Monday, December 31, 2007

Cannabinoids May Inhibit Cancer Cell Invasion

This is preliminary stuff but it looks interesting

Cannabinoids may suppress tumor invasion in highly invasive cancers, according to a study published online December 25 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Cannabinoids, the active components in marijuana, are used to reduce the side effects of cancer treatment, such as pain, weight loss, and vomiting, but there is increasing evidence that they may also inhibit tumor cell growth. However, the cellular mechanisms behind this are unknown.

Robert Ramer, Ph.D., and Burkhard Hinz, Ph.D., of the University of Rostock in Germany investigated whether and by what mechanism cannabinoids inhibit tumor cell invasion. Cannabinoids did suppress tumor cell invasion and stimulated the expression of TIMP-1, an inhibitor of a group of enzymes that are involved in tumor cell invasion.

"To our knowledge, this is the first report of TIMP-1-dependent anti-invasive effects of cannabinoids. This signaling pathway may play an important role in the antimetastatic action of cannabinoids, whose potential therapeutic benefit in the treatment of highly invasive cancers should be addressed in clinical trials," the authors write.


The evils of caffeine!

A few years ago, we ordered a fine saltwater fishing reel from a fine specialty sporting goods purveyor in California. It arrived in fine condition, in a fine box listing attributes that would turn the angler into a fisherperson of superhuman ability. The box, however, was marred by a hideous, scary sticker warning that the product therein contained, by the findings of the most oppressive nanny state in the history of the world (the aforementioned California), could cause cancer to ourselves, our loved ones and our unborn, yea unto generations. A fishing reel? Well, no, not the reel itself, but the oil the manufacturer had diligently but sparingly applied so as to improve the efficiency of precision machined parts and bearings.

That warning, and literally millions of others like it, resulted from California's Proposition 65, a 1986 initiative authored by the infamous Tom Hayden that has turned California into the warning label capital of the world, worrying more about driplets of this and droplets of that than mudslides, fires and earthquakes that really do pose consequential dangers to Californians in their lifetimes. Now it's caffeine in the Prop 65 crosshairs. On December 10, California's "Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment's Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee" (we kid you not as to the name) voted 4 to 3 to add caffeine to a new list for review, which will take about a year, and possible inclusion on the Prop 65 warning list.

Well, what could be wrong with that, health-conscious citizens will undoubtedly ask. Let's start with the fact, largely and conveniently ignored by most nannies including those with advanced degrees, that the very foundation of toxicology (first enunciated by Paracelsus, the father of toxicology) is "the dose makes the poison." That applies to every substance, natural or man-made, which humans ingest or to which we are exposed. Water and arsenic will both kill you dead, but neither in the "doses" to which most humans are exposed.

Caffeine has been studied as many times as almost all other potentially dangerous substances and found to pose no risks (and provide some benefits) when used in moderation. That means it is probably not conscientious to buy a Starbucks card for an infant, but for most of us, we are not "dosing" to any deleterious level, and "at-risk" individuals would be much better advised to consult physicians rather than the state of California. The real kicker, typically Californian, is that if caffeine is added to the Prop 65 warning list, the warnings will not apply to coffee or tea, of which caffeine is a natural component, from which most caffeine is consumed, but only to prepared drinks in which caffeine is part of the formula. That makes sense in no known scientific or health context, but only in the context of political correctness so out of control that it, in and of itself, is a danger.

Not to be outdone by the state, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom intends to try to tax sales of soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (one of the latest demons being mined by junk science proponents). The stated rationale is the rate of childhood obesity in San Francisco. The tax will not, however, be applied to all sales of such beverages across the board, but only to "big box retailers," something only a moral titan like Newsom could dream up.

It's for the kids, but how many kids do you know who go running into Sam's Club or Costco after school for their soda, considering that the smallest unit sold by the big boxers is a week's supply for a family of eight. The corner store, with infinitely more individual sales more frequently directly to the so-called population at risk, skates on the tax.

Punitive, discriminatory and self-defeating hypocrisy, with big tax bucks the only objective? Absolutely. It's also just politics as usual for a new breed of politicians so cynical as to not even bother to make their stories plausible. But all that is to be expected. The sheeple (great word, author unknown) of California, San Francisco or anywhere else who roll over for this nonsense are the ones who really need to take a look in the mirror.



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

9). And how odd it is that we never hear of the huge American study which showed that women who eat lots of veggies have an INCREASED risk of stomach cancer? So the official recommendation to eat five lots of veggies every day might just be creating lots of cancer for the future! It's as plausible (i.e. not very) as all the other dietary "wisdom" we read about fat etc.

10). And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This is another anti-fat scare that emanates from a much-cited editorial in a prominent medical journal that said so. Yet this editorial offered no statistical basis for its opinion -- an opinion that flies directly in the face of the available evidence.

Even statistical correlations far stronger than anything found in medical research may disappear if more data is used. A remarkable example from Sociology:
"The modern literature on hate crimes began with a remarkable 1933 book by Arthur Raper titled The Tragedy of Lynching. Raper assembled data on the number of lynchings each year in the South and on the price of an acre's yield of cotton. He calculated the correlation coefficient between the two series at -0.532. In other words, when the economy was doing well, the number of lynchings was lower.... In 2001, Donald Green, Laurence McFalls, and Jennifer Smith published a paper that demolished the alleged connection between economic conditions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his analysis in 1929. After the Great Depression hit, the price of cotton plummeted and economic conditions deteriorated, yet lynchings continued to fall. The correlation disappeared altogether when more years of data were added."
So we must be sure to base our conclusions on ALL the data. But in medical research, data selectivity and the "overlooking" of discordant research findings is epidemic.


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