in the healthy cell line. "It plays an important role in mitochondrial function and in antioxidant response in lots of tissues in the body, so the idea that EGCG might selectively affect the activity of sirtuin 3 in cancer cells -- to turn it off -- and in normal cells -- to turn it on -- is probably applicable in multiple kinds of cancers," Dr Lambert stated.
Metformin combo shows promise for late-stage prostate cancer
January 28 2015. The January 23, 2015 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry published the finding of researchers at Purdue University of a potential benefit for a combination of metformin and the gene inhibitor B12536 in late stage prostate cancer.
Late stage prostate cancer is commonly treated with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT); however, the disease eventually becomes resistant to the treatment. "The goal of castration is to block androgen synthesis," commented researcher Xiaoqui Liu, of Purdue's Department of Biochemistry. "But cancer cells eventually become 'smart' enough to make androgen anyhow, which is why the cancer continues to grow."
Androgen deprivation can disturb the body's metabolism, leading to insulin resistance that can stimulate androgen production. Metformin, a drug commonly used in diabetes, helps reduce insulin resistance and has been associated with protection against specific cancers.
Acting on the knowledge that the gene polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1) can become overexpressed during androgen deprivation therapy and that its overexpression can also stimulate androgen synthesis, Dr Liu and colleagues tested the effects of combining the Plk1-inhibitor B12536 with low dose metformin in prostate cancer cells. The team found that the drugs worked synergistically to inhibit prostate cancer cell proliferation. The findings were confirmed in mice that received human prostate cancer cell grafts. "Those results were amazing," Dr Liu reported. "These are the first data we've generated from a real patient, so I was almost jumping in the air when I saw that it worked."
"We've found a promising way to treat late-stage prostate cancer," he announced. "By combining low levels of two well-tolerated drugs, the progression of this disease could be significantly delayed. Completely curing the cancer at the advanced stage is pretty much impossible, but this treatment might manage it for a while - that's exciting."
Study suggests less cause for concern over mercury in fish
January 26 2015. Findings reported in article published online on January 21, 2015 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicate less reason to worry about mercury in fish than ever before, particularly among pregnant women.
Researchers at the University of Rochester and Ulster, in collaboration with the Republic of Seychelles Ministry of Health, analyzed data from 1,265 mother-child pairs enrolled in the Seychelles Child Development Study Nutrition Cohort 2. (Seychelles Islanders have an average intake of fish that is ten times higher than that of the U.S.)
Maternal blood samples collected at 28 weeks of gestation were analyzed for serum polyunsaturated fatty acids, and hair samples were evaluated for total mercury to assess prenatal mercury exposure. Tests administered to the children at 20 months of age evaluated motor skills, behavior and communication.
"These findings show no overall association between prenatal exposure to mercury through fish consumption and neurodevelopmental outcomes," reported study coauthor Edwin van Wijngaarden, Ph.D., who is an associate professor in the University of Rochester Department of Public Health Sciences. "It is also becoming increasingly clear that the benefits of fish consumption may outweigh, or even mask, any potentially adverse effects of mercury."
When individual fatty acid levels were evaluated, a more complicated picture emerged. Higher maternal DHA levels were associated with improved vocabulary understanding among the children enrolled in the study, and a greater ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids was associated with lower communication scores. "It appears that relationship between fish nutrients and mercury may be far more complex than previously appreciated," commented senior author Philip Davidson, PhD, who is a professor emeritus at the University of Rochester. "These findings indicate that there may be an optimal balance between the different inflammatory properties of fatty acids that promote fetal development and that these mechanisms warrant further study."
Pycnogenol boosts cognitive function in middle-aged professionals
January 24 2015. Looking to give your professional life a competitive edge? A report published in the December 2014 issue of the Journal of Neurosurgical Sciences revealed that Pycnogenol®, a proanthocyanidin supplement derived from maritime pine, improved memory, focus and decision-making among healthy professionals between the ages of 35 to 55.
The study, conducted at Chieti-Pescara University in Italy, included 59 professional men and women assigned to a controlled health plan with or without supplementation with 150 milligrams Pycnogenol® per day for 12 weeks. Tests of attention, memory and executive function were conducted before and after the study period and blood samples were analyzed for free radicals and other factors.
Plasma free radicals were lower by the end of the study among those that received Pycnogenol®, while varying nonsignificantly among the control group. While aspects of cognitive function improved in both groups, the increase was more significant in the Pycnogenol® group. These subjects showed improvements in mood, mental performance, sustained attention and subjective memory, as well as in daily tasks such as simple decision making and dealing with people.
