Thursday, November 29, 2007

Immune Function and Meditation

I went on a quick search for clinical studies of mindfulness-based stress reduction with quantitative measures of immune function. It is probably not surprising that if you have less stress your immune system will be more effective. A group of people enrolled in a MBSR program responded to a flu vaccine with higher antibody expression than the control group (the poor soles that got wait listed for enrollment in the next MBSR program). [ref] There is also evidence that plasma lactate levels are reduced as well as a significant myeloma prognostic indicator the acetylcholinesterase gene (ACE). [ref]

Some food for thought before meditating...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Orchids

I saw an Orchid today at a friends house that has been in unblemished bloom for several months. I did a quick look and soon realized that there is an amazing number of Orchids in our world. So thanks Barb for the uniqueness of both the setting, but most importantly the stretching and yoga that helped immensely with the muscle aches and tension that seems to come along with Velcade. I'm going to go back next week for sure.

Now for some mindfulness-based stress reduction!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Surveying


I bet I wasn't in my seat a minute before being summoned to have my skeleton surveyed. How cool is that. Twenty five x-rays all in slightly awkward poses. Deep breath, hold. Exhale, hold. Pray. Toes in. Palms up. yada yada yada. I promptly went to work and simply glowed for the rest of the day. That "Oh gee, you look sort of fluorescent. What's up with that." "I'm fine just don't hang out in my office very long."

Oh yea and there is a hole in my head.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Trial Response

I get to go in for my second battery of clinical trial response tests in the morning. It is actually trivial, a bunch of blood and few dozen x-rays. Having a friend, Betsy, along for the ride will make it all the more enjoyable. Unfortunately I'll have to wait a week to learn anything. I got home really late today and Lu and I are going to watch a movie.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mind Body Practices & Stress

I try to keep this blog lite and humerus. It certainly helps my level of stress. Here is a rant that is lite on the humor...

There is a ton of scientific data demonstrating that the chemical messengers coming from our brain cells carry messages to the immune cells. The reverse is also true. Our immune cells release messenger molecules which the nervous system uses to provide feedback information to the brain or other organ systems. Dr. David Simon likes to use the phrase, "Our immune cells are eavesdropping on our internal conversation." If this is indeed the case what can one do to enhance this internal dialog to strengthen our immune system.

Diet: Remember the phrase "You are what you eat." I believe there are many more levels to that than nutritional. How was what you are eating created? Was it mass produced and then slaughtered ruthlessly or grown by a local farmer who shares your values? What you consume effects the whole planet as well as your body. I call it mindful munching. There are several MM bloggers seriously minding their munching. I just read a pretty convincing article "Surviving Against All Odds: Analysis of 6 Case Studies of Patients With Cancer Who Followed the Gerson Therapy" Gerson therapy is an example of extremely mindful munching. This review clearly implicates a connection between what we eat and tumor progression. Case 4 was a remotely related malignancy, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which was graded at stage IIIa in 1999 and as of August 2001 has been judged free of disease.

Meditation: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is the most frequently found term in the medical literature relating to "meditation" and cancer. I could find no articles in which negative efficacy was attributed to cancer patients enrolled in a MBSR. Although very few well controlled studies have been done the literature reviews [1, 2] place the techniques in a favorable light suggesting potential benefit in the oncology setting. It is my belief that quieting the mind on a regular basis will send calming signals to the immune system. On that note I guess emotional toxins probably lead to physical toxicity as well.

Thats enough for one day don't you think?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Peekaboo Where are You?

Marlee was upset that she couldn't Skype her distant cousins in Italy, Peekaboo, Priscilla, Puzzola & P???. When Margaret gets Skype up and running, Marlee wants to be the first to make contact. The chillins got to talk with Gramma in Oregon and that made her very jealous, so she put on her prissy Mar-LEE Anne attitude and sulked in front of the Skype camera until the heat of the wood stove thawed her resolve.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Keeping an Open Mind

My oncologist (and I) are of the belief that the likelyhood a single agent being the magic bullet for what ails me it slim to none. That being said I concur with several other blogger's throw everything (including the kitchen sink) at it. I.e. Don's Program. As you will quickly see the stamina and discipline Don has can be awe inspiring. So to not let that induce any stress I realized as I was again overeating the day after Thanksgiving while sitting in front of nice crackling fire after a quick event free dose of hand candy that fungus from my firewood just might be helping. Chaetocin, a small-molecule natural product produced by wood fungi, has shown promising anti-myeloma effects. There are currently several chemicals that are structurally similar to this in clinical or pre-clinical trial for myeloma. I guess keeping an open mind and not letting a little mold, fungus or other weird stuff get you down is important.

