What gut bacteria can teach us about cancer treatment

At one time, the role of gut bacteria in human health was marginalized as a side note that health experts found interesting but not integral. But as more and more research has made clear, the number and diversity of bacteria in the gut can often make the difference between health and disease. Two new studies have found that gut bacteria can also determine the effectiveness of the treatments that are used to fight cancer, forcing doctors to take a closer look at the lessons they can learn from this once overlooked aspect of human health.

In one experiment, researchers at the University of Lille in France looked at ipilimumab — a cancer drug used to treat advanced melanoma — and found that not only did the medication affect the amount of bacteria that was in the gut, but its own effectiveness went hand-in-hand with the level of bacteria trial participants had in their intestines. So the very drug that needed gut bacteria in order to work was the thing that was destroying participants’ gut bacteria levels. Researchers found that when they gave participants supplemental levels of bacteria along with ipilimumab, they responded better to treatment.

A second study — conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago — confirmed the importance of gut bacteria in cancer treatment. For this study, researchers looked at the growth of tumors in two sets of animal subjects and compared that to the profile of bacteria in their intestines. Researchers found that mice who had the bacteria Bifidobacteria in their guts had slower tumor growth than those who did not. When the team transplanted this bacteria into the intestines of the mice that did not have it, they too experienced slowed tumor growth. And this was without any additional drug or treatment.

The takeaway from these two studies is that gut bacteria is very important in the treatment of disease. Of course, both of these studies were conducted on mice, so more work needs to be done to further define the role of gut bacteria in human health. But even at this stage of the game, many health experts are recommending that health care providers evaluate gut bacteria for their patients before beginning any type of treatment and replenish bacteria as necessary to improve the effectiveness of treatment.

credit: jenn Savegde

Yoga:the breastcancer recovery key

Breast cancer survivors have a lot to think about when it comes to their recovery. There are often suggestions from doctors on what kind of food to eat, or how often to exercise in order to help reduce the chance of recurrence. But for breast cancer survivors, sometimes just the thought of exercise can make them want to sit down and rest. A cancer survivor is often weak from the treatments he or she has gone through.

Consistently, cancer survivors’ average fitness levels are about 30 percent lower than those of sedentary people without a cancer history. That’s why I think the findings of a new study that I just completed will help these patients. The results, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, show that yoga is beneficial in many ways to breast cancer survivors. Yoga provides graded exercise that can be tailored for individuals who have been sedentary, and the postures can be modified to accommodate functional limitations.

It is widely known that yoga benefits your health. Many people who practice yoga experience gains in flexibility, feel more relaxed, sleep better, have stronger muscles and also might even see a drop in their blood pressure. What my colleagues and I at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center concluded in our study is that inflammation for cancer patients also dropped when they routinely practiced yoga. [Yoga Holds Benefits for Breast Cancer Survivors]

My study was a randomized, controlled trial (RCT) of 200 women who are breast cancer survivors. I compared a 12-week hatha yoga intervention with a wait-list control condition, which is a group who did not do yoga during the study. We collected questionnaires and fasting blood samples at beginning, immediately post-treatment, and 3 months post-treatment — with both groups. Participants ranged in age from 27 years to 76 years old, and had completed cancer treatment within the past three years. We chose these participants who were at least two months past their surgery or last radiation treatment, whichever occurred last. Women in the yoga group participated in two 90-minute weekly sessions, while participants assigned to the wait-list control group were told to continue performing their usual activities, and to refrain from beginning any yoga practice. After their final assessment, they were offered the yoga classes, meaning everyone had the chance to join yoga after the study ended.
When we began this study, we hypothesized that participants who participated in yoga would have decreased inflammation, depressive symptoms and fatigue in contrast to those participants in the wait-list control. After reviewing the outcomes of all women in the study, we now know that our hypothesis was correct.

Immediately post-treatment, vitality was higher in the yoga group compared to the control group. At 3 months post-treatment, the yoga group’s fatigue was lower, vitality was higher, and the inflammation markers in their blood that we tested for (IL-6, TNF-α, and IL-1β — which are pro-inflammatory markers) were lower for yoga participants compared to those in the control group. What we also discovered is that the more a woman participated in yoga, the greater the benefits in fatigue, vitality and inflammation reduction.

