Categories

Archive for November, 2017

What the parasites in a defector’s stomach tell us about North Korea being run by a parasite

Monday, November 20th, 2017

The North Korean defector had sped across the demilitarised zone in a stolen Jeep, then crawled south as the men who had been his comrades moments ago shot at him with handguns and AK-47 rifles.

South Korean soldiers found the defector under a pile of leaves, bleeding from at least five gunshot wounds.

He was brought to doctors, who expected to find the soldier in bad shape. But what they also found when they opened him up gave the world a glimpse into just how bad things are in North Korea.

Doctors repairing the unidentified soldier’s digestive tract found dozens of parasites in his intestines. One of the suspected roundworms was nearly a foot long.

“I spent more than 20 years of experience as a surgeon, but I have not found parasites this big in the intestines of South Koreans,” Lee Cook-jong, who leads the team treating the soldier, told the Associated Press.

Authorities have not released the name or rank of the defecting soldier. He has spent his first days in South Korea unconscious, sedated and relying on a breathing machine to stay alive.

But the worms taken from his intestines with tweezers tell a story of the humanitarian and health crisis gripping North Korea even as it expends significant resources in its effort to become a global nuclear power.

Other public spending priorities in North Korea have suffered, as leader Kim Jong Un has built and tested his nuclear arsenal while also trading radioactive barbs with Western leaders.

A Newsweek headline put it more succinctly – and brutally: “North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is starving his people to pay for nuclear weapons.”

According to a report by the United Nations, two of every five people in North Korea are undernourished. Seventy per cent of people require food assistance to survive, including 1.3 million children below the age of five.

And the food they have access to can sicken or kill them. According to The New York Times, many North Koreans who have defected to South Korea have shown up infected with parasites.

That’s partially because North Korea lacks chemical fertiliser, and many farmers rely on human excrement to fertilise fields. As a fertiliser, “night soil” is free and abundant.

But it’s notorious for transmitting parasites like the ones inside the North Korean defector’s stomach.

In a 2014 study, South Korean doctors checked a sample of 17 female defectors from North Korea and found seven of them infected with parasitic worms, according to the BBC. They also had higher rates of other diseases, including hepatitis B and tuberculosis.

Finding worms inside a soldier who once guarded one of the most scrutinised borders in the world is especially telling, a sign that North Korea’s food woes affect military members, who typically have a higher ranking on the food-rationing list. There are even reports that North Korean soldiers have been ordered to steal corn from farmers to stave off hunger.

The soldier’s vital signs were stabilising this weekend, the AP reported, but it was still unclear whether he would recover or wake up.

Until then, the parasites taken from his body were the only things telling a story, as Peter Preiser of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University told the BBC.

“What they all do is take nutrients away from your body,” the professor told the BBC. “So (even) if most of them might go unnoticed, they all indicate a poor health status.

“To put it simply: People who have parasites are not healthy.”

The Washington Post

www.crimefiles.net

www.foodpassions.net

Henry Sapiecha

 

Finger cut leaves Australian dad fighting for life with flesh-eating bacteria

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

An Australian father remains in hospital with a potentially deadly flesh-eating bacteria after cutting his finger at work.

What started as a small cut has left a Victorian dad fighting for life with a flesh-eating bacteria, his family says.

Two weeks ago, Jeff Beck thought he had the flu. A day later, he was undergoing emergency surgery and doctors discovered he had necrotising fasciitis.

Health experts believe the potentially deadly flesh-eating bacteria is caused by microscopic bugs commonly found on the body.

It gets under the skin through open wounds or small cuts before destroying fat and muscle.

“This was caused simply from a small cut on his finger which he did at work – something that happens almost daily when you are doing physical labour,” Mr Beck’s daughter Stephanie wrote on a GoFundMe page.

“Jeff has so far had a quarter of his torso removed to cut out the dead tissue.

“They are now giving him hyperbaric chamber treatments twice a day to help stop the infection spreading and to also treat his large open wound.”

Mr Beck was placed in an induced coma and underwent multiple surgeries but was improving by the day at Melbourne’s The Alfred Hospital , Stephanie said.

“I went and sat with Dad last night and he could respond to my questions by blinking,” she wrote on Facebook on Wednesday.