Chaetocin: a promising new antimyeloma agent with in vitro and in vivo activity mediated via imposition of oxidative stress,

Thomas H. Huxley
"The great tragedy of Science - the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gobble Gobble

I am oh so thankful for each and every one of you. Thank you for your comments and encouragement. Your love and prayers make a difference. I truly appreciate your presence.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

NOXA

Noxa is Latin for damage. In the molecular biology world it refers to a protein that promotes cell death (pro-apoptotic). The wonderful drug I take screws around with the Noxa levels (hopefully just in the myeloma cells). A few researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center (as well as numerous others) are working on enhancing the NOXA effects of Velcade (bortezomib).

"Now we can rationally design drugs that enhance bortezomib's action and favor NOXA production," she says. "Improvements might make it possible to give lower doses of the drug for a shorter time." [Medical News Today]

I for one would like to take significantly less bortezomib. It feels like there is a bit too much programed cell death going on in my muscles (and head.) The UM study focused on melanoma which I should now have a much lower chance of ever developing. Ye ha.

If the folks at
MIT could just Remote-Control a few billion Nanoparticles to Deliver Drugs Directly Into my laughing plasma cells I'd be all set.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stress Hormone

It certainly isn't a surprise that stress might have an impact on ones health. It is interesting that someone looked at the effect of a stress hormone, norepinephrine, on myeloma cell lines. The early disease stage cell line responded strongly to the hormone. The implication proposed was that the hormone stimulated the production of new blood vessel growth (up regulation of VEGF) which is needed for the proliferation of the malignancy.


The researchers believe that blocking these receptors would slow the process of the growth of more blood vessel to the tumor, delaying disease progression and perhaps allowing treatments to be more effective. Widely used “beta-blocker” drugs now prescribed for high blood pressure work by blocking these same particular cell surface receptors, Yang said.

I will spare you any conjecture from these finding. If you didn't agree with me it might be stressful. :-)

-- source --
Stress Hormone can Speed Cancer, By: Rick Nauert, Ph.D. Senior News Editor, Reviewed by: John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on November 20, 2007, http://psychcentral.com

Monday, November 19, 2007

Antibodies

I find it amazing that we have an immune system that produces around 10 billion different antibodies, each capable of neutralizing a specific nasty (antigen) like the measles virus or that neurotoxin tetanaspasmin which causes Tetanus. These antibodies are produced by a particular lymphocyte (white blood cell) called an activated B cell or plasma cell. Any antigen that gets into our blood or lymph fluids is combated by a B cell produced army. If we have never encountered a particular antigen, like this years flu, before naїve B cells proliferate to form a new battalion of soldiers. Most of the soldiers are immediately activated as plasma cells which shoot a very unique antibody capable of neutralizing the invader. When they have won the battle the plasma cells are discharged and quickly die off. The top brass with a memory of the enemy can persist for a very long time (up to a whole lifetime) and will quickly recognize and neutralize the enemy if we ever encounter it again. Each of us has an ever vigilant constantly patrolling army of naїve and battle seasoned memory B cells.

If after the battle is won those discharged plasma cells don't bugger off and die you have some form of myeloma. Lets hope it is a benign manifestation of no significance (like MGUS). If you have a bunch of confused disorientated and delusional top brass (like the Bush administration) they may be activating plasma cells without an enemy. The plasma cells keep fighting, shooting blanks (antibodies specific to an invader that doesn't exist). Things can get really out of control. The army can get so bloated and out of control that they start crowding out everything else in the environment (the bone marrow), send erroneous signals to the rest of immune system and plug up other systems (like the kidneys) with useless antibodies.

In my case one of the things my intoxicated laughing plasma cells are doing is signally the rest of my immunity system to shut down. "Don't bother waking up, sleep in, everything is taken care of." All my useful fighters (immunoglobulins) are slowly being lulled into submission. Here is a graph of my immunoglobulin expression since this out of control army was found back at the end of 2005. There are now about 10 times fewer immunoglobulins than there should be. That is a good incentive to be neurotic about what I expose my self to.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I Like Graphs

So I graphed everything I think of today. Lu thinks they are too hard to understand. Too much clutter. I agree, but still find them exciting (no comment!). Margaret explained the Bence Jones urine protein test today which for my wonderfully weird myeloma needs a bit of interpretation. A normal monoclonal protein is composed of two types of smaller molecules, one called a heavy chain and the other called a light chain. You may have heard of the heavy chain immunoglobulins, IgG, IgA, IgM... (mine are severely depressed.) The light chain portion is referred to as either kappa or lambda. The heavy and light chains are produced separately within the plasma cell and are then assembled to form a whole immunoglobulin. Normal healthy folks produce fully functional pathogen fighting warriors. When the light chains are attached to the heavy chains, the light chains are referred to as bound light chains. However, when the light chains are not attached to the heavy chains, they are called free light chains.

