Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Calcitonin-containing drugs: Health Canada assessing potential cancer risk with long-term use

"Health Canada is informing Canadians that it is assessing the possibility of an increased risk of cancer with long-term use of the drug calcitonin. Patients who are taking a calcitonin medicine who have questions should speak to their health care professional before they consider stopping their calcitonin treatment."



From Medscape:

"July 20, 2012 — The European equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday recommended withdrawing calcitonin nasal spray — indicated for treating osteoporosis in the European Union — because of an increased risk for cancer.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) also said that the long-term use of calcitonin-containing medicines delivered by injection or infusion increases the risk for cancer. As a consequence, the EMA recommended that these drugs be used only on a short-term basis for 3 conditions for which they had previously been approved in the European Union: Paget's disease, acute bone loss resulting from sudden immobilization, and hypercalcemia caused by cancer.
Calcitonin in any formulation should not be used to treat osteoporosis at all, the agency said.
In the United States, 2 nasal-spray versions of calcitonin are FDA-approved for treating postmenopausal osteoporosis in women: Fortical (Upsher-Smith Laboratories) and Miacalcin (Novartis). Neither of the labels for the 2 drugs contains restrictions on how they should be used or a warning about the risk for cancer.
Calcitonin, also called calcitonin-salmon, is a synthetic copy of a polypeptide hormone secreted by the ultimobranchial gland of salmon."

Read more:


Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: Dead End Deal by Neurosurgeon Allen Wyler

Dead End Deal is an enthralling read; a unique blended style of novel that one might sum up as James Patterson meets Robin Cook meets an episode of National Geographic Channel’s “Locked Up Abroad”.

The author is a world renowned neurosurgeon turned thriller novelist. Make no mistake; Wyler weaves an excellent plot with surgeon-like precision with crafty creativity evident throughout the novel.

The Backdrop

This is the first book that I’ve read that had Seoul, South Korea as one of the main settings. It was fantastic to get a glimpse into this intriguing metropolis and culture. Dead End Deal takes the reader from Seattle, Washington to Seoul to Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

The author paints an excellent picture of each and every place the characters make their way to.

The Characters

The author creates believable personalities and characters that the reader can easily relate to. You can almost envision the most suitable actor/actress who could play the respective character in a movie adaptation of the novel. After reading, feel free to comment with your starring and supporting cast.

The Plot

World renowned neurosurgeon Jon Ritter is on the verge of a medical breakthrough that will change the world.  His groundbreaking surgical treatment, using transplanted non-human stem cells, is set to eradicate the scourge of Alzheimer’s disease and give hope to millions.  But when the procedure is slated for testing, it all comes to an abrupt and terrifying halt.  Ritter’s colleague is gunned down and Ritter himself is threatened by a radical anti-abortion group that not only claims responsibility, but promises more of the same.

Faced with a dangerous reality but determined to succeed, Ritter turns to his long-time colleague, corporate biotech CEO Richard Stillman, for help.  Together, they conspire to conduct a clandestine clinical trial in Seoul, Korea.  But the danger is more determined, and more lethal, than Ritter could have imagined.

After successful surgical trials, Ritter and his allies are thrown into a horrifying nightmare scenario:  The trial patients have been murdered and Ritter is the number one suspect. Aided by his beautiful lab assistant, Yeonhee, Ritter flees the country, now the target of an international manhunt involving Interpol, the FBI, zealous fanatics and a coldly efficient assassin named Fiest.

Dead End Deal is a fast paced, heart-pounding, and sophisticated thriller. Penned by master neurosurgeon, Allen Wyler—who often draws from experience, actual events and hotbutton issues when writing—Dead End Deal is unmatched as a technical procedural. Its medical and scientific details can impress even the most seasoned medical practitioners. And yet, the technical expertise is seamlessly woven into a riveting plot, with enough action and surprises to engross even the most well-read thriller enthusiast.

A smart, unique, page-turner, Dead End Deal delivers.”

What Others Are Saying

Dead End Deal is a medical thriller of the highest order, reviving the genre with a splendid mixture of innovation and cutting edge timeliness.  Neurosurgeon Allen Wyler knows of what he speaks, and writes, and the result is a thriller that equals and updates the best of Robin Cook and Michael Crichton.  His latest is terrifyingly on mark, riveting in all ways and a masterpiece of science and suspense.”
--Jon Land, bestselling author of Strong at the Break
“The suspense builds and builds in this riveting page-turner.  It’s a skillful merging of the medical thriller and political thriller…Tom Clancy meets Tess Gerritsen!”
--Kevin O’Brien, NYTimes Bestselling Author of The Last Victim and Killing Spree

Where to get your copy:

About The Author

Allen Wyler is a renowned neurosurgeon who earned an international reputation for pioneering surgical techniques to record brain activity.  He has served on the faculties of both the University of Washington and the University of Tennessee, and in 1992 was recruited by the prestigious Swedish Medical Center to develop a neuroscience institute.

In 2002, he left active practice to become Medical Director for a startup med-tech company (that went public in 2006) and he now chairs the Institutional Review Board of a major medical center in the Pacific Northwest.

Leveraging a love for thrillers since the early 70’s, Wyler devoted himself to fiction writing in earnest, eventually serving as Vice President of the International Thriller Writers organization for several years. After publishing his first two medical thrillers Deadly Errors (2005) and Dead Head (2007), he officially retired from medicine to devote himself to writing full time.

