Antiviral drug may extend brain cancer survival, researchers say

(antiviraldruHealthDay)—A drug used against a common virus may lengthen the lives of people with a deadly form of brain cancer, a preliminary study suggests.

Writing in the Sept. 5 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reported on 50 patients who were given the  (Valcyte) to help treat glioblastoma. The cancer is the most common form of brain tumor in adults, and it carries a dismal prognosis—with a typical survival of just over a year.

These 50 patients, however, fared far better, researchers found.

After two years, 62 percent were still alive. Of the 25 who took the antiviral continuously, 90 percent were still alive. That compared with just 18 percent of patients who received most of the same treatments—including surgery and chemotherapy—but did not take Valcyte.

“These data are by far the best ever seen for these patients,” said lead researcher Dr. Cecilia Soderberg-Naucler, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

 expert not involved in the research also voiced enthusiasm. “These are very exciting data,” said Dr. David Reardon, director of neuro-oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

But he also urged caution because there are many unknowns, and the findings need to be verified in a controlled clinical trial—in which patients would be randomly assigned to take Valcyte or not, and then followed over time.

Valcyte is a pill used to treat cytomegalovirus (CMV)  in people with AIDS. CMV is a very common virus—up to 80 percent of adults contract it by age 40—and it usually causes no harm in someone with a healthy immune system.

Researchers have found, however, that CMV dwells in the  of most people with glioblastoma, which suggests that the virus contributes to the cancer in some way.

One recent lab study found that when certain cancer-promoting gene mutations are present, CMV might speed the growth of glioblastoma.

“It appears that the virus alone is not sufficient to cause any human tumors,” said Chang-Hyuk Kwon, one of the researchers on that study.

Instead, it seems that CMV “cooperates with human cancer gene alterations to accelerate development and growth of the cancer,” said Kwon, of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus.

As Reardon put it, “For some reason, these [glioblastoma] cells are a place where CMV likes to proliferate.”

That has been known for several years, he said. The news here is that an anti-CMV drug might extend people’s survival.

Still, there are questions, he said. The study, which was funded partly by Valcyte maker Hoffman-La Roche, included 50 patients from a single hospital. Many were given the antiviral drug as part of a “compassionate use” program at the hospital.

The researchers then compared them with 137 patients who were treated for glioblastoma at the same hospital around the same time, but were not given Valcyte. All patients in both groups received standard treatment, which typically meant surgery, chemotherapy and, in many cases, radiation.

Reardon said the problem with that type of study is that there’s a risk of bias. Patients who were chosen to receive Valcyte may have been younger, in better overall health and more likely to respond to treatment.

On the other hand, he said, the survival figures for the Valcyte patients were “so far above average, it’s hard to imagine they’re just the result of cherry-picking the patients.”

Reardon said more work is needed to see what drug dose is optimal, and whether patients have to take it indefinitely.

Another question, Kwon said, is whether the drug treatment actually reduced CMV levels in the patients’ tumors, or if the virus was still lurking.

Plus, there’s a risk of side effects with Valcyte, Kwon said, including diarrhea, vomiting and upset stomach. It can also harm kidney or liver function.

Despite all that, Kwon said, given the poor prognosis with glioblastoma, “anti-CMV treatment should be seriously considered.”

Doctors could prescribe Valcyte for glioblastoma , Reardon said. But since it’s not specifically approved for the cancer, insurers may not pay—a big obstacle, since the drug costs a couple thousand dollars a month.

Glioblastoma is diagnosed in two or three people per 100,000 in the United States and Europe, according to the National Brain Tumor Society. No one is sure what causes the , but it is more common in men and in people older than 50.

 Explore further: Cytomegalovirus might speed brain-cancer growth

More information: The National Brain Tumor Society has more on glioblastoma.

Advertisements

Men and Women Really Do See Things Differently

Men and women really don’t see eye to eye, according to a new study.

news-eyes-have-it-blue-eye_58914_600x450

Females are better at discriminating among colors, researchers say, while males excel at tracking fast-moving objects and discerning detail from a distanceevolutionary adaptations possibly linked to our hunter-gatherer past.

(See more health news.)

The study, led by Brooklyn College psychology professor Israel Abramov, put young adults with normal vision through a battery of tests.

In color experiments the men and women tended to ascribe different shades to the same objects. The researchers think they know why.

“Across most of the visible spectrum males require a slightly longer wavelength than do females in order to experience the same hue,” the team concludes in the latest issue of the journal Biology of Sex Differences.

