Monthly Archives: April 2007

Blackberries as a business

  • 4/30/2007
  • Lexington, KY
  • Karla Ward

A local company with ties to the University of Kentucky plans to market a dietary supplement, skin cream and chewing gum based on blackberry extract.

Paige Shumate Short, a Paris businesswoman, and Russell Mumper, a UK researcher, are the co-founders of Four Tigers LLC, which Short calls a “berryceutical” company.

In the near future, they hope to find licensing partners — maybe a chewing gum company such as Wrigley or a supplement supplier such as GNC Ð to sell their over-the-counter products, which will not require Food and Drug Administration approval.

Short’s father, the late Wayne Shumate, began growing antioxidant-rich blackberries at WindStone Farms in Paris more than two decades ago, and Four Tigers now has an exclusive partnership with the farm.

In the longer term, Short and Mumper hope to use the revenue stream from their supplement, gum and cream to develop FDA-approved drugs that incorporate blackberry extract. Studies have found berries are full of powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

In an early study, Mumper found that the extract stopped the growth of colon cancer cells in a petri dish, but much more research would have to be done to determine whether the same would be true of cancer cells in the human body. Short said the company’s “pot of gold” would be an injectable drug.

While eating blackberries is healthful, the body does not absorb them well, and Mumper said “you’ve got to eat a lot of berries to give you an equivalent dose” to what is found in blackberry extract.

The 28 acres of blackberries grown at WindStone, which Shumate’s father founded with Billy Gatton Jones, are sold fresh and as jam to stores such as Kroger and Meijer.

“He left me with the excitement of what we were beginning to do with the blackberry,” Short said of her father. “This is a way of keeping his legacy going.”

Two years ago, Short said she read an article about Mumper’s work with Ohio State University on a study of black raspberries as a preventative for oral cancer.

“I just said ‘No, no, no. We can’t do that,'” Short recalled with a smile.

She contacted Mumper about studying blackberries, and the two have been working together since.

Short, who has invested $50,000 in the company so far, said the name Four Tigers is a reference to the economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, a nod to her days as an economics major at Georgetown College.

The company has received a grant from the Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center to develop blackberries that are extra-rich in the compounds that make the fruit so healthful.

Short hopes to set up a manufacturing plant for producing the blackberry extract, and she envisions farmers throughout the state one day growing blackberries to support it.

She finds irony in the possibility of blackberries taking the place of tobacco Ð “a cancer-causing cash crop to an anti-cancer cash crop.”

But Four Tigers is a side business for both her and Mumper.

Short worked in research and product development for her father at Kentucky Textiles, a company that at one time produced Speedo’s line of Olympic swimwear. Today, the company has morphed into Kentucky Technical Textiles, which Short and her husband, Dan Short, operate together.

Mumper’s primary research work is in nanotechnology, the process of manipulating atoms and molecules to create microminiature equipment.

“This is our therapy company,” Short said of Four Tigers.

Mumper will be leaving Kentucky in early June to take an endowed professorship in the school of pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he will also direct the Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery.

But he plans to continue working with Four Tigers, including developing new blackberry-based products, such as tea and lip balm.

Len Heller, UK’s vice president for commercialization and economic development, said Four Tigers is “an example of biotechnology and agriculture being a perfect fit.”

UK owns the intellectual property and licenses it to Four Tigers, so the university will get royalties from any product sales the company eventually makes.

Mumper and Short also have several studies lined up with other UK departments.

They hope to conduct a clinical study with the College of Dentistry to observe how the blackberry gum affects the level of bacteria in the mouth, and they have planned a mouse study to determine how the cream affects skin that has been exposed to ultraviolet rays.

“It’s a great scientist and a great business person,” Heller said of Mumper and Short. Short “knows the market. … We have the science.”

April, 2007|Archive|

Consumption of areca quid, cigarettes, and alcohol related to the comorbidity of oral submucous fibrosis and oral cancer

  • 4/30/2007
  • web-based article
  • Pei-Shan Ho et al.
  • Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod, April 20, 2007

Oral submucous fibrosis (OSF) is defined as a precancerous condition, and it is also commonly seen in clinical practice, coexisting with oral cancer. The aim of this study was to identify the effects of areca quid, cigarette, and alcohol on the coexistence of oral cancer and OSF.

Study Design:
This is a case-control study. One hundred four histologically confirmed male OSF subjects were included, which consisted of 65 OSF subjects without oral cancer (control group) and 39 OSF subjects with oral cancer (case group).