“He would obviously be very scared and confused waking up as he will have no idea what has happened to him – the last time he was awake he thought he just had the flu.

“Nurses say he is absolutely smashing it.”

Mr Beck’s family, from Moe, are hoping to raise money for treatment and accommodation costs.

Henry Sapiecha

Turmeric could Be The World’s Most Important Herb.600 reasons why.PLEASE SHARE.

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

This article was supplied by herbs-info.com

We found a simply astonishing page all about Turmeric and had to share! I honestly think it is one of the best pages about a herb I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a fair number!) The link is after our commentary.

There are several things that are amazing about the page we discovered. First – of course – the fact that there is scientific research to support the notion that turmeric may be beneficial for a staggering 600+ conditions. It is one of the world’s most studied items for medicinal potential, with over 4000 scientific studies being recorded overall.

Then there is the fact that the mighty turmeric has been in use for over 6000 years, with an incredible safety record. Note also, the effects of turmeric have been found by scientists to be greatly enhanced when it is taken in combination with black pepper (see our report here – Substance In Black Pepper Increases Bioavailability Of Beneficial Turmeric Compounds by 2000% )

Even more amazing is the way the article weaves a crystal-clear narrative that exposes the farce behind the fact that the modern medical world will perhaps never approve turmeric “officially” for medical use. It explains clearly that “proof” is effectively only purchased by those with very deep pockets (802 million dollars on average is the cost for obtaining a new drug approval). [1] The situation is a complete joke. Turmeric is clearly and obviously one of the most benign and beneficial things in the known universe.

But most amazing of all, to me, was the comment from the man who states calmly that he is one of the world’s longest survivors of the kidney transplant operation (34 years since the op, the world record is 40 years) and he takes capsules of turmeric (and other herbs) daily. Truly inspiring stuff.

The original article is fantastic, electrifying even – and we encourage you to share this article www.newcures.info  far and wide. Here’s the link: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/600-reasons-turmeric-may-be-worlds-most-important-herb

www.foodpassions.net

Henry Sapiecha

HUGE LIST OF HERBS USED FOR DISEASE TREATMENTS CURES & BENEFITS-SHARE

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

This information has been supplied by herbs-info.com

List Of Herbs

On this page you will find our alphabetical list of 150+ 189 herbs! Every herb in our list has its own dedicated page on this site – with pictures and very detailed info! Follow the links to learn more about each herb. The goal of the individual herbs’ pages is to gather information about the plant in one place, so that anyone researching it can have quick access to information.

Please bookmark this page so that you can use it as a “quick lookup” when you want to learn all about a herb. You can also share our image on Facebook and Pinterest. Each herb page follows a similar format – starting with names for the herb in different languages, then giving background and history, common and traditional uses of the herb, scientific research, esoteric uses and safety notes.

Our method of organization intentionally follows the style of the old herbals, which listed the plants in alphabetical order and often compiled the writings of other herbalists from past times. There is much material to work through and so this list is continuing to expand. Ok, here is the list!

www.sunblestproducts.com

The Herbs:There are many more to yet come.

