Up to one-quarter of cancer patients use marijuana

A new study conducted in a cancer center in a state with legalized medicinal and recreational marijuana found that approximately one-quarter of surveyed patients used marijuana in the past year, mostly for physical and psychological symptoms. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study also revealed that legalization also revealed that legalization increased the likelihood for use among patients.

Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, and over half the states in the U.S. have passed laws allowing for medical marijuana in some form. As availability and acceptance of marijuana use continue to increase, many cancer patients will have greater access to marijuana during their cancer treatment.

Full story at Science Daily

Traumatic brain injuries may be helped with drug used to treat bipolar disorder

A drug used to treat bipolar disorder and other forms of depression may help to preserve brain function and prevent nerve cells from dying in people with a traumatic brain injury, according to a new Rutgers University study.

In research published in Scientific Reports, Rutgers scientists discovered that lithium — used as a mood stabilizer and to treat depression and bipolar disorder — and rapamycin, a treatment for some forms of cancer, protected nerve cells in the brain and stopped the chemical glutamate from sending signals to other cells and creating further brain cell damage.

“Many medications now used for those suffering with traumatic brain injury focus on treating the symptoms and stopping the pain instead of protecting any further damage from occurring,” said lead author Bonnie Firestein, professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “We wanted to find a drug that could protect the cells and keep them from dying.”

Full story of TBI and bipolar drug at Science Daily

Prolonged exposure to work-related stress thought to be related to certain cancers

For men, prolonged exposure to work-related stress has been linked to an increased likelihood of lung, colon, rectal, and stomach cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The findings are among the results obtained by researchers at INRS and Université de Montréal who conducted the first study to assess the link between cancer and work-related stress perceived by men throughout their working life. The research results were recently published in Preventive Medicine.

On average, the study participants had held four jobs, with some holding up to a dozen or more during their working lifetime. Significant links to five of the eleven cancers considered in the study were revealed. These links were observed in men who had been exposed to 15 to 30 years of work-related stress, and in some cases, more than 30 years. A link between work-related stress and cancer was not found in participants who had held stressful jobs for less than 15 years.

Full story of prolonged work-related stress and cancer at Science Daily

Resilience affects whether childhood trauma results in harmful gene response

In a first-ever study to identify how trauma affects gene expression among child soldiers, a Duke researcher and colleagues found resilience to be a key factor in determining individual response at the molecular level.

Previous research has shown that chronic exposure to trauma is associated with an increase in pro-inflammatory gene expression and a decrease in antibodies and antiviral responses in immune cells. Those molecular responses have been linked to cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, infections and mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

Brandon Kohrt, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and global health at Duke, and colleagues conducted a five-year longitudinal study of former child soldiers exposed to the trauma of a decade-long civil war in Nepal. The findings were published during the week of July 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Full story of childhood trauma and gene responses at Science Daily

Online cognitive behavioral therapy benefits people with depression, anxiety

Internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) combined with clinical care has been shown to benefit people with depression, anxiety and emotional distress from illness, according to an evidence-based review in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

“In the age of Google, this psychological intervention is empowering, clinically efficient and consistent with the way that, increasingly, patients interact with health care,” write Dr. David Gratzer, attending psychiatrist, and Faiza Khalid-Khan, social worker and Director of Mental Health, The Scarborough Hospital, Toronto, Ontario.

The review looks at recent, high quality studies and the growing body of literature on smartphone and tablet applications for mental illness. Some studies showed that patients who used Internet-delivered CBT had better outcomes than placebo controls and equal or better outcomes than those with traditional in-person cognitive behaviour therapy. These outcomes were seen in patients with depression, as well as those with physical illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Full story of online cognitive behavioral therapy for depression at Science Daily

How spiritual beliefs relate to cancer patients’ physical, mental, and social well-being

Research reveals that most individuals with cancer have religious and spiritual beliefs, or derive comfort from religious and spiritual experiences. But what impact does this have on patients’ health? Recent analyses of all published studies on the topic–which included more than 44,000 patients–shed new light on the associations of religion and spirituality with cancer patients’ mental, social, and physical well-being. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the analyses indicate that religion and spirituality have significant associations with patients’ health, but there was wide variability among studies regarding how different dimensions of religion and spirituality relate to different aspects of health.

In the first analysis, investigators focused on physical health. Patients reporting greater overall religiousness and spirituality also reported better physical health, greater ability to perform their usual daily tasks, and fewer physical symptoms of cancer and treatment. “These relationships were particularly strong in patients who experienced greater emotional aspects of religion and spirituality, including a sense of meaning and purpose in life as well as a connection to a source larger than oneself,” said lead author Heather Jim, PhD, of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. Dr. Jim noted that patients who reported greater cognitive aspects of religion and spirituality, such as the ability to integrate the cancer into their religious or spiritual beliefs, also reported better physical health; however, physical health was not related to behavioral aspects of religion and spiritualty, such as church attendance, prayer, or meditation.

Full story of spiritual beliefs and cancer patients at Science Daily

African-American cancer patients’ depression symptoms under-recognized, study finds

Case Western Reserve University nurse scientist Amy Zhang, who has long examined quality-of-life issues in cancer patients, wondered whether depression in African-American cancer patients has been under-recognized for treatment.

Accurately assessing depression in cancer patients is difficult in general because the physical symptoms of cancer and depression–low energy, lack of sleep and loss of appetite–are so similar.

“African-American cancer patients are often sicker and have more severe physical symptoms,” said Zhang, PhD, an associate professor at Case Western Reserve’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, “So I wanted to see if something was missing in how and what we were asking patients.”

Full story of African-American cancer patients and depression at Science Daily