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Chinese Medicine and Cancer Treatment Effectiveness

3 Apr

Shirley Wang writes in today’s Wall Street Journal that “scientists studying a four herb combination discovered some 1,800 years ago by Chinese herbalists have found that the substance enhances the effectiveness of chemotherapy in patients with colon cancer.

Interpersonal Neurobiology

2 Apr

About interpersonal neurobiology- how the brain constantly rewires itself based on daily life, for example, what we pay the most attention to defines us.

Read the recent NYT article here.

How to Apply Compassion in the Workplace

12 May

Chade-Meng Tan speaks of everyday compassion at Google. According to Meng compassion works in 3 steps:

The first step is attention training. Attention is the basis of all higher cognitive and emotional abilities. Therefore, any curriculum for training emotion intelligence has to begin with attention training. The idea here is to train attention to create a quality of mind that is calm and clear at the same time. And this creates the foundation for emotion intelligence. The second step follows the first step.

The second step is developing self-knowledge and self-mastery. So using the supercharged attention from step one, we create a high-resolution perception into the cognitive and emotive processes. What does that mean? It means being able to observe our thoughtstream and the process of emotion with high clarity, objectivity and from a third-person perspective. And once you can do that, you create the kind of self-knowledge that enables self-mastery.

The third step, following the second step, is to create new mental habits. What does that mean? Imagine this. Imagine whenever you meet any other person, any time you meet your person, your habitual, instinctive first thought is, “I want you to be happy. I want you to be happy.” Imagine you can do that. Having this habit, this mental habit, changes everything at work. Because this good will is unconsciously picked up by other people, and it creates trust, and trust creates a lot of good working relationships. And this also creates the conditions for compassion in the workplace. Someday, we hope to open-source “Search Inside Yourself” so that everybody in the corporate world will at least be able to use it as a reference.

Here is the video of his recent TED Talk:

Demystifying Clinical Trials

1 Apr

Only 3-5 % of adult cancer patients enroll in clinical trials according to the Los Angeles Times. Patients need  accurate information to help make informed decisions.  UCSF’s Dr. Elly Cohen, program director of a breast cancer clinical trials online matching service, explains to PBS why participation in research is an individual choice and how it can make an impact on care. You can watch it here.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Imagining What’s Possible for Patients

18 Mar

Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann explains her translational vision for
fighting cancer during her recent keynote address to UCSF’s breast oncology leaders. She describes 1997 to 2001 as oncology’s golden years. Rituxan, Herceptin and Gleevec debuted and changed the face of cancer treatments. Dr. Desmond-Hellmann believes that academia can today play a critical role in introducing “the platinum age” of cancer drug development.

“Cancer research is too slow, too expensive, too inefficient and too uncertain…we need to understand earlier and with greater confidence what the best ideas are,” she says. Read the full article here.

New Clinical Trial Enables Rapid Screening of Breast Cancer Drugs

17 Mar

UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann discusses the future of oncology
drug development and adaptive clinical trial design and what it means
to patients in an interview with Pharma Strategy Blog’s Sally Church.  Here are excerpts from the post:

    “What’s really neat about the I-SPY trial is that Laura Esserman, the PI of the trial, is a breast cancer surgeon here at UCSF and has added so much value to the project because she sees patients early and has a unique opportunity to offer neoadjuvant therapy.
Patients are getting their primary therapy before they get surgery, so for imaging and biomarkers – either established or exploratory – it is a fantastic opportunity. The endpoint is pathological complete response, so you can see if the tumor has disappeared or not.”

    “It’s a fantastic rapid readout model so you can get answers much more quickly in a year, including pathological specimens, along with the answers from biomarkers and imaging, which are important.
The FDA has allowed a master IND agreement for this study, so it will be possible to move agents in and out of the trial quickly. So if agent A looks promising it can be advanced quickly and more patients put on it, but if agent B looks toxic, it can be discarded quickly. It’s not just a clinical trial but a experimental trial process that gives you a rapid readout of whether the agent works or not.”

    “The hope is that you won’t wasting time and money in phase III trials, but most importantly, patients experience on that molecule. If the answer is yes on I-SPY, you then have a biomarker hypothesis for that agent and can then do a more traditional phase III trial having increased your chances of success.”


Read about the i-Spy 2 adaptive clinical trial which was launched on March 17 in Washington.

Watch the video from the Biomarkers Consortium press conference:

The World’s Most Powerful Innovators of 2009: UCSF Makes the List

15 Nov


UCSF’s Chancellor, Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH,  was selected by
FORBES as one of its 7 Most Powerful Innovators of 2009. You can read
the story here.
According to the article, Desmond-Hellmann’s  most influential
innovations were  the blockbuster cancer drugs Avastin and Herceptin. What makes Desmond-Hellmann an innovator?

"Susan Desmond-Hellmann, a physician and cancer researcher, is a hero to
legions of cancer patients. While president of product development at
Genentech from 2004 to April 2009, she played an integral role in the
selection, testing and development of Avastin, a colon cancer drug with
annual sales of $9 billion, and Herceptin, a breast cancer drug with
sales of $7.8 billion. In August 2009 she became the chancellor of
UCSF, a powerhouse in medical research, where she aims to continue
fostering innovation in health care and science".

UCSF’s Elizabeth Blackburn Wins Nobel Prize in Medicine

6 Oct

Today, UCSF’s Elizabeth Blackburn won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Here’s the video from the press conference held in San Francisco:

Mindfulness, Stress and Eating

15 Mar

How do you eat under stress?  For many, chronic stress gets under the skin, stimulates the appetite and influences what people eat — often leading to the indulgence in sweet, high-fat foods. These foods tend to make you feel better in the short term, but in the long run can cause health issues. Chronic stress, in fact, has been shown to impair immune responses. Elissa Epel, PhD., an Associate Professor in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, is testing new strategies to help people cope with stress, including the art of mindfulness.

According to Epel, being in the moment serves like a filter to help people better manage how they react in stressful situations. Epel and her colleagues are teaching mindful eating skills – such as the benefits of noticing each bite, how it tastes and how full one feels. The hope is the more mindful you are and the better you can manage and reduce stress, the less likely you are to overeat.

Here’s a video segment which goes into more detail:

Creating Designer Babies: Screening for Disease and Desirable Traits

15 Feb

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, has been used to screen for genes that lead to diseases such as cystic fibrosis and cancer.  Now, the lab procedure that screens for diseases in embryos is being offered to create designer children. Two articles on the topic have appeared recently; they both address the medical and ethical implications.

Last month, the New Scientist reported that the first UK baby genetically selected to be free of a form of breast cancer caused by BRCA1 was born in London.  It was reported that the parents underwent IVF, and the resulting embryos were screened with PGD, where a small number of cells are removed and tested. Only embryos free of the BRCA1 gene were implanted. Five  embryos tested were found to be free of the gene and were implanted; one resulted in the pregnancy.

Gautam Naik reported in February 12 issue of The Wall Street Journal that LA- based Fertility Institutes, will soon help couples select both gender and physical traits in a baby when they undergo fertility treatment. Dr. Jeff Steinberg, director of the clinic, claims that trait selection “is a service” that he intends to offer soon.  According to Naik:

For trait selection, Steinberg is now betting on a new approach for screening embryos. It involves taking cells from an embryo at day five of its development, compared with typical PGD, which uses cells from day three. The method potentially allows more cells to be obtained, leading to a more reliable diagnosis of the embryo.

Many countries have banned the use of PGD for gender selection; it is permitted in the U.S. According to a 2006 survey by the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University,42% of 137 PGD clinics offered a gender-selection service.