Despite the fact that our participants’ weight did not change and our trial did not include aerobic or resistance exercise, pro-inflammatory cytokine production decreased significantly in yoga participants compared to the wait-list group. This is important, because inflammation enhances risk in many age-related diseases including heart disease and diabetes, and also increases the risks for cancer recurrence.

Another benefit of this trial was that we showed yoga can help cancer survivors get better rest. Previous studies have shown that up to 60 percent of cancer survivors report sleep problems during survivorship, a rate that is two or three times as high as similar adults without a cancer history. The problem with that is disturbed sleep elevates inflammation, as well as fatigue, and thus the improved sleep reported by yoga group participants likely contributed to the positive changes both at the beginning of the trial and through the 3-month post-treatment visit.

While our study may underestimate the entire list of potential benefits of yoga, the results show that yoga can have a significant benefit, and therefore I recommend that all breast cancer survivors consider adding it to their exercise plan.

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Why Meditation and Yoga Are Recommended for Breast Cancer

Up to 80% of American patients with breast cancer will undergo complementary therapies to manage anxiety and stress after they receive a diagnosis.

Though there’s no clear consensus on which integrative and alternative therapies work and which are ineffective, more and more medical practices have incorporated practices like mindfulness and acupuncture into their offerings. But a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs conducted by several major oncology facilities has examined which therapies benefit patients the most. The answer? Meditation, yoga and relaxation with imagery.

The three methods are known to be calming for those who practice them, and the researchers gave the practices an “A” for treating symptoms of mood disorders that are highly common among people with a recent diagnosis.

To come up with the grade, the researchers parsed through clinical trials conducted from 1990-2013 on complementary therapies paired with routine cancer treatment, like chemotherapy. The researchers then graded each therapy based on efficacy. Acupuncture was given a “B” for controlling chemo nausea, and music therapy also received a “B” for anxiety and stress.

“Women with breast cancer are among the highest users [of these therapies]…and usage has been increasing,” the authors write in their study. “Clear clinical practice guidelines are needed.” The study involved researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, MD Anderson, University of Michigan, Memorial Sloan Kettering and more.

The researchers also gave some therapies low grades. For example, healing touch was given a “C” for lowering pain, and aloe vera gel was not recommended at all for preventing skin reactions from radiation therapy. The researchers also point out that while some natural products were shown to be effective, they did not have the safety data to back them up, suggesting more formal research is needed before some of the therapies can be officially recommended.

As patients with breast cancer and other forms of cancer continue to seek other ways to deal with some of the emotional side effects that stem from serious illness, it will become increasingly important for hospitals to find ways to answer their unmet needs—which might include a yoga class.

Mindfulness meditation improved quality of life in adolescents with cancer

A diagnosis of cancer is accompanied by a high degree of emotional stress.

Consequently, psychological interventions have become a vital and integral component of cancer care.

One example is mindfulness meditation, a form of meditation derived from the Buddhist practice of insight meditation. It is designed to develop the skill of paying attention to both inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience and compassion. It focuses on experiencing life in a nonjudgmental way, in the moment.

The practice strives to help patients develop stability, inner calmness and non-reactivity of the mind. In essence, it tries to train the person to not worry about what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future but to live in the present and accept what is happening.

‘A promising option’

Malboeuf-Hurtubise and colleagues evaluated mindfulness meditation as an intervention to improve the quality of life of teenagers with cancer. They presented their findings at the American Psychosomatic Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting in March.

The researchers enrolled 13 adolescents with cancer in the 8-week trial. Participants completed a questionnaire at baseline that assessed mood, quality of life and sleep. At that point, researchers assigned eight adolescents to weekly 90-minute meditation sessions, and the other five were assigned to a control group. After 8 weeks, participants completed the same questionnaire again.

The investigators analyzed differences in mood, sleep and quality-of-life scores for each participant and between each group to evaluate if mindfulness sessions had a greater effect than the simple passage of time. The results showed a significant improvement in all areas in the treatment group compared with the control group.

Teenagers who participated in the mindfulness group had lower depression scores after the eight sessions. These results were more pronounced in girls. Female participants slept better and developed greater mindfulness skills than male participants.

The small sample size precludes generalizations about the findings until further studies are done. The observed benefits observed with regard to mood and sleep also could be explained by the social support provided to the adolescents in the mindfulness meditation group. Despite this, mindfulness interventions appear to be a promising option to help teens with cancer deal with their psychological stressors.

