Archive for April, 2008|Monthly archive page

Chemo Causes Brain Damage Now Its Official

Well, they have talked about this over and over, whether “chemo Brain” is real or not. Now we have proof, although we will have a wait until anyone does anything about this. I guess we should be glad we have part of our brains functioning. The article that covers this follows:

A commonly used chemotherapy drug causes healthy brain cells to die off
long after treatment has ended and may be one of the underlying
biological causes of the cognitive side effects — or “chemo brain” —
that many cancer patients experience. That is the conclusion of a study
published today in the Journal of Biology.

A team of researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center
(URMC) and Harvard Medical School have linked the widely used
chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) to a progressing collapse of
populations of stem cells and their progeny in the central nervous system.

“This study is the first model of a delayed degeneration syndrome that
involves a global disruption of the myelin-forming cells that are
essential for normal neuronal function,” said Mark Noble, Ph.D.,
director of the University of Rochester Stem Cell and Regenerative
Medicine Institute and senior author of the study. “Because of our
growing knowledge of stem cells and their biology, we can now begin to
understand and define the molecular mechanisms behind the cognitive
difficulties that linger and worsen in a significant number of cancer

Cancer patients have long complained of neurological side effects such
as short-term memory loss and, in extreme cases, seizures, vision loss,
and even dementia. Until very recently, these cognitive side effects
were often dismissed as the byproduct of fatigue, depression, and
anxiety related to cancer diagnosis and treatment. Now a growing body of
evidence has documented the scope of these conditions, collectively
referred to as chemo brain. And while it is increasingly acknowledged by
the scientific community that many chemotherapy agents may have a
negative impact on brain function in a subset of cancer patients, the
precise mechanisms that underlie this dysfunction have not been identified.

Virtually all cancer survivors experience short-term memory loss and
difficulty concentrating during and shortly after treatment. A study two
years ago by researchers with the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the
University of Rochester showed that upwards of 82 percent of breast
cancer patients reported that they suffer from some form of cognitive

While these effects tend to wear off over time, a subset of patients,
particularly those who have been administered high doses of
chemotherapy, begin to experience these cognitive side effects months or
longer after treatment has ceased and the drugs have long since departed
their systems. For example, a recent study estimates that somewhere
between 15 percent and 20 percent of the nation’s 2.4 million female
breast cancer survivors have lingering cognitive problems years after
treatment. Another study showed that 50 percent of women had not
recovered their previous level of cognitive function one year after

Two years ago, Noble and his team showed that three common chemotherapy
drugs used to treat a wide range of cancers were more toxic to healthy
brain cells than the cancer cells they were intended to treat. While
these experiments were among the first to establish a biological basis
for the acute onset of chemo brain, they did not explain the lingering
impact that many patients experience.

The scientists conducted a similar series of experiments in which they
exposed both individual cell populations and mice to doses of
5-fluorouracil (5-FU) in amounts comparable to those used in cancer
patients. 5-FU is among a class of drugs called antimetabolites that
block cell division and has been used in cancer treatment for more than
40 years. The drug, which is often administered in a “cocktail” with
other chemotherapy drugs, is currently used to treat breast, ovarian,
stomach, colon, pancreatic and other forms of cancer.

The researchers discovered that months after exposure, specific
populations of cells in the central nervous — oligodendrocytes and
dividing precursor cells from which they are generated — underwent such
extensive damage that, after six months, these cells had all but
disappeared in the mice.

Oligodendrocytes play an important role in the central nervous system
and are responsible for producing myelin, the fatty substance that, like
insulation on electrical wires, coats nerve cells and enables signals
between cells to be transmitted rapidly and efficiently. The myelin
membranes are constantly being turned over, and without a healthy
population of oligodendrocytes, the membranes cannot be renewed and
eventually break down, resulting in a disruption of normal impulse
transmission between nerve cells.

These findings parallel observations in studies of cancer survivors with
cognitive difficulties. MRI scans of these patients’ brains revealed a
condition similar to leukoencephalopathy . This demyelination — or the
loss of white matter — can be associated with multiple neurological

“It is clear that, in some patients, chemotherapy appears to trigger a
degenerative condition in the central nervous system,” said Noble.
“Because these treatments will clearly remain the standard of care for
many years to come, it is critical that we understand their precise
impact on the central nervous system, and then use this knowledge as the
basis for discovering means of preventing such side effects.”

