The Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund

Newsletter – December 2010

It doesn’t seem very long since our last Newsletter in the summer. Time flies these days and it’s not just the older folk who say so! A lot has happened since the summer- including no football World Cup for England and lots of bad weather but at least we appear to be getting somewhere in cricket and we may win the Ashes! You never know!

Enough chit-chat! All the Trustees hope that this Newsletter finds you well and once again, many thanks for your support. Without your generosity and energy, we could not do what we are doing to find a cure for a terrible illness.

By the way, John Sullivan who wrote “Dear John” and who is our Patron, tells us there is a double DVD available of the entire first series of “Dear John” which was originally broadcast in 1986. John is a tremendous supporter of our Fund and we know he will not mind us saying that some of the proceeds from the sale of the DVD will find their way to the Fund. The DVD is available from all the usual retailers and web sites.

In the last Newsletter we mentioned that our funding for the TRIAL/Celastrol research project at St. George’s University of London, which has showed promising results, had to be scaled back due to a reduction in the value of donations received and other financial commitments. But there was a silver lining.

We have been able to secure donations which will allow us to continue to support this research. Immodulon Therapeutics Ltd, an international biopharmaceutical company, (www.immodulon.com) has made a very generous donation, in addition to which their scientists will support the researchers at St George’s University of London to develop new ideas. The donation received will be dedicated to the TRIAL/Celastrol project. An additional donation from a charitable trust set up by a Greek shipping family will also be dedicated to this research.

Needless to say, the Trustees are extremely pleased to have received these donations from such eminent sources and we are grateful to both organisations for their support.

Professor Mike Clemens, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Sussex originally proposed the TRIAL/Celastrol project to us and he has worked closely with the researchers at St. George’s on the project. Mike has kindly prepared the following article regarding a topical subject- aspirin and cancer. It shows how important the results of the TRIAL/Celastol project could be. We hope you find it informative;

Aspirin and cancer – the inflammation connection

Professor Mike Clemens – School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex

“You may have heard on the news recently that long-term use of low dose aspirin can protect against the development of cancer. This was based on a study published in The Lancet in December which reported that 7 years or more of regular aspirin intake can reduce the incidence of some forms of colorectal cancer by as much as 55%. How might this work and could it apply to pancreatic and other types of cancer?

Aspirin and related drugs are well known as anti-inflammatory agents, acting to dampen down the effects in cells of a wide range of hormonal and chemical stimuli that promote the so-called “inflammatory response”. Prominent among the molecules that drive this response are a group of proteins belonging to a family known as NFkappaB. These proteins act at the DNA level to cause activation of a wide range of genes, and aspirin can act as an inhibitor of this activation process. The cancer link may derive from the fact that amongst the genes activated by NFkappaB are several that protect cells from cell death by the process known as apoptosis, a form of “programmed” cell death.

This can provide a survival mechanism for cancer cells, both during the development of a tumour and following treatment by chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

In the case of pancreatic cancer it has been known for some time that NFkappaB activity is often high and so one might hypothesise that agents that inhibit this activity could be beneficial for prevention or treatment. Indeed a number of experimental studies have suggested that this is the case. However for established tumours it may take something rather more potent than aspirin to achieve the desired effects. Just increasing the dose of aspirin over a prolonged period would not be feasible because of risks associated with gastrointestinal bleeding.

Nevertheless, as a recent article in this Newsletter by Online-Früchte- Spielautomaten werden oft als Amusements With Prizes oder AWPs (Unterhaltung mit Preisen) bezeichnet. Dr Androulla Elia (St George’s, University of London) has described, there are possible beneficial effects of a natural plant product called celastrol, particularly when this is combined with other anti-cancer treatments.

Well, it turns out that celastrol is a potent inhibitor of NFkappaB! Although celastrol probably affects several other things in cancer cells as well, its activity against NFkappaB could provide a neat explanation for the beneficial effects of this agent.

How may all this new knowledge benefit cancer patients or those at risk of developing cancer in the future (i.e. all of us)?

It does seem likely that anti-inflammatory drugs will provide us with yet another strategy for beating these diseases in the long-term. For existing patients, compounds like celastrol and related products hold considerable promise. In terms of cancer prevention, you might consider the low-dose long-term aspirin regime, but do consult your GP first as there are some risks associated with this strategy – particularly an increased chance of bleeding in the digestive tract. A good healthy diet containing lots of fresh fruit and vegetables might be a better option – who knows what beneficial substances these things might contain?”

(As we mentioned in the last Newsletter, Celastrol is an ingredient of herbal medicine that is extracted from the plant Tripterygium wifordii – more dramatically known as the Chinese God of Thunder Vine).

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The Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund was set up in 1992. The original Trustees of the Fund included John Sherry, a funeral director. John also acted as Secretary/Treasurer and was instrumental in helping to get the Fund off the ground. John relinquished the role of Secretary/Treasurer some years ago but remained as an active Trustee, continuing to support the Fund in many ways. He has now decided that due to health problems, it is time to call it a day and has resigned as a Trustee. The other Trustees respect his judgement and reluctantly, his resignation has been accepted.

John- sincere thanks for all your efforts over the past eighteen years. All the Trustees hope you enjoy your “retirement” and that you have many happy years ahead of you.

We cannot deny that 2010 has been a tough year but it ends on a higher note with our research going ahead as planned and some meaningful results being seen. 2011 is another challenge!

The Trustees wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and thank you all once again for your support.

The Trustees.

December 2010.

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