Cancer research: Where are we headed?

May is National Cancer Research Month

cancer research

In 1928, Sweden became the first country to issue a postage stamp commemorating the fight against cancer. On April 1, 1965, the United States issued its first anti-cancer commemorative stamp, pictured above. Source: Taub, Marvin. “Cancer Stamps: 50 Years in the Crusade Against Cancer Through Stamps,” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, v.28,no.3, May/June 1978, 164-169.

In 1971 President Nixon signed into law the National Cancer Act which officially launched the “war on cancer.” It earmarked a budget of $100 million towards cancer research and the promise to find new treatments for the second leading cause of death in America at that time.

“One of the most important things that came out of the National Cancer Act is that we started to do a lot of basic science to study the disease … today cancer is thought of as a molecular disease within a cell, whereas in the old days, cancer was thought of as a disease of tumors of tissue,” says Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

So where has this science taken us 44 years later? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer still remains the second leading cause of death after heart disease. However, all is not lost, we’ve come a long way in 44 years!

Unlike the 1970s, when hardly anyone who had cancer was considered a survivor, we now have more than 14 million cancer survivors in the United States, and that number is projected to increase as our baby-boomers age. While survivors are increasing in numbers, we have also made progress in cancer prevention though screening and early detection programs, specifically in colon and cervical cancer.

As Dr. Brawley’s comments above reflect, we have continued to advance our understanding of cancer at the molecular level. This knowledge in turn has led to new developments in targeted therapy, vaccine therapy and immunotherapy. Continue reading


Stroke Prevention Tips

Many strokes are avoidable

Stroke skull imageStroke is now the 4th leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in America with more than 800,000 people suffering a stroke every year. Because I’m a stroke neurologist, many people ask me how to prevent stroke.

Best stroke prevention

The best advice is:

  • Maintain good blood pressure (probably the most powerful way to prevent stroke)
  • Control other vascular conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid second-hand smoke
  • Exercise
  • Eat well
  • Don’t consume too much alcohol

In some types of stroke, family history plays a role; unfortunately, that is one influence that patients cannot control.  Continue reading


Seeing double at the Frankel CVC

Twins enjoy "comical confusion"

Mike (left) and Paul Ranella blog

Mike and Paul Ranella

Patients and employees at the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center often think they’re seeing double … but it’s likely they’re seeing just fine.

That’s because the CVC is “home” to three sets of identical twins:

  • Mike Ranella is the CVC program manager and his brother Paul Ranella is a CVC device nurse.
  • Corey Foster and Ben Foster are both 4th year medical students who recently completed their rotations at the CVC.
  • Courtney Clark and Rachel Scheich are both nurse practitioners in the CVC ICU.

The six agree that things get confusing at times — mainly in a humorous kind of way. Mike Ranella describes it as “fun confusion” when someone passes him and moments later sees his brother on another floor.  Perplexed looks and comments like, “Didn’t I just see you?” are common, he says.

Then there’s the confusion when one of Paul’s patients wants to talk to Mike about a medical issue. “They often feel compelled to share health information, even when they realize I’m not Paul.” Some patients have even given Mike a hug, he admits. “My brother is well liked, which is a good thing. I’d much rather get a hug from one of his patients than a hit,” he jokes. Continue reading


Living the best life you can with a chronic illness

chronic illness“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow,’” wrote Mary Anne Radmacher. Each of us is challenged in some way, be it our health, our work situation, or our interpersonal relationships. Living with any chronic illness takes courage, perseverance, and acceptance. Below are a few principles that may be helpful regardless of the challenge you are facing:

  1. Generosity – When you are living with chronic illness it can be difficult to think of others. But research has shown that giving back can improve your outlook and make you feel better about your particular situation.
  1. Asking for help/support – Chronic conditions can be isolating. Having someone in “your corner” as a trusted supporter – be it a family member, friend, or work colleague can help you cope and remain resilient. Many chronic conditions have support groups that are already established. Find a support group here.
  1. Hobbies – People who pursue their passions, be it wood-working, music, writing, yoga, gardening, or volunteering, have an easier time coping. Plus, getting back into your favorite hobby is a major milestone on the road to recovery.

Continue reading


Not just any diploma: The unique tradition of the U-M Medical School graduation certificate

Carefully orchestrated signing process starts in winter

Each graduate receives a diploma hand-signed by 30 people

Each graduate receives a diploma hand-signed by 30 people

Today, 181 brand new doctors will stride across a stage at the University of Michigan, ready to take on the world and become tomorrow’s health care leaders.

One by one, the members of the U-M Medical School’s 165th graduating class will shake the dean’s hand, pose for a picture – and receive a rolled-up parchment that proves they have completed their medical training at one of the nation’s top institutions.

As they leave the stage, they’ll take their first steps as physicians – and enter the next phase of training in residency programs that will prepare them to practice in a specific medical field.

Continue reading


Top 5 Takeaways on Stroke

Dr. Eric Adelman's Mini Med School presentation focuses on stroke prevention and treatment

mini_med_school_cardiovascular_graphic stroke BlogLeading U-M Frankel CVC researchers and physicians are advancing knowledge, finding new treatments and applying new technologies. Each week one of them shared his or her expertise in a six-week Mini Med School community education program focused on cardiovascular topics.

Here are the Top 5 Takeaways from Dr. Eric Adelman’s Mini Med School presentation on Stroke Prevention and Treatment:

1. Know the signs of stroke

Brain damage can begin within minutes of experiencing a stroke, so it’s important to know the signs of stroke and to seek immediate treatment by calling 911. Rapid treatment can significantly improve your outcome.

Common stroke symptoms experienced by both men and women include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, particularly on one side of the body.
  • Sudden trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble walking or difficulty with balance or coordination or dizziness.
  • Sudden difficulty seeing or double vision.
  • Sudden severe headache without a clear cause.

FAST (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911) is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of a stroke. When you spot the signs, call 911 for help.

2. Maintain a healthy blood pressure

Half of all strokes are attributed to high blood pressure. If individuals with high blood pressure can drop the top number of their blood pressure reading by 10 points, they can reduce their risk of stroke by 25 to 30 percent. Most people need medication to lower their blood pressure, but lifestyle factors can also play a role. Don’t smoke, get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet (e.g., Mediterranean diet) and try to avoid added salt.

3. Afib is a risk factor

Individuals with atrial fibrillation (Afib) have an increased risk of stroke, so it’s important to take your medication (warfarin or other anti-coagulant) on a regular basis to help reduce your risk of stroke.

4. Prevention is key

It’s much easier to prevent a stroke than to treat one, so be proactive if you have certain risk factors. For example, if you have diabetes, take the necessary steps to control it. Make sure your cholesterol is well-managed. And keep your blood pressure under control.

5. New device to treat stroke

A new type of device known as a stent retriever has shown tremendous promise in treating stroke patients. Stents, similar to the ones used to open clogged heart arteries, are being used to clear a blood clot in the brain, reducing the amount of disability after a stroke. The stent is temporarily inserted via catheter through the groin to flatten the clot and trap it, and is then removed with the clot. The stent retriever procedure is used for patients with severe strokes.

Take the next step:

Adelman_eric150x150Dr. Eric Adelman is assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan and co-director of the U-M Comprehensive Stroke Center. He received his medical degree from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.




Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org. The U-M Stroke Program is accredited as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by the Joint Commission and participates in the American Stroke Association “Get With The Guidelines®” Quality Initiative.