Agrimony | Ajwain | Alfalfa | Alkanet | Allspice | Aloe Vera | Althaea Officinalis (Marsh Mallow) | Amla | Angelica | Angostura | Anise | Arabian Jasmine | Arnica | Arrach | Artemisia | Asafoetida | Ashwagandha | Bacopa Monnieri | Bashful Mimosa | Basil | Bay Laurel | Bean | Bears Breech | Belladonna | Benzoin | Bergamot | Betony | Bilberry | Bitter Melon | Black Pepper | Blackberry Bush | Blumea Camphor | Boneset | Borage | Brooklime | Bryony | Bugle | Burdock | Butterbur | Cacao | Cajeput | Calendula | Canella | Capers | Cardamom | Carob Tree | Cascara Sagrada | Cascarilla | Catechu | Catnip | Cat’s Whiskers | Catsfoot | Cayenne | Cedron | Celery | Centory | Chamomile | Cheken | Chervil | Chinese Honeysuckle | Chives | Cilantro | Cinnamon | Clavo Huasca | Clove | Coltsfoot | Comfrey | Contrayerba | Copal | Cordyceps | Cumin | Daffodil | Damiana | Dandelion | Deadly Nightshade | Dill | Dittany Of Crete | Dodder | Dragon’s Blood | Echinacea | Elder | Epazote | Female Peony | Fennel | Fenugreek | Feverfew | Five Leaved Chaste Tree | Flax | Frankincense | Galangal | Garlic | Gentian | Ginger | Gingko Biloba | Ginseng | Goat’s Rue | Goji | Golden Seal | Gotu Kola | Green Tea | Guarana | Guava | Hearts Ease | Heavenly Elixir | Hedge Nettle | Henna | Hibiscus | Hollyhocks | Holy Basil | Holy Basil | Honeysuckle | Hops | Horny Goat Weed | Horseradish | Horsetail | Hyacinth | Indian Laurel | Jew’s Mallow | Juniper | Kava | Ladies Mantle | Lady’s Thistle | Lavender | Lead Tree | Lemon Balm | Lemongrass | Lesser Calamint | Licorice | Lily of the Valley | Male Satyrion | Marjoram | Milk Thistle | Moringa | Mountain Apple | Mugwort | Mullein | Neem | Nelumbo Nucifera | Nutmeg | Nymphaea Caerulea | Onion | Oregano | Orris Root | Paprika | Parsley | Passion Flower | Patchouli | Pepper Elder | Pimiento Pepper | Plantain | Primrose | Queen’s Flower | Red Clover | Reishi | Rhubarb | Ringworm Bush | Rooibos | Rosemary | Rue | Saffron | Sage | Savory | Saw Palmetto | Seaweed | Senna | Slippery Elm | Snake Needle Grass | Snakeweed | Soapnuts | Solomon’s Seal | Spearmint | Spiny Sapindus | St. John’s Wort | St Thomas Bean | Star Anise | Starfruit | Stinging Nettle | Sumac | Sweetsop | Tamarind | Tarragon | Tea | Thyme | Turmeric | Uva-Ursi | Valerian | Vanilla | Vervain | Water Hyssop | Wild Oregano | Wild Tea | Witch Hazel | Yarrow | Yerba Mate |

www.foodpassions.net

Henry Sapiecha

Substance In Ginger Found 10,000x As Effective as Chemo Against Breast Cancer Stem Cells

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

An intriguing and possibly highly important study [1] has recently been published regarding the action of 6-shogaol (a ginger compound) against cancer cells. This study has been “doing the rounds” on social media but in many cases it has been misreported and highly misrepresented – either through misunderstanding of the (admittedly a little complex) science involved – or through deliberate exaggeration of the facts in order to create “headline sizzle”. Many of the social media articles we saw did not even link to the original research!

We’re going to do our best to clear it all up for you today, “joining the dots” with some of the other amazing research that is being done in this field and attempting to interpret the studies in terms that both make sense to the lay person and won’t offend persons of science.

Short Summary:

The quick takeaway for those in a hurry: 6-shogaol, a compound in ginger, has been found to have amazing activity against breast cancer cells in cell cultures in the lab – including action against simulations of “stem cells” – the “mother ship” of cancer cells that chemo showed no activity against even at 10,000x concentration. The action of 6-Shogaol against the cancer cells happens at concentrations that do very little harm to healthy cells. Other studies have shown that these ginger compounds are bio-absorbed but are converted into other forms in the body, leaving some uncertainty as to whether these new forms are as active, more active or less active against actual cancer. Recent research however has found a strong possibility that ginger may have an actual anti-cancer action in vivo, leading us to conclude that ginger should be considered a prime candidate for inclusion in an “anti-cancer diet” (subject to approval from your physician of course! We have to say this; we do not make actual medicinal recommendations for legal reasons.)

Ginger Compound vs. Chemotherapy (Taxol):

In this in vitro study, 6-Shogaol showed astonishing activity against “spheroids” – stem cell-like simulations – against which taxol (standard chemotherapy treatment derived from yew tree) showed no activity at even 10,000x the concentration. [1] The inability of taxol to kill the stem cells has been a past stumbling block of cancer therapy. 6-shogaol was found “only” 2 to 5 times as active than taxol against the “regular” breast cancer cells (still an impressive result).