My laughing plasma cells partied to much and no longer know how to make the heavy part. They spew nothing but unbound free light chains. To add insult to injury the little bastards are very aggressive. Frits van Rhee et al published a paper a few months back in the journal Blood titled "High Serum Free-Light Chain Levels and Their Rapid Reduction in Response to Therapy Define an Aggressive Multiple Myeloma Subtype with Poor Prognosis". To the careful eye you will see in the graph below that my lambda light chain level responded in the first cycle of Thal/Dex and then promptly started ignoring the drugs. I wish Frits had published his paper back in February of 2006. I would have stopped taking Thal/dex after a couple months. I am anxiously awaiting the next free light chain (FLC) results to see if Velcade and the TRM-1 antibody turns the lights out on my plasma cell party.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Speed Record

Roswell broke a speed record today. In and out in an hour. I don't think I've ever spent an hour on the can, but if this trend keeps up there won't be any worrying going on either. On Friday evenings the place is dead. No backups anywhere. I like deserted.
To average all things out we went to Chesters (Cajun) for dinner and waited forever for a table. We decided to not go there on Fridays last week. Brain Fart. Great food and friends are the ultimate anesthetic. I probably won't remember how long the wait was the next time they call either.
Velcade does a nice job of screwing with platelet counts. During treatment they drop precipitously and then pop back up during the week off. My RBC (red blood cell count) is unfortunately steadily dropping. I have to wait a couple more weeks to see the important markers.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Train Wreck

As you might suspect most appropriately nasty chemo drugs have a list of side effects about a mile long. I mentioned a few of the more exciting ones a while back of which I am happy to report I have none. I also mentioned that 13 is a most unlucky number. Tuesday the 13th, the 13th stick, has proven to be a real stickler. I got the joint and muscle pain restless body syndrome. Sort of a mild flu without the fever and other nasties.
I am most thankful for 10 weeks of bliss. A few short walks around the infusion clinic and I feel like a million bucks. Boy do I have a great life. In fact I'll kick some ass on the tennis court in the morning. Teach that little yellow ball a lesson or two.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sticky Day

No it is not hot and humid in Buffalo. Rather 13 is an unlucky number. For the first time in 13 sticks my hand candy (chemo) nurse gave up after two unsuccessful sticks. She had to bring in a pro (a nurse with more than 2 months experience). The stick is no big deal, but the dig after the stick was most unpleasant.

I am working on reducing this whole ordeal to the level of a bowel movement. Something I just do. I never remember the last one or wake up at night worrying about the next one. On rare occasion they are a pain in the ass. More often than not they just happen without a conscious thought.

Monday, November 12, 2007

SAD

"An extreme form of seasonality is manifested as the clinical syndrome of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) with carbohydrate craving, hypersomnia, lethargy,and..." [ref] So now I know why comfort food needs to be loaded with carbs, tastes best in the winter and that I should figure out how to work from the Caribbean from October to April. As a counter measure until I figure the last part I take Vitamin D3. Along with it the team of experts sucks plenty of blood (a couple times a week) to make sure I'm not screwing anything up.

Combine SAD with hot flashes and you get the 5 dwarfs: Weepy, Piggy, Bloaty, Bitchy and Crampy. Two of the dwarfs, Horny and Red-Tide are in the Caribbean.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Crazy Sexy Myeloma

My brother-in-law sent me a DVD of The Learning Channel's, Crazy Sexy Cancer. It is a video documentary of Kris Carr's adventure which started on Valentine's Day 2003, when she was diagnosed with a rare vascular cancer. Weeks later, she began filming her story. Although I get a bit jealous at times of her seeming unlimited resources to experiment with funky complementary healing modalities I find her message sincere, informative and supportive. She has a blog, http://crazysexycancer.blogspot.com/, chuck full of useful info about her journey. One of the women on the show, Jackie Farry, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in the winter of 2003, while on the road with one of her bands. With little insurance, no work and a pile of medical bills, she organized the "F**k Cancer Benefit Concert and Raffle" and has a nice "F**k Cancer" hat for sale. If you don't know the meaning of "F**k" here is a nice YouTube explanation.

My baby boy turned 26 yesterday. Yup I'm a proud Dad. I'm still reminiscing of the pure ecstasy brought on by a gluten free chocolate cupcake.