He and his wife, Lily, divide their time between Seattle and the San Juan Islands.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Olympic Medicine — NEJM

Thomas Hicks running the marathon at the 1904 ...
Thomas Hicks running the marathon at the 1904 Summer Olympics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Brilliant and timely read from the New England Journal of Medicine.


"Performance-enhancing drugs have cast a long shadow on the modern Olympics. Whether the agents are the strychnine, heroin, cocaine, and morphine that athletes used in Athens in 1896 or the amphetamines, steroids, and erythropoietin that some use today, the dilemma remains the same. As a sports medicine specialist noted in 2004, the “attraction of performance-enhancing drugs is simply that they permit the fulfillment of the mythical promise of boundless athletic performance — the hubristic `faster, higher, stronger' motto of the Olympic Games” (2004). The ensuing systems of medical surveillance have led, inevitably, to “a new type of competition,” in which some athletes try to stay one step ahead of the authorities (2001).
The arms race will continue as medical science produces ever newer means of performance enhancement. Will future athletes try growth factors or gene therapy?3 One thing is certain: the Olympics will remain an object of medical fascination."
Olympic Medicine — NEJM
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cancer Patients Health and Wellbeing Resources - Great programs available for Alberta patients

The following is just a sampling of some fantastic programs available to cancer patients in Alberta:

1. Wellspring

"At Wellspring, people living with cancer tell us what helps them the most – having access to information, receiving support, and learning new ways to cope. Wellspring Calgary exists to inform, support, and empower patients, families and caregivers by helping them to address the fear, isolation, disruption and practical problems which cancer can bring to our lives. All of our programs, services and resources are offered free of charge and without referral."


Sampling of programs offered free of charge:

  • Peer Support - One-to-one support with trained volunteers who are cancer survivors or have been caregivers to a person with cancer to assist you through your cancer journey, for as long as you need
  • Energy Programs - Reiki, Reflexology, Therapeutic Touch are gentle and soothing approaches to promoting health and well-being.
  • Relaxation and Visualization - Also known as "Guided Imagery", uses mindfulness-based imagery and scripts to help reduce stress and achieve a sense of relaxation and calm.
  • Expressive Arts - Class options include Chinese Calligraphy, Watercolor Techniques, Contemplative Arts Mixed Media, Journaling and more.
  • Yoga - Yoga combines body awareness techniques through gentle stretching and movement with meditative and breathing exercises. It can help reduce stress as well as help you to achieve a sense of calm and well-being.
  • Brain Fog - Brain fog, chemo brain and chemo fog are informal terms used to describe the cognitive deficits often associated with cancer and cancer treatment. Brain fog is an educational and experiential program that introduces participants to cognitive enhancement strategies.
  • Healthy Steps - Moving you to Better Health with the Lebed Method, is a therapeutic research-based exercise and movement program designed to help you thrive!
  • Return to Work Program - An eight-week program that covers: personal readiness to work, managing health, employment standards and legal rights and the management of finances and benefits.

2. Thrive Centre (University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology)

What: An innovative fitness facility aiming to empower and improve the quality of life of people affected by cancer. It is free for use for cancer patients, survivors and their support people. The gym is monitored by exercise specialists and volunteers who have specific cancer and exercise training.

Location Link
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TED Talk: Mina Bissell: Experiments that point to a new understanding of cancer

Mina Bissell, Ph.D., biologist
Mina Bissell, Ph.D., biologist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

"For decades, researcher Mina Bissell pursued a revolutionary idea -- that a cancer cell doesn't automatically become a tumor, but rather, depends on surrounding cells (its microenvironment) for cues on how to develop. She shares the two key experiments that proved the prevailing wisdom about cancer growth was wrong.
Mina Bissell studies how cancer interacts with our bodies, searching for clues to how cancer's microenvironment influences its growth."

(From TED - Ideas Worth Spreading)
"Don't be arrogant, because arrogance kills curiosity and passion.” (Mina Bissell)

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About Onco-PRN

Welcome and thanks for visiting Onco-P.R.N. - The oncology website with a focus on all things oncology pharmacy/pain/palliative care-related. It is intended to be an information resource for those pharmacist and relevant health care professionals involved in whatever fashion with cancer and palliative care. Stay tuned for the latest and greatest links and information with respect to: oncology medications, continuing education, pharmaceutical care initiatives, pain and symptom control, supportive care topics, and whatever else that might fit into the theme.

*Note: This website is not affiliated with Alberta Health Services (AHS) or CAPhO and the opinions expressed herewithin are that of the author(s).

Pharmacy History

"The earliest known compilation of medicinal substances was ARIANA the Sushruta Samhita, an Indian Ayurvedic treatise attributed to Sushruta in the 6th century BC. However, the earliest text as preserved dates to the 3rd or 4th century AD.
Many Sumerian (late 6th millennium BC - early 2nd millennium BC) cuneiform clay tablets record prescriptions for medicine.[3]

Ancient Egyptian pharmacological knowledge was recorded in various papyri such as the Ebers Papyrus of 1550 BC, and the Edwin Smith Papyrus of the 16th century BC.

The earliest known Chinese manual on materia medica is the Shennong Bencao Jing (The Divine Farmer's Herb-Root Classic), dating back to the 1st century AD. It was compiled during the Han dynasty and was attributed to the mythical Shennong. Earlier literature included lists of prescriptions for specific ailments, exemplified by a manuscript "Recipes for 52 Ailments", found in the Mawangdui tomb, sealed in 168 BC. Further details on Chinese pharmacy can be found in the Pharmacy in China article."

From Wikipedia:

Journal of Palliative Medicine - Table of Contents

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