What’s really awesome is that 6-shogaol showed high selectivity – and normal (non-cancerous) cells showed strong resistance to it even after 6 days. 6-shogaol was effective in killing both breast cancer monolayer cells and spheroids at doses that were not toxic to noncancerous cells. [1]

This study adds to the impressive list of studies in which ginger compounds have been found highly active against cancer cells in vitro while also showing very high selectivity, not harming normal / healthy cells.

However what remains to be fully understood (this is an essential point) is the bioavailability of 6-shogaol after digestion. In other words, an in vitro study such as this does not indicate whether or not eating ginger will do you any good, because if 6-shogaol is broken down by stomach acids, it is unlikely to reach its intended site anyway. Even if it does make it into the bloodstream – how will it “get inside” the cancer? The “metabolic fate” of compounds which destroy cancer cells in in vitro studies are often overlooked by the casual researcher (and the numerous social media outlets reporting on such matters) – and so the “first step” in your education on this matter should be to understand that an in vitro study such as this cannot be considered as evidence in any way that the nutrient will have an effect on cancer.

That said, it might. We did a little research…

Ginger Phytochemistry:

The chemical constituents of ginger (and ginger supplements) have been known for some years [2][3]. 6-shogaol is one of the 4 main pungent constituents of ginger [4] (the others are 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol and 10-gingerol. Shogaols are chemically similar to gingerols – being the dehydrated form thereof. Interestingly, Shogaols are found in only small quantities in the fresh root and are mainly found in the dried and thermally treated roots; with 6-shogaol becoming the most abundant of these constituents when ginger is dried or cooked. [5] There are smaller amounts of other gingerols, shogaols and many further compounds in ginger; these are largely untested but may contribute significantly to the health benefits of the whole root.

Bioavailability Of 6-Shogaol:

As it happens, a 2010 study has investigated the bioavailability of 6-shogaol. [4] Their notes reported first of all that prior to that study, few studies had examined the bioavailability of 6-Shogaol. They stated: “Despite ginger being investigated in over 30 clinical trials in humans with over 2300 subjects, only a handful of studies in rats and our study in healthy volunteers have examined the absorption, bioavailability, metabolites and elimination of ginger constituents. In rat studies, only two of the pungent

compounds, 6-gingerol and zingerone, have been investigated, and in two of the rat studies 6-gingerol was administered as an intravenous bolus, which is unlikely to be reflective of usual oral dosing. Moreover, until we conducted a study in healthy volunteers no pharmacokinetic studies have been conducted in humans nor had any studies in mammals or in vitro examined the other major pungent constituents, namely 8- and 10-gingerols and 6-shogaols.” [4]

A further study from the same team studied 6-shogoal in a clinical trial to determine whether it is passed to the bloodstream intact. [6] It was found that 6-shogoal is absorbed by the body after oral dosing but is bio-converted (either in the liver or intestinal mucosa, researchers were not sure) to glucuronide conjugates – which can be detected in serum for a few hours after ingestion; before being eliminated by the body’s natural processes.

The researchers summarized succinctly here: “In [previous] study, 6-shogaol [had been] found to induce apoptosis, autophagocytosis and growth inhibition in ovarian cancer cells at 2.21 μg/mL (7.5 μmol/L). All of these in vitro studies required higher concentrations of free ginger constituents than found in the serum in this study – putting the clinical validity of these and similar studies in question. However, gingerols and shogaols may reach higher serum concentrations within target tissue compared to serum, e.g., gut. Ginger conjugates may also be as or more biologically active compared to parent compound. Clearly, further research is needed to answer these questions and determine the cancer prevention relevance of ginger.”

Action Of Ginger Compounds Against Cancer In Vivo:

This research appears to be underway and we are getting closer to a positive result: A further study from the esteemed Oxford University Press, published in Carcinogenesis (2014) [7], has found astonishing synergistic results for the anti-cancer use of whole ginger extract in vivo against human prostate cancer cell lines – demonstrating that ginger extract “showed 2.4-fold higher tumor growth-inhibitory efficacy than” isolated constituents. In addition, gingerol glucuronides were detected in feces upon intravenous administration confirming hepatobiliary elimination. [7]

This important result from a prestigious journal is a “double-win” for herbalism – being not only highly indicative that ginger metabolites may possibly be bioactive against cancer cells in the human body, but also demonstrating the importance of preserving the natural composition of whole extracts.

