WASHINGTON, By Maggie Fox, August 21, 2008, PharmaLive.com – The cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins neither cause cancer nor prevent it, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.

People with the lowest levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol) were more likely to have cancer, but those whose LDL was lowered by statin use were no more likely to develop cancer than those with naturally low LDL levels, the team at Tufts Medical Center in Boston found.

“Despite their LDL-lowering effects, statins don’t cause cancer,” Dr. Richard Karas, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.

His team did what is known as a meta-analysis, reviewing data from 15 large randomized controlled trials of statins, which included 51,797 patients given statins and 45,043 patients given a placebo and then followed for an average four and a half years.

Some studies showed a cancer risk with statins, but on average, there was none, Karas and colleagues report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“When you look at all of the statin trials together, what they show is there is no overall effect on cancer, either increasing it or preventing it,” Karas said.

They did find clear risk of cancer, the No. 2 killer of residents of developed nations behind heart disease, among those with low LDL levels.

“We found a very interesting thing, which is that in those studies, the lower the LDL level, the higher the risk of cancer. It was a pretty strong effect,” Karas said.

“There was about a three-fold increase in cancer going from the highest LDL levels to the lowest LDL levels.”

It worked out to about two more cancers per thousand people per year with every 10 point drop in LDL cholesterol, he said.

“Statins on average lowered LDL by about 40 points, so if statins did cause cancer, that 40-point drop in LDL cholesterol should have produced eight more cancers,” Karas said.

“So in the statin group we would expect to see 20 cancers per thousand person-years (per thousand people per year). Instead, what we found was 12.7, which was the exact same as in placebo patients.”

Statins, the world’s top-selling drugs, are highly effective at cutting the risk of heart attack and stroke.

In addition to their intended cardiovascular effects, the drugs have been shown to have unexpected benefits, such as lowering the risk of death from influenza, pneumonia and the effects of smoking, perhaps because they lower inflammation.

The use of statins in the United States alone rose by 156 percent between 2000 and 2005, with spending jumping from $7.7 billion to $19.7 billion, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported on Wednesday.

Statins include atorvastatin, made by Pfizer under the brand name Lipitor; pravastatin or Pravachol, made by Bristol Myers Squibb; fluvastatin, made by Novartis under the brand name Lescol, and several others.

A lab worker looks at DNA samples. Japan’s Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.

TOKYO, August 21, 2008, Yahoo.com/News – Japan’s Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. said Wednesday that it had developed a new way of predicting from a person’s DNA their response to medication and risk of developing disease.

Matsushita, which is best known for its Panasonic brand, said it had developed a technology to electronically identify sequence variations in DNA, called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs.

It described the technology as a “world-first” that uses artificial DNA dissolved in a solution instead of being attached to an electrode.

“This technology makes it possible to predict individuals’ responses to drugs and their risk of developing disease,” said the company, which collaborated with Konan University on the project.

“In the future, this technology is expected to enable hospitals or clinics to provide patients with treatments and drugs tailored to their individual physical characteristics,” it said.

1497F7BE-5EBD-4599-A9F8-BA27182C1699.jpgAFP/Getty Images – Mother puts sunscreen on her daughter’s skin as they sunbath at a beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. …

WASHINGTON, August 21, 2008, Yahoo.com/News – US chemists have identified the odor that emanates from skin cancer, a development that researchers hope will advance diagnosis and treatment of the deadly disease, said a study out Wednesday.

The creation of a “profile” of the chemical odors linked to skin cancer, may lead to a day when diagnoses can be made by waving a scanner over the skin, researchers told the annual conference of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Doctors have already know that skin cancer carries a particular odor, and recent studies have shown that dogs are able to detect tumors because they smell differently than normal skin.

“Researchers have speculated that tumors give off different odors, but we’re the first to identify and quantify the compounds involved in skin cancer odors,” said chemist Michelle Gallagher, who conducted the study at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Gallagher and colleagues analyzed the air above tumor sites in 11 patients diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer, and compared the finding with those taken from healthy patients.

They found “a different profile of chemicals above tumor sites relative to healthy skin; the same chemicals are present, but at skin cancer sites some chemicals are increased, while others are decreased compared to healthy individuals.”

Around one million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year.

The scientists did not reveal the specific chemicals found, but they plan to identify a reliable “odor profile” of all three forms of skin cancer, including squamous cell cancer and melanoma, the deadliest form.

Gallagher said she hoped the findings would “open doors to potential new approaches to skin cancer diagnosis based on the profile of skin odors, hopefully leading to more rapid and non-invasive detection and diagnosis.”

Skin cancer is currently diagnosed by taking biopsies of irregular moles or lesions.

ScienceDaily — Curing cancer with natural products — a case for shamans and herbalists? Not at all, for many chemotherapies to fight cancer applied in modern medicine are natural products or were developed on the basis of natural substances. Thus, taxanes used in prostate and breast cancer treatment are made from yew trees. The popular periwinkle plant, which grows along the ground of many front yards, is the source of vinca alkaloids that are effective, for example, against malignant lymphomas. The modern anti-cancer drugs topotecan and irinotecan are derived from a constituent of the Chinese Happy Tree.