"This study completes a number of research observations indicating that Pycnogenol® can naturally help improve some aspects of cognitive functions throughout life," stated lead researcher Gianni Belcaro, of Chieti
Pescara University's Department of Biomedical Science. "Multiple studies have been conducted using Pycnogenol® and showing its positive effects in managing and improving some attention parameters in children with ADHD, in improving results of specific cognitive test in students and in improving several aspects of cognitive functions in adults over 60."
"These latest findings are supported by decades of research on Pycnogenol®'s ability to naturally regulate oxidative stress levels (that may significantly affect some cognitive functions) and confirm the positive impact on overall cognitive function," he concluded.
Coffee drinkers have lower melanoma risk
January 21 2015. An article published on January 20, 2015 in the JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute reveals the finding of Erikka Loftfield, MPH, and her colleagues of an association between increased coffee consumption and a reduced risk of malignant melanoma.
The analysis included 447,357 participants in the National Institutes of Health-AARP prospective study initiated in 1995-1996. Dietary questionnaires completed upon enrollment were evaluated for the intake of regular and decaffeinated coffee. The subjects were followed for a median of 10.5 years, during which 2,904 cases of malignant melanoma were diagnosed.
A trend was observed between increasing coffee intake and a decreasing risk of malignant melanoma over follow-up. Among men and women who consumed four or more cups of coffee per day, there was an adjusted 20% lower risk of developing malignant melanoma in comparison with the risk experienced by those who were non-coffee drinkers. The protective effect of coffee drinking was observed only in association with coffee that was not decaffeinated and was restricted to those with malignant melanoma as opposed to melanoma in situ.
In their discussion of the findings, the authors suggest several mechanisms to explain the protective effect of coffee against malignant melanoma. "Coffee contains numerous bioactive compounds, including polyphenols, diterpenes, trigonelline, and caffeine," they write. "The predominant chlorogenic acid in coffee, 5-O-caffeoylquinic acid, and to a greater extent its metabolite caffeic acid, have been shown to suppress UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis in mouse epidermal cells by inhibiting cyclooxygenase (COX-2) expression. COX-2, which is overexpressed in response to UVB exposure and in human melanoma cells compared with normal melanocytes, is thought to play a functional role in the development and progression of malignant melanoma."
"Because of its high disease burden, lifestyle modifications with even modest protective effects may have a meaningful impact on melanoma morbidity," they conclude.
Higher vitamin D levels predict improved colorectal cancer survival
January 19 2015. The 2015 American Society of Cancer Oncology (ASCO) Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium held in San Francisco was the site of a presentation on January 12, 2015 concerning the finding of longer average survival among colorectal cancer patients with higher vitamin D levels in comparison with those whose levels were low.
Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute analyzed data from 1,043 patients with colorectal cancer enrolled in a clinical trial that evaluated the effects of chemotherapy plus the biologic therapies bevacizumab and/or cetuximab. Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were measured at the beginning of the study and dietary questionnaire responses were analyzed for vitamin D intake from food and supplements.
Being older or African-American, having a low intake of dietary or supplemental vitamin D, participating in a reduced amount of physical activity, having a high body mass index, and other factors were associated with significantly lower vitamin D levels. Patients whose plasma vitamin D levels were among the top 20% of subjects at an average of 27.5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) survived a median of 32.6 months in comparison with 24.5 months among those whose levels were among the lowest at an average of 8 ng/mL. Higher vitamin D levels were also associated with improved progression-free survival. Exclusion of subjects who died within three to six months of vitamin D measurement failed to modify the results.
“This is the largest study that has been undertaken of metastatic colorectal cancer patients and vitamin D,” stated lead author, Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, who is a medical oncologist in the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “It’s further supportive of the potential benefits of maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin D in improving patient survival times.”
Excess iron could accelerate aging
January 16 2015. Research conducted in roundworms, described in the November 2014 issue of the journal Aging, indicates that iron, beyond accumulating with aging, could actually contribute to the condition.
Gordon Lithgow, PhD, of the Buck Institute and his associates studied the effects of iron in Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode that has been the subject of numerous experiments in the field of gerontology. The research team discovered that the accumulation of calcium, copper, iron, and manganese increased with age, and that potassium and phosphorus levels tended to decline. Acting on the knowledge of iron's role in neurodegenerative-associated protein aggregation, they investigated the effects of adding the mineral to the worms' diets. They observed an increase in signs of aging, accompanied by a reduction in mean and maximum life span, in the iron-supplemented worms.
"We were drawn to iron because there is all this literature that links excess iron to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's," explained Dr Lithgow. "We fed iron to four day-old worms, and within a couple of days they looked like 15 day-old worms. Excess iron accelerated the aging process."