We await further study with anticipation! In the meantime, ginger is generally recognized as a healthy, safe addition to the diet and one noted by innumerable studies for its health benefits and potential for protection against disease. I believe that those considering an “anti cancer diet” should (with the advice of their physician) hold ginger in high esteem in both raw and dried/cooked form.

The message here is clear: Nature works best when not tampered with – and it makes sense. After all, we did evolve over hundreds of thousands of years in a pure natural environment. Researchers are starting to catch up to what herbalists have known all along – that we are bioattuned to nature and literally “designed by evolution” to thrive on food in the most natural state possible.

Finally – if you happen to chance upon headlines “ginger 10000x as effective as chemo”… now you know the actual facts…

.

Further reading:

Our full “Herbal Report” on ginger.

10 Amazing Health Benefits Of Ginger

Scientists Find Substance In Ginger Kills 91% of Leukemia Cells and Shrinks Tumors in Vivo

References:

[1] 6-Shogaol Inhibits Breast Cancer Cells and Stem Cell-Like Spheroids by Modulation of Notch Signaling Pathway and Induction of Autophagic Cell Death. PLOSone (Sept 2014). http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0137614 (Full Text)

[2] Fresh organically grown ginger (Zingiber officinale): composition and effects on LPS-induced PGE2 production. Phytochemistry (2004). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15280001

[3] Identification and Quantification of Gingerols and Related Compounds in Ginger Dietary Supplements Using High Performance Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry. J Agric Food Chem (2010). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2783668/ (Full Text)

[4] Quantitation of 6-, 8- and 10-Gingerols and 6-Shogaol in Human Plasma by High-Performance Liquid Chromatography with Electrochemical Detection. Int J Biomed Sci. (2010). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2975369/

[5] 6-Shogaol https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shogaol

[6] Pharmacokinetics of 6-, 8-, 10-Gingerols and 6-Shogaol and Conjugate Metabolites in Healthy Human Subjects. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers (2009) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2676573/ (Full Text)

[7] Enterohepatic recirculation of bioactive ginger phytochemicals is associated with enhanced tumor growth-inhibitory activity of ginger extract. Carcinogenesis (2014). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24431413

www.foodpassions.net

Henry Sapiecha

10 cancer symptoms you should look out for & do not ignore them

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

ooo

Most of us think we know the telltale signs of cancer: a lump in the breast, unexplainable tiredness, sudden weight loss… but experts are pointing to lesser known symptoms to watch out for that may lead to earlier detection of the disease.

Professor of medical oncology at Southampton University and lead clinician for Cancer Research UK, Peter Johnson says many early signals are “vague and non-specific”.

“It’s these that people need to be aware of and report to their doctors. But we’re not good at paying attention to our own bodies, to what’s normal for us, so we ignore minor symptoms which occasionally can be caused by early cancer,” he told The Telegraph.

Clinical oncologist Dr David Bloomfield says in most cases catching the disease in its early stages ensures a cure.

He says it’s important to not only be aware of the symptoms noted below, but if something else appears unusual and doesn’t go away in a couple of weeks, get it checked out.

Here are 10 symptoms to note that could lead to early cancer detection:
1. A hoarse or croaky voice

This can be a common component of a cold, but if it persists it should be checked out. The symptom can indicate “an early, curable head or neck cancer such as one of the vocal cords,” says Dr Bloomfield.

2. Heavy night sweats

While the summer heat or the onset of menopause in women could more than likely be the cause of night sweats, it’s a symptom that could also be a sign of lymphoma.

Dr Shankara Paneesha, consultant haematologist in Birmingham, told The Telegraph: “People with lymphoma have high metabolisms because lymphoma cells use a lot of energy, so they get severe, drenching night sweats where they need to change their pyjamas and sometimes the bedding.”