Since longer wavelengths are associated with “warmer” colors, an orange, for example, may appear redder to a man than to a woman. Likewise, the grass is almost always greener to women than to men, to whom verdant objects appear a bit yellower.

(Also see “Men’s Offices Have More Bacteria, Study Finds.”)

The study also found that men are less adept at distinguishing among shades in the center of the color spectrum: blues, greens, and yellows.

Where the men shone was in detecting quick-changing details from afar, particularly by better tracking the thinner, faster-flashing bars within a bank of blinking lights.

The team puts this advantage down to neuron development in the visual cortex, which is boosted by masculine hormones. Since males are flush with testosterone, in particular, they’re born with 25 percent more neurons in this brain region than females, the team noted.

(Related: “Why Deaf Have Enhanced Vision.”)

Evolution at Work?

The vision findings support the so-called hunter-gatherer hypothesis, which argues that the sexes evolved distinct psychological abilities to fit their prehistoric roles, the team says. (See “Sex-Based Roles Gave Modern Humans an Edge, Study Says.”)

Noting that men in the study showed “significantly greater sensitivity for fine detail and for rapidly moving stimuli,” the researchers write that their hunter forebears “would have to detect possible predators or prey from afar and also identify and categorize these objects more easily.”

(See “Video Games Improve Vision, Study Says.”)

Meanwhile, the vision of female “gatherers” may have become better adapted recognizing close-at-hand, static objects such as wild berries.

John Barbur, professor of optics and visual science at City University London, noted that females are often “worse off in terms of absolute chromatic [color] sensitivity than males.”

But when it comes to noticing subtle differences among shades of a color, women do tend to come out on top, as they did in Abramov’s experiments, said Barbur, who wasn’t part of the new study.

“If you’re not dealing with the absolute sensitivity for color detection but the way in which colors are judged—such as the ability to describe a color, or what that color means, and so on,” he said, “I’d say that females are definitely much better than males.”

Lucid Dreaming

dream-dreaming-exhausted-lucid-dreaming-Favim.com-700793Those who taste, know. It is a bizarre concept for those who have never experienced a lucid dream to even imagine what it is like. So many things happen in dreams, but people usually do not realize that the only explanation is that they are dreaming. Imagine that you are in a world of your very own creation. You, by the standards of the physical and social reality, are fully capable of doing the impossible and consciously influence the outcome of your dreams. In this article, we will try and follow a few simple steps that can help you enter the world of lucid dreaming.

Many people think that they don’t dream at all, where in reality we all have 3 – 8 dreams every single night. The problem is, we tend to forget them. So what we would suggest is to keep a dream journal ready by your bed side to scribble down any details you may remember from your dream once you wake up. If you remember nothing, just write down you remember nothing. This will help train your brain to remember dreams and improve on their vividness.

The next thing you may want to do before jumping into the drivers seat is to perform reality checks. Pick up anything around you with writing on it; a digital watch, a coin, anything really. Look very closely at it, feel it, know how that is. Now read what’s written on it on both sides. The next time you pick it up, read what’s written on it again. Ideally, nothing has changed. Now to test if you are awake or not, stare at the words really hard. Nothing changes if you are awake, but if you are dreaming you will see that you are capable of altering the words. That is one way of checking whether you are dreaming or truly awake. The trick with those reality checks is that you may want to do them often when you are awake, this will then become second nature to you and carried over into your dream state. You are more than likely then to perform those reality checks in your dream. When you do perform those checks in your dream, you will figure out something is wrong and know that the physical reality around you has been altered.

Trying to remember the future sounds a bit odd, but that is what needs to be done next. The most powerful technique to induce a lucid dream rests on the simple idea of remembering to do something. Try to tell your mind to wake up from a dream before you go to bed and try to recall it as completely as possible when and if you do. Before returning back to bed, keep telling yourself with full intent that you are going to have a lucid dream. Imagine you are back in the dream you just woke up from as you are telling yourself you will have a lucid dream. You will see yourself slowly slipping into the dream while your brain is still awake. Try to look for any signs that may prove that you are dreaming and tell to yourself that you are indeed dreaming. Keep repeating that until you find yourself lucid in another dream. This exercise is called a Mnemonic Induced Lucid Dreaming (MILD).

Give it a try and let us know what you think. In the next article, we will talk about other techniques to induce lucid dreaming and we will try and expand on the possibilities of things that can be accomplished in lucid dreaming. Until then, enjoy awakening in your dreams.