The cigarette consumption in the case group was significantly higher than the control group. In drinking habits, the mean consumption of alcohol in the case group was significantly higher than the control group. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify these risk factors. Age and alcohol consumption showed a significant effect, and the odds ratios were 1.07 in age and 1.5 in alcohol consumption.

Alcohol drinking could be a risk factor associated with an increased risk of malignant transformation and coexistence with oral cancer in OSF patients, but cigarette and areca quid were not risk factors in our study. For oral cancer prevention from OSF, more attention should be paid to the importance of public health strategies targeted toward preventing and reducing alcohol consumption.

Pei-Shan Ho, Yi-Hsin Yang, Tien-Yu Shieh, I-Yueh Huang, Yun-Kwan Chen, Ko-Ni Lin, and Chung-Ho Chen

Authors’ affiliation:
Faculty of Dental Hygiene, College of Dental Medicine Kaoshiung Medical University

April, 2007|Archive|

Age-related changes in salivary antioxidant profile: possible implications for oral cancer

  • 4/30/2007
  • Haifa, Israel
  • O Hershkovich et al.
  • J. Gerontol. A Biol. Sci. Med. Sci., April 1, 2007; 62(4): 361-6

Oral cancer’s much higher prevalence among older people may be due to an age-related reduction in protective salivary antioxidant mechanisms and/or an age-related increase in the magnitude of oral carcinogen attack, such as reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS), causing DNA aberrations.

This study found a significantly reduced total value of salivary antioxidant capacity in elderly persons (as measured by overall antioxidant capacity [ImAnOx] assay), (46% of healthy individuals, p =.004), increased oxidative stress (86% increase in carbonyl concentrations-indicators of enhanced ROS attack, p =.001), and increased salivary concentrations and total values of RNS (7-fold and 3-fold higher respectively, p =.001), all contributing to increased DNA oxidation of oral epithelial cells.

Salivary oxidative stress-related changes in the intimately related saliva and oral epithelium compounded with higher viscosity of saliva may explain the higher prevalence of oral cancer in the elderly population. Administration of local therapeutic agents (i.e., antioxidants) to the oral cavity should be considered.

O Hershkovich, I Shafat, and RM Nagler

Authors’ affiliation:
DMD, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department, Rambam Medical Center, Haifa, Israel

April, 2007|Archive|

So, why do baseball players chew?

  • 4/29/2007
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Gerry Fraley

Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan and Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler stood on opposite sides of the baseball team at Canyon de Oro High School in Tucson, Ariz.

Duncan used smokeless tobacco. Kinsler gave it up after an ill-fated, stomach-turning experience.

Kinsler cannot recall seeing Duncan without the omnipresent dip in his mouth. Kinsler understands why Duncan is part of a lineage that dates back to spitballs and Babe Ruth.

“I guess dipping is tradition,” Kinsler said. “Some guys need it to perform. Some guys obviously hide it better than other guys.”

Duncan declined to discuss his choice. Duncan might be the Cardinals’ most conspicuous consumer of tobacco, but he is hardly alone on this team. Or in his sport.

The dippers and chewers and even a few holdout smokers are out there. Their presence illustrates how deeply tobacco is ingrained in the culture of baseball.

Estimates say about one in three major-league players use tobacco products, all legal, during the season. In the general population, about one in 10 males are users.

There are users in other sports. Former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman was an avid dipper until late in his career, when a family cancer scare changed his thinking.

The difference is that baseball players are visible in their use. There are no known instances of an NBA or NHL player partaking in tobacco during competition. Sherrill Headrick, a center and linebacker in the AFL from 1960-68, is believed to be the last pro football player to use tobacco during games.

“We know it’s part of the history,” said Cincinnati Reds first baseman Scott Hatteberg, who quit tobacco after having a Kinsler-like episode in high school. “Growing up, the stereotypical ball player was a dirty guy with a chaw.”

With tobacco comes a health risk that dwarfs the dangers of the current hot-button topics in baseball: steroids, human growth hormones and amphetamines.

According to the National Cancer Institute, smokeless-tobacco users develop oral cancer at about 50 times the rate of the general population. The legendary Ruth died, in 1948, from oral cancer.

The NCI is studying data on the relationship between smokeless tobacco and heart disease. There is anecdotal evidence that suggests a link.