3. Persistent heartburn

For many, heartburn is a common issue following a particularly spicy or fatty meal. But if your heartburn lasts more than two to three weeks and requires regular antacid medication it could signal stomach or oesophageal cancer.

Occasionally it can be linked to ovarian or pancreatic cancer.

4. Middle back pain

For the vast majority, back pain is due to a musculoskeletal issue. But for some it can be a symptom of pancreatic cancer.

Pippa Corrie, consultant and associate lecturer in medical oncology at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust says there is a particular sign to note:

“The classic symptom is pain in the upper abdomen that spreads out across the back,” she says.

Situated at the back of the abdomen, as the pancreas grows, it begins to invade nerves which signal back pain.

“While most musculoskeletal back pain will occur in the lower back, that associated with pancreatic cancer is about a hand’s breadth above that and may also come with other symptoms, such as people being off their food, tiredness and weight loss.”

5. Post-menopausal bleeding

This can be a sign of endometrial cancer. Dr Bloomfield says any kind of post-menopausal bleeding should be checked with your GP.

Endometrial cancer is also associated with being overweight.

6. Trouble urinating

As men age, the prostate gland grows. This can increase the need to urinate, especially at night.

Difficulty passing urine or needing to go more frequently could indicate prostate cancer.

7. Finding it hard to swallow

Trouble swallowing can be an indication of a stroke or brain but occasionally it can be an early symptom of a head and neck cancer such as of the vocal cords, oesophagus, mouth or tongue.

Most commonly found in those who smoke and drink regularly, other symptoms can include pain at the back of the mouth.

8. Changes in stools

Blood in faeces is a commonly known indication of bowel cancer. But it’s also important to note any sudden changes in colour, frequency and pain.

In rare cases it can also be an indicator of ovarian or pancreatic cancer.

9. A persistent sore

Changes to moles including itching and bleeding are commonly known as symptoms of skin cancer. Other symptoms include small lumps on the skin that continue to grow, and some cases produce an ulcer that won’t heal.

10. Mouth ulcers

The majority of mouth ulcers are from a viral infection, will clear up in three to four days and are notably painful.

An ulcer in the mouth or on the tongue which lasts for three to four weeks and may or may not be painful could indicate cancer.

Also look for white marks on the tongue or thick, white patches. These need to be checked by your GP as they indicate changes to the mouth’s lining which could lead to cancer.

Henry Sapiecha

Killer cancer we know very little about

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

Kristin Washbourne thought she was doing all the right things to cure what she thought was indigestion. Then she was given a two per cent chance of survival

AT 45, worn out from chasing after two small children and sometimes neglecting to take care of herself, Kristin Washbourne didn’t even think to question her GP when he told her the abdominal pain she had been experiencing was probably indigestion.

She accepted the diagnosis, went to the chemist for some antacids, and promised to take better care of herself.

It wasn’t until loading up on yet more packs of the indigestion tablets, that a very insistent young pharmacist warned her that if she’s been taking the treatment for more than 10 days she had to see her doctor about it.

She’d been popping the over-the-counter pills daily for almost a full year.

“Over that year I had been mentioning the pain to my doctor, but also blowing it off a bit and blaming myself,” she told news.com.au.

“I was a bit overweight, not exercising as much as I should, but I sort of kept downplaying it, but after that I asked him to send me off and get tests for ulcers and bacterins that caused ulcers.”

The tests didn’t eventuate, instead Kristin made another promise to take better care of herself.

But a little while later, after a week of extreme fatigue during the summer holidays – barely being able to move for the pain, and feeling like she could only feel OK if she didn’t eat – Kristin began taking the symptoms a bit more seriously and had her husband rush her to the emergency room.

A lick of fake tan had concealed her yellowing skin, and through her tiredness she didn’t notice her eyes had gone a creamy colour.

This picture was taken a couple of days after Kristin Washbourne was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given a two per cent shot at survival. She hadn’t even realised her skin and eyes were turning yellow. Picture: Kristin Washbourne

This extreme jaundice, combined with the stomach pains, the fatigue, and some strange bowel movements, all pointed to one thing: pancreatic cancer.

“It was something that I had never even thought of, and looking back now, even when I got the diagnosis, it makes me realise how much I didn’t know,” she said.