Looking for new compounds, doctors and scientists are increasingly focusing on substances from plants used in traditional medicine. About three quarters of the natural pharmaceutical compounds commonly used today are derived from plants of the traditional medicine of the people in various parts of the world. The chances of finding new substances with interesting working profiles in traditional medicinal plants are better than in common-or-garden botany.

In his search for active ingredients, Professor Dr. Thomas Efferth of the DKFZ has been concentrating on herbal remedies from traditional Chinese medicine with particularly well documented application range. Working together with colleagues in Mainz and Düsseldorf, Germany, Graz, Austria and Kunming in China, he launched a systematic compound search in 76 Chinese medicinal plants that are believed to be effective against malignant tumors and other growths.

Extracts from 18 of the plants under investigation were found to substantially suppress the growth of a cancer cell line in the culture dish. “With this success rate of about 24 percent, we are way above the results that could be expected from searching through large chemical substance libraries,” Thomas Efferth explains.

The scientists proceeded to chemically separate, step by step, all active extracts, tracing the active component after each separation step by cell tests. The chemical structure of the compounds is analyzed using nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectroscopy. “We are combining natural substance research with advanced analytical and molecular-biological methods”, Efferth explains. “Plant constituents that seem particularly promising are immediately subjected to further tests.”

Such constituents include, for example, substances derived from the Rangoon Creeper, an ornamental plant with red flowers, or from Red-Root Sage. The latter contains three ingredients with powerful anti-tumor activity. The substances were found to suppress the growth of a specific tumor cell line that is particularly resistant to many commonly used cytotoxins due to overproduction of a transport protein in the cell wall. In contrast, a whole range of standard anti-cancer drugs fail to be effective against this cell.

„We can expect to find many interesting, yet unknown working mechanisms among the chemically highly diverse natural substances. Currently, we are aligning the effectiveness of the substances on 60 different cancer cell lines with the gene activity profiles of these cells. Thus, we can determine the exact gene products that are the cellular targets of our compounds. Thereby, it may be possible to discover whole new Achilles’ heels of the cancer cell,” said Efferth describing the next steps.

Journal reference: Thomas Efferth, Stefan Kahl, Kerstin Paulus, Michael Adams, Rolf Rauh, Herbert Boechzelt, Xiaojiang Hao, Bernd Kaina and Rudolf Bauer: Phytochemistry and Pharmacogenomics of Natural products derived from traditional Chinese medica with activity against tumor cells. Molecular Cancer Therapy 7 (1) 2008, page 152

Adapted from materials provided by Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres

ScienceDaily) — Scientists in the United Kingdom have “decoded” the inscrutable language of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), revealing its strong chemical foundation in a way that may help scientists mine age-old Chinese medicines to develop tomorrow’s new drugs.

David J. Barlow, Thomas M. Ehrman, and Peter J. Hylands point out that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) – regarded by many Western experts as an archaic system doomed to extinction 50 years ago – has undergone a “remarkable renaissance” in recent years.

However, the arcane language used to describe categories of medication in TCM has hindered effective understanding of one of the most developed and mature systems of alternative medicine in existence.

To overcome that barrier, the researchers analyzed patterns among 8411 compounds from 240 Chinese herbs in relation to the categories found in traditional Chinese medicine. Organizing their findings in a kind of herbal “map,” their results reveal that many categories in Chinese medicine are amenable to translation to Western terminology. TCM’s “fire poison” group, for example, is comparable to today’s family of anti-inflammatory medicines.

Now, future researchers will better understand the chemical basis of remedies that have been in use for thousands of years, the study indicated.

“This is likely to be of benefit both in the search for new drugs and, equally significantly, in understanding how Chinese medicine works,” say the authors.

The study is “Phytochemical Informatics of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Therapeutic Relevance” is scheduled for the Nov./Dec. issue of ACS’ Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling.

Adapted from materials provided by American Chemical Society

ScienceDaily) — Many hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients in China may be treated with Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Some say it works, others doubt its effectiveness. These stated that a research group in China had found TCM can down-regulate the expression of PTEN in HCC, which may suppress tumor cell growth and regulate tumor cell invasion and metastasis.

A research group imbedded hepatoma carcinoma tissue in the livers of 48 male athymic mice. The mice were distributed randomly into two groups: The chemotherapy group was treated by intragastric administration with FT207 (Tegafur). The TCM group was treated by intragastric administration with FZJDT (complex prescription of Chinese crude drug) that had been deliquated into 3 kinds of density as the low, middle, and high.

Four weeks later, the researchers found the TCM group had distinct superiority in their survival rate compared with the chemotherapy group. There was less tumor metastasis in the livers of the TCM group than in the chemotherapy group. Particularly the results of immunohistochemistry showed the intensity of PTEN (Phosphatase and Tensin Homolog deleted on Chromosome 10) in the TCM group was higher than in the chemotherapy group.

