Cancer patients suffer from extreme cachexia; defined as physical wasting with extreme loss of weight, fat and muscle mass caused by severe disease. Cachexia, a wasting syndrome, is seen in advanced cancer and AIDS. In cancer patients with cachexia there is also accompanying anorexia or severe loss of appetite and severe weakness.
In April 2005 a randomized Phase III study was started at the Department of Medical Oncology at the University of Cagliari in Italy to establish the most effective and safest treatment for cancer-related cachexia/anorexia syndrome. The parameters examined included how much the tested product reduced the burning of fat and loss of body weight while the patient was resting, increase of total daily physical activity, decrease in the body’s inflammatory components that trigger the syndrome (interleukin-6 and TNF-a), and improvement of fatigue.
All 475 of the patients were started on a course of Vitamins A, C, E, Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Carbocysteine. Then they were randomly split into groups and received one of the following five different additional treatment arms; (1) medroxyprogesterone with megestrol, (2) an EPA/pharmacological mix, (3) L-Carnitine, (4) thalidomide, (5) or a combination of all of the previous 4 components. This initial treatment lasted for 4 months. By this period 125 patients were subjected to an early analysis.
No severe side effects were observed with any of the treatments. Arms 3, 4, and 5 worked the best. The pharmacologic/EPA mix (group 2) actually caused a worsening of muscle loss while resting, overall wasting, and fatigue. Arms 1, 3, and 5 significantly improved fatigue. The study is published in the April 2008 issue of the journal Nutrition.
People infected with parasitic worms have lower resistance to the AIDS virus
People infected with parasitic worms may be much more susceptible to the AIDS virus. In the new study scientists from Harvard Medical School and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted experiments with rhesus monkeys, some of which had an acute infection with Schistosoma mansoni, a parasitic flatworm and some of which were parasite-free, normal and healthy. The worm affects 200 million people globally.
The researchers demonstrated that the parasitic worm may make HIV infection more likely. They found that much lower amounts of the AIDS virus -- 17 times lower -- were needed to cause infection in monkeys who had the parasitic worms than in the parasite-free monkeys. “The presence of the worm is like adding fuel to the fire -- it creates more fertile ground for the virus to take hold," Dr. Ruth Ruprecht of Harvard Medical School, one of the researchers, said in a telephone interview.
Evan Secor of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, another of the researchers, said the findings likely apply to people as well. This may confirm suspicions that parasitic worm infections like those common in parts of sub-Saharan Africa make people more vulnerable to HIV, Secor said. The data helps explain why HIV has hit sub-Saharan Africa particularly hard. “Sub-Saharan Africa has only about 10 percent of the world's population but almost two-thirds of the world's HIV/AIDS," Secor said in a telephone interview.
Schistosomiasis, seen primarily in developing countries, is caused by tiny flatworms that live in snail-infested freshwater rivers and lakes. When people wade, swim or bathe in contaminated water, worms bore through the skin and travel in the blood, causing anemia, diarrhea, internal bleeding, organ damage and death. Dr. Secor said the parasitic worm infection may undercut the immune system's ability to fight off HIV infection and may make it easier for HIV to get into white blood cells. The worms not only made monkeys more susceptible to the AIDS virus infection, but once infected they had far higher concentrations of the virus in their bloodstream, meaning they became more likely to infect others. This is likely true in humans also; with the parasitic infection in place it is easier to develop HIV and once developed the level of the virus in the patient is likely higher making them more infectious to other people. The study is published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
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