Instead of freezing at the word cancer, Kristin said she felt strangely relieved. She thought: “They cure cancer these days, I guess I’ll be fine.”

But what Kristin didn’t know then, and what most Australians aren’t aware of, is that when it comes to pancreatic cancer, there’s no such thing as an easy fix.

It is one of the most aggressive cancers with one of the lowest survival rates.

Of the nine people diagnosed in Australia every day, only one is likely to survive.

When Kristin was diagnosed, just five years ago, she was give a two per cent chance at survival.

On average, when an Australian is diagnosed with the disease, they’ll only have six months to live.

It was the terrifyingly low instances of survival from pancreatic cancer that make Kristin not only lucky to be alive, but also made her journey so difficult.

Even though she was given such a dark prognosis, her treatment was successful and she never felt as sick as she thought she should.

After a gamut of tests and surgery that left her with a scar from her pubic bone to her sternum that made Kristin look “all zipped up”, she cried for 48 hours, didn’t sleep for days, and stayed in hospital for weeks.

Kristin’s daughter Marla has dyed her hair purple to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer. Picture: Kristin Washbourne

Eight rounds of chemo and radiation left her “knocked out” for months, but every step of the way she was just thinking, it could be a lot worse.

As she went through her recovery, Kristin’s understanding of the seriousness of the disease continued to develop, and she realised how lucky she was.

“The pain (from the surgery) was incredible, the recovery from that was just unbearable, but it eventually was over and I felt pretty much OK,” she said.

“In my recovery, I had a really bad feeling of survivor guilt. I lost 30kg, There were months when I was basically bedridden, completely knocked out by steroids, but every step of the way I knew most other people didn’t make it to that stage.”

When Kristin started to feel better, things began to get even more uncertain.

“The trouble is for me, once I started getting better, it gave me a boost when the oncologist was pretty happy that I was still around so I thought maybe I was here for good,” she said.

“So what I wanted to know was, what happens next? But I couldn’t find any survivors to talk to. No one could tell me what was going to happen, how my life would change, if I would carry on as normal.

“It was a really hard time. I was so desperate to talk to someone to find out what happens next, but the survival rates are even lower than the awareness rates when it comes to this disease.”

Five years on from her diagnosis and fighting fit, Kristin has accepted that she is a survivor, and feels the responsibility to use her experience to help people who have been diagnosed, and those who may be delaying diagnosis like she did for so long.

“The thing about this disease, is there is no reason for it. There’s not like a family history as with breast cancer so you know to get checked, there’s no really obvious or specific symptoms like with bowel cancer or prostate cancer,” she said.

“The only hope now is to know the symptoms, and know if someone’s telling you they’ve got indigestion, if it persists, then go and do something. That’s the only way we’re going to catch it.”

Even when she lost weight and was going through chemo, Kristin’s cancer experience was nothing like what she expected. Picture: Kristin Washbourne

St Vincent’s Hospital pancreatic cancer specialist Dr Lorraine Chantrill says the reason pancreatic cancer doesn’t get the same level of awareness as some others with lower death rates, is the same reason Kristin found it difficult to find answers about her recovery.

“The main reason it doesn’t get that recognition is because people die from it,” she said.

“There are very few people who survive who can go on to campaign for it. The other cancers that have got a lot of visibility are cancers that people survive.”

Dr Chantrill says recognition and awareness around the disease are “getting better”, and it’s rising in line with survival rates.

Having the unenviable badge of one of the worst cancers is getting it noticed as well.

But while recognition is increasing, the symptoms are still vague and hard to pin down.

“It’s a cancer that generally presents in people who are older than 60, it often presents with some vague symptoms like upper abdominal pain, but in people who develop diabetes without being overweight, people who have change in their bowel habits of suddenly lose weight for no reason, we want those people to keep persisting with their doctor and to go and get tests,” she said.

“I think we can start to end the nihilism around pancreas cancer and start actually making a difference and it’s thanks to some really brave people who have participated in research.”

This coming Wednesday is world pancreatic cancer day. The Sydney Opera House will be lit up in purple lights and landmarks across the world will follow.

Kristin’s daughter, Marla, has died her hair purple ahead of the day, and Kristin will wear purple clothing.