Noble points out that not all cancer patients experience these cognitive
difficulties and determining why some patients are more vulnerable may
be an important step in developing new ways to prevent these side
effects. Because of this study, researchers now have a model which, for
the first time, allows scientists to begin to examine this condition in
a systematic manner.

Other investigators participating in the study include Ruolan Han,
Ph.D., Yin M. Yang, M.D., Anne Luebke, Ph.D., Margot Mayer-Proschel,
Ph.D., all with URMC, and Joerg Dietrich, M.D., Ph.D., formerly with
URMC and now with Harvard Medical School. The study was funded by the
National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the Komen
Foundation for the Cure, and the Wilmot Cancer Center.

For more media inquiries, contact:
Mark Michaud
(585) 273-4790
mark_michaud@ urmc.rochester. edu


Had a family reunion last week, that was wonderful. My brother John paid for me to go there, thank you John, and also donated a keyboard to me so that I could blogg in comfort. I had used my computer keyboard so much that several of the keys were missing and other keys were not working at all. Now I can type again, freedom! Southern California isn’t as nice as Northern California at all (especially the part of Northern California I live in) but the weather is nice and things are cheaper. Went to the Huntington Library, one of my parents favorite places, and the amount of flowers blooming was almost unbelievable. The Children’s and Chinese Gardens were my favorites. Then to Santa Monica Pier, which I liked a lot, I always loved amusement arcades, went on the mildest roller coaster on the coast but it gave great views of the pier and other amusements. The last time I went on an extreme coaster (at Six Flags) the ride was exciting to the max, but I spent most of the time with my eyes closed so it was nice to really experience this coaster.

Then back to Guerneville and off to the first meeting/event for KOWS programmers, we had pizza/pasta at the Union Hotel and baked in the heat while we got to know one another. The next day one of the programmers (Arnold) invited us to cricket and tea at a park in Sebastopol – that was a blast, had my first taste of gooseberry jam in years, plus the scones with double cream delicious (of course!) many of the Americans on having the rules of cricket explained to them, declared it silly or weird, but after they went to bat they changed their minds, sheesh even with that big bat its hard to hit the ball. A good time was had by all.

Anyway, things have been good for the past two weeks, only during this last week have I felt any pains, and only needed my meds once (yeah!). But I worry because I don’t understand the nature of cancer pain, I will have to ask my doctor again, they usually tell me it could be because the tumors are growing or it could be the tumors are dissolving. Well, dissolving sounds better to me. I want to see my medicine man again though because I believe in him and think he was the reason that the pains went away in the first place. My belly button is acting up again though, no pains, but its leaking greasy stuff and is a very raw red color. Its another two days until I go for chemo again, I really need to talk to my doctor about my skin. This chemo’s side effect is a skin rash, but my whole body has become rough and raw (in places), I hate touching my body as it doesn’t feel very human, my nose bleeds a lot and I’ve started bleeding out of an old hole in my ear lobe, where I used to wear earrings. Its better than throwing up all the time, but I am wondering if this isn’t too much.



Back On Foot

Well, if its not one thing, its two.  Actually I feel pretty lucky today.  I noticed that I had lost my wallet this morning, spent what seemed like forever searching the house and retracking steps back to Johnson’s Beach.  No luck.  I eventually called in my debit card, but nothing else.  Then, around 5:30 I got a call from a guy at the beach who had found my wallet, no money of course but it was all the plastic that I was most concerned about, its such a pain to replace that all.  And I’m going flying next week and didn’t want to take along an outdated passport as ID.  Thank you homeless guy, I gave him a little something for his troubles and he was happy. 

Who Feels Healthy, I Feel Healthy

I can hardly believe it but I’ve felt relatively healthy for over  a week now.  I have thrown up about once a week, but no violent episodes.  The points on my pelvis which would always ache I haven’t felt for a while, at all.  I think this is due to my medicine man.  My oncologist is talking about trying to get me another PETScan at the end of April, but isn’t sure it would be approved (I guess there was so much cancer, there is no point to look for more.)  Anyway he is game to look and me too, I sincerely believe that something may have happened this time.  Tomorrow I will be calling my medicine man to see how he is and let him know that I should be OK for another week as indeed I think I am, he will then see me the following week for our three week follow-up.