PTEN was recently identified as a tumor suppressor gene by three American research teams. They found PTEN may suppress tumor cell growth and regulate tumor cell invasion and metastasis through inhibiting many signal pathways of cell proliferation.

FZJDT has been widely used to treat HCC for years in The First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University. Just what is the mechanism of the Chinese herbs that strengthens the body’s resistance and removes toxic substances? Our research showed TCM could markedly increase expression of PTEN in the athymic mice, compared with the chemotherapy group treated with FT207, indicating the anticancer mechanism of the TCM used in this study.

Mechanisms of TCM healing HCC may partially be explained by the enhancing of the expression of PTEN in the liver. The results of this study suggest a promising future for TCM as a combined therapy to treat HCC in China .

Journal reference: Yin LR, Chen ZX, Zhang SJ, Sun BG, Liu YD, Huang HZ. Expression of chromosome ten in liver of athymic mice with hepatocellular carcinoma and the effect of Fuzheng Jiedu Decoction. World J Gastroenterol 2008; 14(1): 108-113 http://www.wjgnet.com/1007-9327/14/108.asp

August 2008, CHINA.ORG.CN – There can be little doubt that China is finding its place as one of the world’s physics power houses judged by the astonishing increase in papers written by scientists in China, said Physics World, an international monthly magazine, in a report published on Friday.

Nanoscience, quantum computing and high-temperature superconductivity are three of the cutting-edge areas of physics that have seen particularly large increases. Published journal articles in nanoscience, for example, with at least one co-author based in China, have seen a 10-fold increase since the beginning of the millennium, rising to more than 10,500 in 2007, according to the report.

China has already overtaken the United Kingdom and Germany in the number of physics papers published and is beginning to nip at the heels of the United States. If China’s output continues to increase at its current pace, the country will be publishing more articles in physics – and indeed all of science – than the United States by 2012, said Physics World.

Quantity alone however is not enough. The number of times a journal paper is cited by other academics in their own journal papers is often used as a guide to journal papers’ quality. Unfortunately for China, they are currently a long way from the national citation top spot, ranked in 65th for physics, just ahead of Kuwait, with an average of 4.12 citations for each of the papers published.

As China has only just started to publish large volumes of work, it is not a fair reflection. Werner Marx, an information scientist, who carried out a study for the Physics World article, said, “The figure is still quite impressive, and I estimate this will rise substantially in the next few years.”

All indications suggest that China’s propensity for world- leading research is growing. In March this year scientists in Japan first reported a new class of iron-based superconducting material that can conduct electricity without resistance when cooled to below 26 Kelvin (K). Researchers in China quickly picked up the baton and, within a month of the initial Japanese discovery, had boosted the transition temperature at which the material loses all its electrical resistance to 52 K.

“China has become a notable factor in the scientific landscape. Usually scientific development in nations does not show such a strong acceleration as we have seen in China, so it will be interesting to see how it responds and develops in the future,” said Marx.

Winds of change for China’s environment protection

August 15, 2008, CHINA.ORG.CN – Thirty years have passed in the history of China’s environmental protection management, from the first national environmental protection conference in 1973 to the elevation of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) from an administration in 2008, putting it among the major 27 ministries and commissions in the Cabinet.


This change in status of the environmental agency within the government structure has reflected the heightened concerns attached by central leadership on the “green drive” at a time when China is facing a deteriorating environment arising from an unsustainable economic development mode.

The past three decades was marked by rapid economic growth and development at the expense of the environment. The rapid deterioration of the nation’s environment and the depletion of its natural resources are threatening the health of millions of people and posing a serious threat to the sustainability of economic growth.

Influenced by public calls to act on the severe air and water pollution problems, the central government has tightened its environmental policies and enforcement embodied in the “Scientific Outlook on Development” as well as the national Five-Year Plan to combat pollutants from 2006 to 2010.

Among Beijing’s moves, the elevation of the environmental agency into a ministry is widely seen to be the most crucial step, in which the central government hopes to sharpen the watchdog’s teeth.

However, changing the name of the administration does not guarantee results, as many insiders observed, because the environmental protection bureaus at provincial level and below are under the direct leadership of local governments, who are in charge of our personnel changes and funding. Therefore, it is not always practical to expect a local environmental protection bureau to work independently and monitor the government.

While the central government may have a strong will when it comes to the environmental protection, the lack of cooperation at the local level can be a big problem. Local governments lack both the incentives and the capacity to implement well-developed projects. High-level Chinese leaders often promise “clean water and clean air for everybody,” but this simple-sounding goal is, in reality, not an easy job.

The overlapping administrative function of several departments is another problem. MEP needs the coordination of many departments like agricultural, forestry, water resources, among others. In the way, pressure on MEP comes from everywhere, as its move might touch vested interests of other departments.

Although elevation of the environmental protection administration might not be a cure-all, it has still sparked people’s hope.