 

Humans Have a Lot More Than Five Senses

520senses1-e1279409821854

Today I found out humans have a lot more than five senses.  It turns out, there are at least nine senses and most researchers think there are more like twenty-one or so.
Just for reference, the commonly held definition of a “sense” is “any system that consists of a group of sensory cell types that respond to a specific physical phenomenon and that corresponds to a particular group of regions within the brain where the signals are received and interpreted.

The commonly held human senses are as follows:

  • Sight:  This technically is two senses given the two distinct types of receptors present, one for color (cones) and one for brightness (rods).
  • Taste:  This is sometimes argued to be five senses by itself due to the differing types of taste receptors (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami), but generally is just referred to as one sense.  For those who don’t know, umami receptors detect the amino acid glutamate, which is a taste generally found in meat and some artificial flavoring.  The taste sense, unlike sight, is a sense based off of a chemical reaction
  • Touch:  This has been found to be distinct from pressure, temperature, pain, and even itch sensors.
  • Pressure: Obvious sense is obvious. ;-)
  • Itch:  Surprisingly, this is a distinct sensor system from other touch-related senses.
  • Thermoception:  Ability to sense heat and cold.  This also is thought of as more than one sense.  This is not just because of the two hot/cold receptors, but also because there is a completely different type of thermoceptor, in terms of the mechanism for detection, in the brain.  These thermoceptors in the brain are used for monitoring internal body temperature. Continue reading

Research suggests terror bird’s beak was worse than its bite

5-researchsugg

This is a Gastornis geiselensis sketch of the generel skeleton in lateral view after MATTHEW and GRANGER (1917) with the tarsometatarsus modified correctly adapted from HELLMUND (2013). The size of the skeleton is about 2 m. Credit: Tuetkin

It’s a fiercely debated question amongst palaeontologists: was the giant ‘terror bird’, which lived in Europe between 55 to 40 million years ago, really a terrifying predator or just a gentle herbivore?

New research presented at the Goldschmidt conference in Florence today may finally provide an answer. A team of German researchers has studied fossilised remains of terror birds from a former open-cast brown  in the Geiseltal (Saxony-Anhalt, Germany) and their findings indicate the creature was most likely not a meat eater.

The terror bird – also known as Gastornis – was a flightless bird up to two metres in height with an enormous, ferocious beak. Based upon its size and ominous appearance, scientists have long assumed that it was a ruthless .

Continue reading

Reverse Psychology

Reverse psychology is a psychological trick wherein a person states the opposite of what he/she wants in the hopes that the person of whom he/she is making the request will defy his/her stated wishes, thus giving him/her what he/she wants.

Use-Reverse-Psychology

How Does Reverse Psychology Work?
Reverse psychology capitalizes on a person’s desire for independence, and subtly conveys that a person can be independent by defying another person’s wishes. For this reason, it is commonly used with children who wish to express their independence by rebelling against their parents. A mother might, for example, tell her four-year-old, “I think you should stay up forever!” The child, confused by his/her mother’s exclamation and wishing to assert his/her own decision-making abilities might then choose to go to bed. Parents might also use a more subtle version of reverse psychology with teenage children by exclaiming they love something they actually hate. The teen, who thinks his/her parents are hopelessly unhip, might then choose a different outfit, movie, or song in an attempt to defy his/her parents, thereby inadvertently actually obeying his/her parents’ wishes.

Continue reading

How to improve your memory

Image

Are you the type who always forgets stuff? Can you remember the chemical formulas ontaining 1-methylethylidene? How about the date when you first had sex? Of course not. That’s because memory is selective; we usually remember certain things more easily because they’re important to us. But we all have the potential to remember anything we want; it’s just a matter of exercising the brain adequately. Read on to learn how you can improve your memory.

the problem

Instead of launching into a psychological dissertation on the intricacies of short-term memory and long-term memory, let’s just agree that certain important things slip our minds.

For example, everyone — except maybe your chemistry teacher — will forgive you for not remembering the composition of certain chemical formulas. However, you could get into a heap of trouble for forgetting your girlfriend’s name, especially when snuggling in bed. Here are a few things you should make an effort to remember:

  • Names
  • Phone numbers
  • Faces
  • Tasks
  • Appointments
  • Birthdays
  • Conversations
  • The truth (or lies)

For the most part, not recalling these things is a matter of not paying enough attention. As my girlfriend always says, “If you really cared, you wouldn’t forget.” Put some effort into it next time and see how much more you can remember. Also, determine whether you have an audio memory or a visual memory. Once you resolve this question, you’ll be in a better position to learn how to improve it.

the solution

Here are some concrete tips you can follow to develop your ability to remember pertinent information. Continue reading