Doctors told San Diego reliever Doug Brocail that using dip tobacco for more than 20 years probably contributed to a 99 percent blockage in a left coronary artery branch. Brocail had an angioplasty in 2006.

A sticky issue

MLB would like to rid the game of tobacco’s stain.

Clubs cannot provide tobacco to players, a radical change from the days when clubhouses brimmed with cartons of cigarettes, pouches of tobacco and tins of snuff.

In 1993, MLB banned the use of tobacco by all minor-leaguers not on 40-man major-league rosters and therefore not represented by the Major League Baseball Players Association. MLB hoped the bottom-up approach would wean players from tobacco before they reached the majors.

MLB offers educational programs and oral screening for players, but it is powerless to ban tobacco at the major-league level. As an issue for the basic agreement, that requires the union’s approval.

Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president for labor relations and human resources, said the issue of banning tobacco has come up during negotiations on the basic agreement. It did not get traction because the issues of performance-enhancing substances such as steroids and illegal drugs took precedence.

“It’s a tough issue,” Manfred said. “It’s an issue of personal choice, and the union has been clear of where it stands on that.”

Officials with the Major League Baseball Players Association did not respond to requests for comment. The union has recognized that tobacco is a health issue but believes personal choice is more important than establishing a ban and penalties.

“It’s a far cry to say that because it’s bad for you, you should participate in a structure which allows your employer to punish you for doing something you shouldn’t be doing,” union chief executive officer Gene Orza said in 2004 during a panel discussion.

A long history

Tobacco has been interwoven with the game’s appeal for more than a century.

Baseball cards started as a promotion by tobacco companies. By 1910, advertising for American Tobacco’s Bull Durham brand at ballparks was common.

Hall of Famer Ty Cobb treated his bats with juice from Nerve navy cut, a slow-burning, rope-like tobacco that was often steeped in rum. The introduction of the spitball in 1902 encouraged pitchers to chew so they could have a ready supply of juice to put on the baseball.

The advent of televised games increased tobacco’s presence. Cigarette makers advertised on the telecasts, and their brands became identified with teams.

Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan said that when he broke into the majors with the New York Mets in 1968, more than half the team smoked.

About a decade later, as the health risks of cigarettes became better known, players returned to the old habits of chewing tobacco and dipping snuff. All the while, tobacco companies provided free products to teams and included players in advertising programs.

“We do know that young players starting in the game admire the leaders and look up to them,” said Dr. Herbert Severson, a psychologist at the University of Oregon and a scientist at the Oregon Research Institute. “They see them chew and develop the perception that to be successful, you have to chew.”

Severson served as the senior research scientist on a study of the use of smokeless tobacco by major-league players from 1998-2003. Severson found smokeless tobacco is far more prevalent in baseball than in the overall population.

According to Severson, the rate of usage in baseball ranged from 30-36 percent during the study. According to the most recent data, about 10 percent of all males use smokeless tobacco.

The study said that about 40 percent of the users considered themselves addicted to smokeless tobacco. Others said they used it as means of relaxation or to sharpen focus and therefore improve performance.

In a survey of major-leaguers from 1988-90, the University of Washington’s School of Dentistry found no relationship between tobacco use and performance. Users did not produce as a better rate than players who abstain. Severson’s study showed the same pattern.

“There’s this mythology that it somehow makes you a better player,” Severson said. “There are a lot of myths that players buy into, but we can find no evidence to support them.

“One thing about baseball is that a lot of rituals and myths are passed down from generation to generation. That’s pretty strong.”

How strong?

During spring training, Red Sox team president Larry Lucchino offered to make a $20,000 donation to Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute if manager Terry Francona quit his tobacco habit. If Francona fails, he will give $20,000 to the institute.

Francona said this week that he is struggling with the change.

“I’m hanging by a thread,” Francona said. “I’m going to keep trying, but it’s hard.”

April, 2007|Archive|

Seek medical help for sores, lesions in the mouth

  • 4/29/2007
  • West Palm Beach, FL
  • staff

Peter Billias says he is dying of oral cancer, the kind that eats away the insides of your mouth, and the kind that may have been preventable.

Or at least treatable, giving him a chance at survival, if it had been diagnosed earlier.

At 50, he recognizes the heavy smoking and drinking he has done all his life are undoubtedly responsible.

So, even though his prognosis isn’t good, the Lake Worth man gave up the cigarettes and booze and has been clean and sober, he says, for five of the eight months since his diagnosis.

