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Cancer, Health Policy, Stanford News

Rep. Anna Eshoo celebrates new cancer research law at Stanford

Rep. Anna Eshoo celebrates new cancer research law at Stanford

Fisher, Fleshman, Eshoo, Swayze and Rubin (L-R) at yesterday’s press conference.

In a press conference held at Stanford Hospital & Clinics yesterday, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) announced the passage of a new law aimed at developing better treatments and potential cures for the deadliest of cancers.

Signed into law by President Obama on January 3, the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, requires the National Cancer Institute to examine its current research efforts on cancers with very low survival rates, including pancreatic and lung cancer, and work to develop early detection methods and better treatment options to improve outcomes. The NCI will develop a long-term plan, or scientific framework, for pancreatic and other recalcitrant cancers to gauge its current efforts in the disease and make recommendations on ways to speed progress.

Eshoo was joined by Lisa Niemi Swayze, Patrick Swayze’s widow and chief ambassador of hope for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network; Stanford oncologist George Fisher, MD, a leading cancer-research advocate who treated Patrick Swayze for pancreatic cancer; and Julie Fleshman, president and CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Eshoo was introduced by Amir Dan Rubin, president & CEO of Stanford Hospital & Clinics.

In her speech, Eshoo explained the signficance of the law:

This is larger than a piece of legislation. This is about hope for families and people across our country. We are here in a place that does the most superb research in the world and to speed up the research and to move these recalcitrant cancers to the top of the list at the NCI is absolutely essential for us to make progress.

Fisher also shared his views as a physician and researcher:

When patients come to me with pancreatic cancer, they come to me with both hope and fear. They fear what they’ve read. They fear the statistics we’ve already heard today. But they hope they can beat the odds and that some cutting edge treatment will give them a better outlook in life, more time, or maybe chance for a cure. We do cure some, but only some. My patients deserve better than that. They deserve better than what I can offer them.

I’m confident that the success that we will achieve in pancreas cancer through this effort will have a tremendous trickledown effect. If we can beat one of the toughest cancers, we’re going to have gains in many other cancers.

Previously: New clues arise in pancreatic cancer from Stanford researchers
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben/Stanford Hospital

Stanford News, Stroke

Stanford Hospital first in country to achieve comprehensive stroke center certification

Stanford Hospital first in country to achieve comprehensive stroke center certification

In 1992, three physicians at Stanford recognized that the most effective way to battle complex stroke cases was to create a truly coordinated, multi-disciplinary team that united experts from every related field – not just those dedicated to neurology, neurosurgery and neuroradiology, but also experts in nursing, rehabilitation, emergency medicine, social work, pharmacy and nutrition. They jointly founded the Stanford Stroke Center, an integrated neuroscience center – one of the first of its kind in the United States.

Today, their work is being honored as Stanford Hospital is named the first hospital in the country to be certified through The Joint Commission’s Disease-Specific Care Comprehensive Stroke Center Certification program, co-sponsored by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. What this means, as Mark R. Chassin, MD, president of The Joint Commission, shares in a release, is that “stroke patients who are treated at Stanford can have added confidence that the hospital has put in place the critical elements necessary to meet their unique needs.”

Previously: Stanford neuroscientists uncover potential drug treatment for stroke and Every second matters for stroke survival, recovery

Health and Fitness, In the News, Obesity, Stanford News

When medications cause severe obesity

When medications cause severe obesity

Many Americans could be at risk of developing drug-induced obesity (also known as iatrogenic obesity) as a result of taking certain medications, according to John Morton, MD, director of bariatric surgery at Stanford Hospital & Clinics. These drugs include corticosteroids such as prednisone, certain diabetes medications, antidepressants, the seizure drug Depakote, and heartburn drugs.

Morton discussed the issue last night in an NBC Bay Area news story about 19-year-old Jena Graves, a patient of Morton’s who had gained more than 150 pounds due to her lupus medication.

In my press release about Jena’s story, Morton said:

Medication use is rampant in the U.S., with different medications at different stages of life causing weight gain, including: children and antibiotic use, teens and antidepressants and central nervous system stimulants, and adults with cholesterol-lowering medications, anti-rheumatism medications, anti-depressants, anti-bipolar and anti-psychotic medications, estrogen and insulin.

Patients need to be made more aware of those drugs that can cause serious weight gain. And physicians should educate patients about the risks and offer available alternatives, especially in a case like Jena’s where diet and exercise recommendations to offset the effects were out of the question.

For Jena – who was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 268 pounds at her heaviest – bariatric surgery offered the greatest hope. Since having her surgery in June, she has shed 40 pounds and continues to lose a pound a day. The procedure also instantly reversed her obesity-related illnesses and enabled her to stop taking the majority of the 30 medications she was on prior to surgery.