Car Problems

Well, I’ve been driving it all over the place so I can’t complain, but I will anyway.  Poor car started shivering at 55 mph, then at 45, then got so bad I had to take it to my mechanic.  He said it was something about the CV axel, I guess it will be several hundred to repair, but repair it we must.  I have a carbon footprint to keep up here.  Have to get to Andys in Sebastapol, got to go to chemo in Santa Rosa, go to go to medicine man in Petaluma, got to visit in San Francisco.  In the meantime I though I might have to miss my show at KOWS again, but I ran into Leslie who lives uphill (or used to) and offered to lend me her car tomorrow.  So, I took up the offer, I need to get some good food from Andys, and get some more music out on KOWS.  People are so good to me.  Thanks Leslie!!!

Stepping Back From My Medicine Man

Well, I guess I can’t glom onto my Medicine Man forever, even though I want to, I do so enjoy our meetings, but our eleven day stretch is over, he has given me psychic surgeries, laid his cold hands on me to heal me, pulled out dead people from within me, recognized contracts I have had with various people plus alerted me that I am living as a Laundry Lady (as he described it; my taking on other peoples emotional troubles, I can’t do that anymore.) So my last “ongoing” appointment was last Thursday and yesterday I went to him for my first update. He gave me a little more healing but declared that he felt I was in a great state and we arranged to meet in about another three weeks.

Michael Teachings Too

Medicine Man (Gary) wanted me to go to a friend of his who gives Michael readings, so I will be going to see her on Monday, that sounds like a bunch of fun. Gary believes that he knew me in a lifetime when he was Richard Burton (the explorer), so I will ask her about that, and what on earth I might be doing here.


Gary also sent me for some of this, so I searched out a really cheap place that I think I am going to like, so far I have only been once but its called Sebastopol Community Acupuncture and they charge between $20-40 a visit, and if you visit twice in a week then your second appointment is $5 less than the first appointment of the week. You can’t beat that, so I went along for my first visit, it was housed in a Queen Anne Victorian and there was the reception area along with four other rooms, one room to meet with the acupuncturist and three others each containing three lazy-boy chairs, most of them with someone in them. There were about five or six people there at the same time I was. I talked with the acupuncturist for a while then chose a chair and had my needles put in. Only about nine needles, she said that they start off with few needles to begin with. I felt a lot around the needles, some felt like bruises – my feet went a little crazy wanting to move all the time, but I have neuropathology there so I expect the chi is off so say the least. Anyway, I respect what they are providing and intend to go back regularly.

Visiting My Oncologist

Met with my Doctor for the first time in about a month. We talked a little about things, I asked him about a problem I have been having with my belly button. Its bright red and leaking greasy stuff, leaving crud behind – sorry about that. I got some antibiotic cream from the nurses which I have applied and its taken away some of the red, but it still hurts, sort of a cutting feeling, not there all the time but often enough that it bothers me. Doctor noted that it was on the site of some new growths I had across my abdomen, he felt around the belly button, which was darned sensitive, and showed me how I could feel the tumor just below the belly button (yuck – have to admit I didn’t like that.) I am hoping that it was breaking up, the doctor said the pains can come from tumors either growing or dissolving, so I am going to go with dissolving, wish that shooting pain would stop though, its like a knife thats inside me and if I move a certain way it starts cutting.  Never mind though, life is pretty good these days.

Savoy Brown Blues Band

Just wanted to add that I went to see these guys with a friend of mine, I recall them from my youth (teens).  I thought I might have a good time at this show but it was just the most.  I mean, Kim Simmonds was really on and played a lot of tracks from the new album (which I picked up at the end of the night, I think its my first Savoy Brown Blues CD), he obviously was born to play music and the show he put on on Wednesday night was magical, top form, over the top, you know what I mean.  When ever I go to see a great music show it is always apparent to me that music is a healing thing.  Know what I mean?