Deeper benefits

Although the clinical benefits of this intervention are encouraging, there are data that suggest the benefits may extend deeper to a cellular level. There is a growing body of scientific research dedicated to understanding the physiologic and cellular responses induced by stress-reduction techniques.

A study by Kaliman and colleagues examined the effect of mindfulness meditation on gene expression. A group of experienced meditators practiced mindfulness for an 8-hour period. During that same time, another group of people engaged in non-meditative leisure activities in the same environment.

The researchers used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis to measure gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of participants in both groups. The results showed a downregulation of genes involved in inflammation — histone deacetylase 2, 3 and 9, and pro-inflammatory genes RIPK2 and COX2 — with mindfulness meditation practice.

Although I am not familiar with mindfulness meditation, I have seen the positive clinical effects of other mind–body-based therapies in practice — such as guided imagery — and the data for mindfulness meditation look promising.

The growing body of research examining stress reduction techniques is exciting on many levels. It can identify new therapies that do not involve the research and development of new medications, a long and costly process. These therapies potentially could be economical to provide, as once someone masters meditation, the technique can be repeated as needed at no additional cost. This approach also avoids negative side effects and adverse events associated with medications or other therapies.

For adolescent patients with cancer, mindfulness meditation may be another therapy to add to their treatment plans that may have positive effects extending as far as the cellular level. I look forward to seeing where this research goes.

Source: Healio

Mindfulness-based meditation can help teens with cancer

Mindfulness-based meditation could lessen some symptoms associated with cancer in teens, scientists say.

Mindfulness-based meditation focuses on the present moment and the connection between the mind and body.

In a new study, researchers at the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine children’s hospital asked 13 adolescents with cancer to complete questionnaires covering mood (positive and negative emotions, anxiety and depression), sleep and quality of life.

The group was divided in two: a first group of eight adolescents were offered eight mindfulness-based meditation sessions and the remaining five adolescents in the control group were put on a wait-list.

The eight sessions were 90 minutes long and took place weekly. After the last meditation session, patients from both groups filled out the same questionnaires a second time.

“We analysed differences in mood, sleep and quality of life scores for each participant and then between each group to evaluate if mindfulness sessions had a greater impact than the simple passage of time,” said Catherine Malboeuf-Hurtubise of the University of Montreal’s Department of Psychology.

“We found that teenagers that participated in the mindfulness group had lower scores in depression after our 8 sessions.

“Girls from the mindfulness group reported sleeping better. We also noticed that they developed mindfulness skills to a greater extent than boys during the sessions,” Malboeuf-Hurtubise said.

“Our results suggest that mindfulness sessions could be helpful in improving mood and sleep in teenagers with cancer, as previous oncology research suggests with adults,” she said.

Differences between both groups were not large enough for the researchers to impute observed benefits solely to the mindfulness component of the sessions.

“The social support provided to the adolescents in the mindfulness group could possibly explain observed benefits on mood and sleep,” Malboeuf-Hurtubise said.

“Nonetheless, mindfulness-based interventions for teenagers with cancer appear as a promising option to lighten psychological inconveniences of living with cancer,” she said.

Source: Financial Express

Yoga: Boosts Cancer therapy and also base for healthy future

The century old practices of Yoga can be useful to help in young cancer patients and can lay the foundation for a healthy future if it has been combining with the nutrition education, as the latest study suggests today.

According to sources, Departments of Clinical Nutrition and Rehabilitation Services have created a program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that focuses on all of the benefits of yoga, which include balance, coordination, a decrease in pain and improving quality of life.

Jessica Sparrow, an occupational therapist trained in providing yoga for children, at the rehabilitation services said that having this special combination of yoga and nutrition as a service provided for patients is a true complement to treatment.

She further said, “Our ultimate goal is that they take this practice into their everyday lives-like breathing exercises to help with anxiety and pain. We intend to monitor the outcomes and track the progress as evidence-based research to not only improve upon existing knowledge at St. Jude, but also to share with others.”

Sparrow worked with Danielle Doria, also of Rehabilitation Services, and Karen Smith of Clinical Nutrition to create the program’s outline. After each yoga session, patients get a lesson on healthy eating, which often includes a hands-on demonstration from a St. Jude chef.

The combination program has been successful, with many of the patients using basic poses at home or even in the hospital’s hallways.

Source: NewsTrackIndia.com