While iron is a known generator of oxidative stress, the damage observed in the experiment was not characteristic of the phenomenon. "Instead, what we saw looked much more like normal aging," Dr Lithgow stated. "The iron was causing dysfunction and aggregation in proteins that have already been associated with the aging process. Now we're wondering if excess iron also drives aging."
"Maintaining the proper balance of metals is key to good health throughout the lifespan, and it's pretty obvious that this delicate balance can go off-kilter with age," he noted. "This is a phenomenon that has not been extensively studied by aging researchers and it's an area that has potential for positive exploitation."
Research findings indicate sulforaphane could be effective as prostate cancer therapy
January 14 2015. On December 8, 2014 the Nature journal Oncogenesis reported the conclusion of researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) and the Texas A&M Health Science Center of a potential benefit for sulforaphane in the treatment of metastatic prostate cancer. While a number of previous investigations have suggested a protective role for the compound, the current study adds evidence to the possible effectiveness of sulforaphane in cancer therapy.
In their search for a mechanism in support of the anticancer benefits found for sulforaphane in previous research, Emily Ho, of OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences and her colleagues identified an enzyme in prostate cancer cells that is affected by exposure to sulforaphane. The enzyme, SUV39H1, could be a new therapeutic target in advanced prostate cancer.
"There's significant evidence of the value of cruciferous vegetables in cancer prevention," stated Dr Ho, who is an investigator at OSU's Linus Pauling Institute. "However, this study is one of the first times we've shown how sulforaphane can affect a histone methylation and alter gene expression in metastasized prostate cancer cells. It begins a process that can help to re-express tumor suppressors, leading to the selective death of cancer cells and slowing disease progression."
Sulforaphane is obtained by consuming broccoli, cauliflower and other vegetables belonging to the cruciferous family, however, the researchers note that the amounts provided by these foods would be insufficient for the treatment of cancer, which would require pharmacologic supplemental doses. The compound could also prove to be an effective adjunct to anticancer therapies already in use. A trial involving the use of sulforaphane in men at high risk of prostate cancer currently being conducted will aid in confirming the safety of high dose supplements.
CoQ10 improves childhood autism symptoms
January 12 2015. In 2014, the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity published the finding of a benefit for the ubiquinol form of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in children with autism.
Slovakian researchers gave 17 children between the ages of three and six years 50 milligrams ubiquinol once daily for one week, followed by twice daily dosing for the remainder of the three month study. Parents provided information concerning the children's behavior before and after treatment. Blood tests evaluated plasma CoQ10, alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, beta-carotene and thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS, a marker of lipid peroxidation) levels at the beginning of the study and three months.
While tocopherol levels rose slightly and TBAR concentrations declined, they remained within the standard reference ranges following CoQ10 treatment. Plasma ubiquinol levels rose from average baseline values of 0.512 micromoles per liter (mmol/L) to 3.016 mmol/L by the end of the study. Among children whose levels increased to more than 2.5 mmol/L, 12% showed improvement in communication with parents, 21% exhibited better verbal communication, 42% exhibited improvement in playing games with other children, 34% slept better, 17% rejected food less often, and self harm decreased in 14%.
"Beneficial effect of ubiquinol in children with autism has been demonstrated for the first time," announce authors Anna Gvozdjáková of Comenius University and her colleagues. "We assume that plasma concentration of total CoQ10 and lipid peroxidation could be used as important biomarkers of ubiquinol supportive therapy. Additional study with a larger number of patients is warranted to confirm these promising findings."
High dose testosterone tested in castration-resistant prostate cancer
January 9 2015. The January 7, 2015 issue of Science Translational Medicine describes the outcome of a trial conducted at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine which found a benefit for the male hormone testosterone in patients with metastatic prostate cancer.
"This really is the most lethal form of prostate cancer," commented lead author Michael Schweizer, MD, who contributed to the research during a fellowship at Johns Hopkins. "It's the one that's the most resistant, and typically once people progress to this stage it's when we start to worry that they're at a much higher risk for dying from prostate cancer."
The study included 16 men with castration-resistant prostate cancer who were treated with 400 milligrams intramuscular testosterone cypionate on the first day of three 28-day cycles. The subjects were also given the drug etoposide daily during the first two weeks of each cycle. Androgen deprivation therapy was continued to suppress the body's own production of testosterone, which allowed for cycling from elevated to near-castrate levels during the course of the study.
Half of the 14 men who completed the study experienced reductions in prostate-specific antigen (PSA, a blood marker used to evaluate prostate cancer progression) and of ten men whose cancer could be imaged, five experienced regression, including one patient whose cancer regressed completely. Although the participants eventually experienced PSA progression, subsequent treatment with androgen-ablative therapies was successful in all who received it, which suggests that testosterone therapy as administered in the study may restore sensitivity to the drugs among those who have become resistant.