He doesn’t complain or rail about his fate. He just wants to get the word out about making sure that lumps and bumps that aren’t right in your mouth get the proper attention.

That may prevent others from facing his fate.

“If you see anything in your mouth, and it doesn’t go away, something is wrong. See an ear, nose and throat doctor. Insist on getting it biopsied,” he says. “Or just make sure you request an oral cancer check when you see your dentist.

“It’s a horrifying disease. (Treatment can mean) they cut part of your tongue out. And it’s hitting more and more people that don’t drink or smoke.”

You can find all the information you need about this condition at

The site says: “At least 34,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal (throat) cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly one person per hour, 24 hours per day.

“Of those 34,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only half will be alive in five years. This is a number which has not significantly improved in decades.”

Statistics from the American Cancer Society’s 2007 Facts and Figures report — — are similar.

The society also points out that twice as many men as women receive this diagnosis, but it notes — encouragingly — the death rates in both men and women have been declining, perhaps because the number of new cases are also going down, according to its data. The society also has slightly more encouraging survival figures at the five-year mark: 60 per cent.

The key to survival, as with most cancers, is early diagnosis. Be on the lookout for the symptoms outlined in the accompanying fact box and see a health care professional immediately if you experience them: Better yet, stop smoking or chewing tobacco of any kind and control your drinking.

Even though scientists have found that human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer can be responsible for this condition, tobacco use is implicated in more than 75 per cent of all oral cancers.


A sore or lesion in the mouth that does not heal within two weeks.

A lump or thickening in the cheek.

A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth.

A sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in the throat.

Difficulty chewing or swallowing.

Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue.

Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth.

Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable.

April, 2007|Archive|

Nicotine Replacement Offered To New York City Smokers

  • 4/29/2007
  • New York, NY
  • staff

The Health Department unveiled a two-pronged effort to help smokers quit smoking.

From now through May 15, the Health Department will offer nicotine replacement at no cost to smokers who request it through 311. This year’s offer includes nicotine gum as well as patches. The Health Department is also launching a multimedia advertising campaign featuring Ronaldo Martinez, a former smoker who lost his voice to throat cancer at age 39.

“Nine out 10 smokers want to quit, but quitting can be tough,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. “Most New Yorkers who ever smoked have already quit. For those who are still smoking, a nicotine patch or gum can double your chances of quitting for good. New Yorkers who want help quitting should call 311 today.”

Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in New York City. Cigarettes kill 9,000 New Yorkers a year—more than 25 every day—and more than 1 million people still smoke.

In the new advertising campaign launched today—which includes an interactive internet component—Mr. Martinez recounts how much he has suffered from smoking. He developed throat cancer at 39, and now breathes through a hole in the front of his neck and can only speak through a mechanical device. The campaign features Mr. Martinez speaking in amplified vibrations from his throat to produce monotone speech. The tagline: Nothing Will Ever Be the Same.

The ads will run on television and radio, as well as in subways, check cashing outlets and on payphone kiosks in English and Spanish. Internet ads will allow people to email an audio message in Mr. Martinez’s voice to friends and loved ones to encourage them to quit smoking.

April, 2007|Archive|

Intensity-modulated Radiotherapy Improves QOL Measurements in Head and Neck Cancer

  • 4/28/2007
  • web-based article
  • staff

Researchers from France have reported that intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) was associated with improved quality-of-life (QOL) measurements compared to conventional radiotherapy (RT) for head and neck cancer. The details of this study appeared as an early online publication in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology* Biology* Physics on April 1, 2007.[1]

A recent study by researchers from MD Anderson has shown that head and neck RT causes oral mucositis in 100% of patients.[2] They reported that oral mucositis was more common in patients who received chemotherapy and those who received fractionated schedules. Oral mucositis was associated with severe pain in over half the patients and weight loss of over 5 pounds in 60%. They estimated that oral mucositis added $1700–$6000 to the medical costs, depending on severity.