Previously: For weight-loss surgery, minimally invasive procedure yields better outcomes, study findsThe challenges of dieting and the promises of bariatric surgery and Study hints at benefits of weight-loss surgery for less obese patients
Photo by RambergMediaImages

Addiction, Events, Pain, Public Health

Turn in your old pills on April 28

In support of National Take Back Prescriptions Drugs Day on Saturday – April 28 – physicians and law-enforcement officials are asking patients to help prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs. Old medications can be brought for disposal to designated “Take Back” collection sites around the country.

From a Stanford Hospital release:

“Storing unwanted prescription drugs at home or disposing of them in the trash or down the toilet may seem harmless, but the reality is that by doing so you could be putting the health of your family at risk and potentially releasing hazardous chemicals into our environment,” said Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, chief of the Pain Management Division at Stanford Hospital and associate professor of anesthesia at Stanford University School of Medicine. “I urge all patients to put safety first by taking their old drugs to their nearest collection site.”

Organized by the Drug Enforcement Agency in partnership with state and local law enforcement agencies, the service is free and anonymous – no questions asked. The public can find a nearby collection site by visiting, clicking on the “Got Drugs?” icon and following the links to a database, where they enter their zip code.

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the United States are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.

Last October, Americans turned in 377,080 pounds – 188.5 tons – of prescription drugs at over 5,300 sites operated by the DEA and nearly 4,000 state and local law enforcement partners. In its three previous Take Back events, the DEA and its partners took in almost 1 million pounds – nearly 500 tons – of pills.

Previously: Report shows over 60 percent of Americans don’t follow doctors’ orders in taking prescription meds
Photo by Thirteen of Clubs

Health and Fitness, Stanford News

World Voice Day: Tips for taking care of your voice

World Voice Day: Tips for taking care of your voice

Otolaryngologists around the world, including the physicians at the Stanford Voice and Swallowing Center, are observing World Voice Day on April 16 to raise awareness of the irrevocable damage alcohol and tobacco abuse, as well as harmful speaking techniques, can have on the voice. The long-term consequences of poor voice practices can range from strained vocal cords and chronic hoarseness to deadly head and neck cancers.

Here are a few tips from the Voice and Swallowing Center to help you take care of your voice:

  1. Keep yourself hydrated: Moisture is good for your voice, and drinking plenty of water throughout the day is the best way to stay hydrated.
  2. Don’t drink or smoke: Likely the single worst thing you can do for your voice is to smoke. It causes permanent damage to the vocal cord tissues and is the No. 1 risk factor for cancer of the larynx (voice box).
  3. Don’t scream or shout: Use a microphone if you need to project your voice; yelling or screaming is always bad for the voice, as it puts a lot of stress on the delicate lining of your vocal cords.
  4. Rest your voice if you have laryngitis.
    5. Get evaluated by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat physician) if you have persistent hoarseness: If your voice is persistently hoarse, be sure to seek evaluation by an otolaryngologist.
  5. Warm up your voice: Warming up the voice is not just for singers; it helps the speaking voice, too. Doing simple things like lip or tongue trills, or gliding up and down your range on different vowels, will help warm up your voice.

Cancer, In the News, Patient Care, Stanford News

Surviving is just half the battle: More on Stanford's new survivorship clinic

Surviving is just half the battle: More on Stanford's new survivorship clinic

For many cancer patients who have beaten their disease, graduating from their oncologists can be a daunting process, as becoming a “survivor” comes with its own set of challenges. As discussed here earlier this month, Stanford is the latest in a small but growing trend of hospitals that have recognized these challenges and established specialized clinical services focused on helping survivors live with the residual physical and psychological effects of diagnosis and treatment. The launch of the gynecological cancer survivorship clinic at the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center was featured this weekend in a San Francisco Chronicle article.

In the piece, Victoria Colliver highlights survivorship programs in the Bay Area and discusses the need for such services:

Dr. David Spiegel, director of Stanford’s Center for Integrative Medicine, said it’s important for long-term cancer survivors to focus on their overall health – not just their disease.

“Half of all people diagnosed with cancer will live to die of something else,” he said. “That means that ‘something else’ is very important.”

Previously: Wellness after cancer: Stanford opens clinic to address survivors’ needs, Cancer’s next stage: A report from Stanford Medicine magazine, A call for rehab services for cancer survivors and A look at how best to care for America’s growing population of cancer survivors

In the News, Obesity, Stanford News

Could pregnancy hormones be the key to rapid weight loss?

As much as I would love to lose 20 pounds in six weeks, you won’t find me signing up for of one of the latest weight-loss fads called the “HCG diet.” The Human Chorionic Gonadotropin diet is one that requires that you inject yourself daily with a hormone produced by pregnant women (a product that is only licensed for fertility treatment, not weight loss) and that you restrict yourself to eating only 500 calories a day. Neither thing is appealing to me.

Experts have concerns about – and are skeptical of – the potentially dangerous diet, as well. As John Morton, MD, director of bariatric surgery and surgical quality at Stanford Hospital & Clinics, told viewers in a recent KTUV-TV report:

“I would say the mind is a very powerful thing. And I would say there’s a big placebo effect occurring here.”

For more on HCG, FDA has information on its website.

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