"There has been a groundswell of interest in the idea of reversing resistance to androgen deprivation therapy," observed lead researcher Samuel R. Denmeade, MD. "We have plenty of anecdotes and some evidence in this small study, but it's important to test it in larger groups of patients."
B vitamins protect against DDT's lingering effects
January 7 2015. The December 2014 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported the finding of a protective effect for B vitamins against the negative effects of the pesticide DDT on women's ability to conceive and maintain a pregnancy. Although the use of DDT has been banned by China, the U.S. and other countries, residues can remain in the body and environment for years.
"Our previous work has shown that high levels of DDT in the body can increase the risk of early miscarriage," stated lead researcher Xiaobin Wang, MD, ScD, MPH, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "This study tells us that improved nutrition may modify the toxic effects of DDT, by better preparing the body to cope with environmental toxins and stressors."
The investigation utilized data from 291 participants in a study involving women whose preconception blood samples were analyzed for serum DDT levels and plasma vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folate. Among subjects with higher DDT levels, those whose B vitamin levels were deficient took nearly twice as long to conceive and had double the risk of experiencing a miscarriage before six weeks of gestation compared to those whose vitamin levels were sufficient. When individual vitamins were examined, DDT failed to impact the incidence of pregnancy among women with sufficient B12, and increasing folate levels were associated with declining odds of early pregnancy loss in women with high DDT concentrations.
"We have shown that women with high levels of DDT who also had high levels of B vitamins had a better chance of getting and staying pregnant than those were deficient in those vitamins," Dr Wang concluded. "Health care providers need to make sure women get adequate micronutrients including B vitamins in their diets not only during pregnancy but before they even conceive. Otherwise, we may miss that critical window."
Increased grain intake linked with lower risk of dying over up to 25 years of follow-up
January 5 2015. JAMA Internal Medicine published an article online on January 5, 2015 that showed a protective effect for the consumption of whole grains against the risk of premature mortality in men and women.
Hongyu Wu, PhD, of Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues evaluated data from 74,341 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study between 1984 and 2010 and 43,744 men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study from 1986-2010 who were free of cancer and cardiovascular disease upon enrollment. Food frequency questionnaires administered every two to four years provided information on the type and frequency of intake of whole grains, including wheat, oats, corn, rye, barley, buckwheat, rice, popcorn, amaranth and psyllium, as well as added bran and wheat germ.
Among Nurses' Health Study participants, 15,106 deaths occurred over 26 years of follow-up and, over a 24 year period, 11,814 deaths occurred in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. For those whose whole grain intake was among the top 20% of subjects, the adjusted risk of dying over follow-up was 9% lower than those whose levels were among the lowest 20%. When the risk of death from cardiovascular disease was examined, having an intake of whole grain among the top fifth was associated with a 15% lower adjusted mortality risk compared to those whose intake was among the lowest group. The authors estimated a 5% decrease in the risk of premature mortality in association for each daily serving of whole grains.
“These findings further support current dietary guidelines that recommend increasing whole grain consumption to facilitate primary and secondary prevention of chronic disease and also provide promising evidence that suggests a diet enriched with whole grains may confer benefits toward extended life expectancy," they conclude.
Good news for the New Year: cancer deaths down
January 2 2015. The annual American Cancer Society statistics report published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians reveals a 22% decline in cancer mortality over the past two decades, which signifies a reduction in cancer deaths of over 1.5 million that would have otherwise occurred at previous rates.
The data, obtained from the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics, show a decrease that is mainly attributable to lower mortality due to breast, colon, lung and prostate cancer. The rate of dying from breast cancer dropped 35% from previous rates, and colorectal and prostate cancer deaths have been reduced by 47%. Between 1990 and 2011, deaths from lung cancer decreased 36% in men, and for women, the rate declined by 11% from 2002 to 2011.
The northeastern United States showed the greatest improvement in cancer survival, and the south experienced the least. The report's authors attribute the improvements to a reduction in the percentage of smokers in the U.S., and advances in prevention, detection and treatment of cancer.
"The continuing drops we're seeing in cancer mortality are reason to celebrate, but not to stop," commented John R. Seffrin, PhD, who is the chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. "Cancer was responsible for nearly one in four deaths in the United States in 2011, making it the second leading cause of death overall. It is already the leading cause of death among adults aged 40 to 79, and is expected to overtake heart disease as the leading cause of death among all Americans within the next several years. The change may be inevitable, but we can still lessen cancer's deadly impact by making sure as many Americans as possible have access to the best tools to prevent, detect, and treat cancer."