There are few treatments for oral mucositis due to RT. Amifostine (ethyol) is approved by the FDA for prevention of xerostomia in patients receiving RT for head and neck cancer but has little, if any, impact on oral mucositis. Kepivance® (palifermin, keratinocyte growth factor) decreases mucositis associated with total body irradiation but has not been evaluated in head and neck cancer. However, an animal model has shown that Kepivance has a protective role in mice receiving chemoradiotherapy.[3]

Newer methods of radiotherapy delivery should decrease side effects. Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a relatively new way of delivering radiation that theoretically delivers more radiation to cancers while delivering less radiation to normal tissues than conventional three-dimensional conformal radiation (3D-CRT). IMRT developed through improvements and a decrease in the cost of server-type computers; the development of multi-leaf collimators with multiple tungsten shields, which allowed the delivery of radiation through multiple ports (often referred to as “beamlets”); and the development of software that combined computerized tomography (CT) or other imaging of the cancer with control of the radiation delivered. The equipment allows for intensity modulation of the radiation beam during treatment. This is accomplished by the computer telling the machine to shield or not shield various ports with the tungsten shields.

The current study compared the delivery of 45 Gy or more to patients with head and neck cancer. One group was treated with IMRT and the other with conventional RT. This was a matched-pair comparison involving 67 pairs of patients. Data was obtained by quality-of-life questionnaire. These authors reported that severe symptoms were more frequent following conventional RT than following IMRT. Patients in the conventional RT group were three times more likely to have dry mouth, sticky saliva, and pain than patients in the IMRT group. Patients in the conventional RT group also had more pain in the jaw, difficulty opening the mouth, and trouble swallowing and eating. These authors concluded that IMRT was associated with fewer side effects than conventional RT.

Comments: IMRT was adopted as standard of care before there was clear evidence that it would produce superior results. No randomized trials have been performed and physicians and patients have to rely on this type of study to document improvements over conventional RT. Even though IMRT may be better than conventional RT, more effective means of controlling oral mucositis need to be developed.


[1]Graff P, Lapeyre M, Desandes E, et al. Impact of intensity-modulated radiotherapy on health-related quality of life for head and neck cancer patients: Matched-pair comparison with conventional radiotherapy. International Journal of Radiation Oncology* Biology* Physics 2007; published on-line on April 1, 2007.

[2] Elting LS, Cooksley CD, Chambers MS et al. Risk, outcomes and costs of radiation-induced oral mucositis among patients with head and neck cancer. International Journal of Radiation Oncology* Biology* Physics 2007; published on-line on March 28, 2007.

[3] Borges L, Rex KL, Chen JN, et al. A protective role for keratinocyte growth factor in a murine model of chemotherapy and radiotherapy-induced mucositis. International Journal of Radiation Oncology* Biology* Physics 2006;66:254-262.

April, 2007|Archive|

Ethyol® Can Be Administered Subcutaneously to Prevent Radiation Induced Xerostomia

  • 4/28/2007
  • web-based article
  • staff

A phase II multicenter trial has demonstrated that Ethyol (amifostine) can be administered subcutaneously for the prevention of radiation induced xerostomia in patients receiving radiation therapy for head and neck cancer. The details of this study appeared in the February 2007 issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics.

Radiation therapy is commonly used to treat patients with head and neck cancers, and xerostomia is a frequent side effect. The intravenous administration of Ethyol has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for prevention of radiation induced xerostomia. The necessity of administering Ethyol intravenously has severely limited its use. Thus, researchers have explored the subcutaneous route of administration.

These researchers treated 54 patients with subcutaneous Ethyol followed by radiation therapy. The incidence of grade 2 or greater early Xerostomia was 56% and the incidence of late xerostomia was 45%. These incidences of early and late xerostomia are similar to that observed with the use of Ethyol intravenously in a previous randomized trial and lower than the control group of that trial. Nausea and vomiting were the most frequent side effects. Local control and survival rates were not inferior to those expected. These authors concluded that subcutaneous Ethyol could substitute for intravenous administration for the prevention of xerostomia.

Comments: These are important observations that should increase the use of Ethyol in preventing xerostomia in patients with head and neck cancer. It is anticipated that the FDA will approve this route of administration.

Anne PR, Machtay M, Rosenthal DI, et al. International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics 2007;67:445-452.

April, 2007|Archive|

Ethyol® Allows Greater Tolerability of Chemotherapy in Head and Neck Cancer

  • 4/28/2007
  • web-based article
  • staff

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have reported that the dose of Taxol® (paclitaxel) given with hyperfractionated radiotherapy can be dose escalated in patients receiving Ethyol (amifostine). The details of this dose escalation trial were reported in the October 1, 2005, issue of Cancer.