Whenever anyone asks them why, they’ll start the conversation Kristin, Dr Chantrill and others affected by pancreatic want Australians to start having.

“If people start talking about it, and people start being aware of it, that’s going to lead to more awareness, more fundraising, more research, and more survivors,” Kristin says.

Leah in hospital after the cancer diagnosis. Picture: 60 Minutes

Mr Debono said the image of Leah in hospital after she had been diagnosed with a brain tumour “haunts me”.

“I never thought I would be thrown into any of this,” he said.

“I was holding onto her till the end.”

He and Leah’s parents are desperately trying to figure out how the medical system could fail the young Aussie, who was told she was cancer-free.

“We watched her take her last breath. You don’t ever want to have to go through something like that, it’s really cruel,” Leah’s father, Lex, told 60 Minutes.

“The GP looked at it, assured her that there was nothing … Some trained professionals may not have done their job properly.”

They are also sharing Leah’s story to spread awareness around melanoma and warn Australians about the risks of this deadly disease.

Henry Sapiecha

Antibiotics which kill useful bugs are giving cancer patients a kick in the guts

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Antibiotics may be impeding our ability to fight cancer, two new studies on gut bacteria suggest.

Bacteria-killing pills such as penicillin already get a bad rap for leading to the rise of the drug-resistant superbugs that create havoc in our hospitals.

Now, two studies suggest they also strip our gut of the healthy bacteria needed to help combat cancer.

The new research might soon lead to doctors prescribing probiotics – or even faecal transplants – before starting a dose of chemotherapy.

What remains unclear is which bacteria out of the millions living inside us are responsible for helping to fight cancer. Each study identified a different bug as being the most important.

Microbiota are the tiny bacterial organisms that live in our gut. The community of these bacteria is called the microbiome.

“This research may be applied by developing strategies to change the microbiome to enhance responses to cancer treatment,” says the University of Texas’ Dr Jennifer Wargo, a co-author of one of the papers.

“But we aren’t yet sure what the right formulations are, so we really need to use caution, as some approaches may not help and could potentially even adversely affect the microbiome.”

The two new studies, published on Friday in the journal Science, looked at the impact of microbiota on immunotherapy, a form of chemotherapy that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.

Immunotherapy is “one of the great hopes for cancer therapy”, says Professor Matthew Brown, director of genomics at the Queensland University of Technology.

Professor Brown is an expert on both the microbiome and immunotherapy, and was not involved in the study.

A large number of patients don’t respond to immunotherapy and researchers have been struggling to discover why.

For the first study, French researchers looked at 249 cancer patients receiving immunotherapy. Of those, 69 had been prescribed broad-spectrum antibiotics at the same time to treat other infections.

Cancer survival rates were significantly lower for patients who had been treated with antibiotics, the researchers found. Analysis of their gut microbiota showed they had a much lower diversity of gut bacteria, presumably caused by the antibiotics.

To cross-check the results, the researchers gave cancerous mice an antibiotic followed by a dose of immunotherapy. They too had failed to respond to the treatment.

The researchers then gave them microbiota transplants from the patients who did best on immunotherapy. The mice immediately began to respond strongly to the treatment.

“That’s something that should translate rapidly into changes in protocols to minimise antibiotic use before or after immunotherapy. That was really quite a strong finding,” said Professor Brown.

In the second study, a team of researchers in America and France reported on 112 melanoma patients undergoing immunotherapy.

The patients who responded the best to treatment tended to have a much higher diversity of microbes in their gut.

The microbiome of the group that performed well seemed to be building a lot of amino acids – known to promote immunity – while the microbiome of the other patients focussed more on breaking down compounds.

In fact, the researchers found, the abundance of a single bug, Faecalibacterium, in a patient’s gut was one of the strongest predictors of whether immunotherapy was successful or not.

However, the other study singled out Akkermansia muciniphila as the bug linked to immunotherapy success.

Dr Wargo said gut bacteria was likely influencing the immune system in a number of ways, including producing chemicals that interacted with and stimulated immune cells.

“But we don’t know all the answers yet and there is still a great deal to learn,” she said.

Henry Sapiecha