Combined radiation therapy and chemotherapy are standard treatments for patients with advanced head and neck cancers, but most patients have recurrent disease after treatment. Ethyol is a radiation protector and the only drug of this class that has been approved by the FDA for this use in patients receiving radiation therapy for cancers of the head and neck.

Clinical trials have demonstrated that Ethyol can reduce both acute and late radiation-induced side effects. In the pivotal trial involving patients with head and neck cancer, Ethyol reduced the incidence of xerostomia but had no effect on the incidence or severity of oral mucositis. Ethyol has also been shown to reduce the incidence of grade 2-3 bladder and GI toxicities in patients receiving pelvic radiation therapy and more recently has been associated with decreased toxicities in patients receiving high-dose melphalan.

The current study was a multi-institution phase I clinical trial that included 36 patients with advanced head and neck cancer. Patients were treated with radiation therapy plus weekly Taxol. The number of doses of Taxol was escalated from a minimum of three to a maximum of six. Twenty-eight of these patients received Ethyol; eight received no Ethyol. Patients not receiving Ethyol tolerated four doses of Taxol while the average number of doses for the Ethyol group was five.

At approximately 30 months, both progression-free and overall survival was 66% in the whole group of patients. There were no differences in response rates between patients receiving and not receiving Ethyol.

These researchers concluded that Ethyol allows patients with advanced head and neck cancer who are also undergoing radiation therapy to tolerate an extra cycle of Taxol chemotherapy. Longer follow-up is necessary to determine if this will result in improved survival for these patients, and future randomized clinical trials are necessary to provide confirmed results.

Comments: Ethyol may increase the amount of Taxol that can be give concomitantly with radiotherapy, but the authors pointed out this is still not enough to significantly reduce distant relapses and more chemotherapy will have to be given before or after radiotherapy.

Amrein P, Clark J, Supko J, et al. Phase I trial and pharmacokinetics of escalating doses of paclitaxel and concurrent hyperfractionated radiotherapy with or without amifostine in patients with advanced head and neck carcinoma. Cancer. 2005;104:1418-1427.

April, 2007|Archive|

Mouth rinse spots early head and neck cancer

  • 4/24/2007
  • New York, NY
  • Megan Rauscher
  • Scientific (

Detecting head and neck cancer early, when the odds of successful treatment are best, may be as simple as gargling with saline and spitting in a cup, according to a study conducted by a Miami, Florida-based research team.

Oral rinsing flushes out a protein called CD44 — a known biomarker for cancers of the head and neck. It also detects altered DNA related to these tumors. And the combination of these two biomarkers reliably detects head and neck tumors, the research shows.

Dr. Elizabeth J. Franzmann of the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center reported her team’s work at the annual American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Los Angeles.

“Cancer of the head and neck is a very debilitating and deadly disease that is often detected in late stages when cure rates are only about 30 percent,” Franzmann told Reuters Health. “If we could catch it earlier, we should be able to cure it at least 80 percent of the time but we really need an early detection test.”

The CD44 protein is involved in normal cell functions, but in cancer it is over expressed and appears in alternative forms that are also involved in tumor formation. Importantly, the protein and altered form can be found in bodily fluids.

“Initially, we found that if a patient swishes and gargles for 5 seconds each with saline and spits in a cup, we can actually measure the CD44 level; and it turned out that it was high in most of our head and neck cancer patients,” Franzmann said.

The potential value of the oral rinse test was confirmed in a subsequent study of 102 head and neck cancer patients and 69 subjects with benign head and neck disease who were smokers and drinkers. “Head and neck cancer is primarily a disease of tobacco and alcohol users, although about 20 percent don’t have any such history,” Franzmann explained.

In this study, the oral rinse test detected two individuals with symptom-less cancer or precancer and it detected few “false positives” in the comparison group. Overall, “we found CD44 in spit in the head and neck cancer patients 62 percent of the time,” Franzmann reported.

“We wondered whether some of the cancers were being missed because the CD44 gene can get turned off later on in the process of tumor formation. This turning off can be detected in the oral rinse.”

“Sure enough, we found that in 9 out of 11 head and neck cancers with low CD44, the gene had been turned off,” Franzmann said.

Looking at the two markers contained in the oral rinse distinguished head and neck cancer from benign disease almost 90 percent of the time, Franzmann. “And that’s pretty good; it’s similar to what the PSA test for prostate cancer does.”

The mouth rinse test, Franzmann added, is simple enough to be administered at any community health center for individuals at high risk of head and neck cancer.

April, 2007|Archive|